Previews

Preview: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Pro Evolution Soccer has come quite a way since its disastrous turn-of-the-console-generation days. Over the last couple of years, the series has found its footing and the developers seemed to have finally found a definite direction they want the series to head into. And yet this year, Konami has chosen to shake things up dramatically with a brand new game engine, and that has had a profound impact on the very core of PES.

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With a modified version of the FOX engine powering it and new Havok physics, Konami had enough reason to go next-gen this year itself.

Some would say it’s a risk for Konami to skip next-gen consoles this year and give FIFA a head-start on the PS4 and Xbox One, but this is the most clear indication we’ve ever got from Konami that it has learned from its mistakes. With a modified version of Hideo Kojima’s FOX engine powering it and new physics with the implementation of Havok, Konami had enough reason to go next-gen this year itself, but it instead chose to perfect their game on current-gen first.

That decision has paid off.

PES was always been viewed as a football simulation, and Konami still maintains that it is, but it hasn’t been pushing nearly as hard in the pursuit of absolute realism as EA has with FIFA. As the years passed, a clear rift has developed between the way the two games play. FIFA games seem to get slower and slower each year, while PES has maintained a somewhat brisk pace. Gameplay in PES 2014 again seems to possess that sense of urgency, but thanks to everything that’s changed since last year, it all seems to fit together much better.

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PES 2014 is already a significant improvement over last year’s game, and all of that stems from one thing – first touch.

I’m not going to get into all the marketing jargon that Konami has been pushing on us ever since the game was announced – M.A.S.S., TrueBall, Heart, and all that. All you really need to know is that PES 2014 is already a significant improvement over last year’s game, and all of that stems from one thing – first touch.  It’s remarkable how profoundly the first-touch impacts the fluidity of a football game, much as it does in the sport itself. It’s hard to dispute Konami’s claim that the ball and player are now completely separate because with a combination of the two analog sticks, you can pretty much dictate your player’s first touch relative to the way he receives the ball and where his nearest attacker is (check video below). PES always rewarded build-up play, and that’s still the case, but the ability to now skilfully wrong foot your defender with a first touch and create some space for yourself is as strong a weapon as any in the game’s offensive arsenal.

Another area that Konami has really been focussing on over the last couple of years is manual controls, and I think they’ve finally got it just right this year with advanced passing, through balls and shooting. These manual controls worked just fine last year too, but the simplicity with which you can pull them off, coupled with the AI making intelligent runs, now makes all the difference. The manual passing is also made significantly more useful with the ability to control your first touch. Simply put, PES 2014 gives you more control than ever before and it doesn’t make you jump through hoops in the process.

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Keepers advance intelligently, cover angles realistically, parry shots to safety rather than into the path of an attacker, and hold onto shots when possible.

Speaking of AI, the goalkeepers are now better than they’ve ever been. Keepers advance intelligently, cover angles realistically, parry shots to safety rather than into the path of an attacker, and hold onto shots when possible. There will be the odd GK lapse or collision detection glitch, as there always are, but I saw no evidence of it in my hour or so with the game. The goalkeeper has also seen an animation overhaul, and dives, grabs, throws and parries now look far better than before. Outfield players too have benefited from an array of new animations, particularly in first-touches, jostling, and changes in pace.

It appears as though Konami is no longer concerned with what EA is up to with FIFA. That may not be a wise approach, but based on what I’ve played, in doing so, it is putting together a game that PES fans have been wanting since the PS2 days. Whether PES 2014 will be as good as those games or be able to challenge for EA’s crown will only be clear months after its release because, as always, it will come with a sizeable learning curve. What my brief session with the game has assured me of though, is that this year’s game will present an even stronger argument than last year’s for old fans to return.

PES 2014 is scheduled for release on 27th September for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC.

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