PES 2014 review: New engine, new leagues, better game?

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Every year soccer gamers are faced the difficult choice of spending their money on either Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer or EA Sport’s FIFA franchise. While both game have their strengths and weaknesses, Konami sprints into the 2014 fray with not only a new game, but a new engine. Kojima Productions’ highly anticipated Fox engine makes its debut in Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, focusing on more realistic player collisions and ball movement.

Visuals

For a game coming out in the year 2013, the graphics on Pro Evolution Soccer leave much to be desired. The Player’s likenesses are either incredibly realistic or incredibly far off, and the facial animations are sometimes downright bizarre. The textures on closeup are not that fantastic either, with the corner flags and several other textures appearing fuzzy. The frame rates on replays are often cringe worthy as the game slows to a crawl. Depending on the selected camera angle the new crowd animations, although pretty, can also slow down the game.

Selecting a further camera angle will not only help smooth out the game, but the lighting and overall shadowing of the pitch is a redeeming quality. Although Konami decided to focus on in-game physics and their new engine, there is some improvement needed in the graphics category.

Licensing

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One of the biggest marketing points of PES is that it is the only soccer game that has the official license of  both the Champions League and Europa League. These are some of the most prestigious soccer tournaments on the planet, and a big “leg up” on the competition.

However, the amount of English Premiere League teams and overall stadiums that are licensed are paltry compared to those found in the FIFA franchise. While Konami was able to add both the Chilean and Argentinian premiere leagues (Ligue 1 and Liga BBVA teams are also available among others), I was saddened by my inability to play with my favorite team (Tottenham Hotspur), opting instead for the “North East London” team (The fact that EA Sports signed on as “official video game partner” with Tottenham probably has something to do with it). While the players are all there, the lack of official kits and team names really impacts the immersion of the game.

The game is already a top seller in the European, South American and Japanese markets, but the game has some ground to cover in the North American region. The popularity of the English game in North America is huge and although there is access to sides such as Real Madrid, Barcelona and Manchester United some player will feel left out in the cold.

Gameplay

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The general gameplay of the game is both the biggest positive attribute and one of the most frustrating aspects of the game. While the game is certainly frustrating at some points due to the lack of fluidity, the ball control and the player movements are some of the most realistic seen in a soccer game to date. Konami has focused a lot of their energy on realistic player moves and it shows. Your first touch will not always be perfect, neither will all of your passes but the in game mistakes add to the realism and charm of pro evolution soccer. A nice change from the run-pass-shoot simplicity found in other games.

Taking the time to go through the training mode of the game will not only help the player hone their skills, but will focus more on in game scenarios then fancy tricks, preparing you for the challenges you will face in game play. Along with the training modes there is also a small amount of special modes including Be a Legend, Master League and Competition. The lack of game modes makes the game feel a little plain and unfinished, which will hamper re playability and make you question the game’s $59.99 price tag.

As far as the new physics engine goes, players will be delighted to note realistic collisions, truer ball movement and less “ghosting” of players through objects. Player movement no longer looks archaic, and although the game doesn’t yet “flow” as well as FIFA, the authenticity and physical side of the game is more apparent, and this is what will really set PES apart with soccer purists. The Fox engine influence definitely shows, and if this game is any indication, Metal Gear Solid V will be well worth the wait.

Although it’s impossible to not compare both FIFA and PES, it seems that the games at their core are inherently different. While it’s easier for you to pick up a copy of FIFA and play straight away, there’s a certain sense of accomplishment you get from scoring a goal with PES system. By practicing and taking the time to understand the features of the game you end up with a very life-like simulation.

Overall

As valiant as the development team’s efforts were, the game still feels like an unfinished product. While the game carries some fantastic improvements such as ball and player movement, things like licensing and graphics do nothing but drag the game down. I liken this game to the first year of a new model car; there are some big improvements but there are still a lot of problems to work out. The PES team has taken some big strides and if their first week sales numbers are any indication, the finish line is in sight. They just haven’t crossed it yet.

Grade: B+

Source: Konami, OnlyProEvolutions.com, Pes-patch.com

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Eric Escaravage
Eric Escaravage 85 posts

Born and raised in the great white north, Eric grew up playing PC games and reading more Archie comics than is humanely possible. Clark Kent look-a-like on an epic quest to play all the retro games he wasn't allowed to as a child!