by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
It has been a good few years since the name Pro Evolution Soccer meant something in the soccer game genre. After speaking to Konami at Gamescom 2012, it became clear that although they admittedly feel that the 2008 and 2009 iterations of the franchise were lacklustre, they feel that they have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. In this year's game, the developers hope that they can close the gap on Electronic Arts' yearly FIFA games in terms of popularity, because they certainly feel they have done so in terms of quality.
The major change this year is the introduction of a precision system. In the precision mode an arrow will appear at the feet of your player which can be moved around to pass or shoot the ball in that exact direction. The exact weight of the pass or shot can also be controlled while in this mode. It's an interesting addition that should help overcome frustrations when attempting to kick the ball in a certain direction or with a specific power only to have the computer make a different decision for you. For local multiplayer, it adds an extra element where you can fake out your opponent with some quick direction changes at the last moment. The arrow can be turned off however, and will not appear for your opponent in online matches.
Lacking in licenses, but not in quality
I asked the developers at Konami if they felt they were competing with EA and its FIFA games, or whether they were attempting to deliver a different kind of experience. The answer was that Konami wants to provide a less arcade-y experience, giving a greater deal of control to the player, and the new precision mode is an example of this. They mentioned that as soon as the player presses the pass button, the player on the pitch should make the pass as well. A complaint that the developers had of the FIFA games was that they were so focussed on realistic animations that this often sacrificed the speed and precision of the actual gameplay. Konami definitely feels that it has a higher quality product, and when asked, they replied that the only advantage that FIFA has over PES was the extra couple of licenses for the major football leagues.
Although Pro Evo is lacking the Barclays Premier League license, some recognisable players are still available in other leagues around the world, and Konami is doing its best to bring those players to life. For instance, Christiano Ronaldo has his own special running animation to emulate that extra spring in his step that he has in real life. I played a game with one of the developers as Paris Saint Germain against his Real Madrid, and I managed to (intentionally) give away a free kick on the edge of the penalty area just to check if Ronaldo stood over the ball with the same wide stance as he does in real life. Although this (unintentionally) resulted in a red card for my player, CR7 was indeed standing in the correct stance. So although not all the licenses for players and teams are here, they are doing a good job with what they have got.
Welcome back, Pro Evolution Soccer!
Hopefully the damage that was done to the series a few years ago is not irreparable and people have enough faith to try out this new game, because playing it, I have to admit that the quality of PES 2013 was just as good as I was used to from FIFA 12. It's actually a shame that Konami's game has to prove itself against EA's. Considering the amount of modern military shooters that are released each year, why can't there be more than one popular soccer game? The lack of English League license might put some people off, but for those looking for a quality football game, this looks like it is shaping up to be good choice.