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E3 2013 – PES 2014 Hands-On Impressions

Reading an article in EDGE, diagrams, screenshots and teaser trailers, these are all great but nothing can compare to actually getting your hands on a new PES for the first time. It’s where you form your first opinion of the game and learn more about it, something that no pre-release asset or article can provide. This year, with a brand new engine behind the game, that statement had more weight behind it than you can ever imagine. Excitement? Yes, I had it in abundance. Trepidation? Sure, there was plenty of that too. How would the Fox Engine change a series that I had followed for so long? After playing it for several hours at E3 2013, the answer was very much positive.

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The Difficulty Curve

Pick up the pad and start to play PES 2014 like any of the previous titles in the series, you’ll find that you won’t get very far. Whilst the game retains that distinct PES feeling, it plays differently and that is very much a good thing. The power of the Fox Engine combined with some new features, means that the rigid feel of previous games has gone. MASS and TrueBall tech have much to do with getting rid of that, helping to make the on-pitch action in PES 2014 look and feel more natural than its predecessors. For instance, when you’re dribbling, the player you’re controlling not only moves more realistically, you feel his weight shifting as he jogs or sprints in the desired direction. Sprint too much and attempt to turn at the last minute? It’s more than likely the ball will go out of play or will be intercepted by the opposition. This applies to even the star players such as Robben, Ribery or Neymar. After all you don’t see these guys constantly sprinting in real life matches like headless chickens, do you? Well, Robben maybe! Sorry, bad joke. In all seriousness, it’s a great change, one that forces you to think about when you sprint and dribble with some real care. I learnt the harsh way, and I suspect many of you will too.

Another area where MASS and TrueBall Tech come into play is with the first touch and control system. There is a real emphasis on first touch an control in PES 2014, something that is apparent even in your first match. The physics system works in tandem with the TrueBall Tech to simulate how well you end up controlling a ground or lofted pass. The results are sublime, with the level of success dependent on where the player is, how his body is positioned and which direction you push the analogue stick. Much like the dribbling mechanics, you have total control, but everything is bound within reality. Sometimes your player will take the perfect Bergkamp-esque touch, whereas others he’ll fail completely. It’s not completely black and white, there is a grey area too. So if you happen to take a less than perfect touch that doesn’t immediately mean you’ll lose the ball. Sometimes that will be enough, depending on the situation of course. Whatever the result, once you get you used to it, you’ll never feel cheated. Whatever you do has an impact on how successful you are. It’s a harsh lesson to learn, but oh so rewarding when you get it right. I said this to a few people after playing 2014, but I think the difficulty curve will be steeper for regular PES players, whereas total newcomers might adjust a little easier. That’s not because it’s “newbie friendly”, but more because a newcomer won’t be stuck with certain bad habits.

PES 2014 preview screen 1

Freedom of Passing

Quite possibly one the best parts of PES 2014, the freedom of passing in the game is exceptional. That might sound a little weird at this early stage, but it doesn’t make it any less true. The Fox Engine and the introduction of TrueBall Tech has done wonders for this integral part of the game. Even at four bars, what most would call assisted, there is variety and freedom in the passing. At times, even on the one or two bars, the passing in PES 2013 felt very much on rails and assisted, frustrating many hardcore fans. Putting the pass level down to three or less resulted in even more freedom, but I rarely strayed too much from four or three as I felt they were good enough. I felt that I could weight and direct the passes in exactly the way I wanted. Obviously I wasn’t always successful, but the sheer fact that three and fours bars felt so good speaks volumes.

Lofted passes also felt great, allowing you to spread play when you like. The ball won’t just travel in straight line like a target missile; it will curve depending on how you strike it and where you want it to go. Building up moves in PES never felt so satisfying, mixing up ground passes with lofted long balls is a real joy to witness and be part of. It’s so good, that you’ll almost forget about the through ball button. In fact, I can probably count the number of times I used the button on one hand. The standard passing is so varied and free now that the through balls almost seem useless. If I was being totally honest, it appears as if over the top through passes and ground ones have been toned down in terms of their success rate. Each time I tried to put a player through using the dedicated button, I under or over hit it. Going by previous iterations and how overpowered the through balls were, this was and still is a massive positive for me. Hopefully it results in people using their actual passing skills rather than rely on the through ball button.

PES 2014 preview screen 2

Audio and Visual Depth

Whilst the E3 2013 code lacked the polish of the screenshots and trailers you’ve seen so far, it’s still a step up when compared to any previous current-gen titles. “That’s not hard”, I hear you say. Yes, you’re right. I’m not going to lie to you and say it look next-gen, because it doesn’t. However, previous PES titles aside, it’s a MASSIVE step up when it comes to the current-gen standards. It’s using the power of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, finally pushing both of them on a technical front. Animations are fluid, player models look great, lighting is fantastic and stadiums look great. The latter is exemplified by the breathtaking crowds. Now, they’re not fully 3D, but man do they look good. Whether it’s the Bayern fans creating a mosaic before kick-off or Santos followers lighting up flares during a match, they really add to the sense of occasion.

Coming back to the animations, just the like best PES titles of the past, you’ll notice new ones as you play and be amazed. It could be the frighteningly real way Robben runs, or something simple like the way a player moves his head when flicking a ball on. Even goalkeepers have new animations, but more on them later. For now, let’s move to sound in PES 2014. It’s difficult to completely comment on the audio side of things due to the environment we were playing in (noisy E3 showfloor), but we did manage to bump up the volume on a few pods we played on and the noise from the crowd in relation to what was happening on the pitch was just amazing. The enthusiasm of the Bayern fans and the sheer passion of the Santos faithful came across brilliantly. Whilst the Heart feature was full featured in the E3 build, if this is an early indication of what Konami plan to do with it then I for one can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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The Set Piece Conundrum

The ability to direct set pieces via a dotted line, a new feature that turned out to be a bit of a talking point between the lucky people that played PES 2014. Sounds simple enough and it is, but its inclusion is somewhat of a double edged sword. You are given the freedom to adjust the direction, height and curve of the ball for both free-kicks and corners. If it sounds great, that’s because it is. It works really well, a little too well in fact. What do I mean by that? Well, you can score directly from corners and it makes the art of the free-kick a little too easy. The free-kick point is less of an issue, but as I played more and more it became apparent that you could score directly from corners almost every single time, turning it into a bit of an exploit. Two corners in a row I did the exact same thing and hit the same point of the crossbar. If I spent a bit more time with it I’m certain I could’ve done what other players were doing, scoring direct from corners regularly.

This possible exploit was fed back to the relevant people, but I still feel something would lost if the feature was taken away altogether. I enjoyed whipping in corners and free-kicks just as much as I welcomed the challenge of defending them. The tactical element fascinated me, but not everyone is going to be as fair and sportsmanlike when it comes to using this feature. It’s sad, but that’s the truth. A suggestion was made by me to limit where the dotted line could go for corners, but then that would take away an element of freedom which was the idea behind it initially. Like I said at the beginning of this section, it’s a double edged sword situation and I don’t envy Konami in how they go about dealing it. I just hope it’s not taken it out completely, but ultimately that might be long term solution. You can even turn the dotted line off right now with a simple press of R1 or RB.

Penalties have also been tweaked, with the kicker getting reticule on-screen that gets bigger as you move towards the corners of the goal. This makes it slight easier for the goalkeeper to save shots, but the kicker can move the reticule at the last second to fool the shot stopper. It’s a nice little mechanic, but I hope it’s smoothed out a little with a proper explanation of how it works delivered to players before they take or attempt to stop their first penalty. The little mysteries have been a staple of PES titles of the past, but for mechanics like this they really should be explained the first time you come across them.

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The Fundamentals

Let’s start with goalkeepers shall we? They’re much improved. The men between the sticks are now more reliable and stable, with new animations introduced to reflect differing styles. In the E3 build, Neuer was most impressive. He came out for the ball when he could, catching wherever possible. In PES 2013 the keepers started to push the ball away from goal as much as possible, resulting in less rebound goals, and that’s even more apparent in PES 2014. The keepers also stand up much longer during one-on-one situations, making themselves big and spreading their body to make a save when necessary. I genuinely can’t remember playing a PES during this stage previously and saying “what a save” so many times.

Shooting has been slightly tweaked too, with the feel being less “floaty” than before and more natural. Long range shots in particular felt great, no matter if you scored or not. Staying with scoring, headers have been greatly improved, which means you can actually score them now if you’re in the right position instead of every single one floating over the bar. Crossing felt pretty much the same though, which isn’t necessarily a supremely bad thing, but it would’ve been nice if it had the same freedom as the rest of the passing model. This was fed back to Konami, so hopefully later builds of PES 2014 will have improved crossing.

Attacking wise, the AI was still as great as ever, with good movement around the ball carrier depending on which area of the pitch he is moving towards. The defensive side of things I’ll touch on in the next section, but the actual defending mechanic itself has improved thank to MASS and TrueBall Tech. You still double tap X or A to go into a tackle, but your player will now go towards the ball rather than the player. The feedback you get whether you’re successful or not via the resulting animations is lovely, more natural and realistic than any previous PES. In fact, that sentiment could apply to the entire physical side of the game, as it’s a real step up from PES 2013. It’s slight shame then that referees are a bit inconsistent without any prior warning, with some giving fouls when there actually wasn’t one committed. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as referees are inconsistent at the best of times in real life, but it would be great if there was an indication before the match as to what type of official (lenient, fair, strong and so on) you’re up against. This would allow you to adjust your style and escape the frustrations of certain referees.

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Areas of Improvement

I mentioned a few slight improvements that could be made in other sections, with this particular one kept for the defensive AI and player awareness. It’s not something I noticed until the second day of playing PES 2014, but since then it was very much apparent. It had a slight negative impact on some matches, whereas in others it was completely affecting the result of matches, especially when playing against other human players. I noticed several occasions where one player would have the ball in a defensive and one or two players near him would just stand there doing nothing, even when the ball carrier came near them. There was no forward or sideways movement that would’ve made it easier for you to get out. In real life football this is what happens, if one player has the ball in the defensive area then others will move around accordingly, giving him options to move out and get the ball forward. This rarely happened in the E3 build of PES 2014.

To add to this frustration, these non-moving players would get in the way on several occasions, resulting in the ball being gifted to the opposition for a goal. There were several occasions where I benefited from this and the goal I scored as a result felt cheap. I was on the other end of it too, which was really frustrating. This also happened occasionally when defending corners, with cheap goals being scored on the back of the lack of defensive awareness. It’s a frustrating negative as the rest of the game is so good, really enjoyable. As you’d expect this was fed back to Konami and I was assured that in future builds this would be addressed. I would imagine it’s a case of the development team heightening the responsiveness of the defensive AI and other players on the pitch that are not being controlled. A new build should be available to play just before Gamescom, so I’m hoping to report with back positive things in relation to this after getting hands on with that.

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Final Thoughts

I’ve played several builds of PES at this early stage and never come away feeling so positive about the game. It’s clear to see the Fox Engine and several new features have put a spring into PES 2014′s step that was missing from previous current-gen iterations. The game feels fresh, more fluid and realistic than before, yet it still retains that PES magic. It may not be next-gen, but if Konami stay on track and improve the game in key areas before it launches (modes and features), PES 2014 could well be a true return to form for the series. Can I have the next build now please, Konami?

Join the discussion
  • Zado316

    Y don’t I just add u now on PSN. Send me ur psn acct.

  • Leo John

    it occurs for PES 2014 PC demo?

  • Leo John

    PES 2014 system requirements minimum?

  • Nizam

    Thanks Asim. Much appreciated mate.

  • Nizam

    Asim, maybe I’m wrong but the ‘fatigue system’ works quite well on PES 2013.

    Zado316, what modes do you play on PES 2013? I understand that when you play exhibition matches you can turn off the fatigue system so that all players run around like as if they all have 5 pairs of lungs each. However, I tend to play Master League online quite a lot and there players do tire as the match progresses. Overplay the likes of Walcott, Agbonlahor (just because they have lightning pace), Neymar, Eto’o et al and you’ll notice that they’ll slow down to a snail’s pace. It adds realism so no complaints here from me. As a result it means you have to manage your team well, make subs in the correct positions, and even adapt your tactics/formations according to the general fitness/tiredness of your team.

    In saying that there are some players who appear never to tire but I think those few are a true reflection of their real self – I’m on about your Kuyts and Schurles. Oh, and that fictional player, Van Der Mirch (by god, I hate him!)

  • Leo John

    PES 2014 > Fifa 14

  • Zado316

    I’m talking about exhibition matches, I know players tire in BAL, Master League…… That said there is still too much sprinting up n down even in master league, average distance covered by players in real life games is between 9-12 km per match, in PES I’m sure if they adjusted the distance travelled stat to Km or Miles, the average wud be more than 20miles n probably 40 for the likes of C.R7 & Messi, its unrealistic how many dribbling attempts guys make with star players in a match without substituting them in PES. Trust me I’ve played a lot offs games n I also play Football in my spare time, the 20 times in a match the likes of Messi n Robben try to dribble down the whole field in pes is unrealistic, soccer is very tiring and there is a strategy part to managing ur energy levels/ managing fatigue.
    The fatigue system in fifa for exhibition matches works realy well.

  • Zado316

    It wud be nice to see players get injuries due to exhaustion in pes during matches i.e. pulled hamstrings and other strained muscles. It wud also be nice to have players in master league complain to u if u manage their fatigue badly.

  • King Woody

    Sounds very nice and promissing. I actually dont care how beautiful the faces are and what new licenses there are. I finally want this year a decent online mode. I dont want to waite fo hours to play a MLO tournament. Also i want to play tournaments with my friends only. So PLEASE bring back the community mode online and add much more actions online regarding to rournaments and leagues. Why always thesame tournament where you have to qualify? Why no poules like in real? Why no sit & go tournaments like poker. Where a tournament immediately starts when there are enough participants. I hate it to play this concept tournaments online and not to have the freedom to create myt own tounaments and leagues to play with my friends. ITS ALMOST 2014 KONAMI. This should have been implemented already in Pes2008.. Im so scared they dont give us an attractive online mode again this year..

  • Guilherme Cramer

    I enjoyed the read but I’d like some more nitpicking of the game. The referee issue, for example, was very much downplayed here. Everything must be analysed and reported back with feedback to Konami. Yes men don’t help the game.

  • Nizam

    Ok, I’m with you. Will just have to wait and see how KONAMI deal with this. I supposes as most gamers tend to play only 10 min long matches they will have to deal with this in a way that players are not dying on the fields after only a few mins. We’d all love it to be as realistic as possible but it’s a game at the end of the day and if there’s no slight element of ‘fantasy’ then there is a danger that KONAMI might lose the casual gamers. But I agree with you though, at the moment PES player fatigue levels need toning down.

  • Zado316

    Fifa has an excellent exhibition match fatigue system, where as pes has the best League modes/ BAL fatigue system. Fifa’s system seems ato also take into account time. I’ve never seen in fifa a situation where after dribbling up and down with say, C.R7 for the whole first half, that he tired out n needed substituting in the first half.

    Whatever equation they use to calculate the fatigue in fifa exhibitions modes, seems to me to take TIME into account, as the effects of tiring become more apparent as the game progresses, more so in the second half, but that’s just my guess.

    PES 2010 Become A Legend also has a similar match fatigue system to Fifa’s, albeit a bit toned down in comparison, but I’d love to see that in 2014′s exhibition mode.

  • VladT

    I can only hope that these new features are effective against the CPU as they are against human opposition, otherwise the single-player experience will remain frustrating and pointless. PES 2013 had some nifty features too. The problem was the CPU was invincible against most of them (dribbling, through passes, etc.).

  • AsimT

    @Justin – Sorry for the late response, but yeah appreciate your enthusiasm and kind words, dude. We’ll definitely be working closely with Adam (who I still consider one of us) to make sure things are promptly looked at. Yours and other community members feedback is key to this, so please do report back. Easiest way is to find me on Twitter.

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  • Marc Eady McCready

    pes 2014 has spent so much tie on the fox engine (which is great) matchplay is amazing, but have forgotten the fundamentals and everything else that made pes great, and what is with the free kick line so easy a child 5 yr old child can score. really poor on that part, also they don’t even know the rules you cant be offside if you receive a pass from inside your own half !! whole game has taken a back seat to the fox engine, lazy !! not to get started on player faces = no research at all it would seem. first pes I have ever disliked. get it sorted and save the game