Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 Review
This is the official Soccer Gaming review for Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 (PES 2014). The game has beenreviewed based on first hand experience of the full game, with approximately 10 hours of game play, on top of several hour of testing other features within the game. The game was reviewed using the PlayStation 3 version of the game.
For the uninformed or unaware, I would have always considered myself a PES fan. Not a blind fan boy, however someone who appreciated what Konami were trying to achieve and understood the issues they occasionally had. In the mid 2000s, PES was a game to be proud of as a fan, and while many other football games died a slow death, PES went from strength to strength, culminating in the highly regarding PES 6. Since its arrival on the PS3 and X Box 360, PES failed to capture the feel of its predecessors. Little niggles bugged fans, and issues that once could be overlooked became glaringly obvious. The past two instalments of the game were seen by many as a step in the right direction, however made the bold decision to go back to the drawing board with PES 2014,using a new game engine, new animations and perhaps equally importantly, focus solely on this generation as opposed to looking towards the next generation of consoles.
The result is a PES that feels much improved over its franchise members and a game that feels like it has its own identity once again. In my personal opinion, the changes are for be better, and while there are still some niggles present, PES 2014 is a game that both fans of the series and football gamers overall will enjoy.
Presentation & Graphics
From the moment you turn PES 2014 on, you will be treated to menus and visuals like no other in the franchise. Gone are the awkward, half screen menu, with a bold, clear four tier menu system taking their play. Navigation is both intuitive and swift, and starting a new match or new tournament can be done in a matter of 4 button presses. Menus can be customised to feature images of your favourite team, and in game screenshots are saved post match to appear as ’snapshots’ of the action. Whilst not unique ideas, they are certainly modern and give the game a real personal feel that had been lacking previously.
The pre game formation screen is almost identical visually from the last few years. It is something that Konami are rightly proud of, and although there is a slight change between switch players and moving players positions based on using the analogue stick or d pad, it is still as good as anything available on a football simulation. Elsewhere, the options menus are simple to navigate, bold and clear. PES has, for the past few seasons, opted to put a lot of its text in capital letters, and the 2014 offering is no different. This is far from a major issue, however it is noted that some people struggle to read this format of text.
Visually, player models have improved greatly in PES 2014. Thanks to the new FOX engine, Konami have athletes that look and feel very realistic. Gone are the days of clunky, limbs and torsos, instead smooth and realistic looking sprites take their place. As soon as the first shot of the players in the tunnel comes on to the screen (an image that has been used to promote the game) you can see this difference in terms of both texture and lightning. Perhaps most rewardingly, this feel translates onto tho pitch too, with PES 2014 undoubted being the best looking game the franchise has ever produced. The plethora of new animations the fox engine allows and Konami have introduced means the game flows much more smoothly than before. Players move, turn and run with a fluidity missing from previous instalments, and there is a weight to each individual, meaning impact and collisions feel unique.
Player faces are an area which Konami have (rightfully) been boasting about. Scroll through ManchesterUnited or Barcelona, and 95% of the faces are spot on. Unlicensed teams are much less accurate however, with many players not even having the correct hair colour. Konami have promised a big face update on release day, however in its current format, the faces that look good, look amazing, however those that don’t are very generic indeed. On the pitch, in game, the only time these faces are ever ally relevant are on goal celebrations and replays, both of which look fantastic.
Replays are very present throughout the game, as they are on any televised game of football nowadays. Whilst not to everyone’s taste, I find them. Key and important part of the games presentation and not to be overlooked. With that said, in many cases, they are far to slow, and as a result take too long to get to the relevant action. Slow motion replays are fine, but not three times in a row. A simple patch could solve this frustrating problem, however as it stands, it somewhat detracts from the whole presentation experience.
Konami have learnt a valuable lesson from last season’ s offering. Whatever you do, don’t remove a popular game mode. Therefore, the League mode makes a return to join the wealth of other options you can select to play PES. On this front, it is business as usual, with the popular Champions League and Copa Liberatores mode joined by the Asian Champions League, providing a whole host of new teams for gamers to get their teeth into. Perhaps most pleasingly, all these teams are also available in exhibition mode, meaning you can play as one of these teams against the best Europe has to offer too. A relatively simple feature that makes the game feel much deeper and immersive.
Elsewhere, Konami’s stalwart modes are back. Master League, both online and offline returns with updates that include allowing you to change clubs and manage international sides. Become a Legend mode allows you to now take on the role of a GK as well as any outfield player. Whilst nothing is too revolutionary here, it’s solid, modern and improving, three attributes that PES fans have been asks for.
Just a point of note due to receiving a review copy in advance from Konami, I was unable to test the online aspect of the game. I will do my best to pop something together once I have experienced it first-hand.
Gameplay and Controls
Perhaps the area in the past in which PES has received so much praise (and criticism) has been the game play. Now, with better graphics and licensing, it is imperative that the game continues to deliver where it really matters, on the pitch.
PES 2014 provides an enjoyable and realistic on field experience that is an improvement over earlier members of the franchise. The new fox engine works well to allow gamers the opportunity to control balls and play passes that the previous mechanics would have limited. These new animations make it possible to retrieve a crossed ball and bring it under control, or retain possession by sliding to control a wayward pass. Whilst there are still occasions which animations result in an error or poor play, these are much fewer and further between than in previous offerings.
On the higher difficulty settings, the game is a genuine challenge, and the return of the game play modifiers from previous years means you can tailor the difficult of the control system to suit your own needs. Playing without any passing or shooting assist requires genuine skill, and an accuracy that can only really be achieved by use of the left analogue stick. Shooting feels floaty at times, however this is sporadic more than deliberate. Whether it is the new ball physics engine, or just a change to the animation system, on occasion shots that are slightly mistimed don’t seem to follow an unrealistic trajectory. The same can be said for one for one opportunities, when players seem to make their own, virtual decision whether to side foot or lace the ball, as opposed to a command being made by the gamer.
Elsewhere, defending feels much more a skill than in last year’s game, with timing tackles still an important attribute. Sliding is mandatory at times, and taking a yellow card, on occasion, seems required. Good opponents will force you to mistime challenges, something which has lacked in many football games over the years. Heading has also been revamped, and I am delighted to say you can now mistime headers too. Press the button too early or late, and your player will go up accordingly, resulting in you miss the ball or miscue your header. Whilst a small addition, it makes for a much more realistic and skilled game, especially in aerial duals.
Passing and dribbling are two areas of the game which the fox engine really gives a different feel to. No longer can you easily run at speed between multiple defenders, nor dribble at will to get out of trouble. Passes have to be well timed and pre planned, especially if you intend to play first time, and through balls are no longer a sure fire success. There is a genuine learning curve to PES 2014 control system, and even veterans of the franchise will come away feeling they have to improve from their first few games.
On occasion, I found the controls a little slow to respond, something that I am putting down to the new engine. However, if this is more down to a delayed response time between the controller and the game, it is something that will need to be patched for online play. Only more play testing will determine this, and it is far from a game breaker.
The games AI is variable. For every moment I have experienced of a team mate making a great run, I see adefender blatantly playing everyone onside. When the CPU controlled team score a great goal, there are occasions when I think, fair play, and occasions when I think that was because my AI controlled players were all over the place. It would be very interesting to see how much of this came down to the games new heart feature, which basically acts as a way of justifying an aspect of scripting. The proposal is that should your player play a poor pass or make a mistake, it will affect his and the teams overall performance, thus giving an opportunity for the AI to capitalise. A fine example of this was when I was playing a game as Chelsea (Well, North London Blues) and Ashley Cole made two or three bad passes. The passes were as a direct result of my poor controlling of the player, and therefore were my mistake. However, my opponents scored two goals in the next 5 minutes, on both occasions Cole played the scorer onside by standing well behind the defensive line. If this is the case, and gamers are rewarded for improving your teams heart by maintaining possession and forcing opponents into mistakes then it makes the offline game mode very deep indeed. However, in these early stages of playing, it is hard to have enough evidence to back the hypothesis up!
Finally on gameplay, the new set piece method of taking corners and free kicks using a guided line is a step backwards in my opinion. There was a level of skill required to take a good free kick in previous PES, and the handy line that now accompanies every kicked dead ball is pandering to beginners, and perhaps more notably, cannot be turned off. PES and Konami have changed an aspect of the game here that, for me, did not need changing.
PES 2014 boasts an edit mode to be proud of. Where small removals such as a number of celebrations and free kick styles have occurred, the replacements are much more valid. There are now no limits to the number of badges and logos you can save, meaning editing can now occur for multiple leagues and teams with ease. Teams an now have third and forth choice kits edited a feature which allows many of the licensed clubs to look exceptionally good indeed. While importing images of players faces has been removed (a limitation due to the new engine) the face mapping tool is much greater than in previous offerings, resulting in the opportunity to create some very good likenesses indeed (although a level of skill is required). Finally, and perhaps most important addition, is the ability to add custom badges and patterns to all parts of the kits, including the sleeves and neck regions. This means the level of detail created by those with a passion for designing virtual kits will be better than ever, and whilst the aforementioned lack of licenses will affect the retail version of the game, the support of the PES community to create accurate option files will result in better patches than ever before!
Elsewhere, more of the same, with the ability to easily add and edit leagues and players to your hearts content. Due to licensing, Konami have removed the stadium editor, a feature which I personally found very good indeed, however with the graphical overhaul that has taken place, the 20 stadiums that the game includes look excellent and each has its own character.
Finally, the ability to import and export from previous PES games has been removed from this edit mode. The official word here is that Konami have cited the new Fix engine as the primary reason for this. Overall, however, the PES edit mode is good enough to create teams and players akin to their real world counterparts.
PES 2014 music track list falls into a very unique category indeed. A selection or Euro pop 90#s tunes combined with a couple of genuine classical masterpieces are thrown together to create a play list that would not be found on many iPods! In all honesty, the ability to upload tracks is still present, meaning that music savvy gamers will just do that. It is always nice to find a hidden gem of a track on any sports game,however Konami haven’t really looked to do this with PES 2014.
In game audio ranges from the very impressive chants and sound effects (including player specific chants) to the still dire commentary of Mr Beglin and Mr. Champion. The scripts have been slightly enhanced, and now the commentators do speak about players physical or mental attributes, but is wired together with two separate sound bites, and is miles behind the commentary used in all other sports franchises. Unfortunately, commentary is an area which has never been Konami’s strong point, and PES 2014 is no exception.
Any other business
In the any other business category, there is only one outlining issue, the lack of weather conditions. As a sports game in 2013, there needs to be visual variety to the on field action. This can be provided by pitch textures or stadium effects, but also the weather, in particular, rain or snow. PES 2014 features neither, with every game taking place in dry conditions. Konami used the tag line that they want to make sure that the rain effects the game play, however for me, adding rain is no different to day & night or summer & winter, it can still be a visual option that differentiates matches. For all the good bits that Konami have added, the exclusion of a cosmetic feature such as this is very strange indeed.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 is a huge leap towards where Konami and the games diehard fan base want their title to be. It is enjoyable, challenging, and playable and offers a variety of depth few sports titles can compete with. Even if this long review, there are still new inclusions, such as the tactical additions, that we have not even touched on, and for those gamers who are new to the franchise, or returning after a few years, there are genuinely features here that will make you think about the potential of where the Fox Engine could take the series. As with its predecessors, it is not without its niggles and issues, yet in its current form, it is a game that will more than satisfy your football gaming cravings for the next 12 months, and has laid down a high benchmark for other football games to attempt to reach.