E3 2013: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 Preview

June 30, 2013

When I talk soccer games with my mates (which comes up more often than I’m ever prepared for), I’ve noticed slowly but surely a turn in the tide of conversation. For the last few years, FIFA has more or less had a stranglehold on the hearts and minds of soccer fanatics around the country, as their go-to game for the sport. But even with next-gen consoles on the horizon, and a new FIFA running on a new engine on the way, the word is getting around – PES is making a comeback.

Now Konami’s PES 2014 is not coming to PS4 or Xbox One, instead making its way to current gen consoles, PC and (yes, really) PSP, but it is sporting the brand-new Fox engine which Metal Gear Solid V is running on, and having played both FIFA and PES at E3 this year, I found it pretty difficult to choose between them. Perhaps the crowds were more detailed in FIFA, but it’s pretty difficult to pick them apart. PES’s character models are as realistic as any other sports game, the stadiums are lively and full of motion, and the presentation is top notch.

On the field, the most immediately noticeable difference is the new ‘TrueBall’ technology handling the actual soccer ball. Football gamers will recognize the idiosyncrasies of how the ball normally behaves in video games – general when passing to another player, that’s a slight sense it’s being magnetized to their feet, and then attaching itself to their character model until, it’s passed or the player is tackled. With ‘TrueBall’, this doesn’t happen – you have to maneuver your player so they can realistically get control of the ball. That means running to keep up with the ball and getting in front of it, taking into account how fast your passes are and their height. The game still plays the same way, but it’s a little trickier due to the more realistic physics and the way you’re expected to play. A new ‘M.A.S.S.’ system also promises more realism in player animations and AI. While FIFA at E3 played much the same way it always does, there was a tangible difference in this year’s PES, dare I say, an actual reason for the yearly upgrade.

Konami also mentioned at the booth that they’re revisiting the ‘Player ID’ system, as seen in last year’s PES. This system tailors personalities and playing styles to individual players, so that their animations and stats correspond to their real-life counterparts. About 50 players were part of the system last year, but Konami haven’t confirmed how many will be included this time, except to say they’re expecting it to expand greatly.

In terms of leagues, the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Europa League are licensed in the game, and for the first time ever, the AFC Champions League is fully and exclusively licensed in PES 2014.

I played a couple of matches at E3, but unfortunately they were both against Anthony, who managed to not only kick an own goal but not realize that the teams switch sides, so that he could kick one again. Therefore, I’ll have to wait until I get a decent challenge before I can get the full PES experience. However, I shouldn’t have long to wait, as the game is hitting store shelves this September.