Game Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 (PC/PS3/Xbox360)
I’ll start off by saying that PES 2014 is quite simply the best Pro Evolution Soccer on the current gen console, it has taken its time to get to this stage but it has never played or looked so good. It may not have all the officially licensed players that FIFA Soccer has, but PES 2014’s player likeness is truly uncanny at times. Every detail from a facial expression of a lunging tackle, hitting that sweetly connected volley towards goal to the joy of that goal rippling into the back of the net. It’s all here and it’s all thanks to the all new Fox Engine and yes before you ask, it is the same Fox Engine that will be powering Metal Gear Solid 5.
Watching the game in action with a drawn out camera angle is a joy to behold, it may sound like a small detail, but even the pitch looks gorgeous and in high definition and you can almost pick out each individual piece of grass (when zoomed in of course). The crowd jumping and cheering their team from the stands, the stunning Wembley Stadium (yes that’s a bit of English patriotism there), players pointing out where to place the pass as they make their run towards goal off the ball. It’s all these little factors that adds to an authentic experience that football fans will appreciate. Though PES 14 is not without its visual faults, the unlicensed players look as generic and stiff as ever, but that minor visual displeasure aside, overall PES 14 is a beautiful looking football game.
The Fox Engine powers more than just PES 14’s visuals, it helps enhance the gameplay experience too. PES 14 plays a lot smoother than previous installments and while it plays at a slower pace to its FIFA counterpart; it offers a more natural pace to the game. Slow build ups are usually the way to play, a series of well placed passes that hopefully will lead up to that killer through ball and a well taken goal. Though that’s not always the way events pan out, as the opponent A.I is also much improved in comparison to previous games from the series. Precision is the key, because many a time did I find myself misplacing a simple pass for the computer A.I to make me pay for the error of my way by denting my hopes by putting me a goal down.
You can also have more control with players on the ball, as well as off the ball. How many times have you attempted a through ball on to goal for the off ball player to remain static or run in the wrong direction? It’s something that can happen more than you please, but while on the ball if you point the right analogue stick in the desired direction, the player off the ball will make the run that you desire. It’s something that you will have to get into the habit of doing, but much like the precision passing, it can be a devastating regardless of whether you are playing against a human or A.I player. Developers PES Productions have really gone to town in giving the player as much control as possible, as the way you take set pieces has also granted you almost complete freedom and it’s the way in which I believe future football games should go.
Normally with a lot of football games over the years, when it’s come to taking the vital set pieces whether it is Real Madrid’s Christiano Ronaldo lining up a trademark shot on goal or Xabi Alonso whipping in a sweet corner, you’ve never really had as much control as you would have liked to have hoped. Often the way it has been over the years is that when it comes to taking set pieces you’ve had to rely on nothing more than a straight arrow (sometimes no arrow) being able to move simply left, right up and down, the power bar and your ability to judge/guess where the ball might be going. With PES 14 you now have complete freedom of where the ball will travel via a direction tool that has no restrictions. You can hit the ball not only high or low, you now have even more control on where the ball might swerve or dip. Never before have we had so much freedom and control and this is a method that games like FIFA should sit up and take notice. With all the improvements that’s been made in PES 14, this has to be more favourite feature so far. It’s something so seemingly simple, but yet so effective.
There is also a feature that PES Production has simply entitled ‘Heart’. This is a mechanic that can influence on field players to take it up a gear, or even in reverse when things are not going so well. Football fans often hear of the ‘12th Man’, the fans chanting from the stands in an attempt to inspire there team on to victory, it’s something that we see happen in almost every football match we’ve seen. You could be losing 1-0 to your opponent; all is looking bleak until suddenly Robin Van Persie attempts an audacious bicycle kick that thumps the cross-bar. As a result the crowd come to life and the players on the pitch rally around one another to get that much needed equalising goal. This is something that has been adopted into PES 14 and it can literally turn the tide of the match with a moment of simple inspiring brilliance. This offers extra excitement to the game and this invisible feature is one of the most powerful tools in the game as it adds an extra moment of realness.
It has to be said that no matter how good a single game can be, there is always a fault somewhere to be found. If there was one annoying factor with PES 14, then it would have to be with the goalkeepers. I know that just like the outfield players in real life, goalkeepers are prone to making the odd blunder or two. But with PES 14 it can happen more frequent then you would expect, as there will always likely be a point that the goalkeeper idly watches the ball as his defenders played football ping pong, to then have to ball pea roll over the goal line. This is something that I noticed to happen when I first played the demo and it seems to have not improved for the full game. But I will give Konami the benefit of the doubt, as they are normally good with patches and updates. Hopefully we won’t be waiting long for them to fix this minor issue with an update not long after the official release date.
Talking of inspiring, football fans from my generation will appreciate the music that plays when you first fire up PES 14, it’s the one football song that can give me goose bumps and make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck. Of course I must be referring to Nessun Dorma the theme music from the 1990 Italian World Cup, sung by the late, great Luciano Pavarotti. We should all know by now that FIFA pretty much holds all the licensing cards, but they don’t have them all. If there was one club football licence that PES has that FIFA would love to have the returning UEFA Champions League. Just like previous installments everything is here from the iconic Champions League theme music, logos and presentation as a whole. Returning with the UEFA Champions League is the South American equivalent Copa Libertadores. There are also some new editions to PES 14 licensing ranks and that’s with the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions League and the UEFA Europa League, all of which come with all the authenticity of the real life counter parts.
One big new inclusion to this year’s Master League is the feature to have job offers from international teams, it has taken a while for this feature to be included, but at least it’s now here and springs more life into the mode. Previously the closest you’d get to an international promotion in PES is with the ‘Be a Pro’ mode, as you work your way from a low ranked squad player to an international superstar. So now being able to manage your national team in the Master League is certainly a welcomed and overdue addition. Another overdue inclusion to the PES series is within the ‘Be a Pro’ mode as finally you can now take up a career is your team’s number one goalkeeper. Much like the feature in the FIFA series, this is a position that is tough to master, but also brings great satisfaction as you become a capable shot stopper.
As always with the series, PES 14 has bags full of replay value. You have a variety of modes to compete in both online and offline, not to mention fine tuning your skills in the new and improved Training mode, which trust me when I say it’s frustratingly addictive (in a good way of course). It really is down to the gamer on how much time they put into PES 14, whether it finishing each mode with a variety of teams or quick exhibition matches here and there. Whether you play PES 14 on your own, online or offline against friends, there’s every reason for you to come back for your gaming football fix. No matter what the gaming generation, in my opinion nothing beats having friends round, competing against one another on the same sofa and not to mention the winner gets the bragging rights in the losers face.
Just like any football game or any other sports game for that matter, there’s no reason to why PES 14 can’t remain within your collection until PES 2015. Speaking of which, if PES 14 is this good now running on the Fox Engine, just imagine how insanely awesome it’s going to be on the next gen, I already can’t wait for that one. Let’s not of course forget about those all so important achievements and trophies for you hunters out there to acquire.
It’s taken its sweet time, but finally we PES fans are so close to getting the game that we have truly been craving for. I loved PES 13 as it was a turning point for the series, but PES 14 has evolved further more. With it running off the Fox Engine, it’s almost a test for its next gen version. Now I’m with most of you in wanting the next gen PES this year, but this was a deliberate act from Konami as they wanted to make sure that they get the next gen version just right with the new engine. So think of it this way, PES 14 is a great football game, but Konami and PES Productions can take what worked and what did not with PES 14 and therefore can maximise its next gen potential.
Just like the fan boy console wars, you will have some gamers that want both consoles and some gamers that will be fiercely loyal to the one brand. That has pretty much been the way with the old age argument of FIFA vs. PES, I know which one I prefer, but at the end of the day it’s down to the gamers personal preference to decide what they like. What I can tell you is that PES 14 is without a doubt the best PES game in a long time, it’s the game that we’ve been waiting for since it crossed over to the current gen. Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 has taken its sweet time, but finally has ‘almost’ evolved into the sexy football game that we have longed for. So with that in mind, bring on the next gen PES.