Every year, FIFA and PES do battle to be crowned the football champion, but for over half a decade, FIFA has wiped the floor with PES, but is this finally the year that PES regains some of that golden form which once made it so popular? And with Konami moving PES to a whole new engine, is this finally a step in the right direction?
The PES demo received mixed reviews, some loved it, some hated it. Personally, I fell into the first category. The first few games I didn’t like it, but then it clicked into place and felt right. After being left hugely disappointed by last years version, I promised myself that I wouldn’t buy this years version. Konami had so far failed to take the game to the next level for the past few years, so why would this year be different? My decision to buy it was down to the demo and how much I enjoyed it, but also the glowing reviews it had received around the industry. However I have been left disappointed once again in the full package. FIFA is built around more than just good gameplay, take the various game modes for example, all of which are rich with things to do. I have mixed feelings towards PES 2014. At times I love the gameplay, it feels fluent, crisp and incredibly fun. But then at times the flaws in the gameplay come through, with silly mistakes by the AI and an extremely frustrating shooting mechanic.
You will be pleased to know that PES 2014 comes on leaps and bounds upon the previous versions we have had to put up with. The decision to start from scratch with regards to the game engine was the right decision by Konami, but also a brave one. If the “Fox” engine falls flat on it’s face, it’s pretty much game over for Konami, but from playing it, is definitely heading in the right direction. Far from perfect, I have seen enough improvements however to be confident that the next few versions will see PES become better and better. And one of the major changes is that the ball and player act as separate entities, resulting in more realistic and less predictable gameplay. No two games ever feel the same, which keeps things interesting and constantly a challenge. It takes a while to get used to the new game-play, and PES is the kind of game you don’t pick up and are instantly great at, and PES 2014 is no exception.
The new physics-driven system is also pleasing, with player’s shifting their weight and bouncing of each other in a way which almost mirrors real life. Dribbling as a result has become more difficulty though, with players being more easily thrown off the ball and giving away possession. You will also notice that after sprinting past an opponent, they will some how manage to catch up with you and make the tackle. So it is often best to pass and move, pass and move. Thankfully, passing in PES is one of it’s outstanding areas. Passing is crisp and fluent, and there is no better feeling than playing “pure” football before unlocking that resilient oppositions defence with that one killer pass.
That said, once you make that killer pass and are bearing down on goal, PES delivers an anti-climax. Arguably the most enjoyable part of Football, scoring goals, is at times tedious and frustrating. Shooting leaves a lot to be desired, with it still being hard to aim where you want to put your shot, no matter what kind of shot you are pulling off. Trying to pull of a finesse shot from anywhere further than 6 yards out almost always results in the keeper making a save. The goalkeepers, while much more solid and harder to beat than previous versions, are able to jump half way across the goal and make a world class catch 9 times out of 10 when you aim for the corner. I’m not expecting to score every time, but it becomes frustrating when the keepers always make the same save from the same shot.
If my striker is bearing down on goal from the left to bend one into the bottom right corner with his stronger right foot, I should be able to pull it off. Anyone who has played FIFA will know how a finesse shot is supposed to be. In PES, it’s virtually non-existent, you can score more times by trying to lob the keeper when he is on his line than trying to place one. In fact, forget about placing a shot, just press the shoot button and it’s sure to go in. Scoring shouldn’t be easy, but scoring with a finesse shot, one on one with the keeper, from 15 yards out, shouldn’t be this hard.
Defending is much better however. Slide tackles, when timed to perfection, are magical. The animations for slide tackles are extremely satisfying, but I’m sure everyone has noticed that when the ball is there to be won, your defender will perform the “wrong type” of slide tackle resulting in a fail. It seems the way your defender slide tackles is slightly random, but most the time you can win the ball cleanly and fairly if your timing is to perfection. A standing tackle is also about timing, similar to how FIFA’s defending work. Press the button at the wrong moment, and your defender could be left in the dust of the attacker. But I was pleased with defending, it feels more like you are defending as a unit, as a team, rather than individual players who I happen to be controlling.
As I mentioned above, goalkeepers are hugely improved. They also make more realistic looking saves and move like real goalkeepers. But they are still prone to mistakes and making stupid saves which result in them just helping the ball find the net. Hopefully Konami can further improve on them for next year’s version.
Set Pieces have seen a major overhaul. To be honest, I’m not sure if I like it or not. While free kicks seem easier to score, the system doesn’t work for corners or for free kicks in your half. When taking a set piece, you have a projection line which you can move up and down, left to right. When your ready to kick the ball, you hold down shoot or cross, depending on what you are doing, and away the ball goes. It feels that I have less control on where the ball goes. It takes a while to get used to, and maybe I haven’t mastered it quite yet, but personally I prefer the old method.
This is the area I have been left disappointed in. Football Life makes a return, with Master League, Become a Legend and Master League Online all included. But for the best part, all game modes feel stripped back from what they were last year. I’ve always preferred Master League to FIFA’s Career Mode, and it is the mode I spend most of my time in, but I feel extremely let down. To start with, the menu is now vertical, leading to it feeling cramped and messy. Gone are the days when you create your own manager, along with the cut scenes when meeting your staff, presenting new signings to the press and discussing tactics with your coach. While these didn’t affect gameplay, they were a nice touch to make the Master League feel more alive and interactive. It was something which made it unique from FIFA. I loved this aspect to it, and especially seeing my manager on the touchline during matches.
Konami did secure various new Leagues for PES 2014, such as the AFC Champions League, the Argentine Primera División,Chilean Primera División for example, as well as retaining the Champions League an Europa Licenses. While it is always good to have more teams to play as and players to sign, when trying to sign players in Master League you are swamped by all these additional players. Your “List of Targets” now longer displays players you are familiar with, taking you to the advanced search option to narrow it down. I wanted to look for players I know and recognize from the Premier League in England, however there is no filter to select players just from that league. It’s a time consuming process, and it’s normally better to know who want to sign beforehand as you can then just search for that one player, rather than discovering players. It is messy, tedious and swamped with players I have no interest in signing if I want to improve my squad, most of whom are average at best.
The Master League isn’t all doom and gloom however, as Konami have finally added the ability to change teams throughout Master League. A long and overdue feature, it is finally in. You can change teams! Another welcome addition is being able to manage a national side alongside your club side. Two steps in the right direction, but unfortunately with Konami taking out other features and not expanding on Master League to much, they didn’t leave me with enough reason to want to play Master League for the long periods I once did.
Become a Legend allows you to create your own professional footballer as you live out your career. Pretty much the same as previous years, with the exception of now being able to become a goalkeeper.
I wanted to try out Master League Online, but there is a data pack you need to download in order to play, and it takes hours to download, no joke! So unfortunately, so far I haven’t downloaded it. But from watching gameplay footage, passing is slower than offline gameplay, with connection issues and the online community also being mentioned as other issues.
Graphics & Licensing
Two things PES is famous for, the superb graphics, and the lack of licensing. I’ll start with the graphics. Visually, PES 2014 is beautiful, something we have come to expect from Konami. The stadiums come to life on match day, with the tunnels more decorated and realistic than ever, with ground staff and stewards doing their business both on and off the pitch, which helps add to the immersion. The match day crowds come to life as well, reacting to events on the pitch. They boo and hiss when a fail is committed by the away team, given or not. And if the away team score, expect them to react in a disgruntled manner. It’s great to have a dynamic crowd, where what happens on the pitch affects the mood and atmosphere within the stadium.
As for Licensing, it’s no secret that EA has the money to keep PES from having official licenses, but loyal fans to the series have learned to look beyond this. Last year saw PES introduce every Spanish stadium into the game, but they have lost that license this time around. Along with the Spanish stadiums, the Stadium Editor has also gone. This is probably the biggest blow to the editor, as you could create your own stadiums and replicate existing ones for your game. I’m not quite sure if it is a licensing issue, or if it is due to the new engine, but either way, unfortunately it is not there.
Apart from the loss of the stadium editor, Editor mode remains pretty much business as usual. Fans will be pleased to learn that you can now add logo’s to shirt sleeves, shorts and socks. So if your heavily into your editing, you can now make your kits look even more authentic.
There are more leagues and teams in PES 2014 than ever before however, with the AFC Champions League, the Argentine Primera División and Chilean Primera División some of the new leagues added, as well as keeping most of the current team licenses. The Champions League and Europa League also return.
However, the new engine also resulted in Konami having to start again with player faces. While most big name players have faces which look like their real life versions, you will also notice that there are a lot of players which look nothing like them and also look like each other. That data pack I mentioned which takes too long to download, comes with 1000 new faces which addresses the above problem. You just need to download it!
For a game which launched in September, I was disappointed to find that most transfers have not been completed in-game. From looking at the squad rosters, it seems the last time the squads were updated was during July. I played as Southampton for example, and Victor Wanyama was still a Celtic player. And we signed him 11 July 2013! It’s unacceptable for a football game not to have the latest transfers, especially given that the transfers had been completed several weeks before the release of the game.
I’ll quickly mention the menu’s as well. I’m not a fan of the vertical menu’s, they just make it look like everything has been squeezed onto one screen. That wouldn’t be so bad if the menu’s felt quick and responsiveness, which for me they didn’t. When in your Game-Plan, it is too slow to move players from position to position. While it is faster than what was experienced in the demo, it is still too slow to be acceptable. The style of menu continues throughout the game modes, so don’t expect to see any variations.
PES 2014 is a massive improvement over it’s predecessor, and while there is still a lot of work to be done, the move over to the new Fox engine leaves PES with a bright future. Gameplay is fun and enjoyable for the most part, with no two games ever being the same. Shooting leaves a lot to be desired, while goalkeeping is still hit and miss, but thankfully more hit this time.
But considering this was going to be Konami’s best attempt at giving FIFA a run for their money in a long time, I feel they should have improved upon all areas, especially game modes. They should have kept the features in Master League which are now missing, along with the addition of changing teams and National team management. It seems strange to me that Konami hugely improved one area of the game, but paid little to no attention in the areas which will keep people playing.
I am struggling to warrant paying full price for PES 2014 though. If anything, Konami should have sold the game at a lower price to get people on board, considering there is no rain, no stadium editor and the transfers are massively out of date. The first data pack downloading issues are also yet to be addressed, meaning lots of players who haven’t spent hours downloading it are still yet to experience online play.
I play PES for the game-modes, as I do FIFA. And for all the gameplay, you need the modes to back it up, and ultimately this year is where PES doesn’t quite live up to it. While game-play has taken a step forward, nearly every game-mode has taken a step back however.