I’m not one of the old school. I didn’t play ISS. I only joined the incredibly loyal, if a bit disgruntled, fans of the PES franchise in 2003 with PES3. Even then, I stilled played other football games as well due to PES not having the licenses and no where the type of tools it has now to recreate them. But the last few years have shifted, the competition feels wrong, PES feels right. This year PES has had a lot of hype and before I played my first game, I was praying it would live up to it.
The FOX engine is what this game is all about, ever since Konami showed off the capabilities of the engine PES fans have been buzzing with excitement with the potential and seemingly endless possibilities. PES shows the FOX engine in the brightest of lights when you look at the game. Personally, I have never seen a better looking sports title, the thread of kits is apparent to see to all, incredible detail in player face and body models. This is a level of visuals never before seen in any football game. PES have taken photo realism to the max on current consoles I believe. However, player faces may look incredible, but that that only applies to the ones in the game. The generic or default faces that the majority have are poor. They started from scratch for 2014, which means there simply wasn’t the time to get as many faces in to the game as last year. But you can not blame Konami. In fact, they have been quite amazing about it. They announced that they will be working with community sites like our selves to correlate feedback from you the fans and add hundreds more faces post launch in a FREE DLC pack. This is something Konami recognises is important to fans and they are doing an amazing job of acknowledging that more need to be added.
Along side this, Stadiums are breathtaking. Again an incredible amount of details have gone in to them, inside tunnels are replicated perfectly, and the atmosphere in different stadiums across the world is reflected perfectly. Again unfortunately the issue of the number of them pops up. This is something however Konami will not be able to rectify this year and how big of an issue this is really depends on how important stadiums are to you. Konami again though were honest with fans, once more acknowledging how important this topic is, and issued a statement on our boards to fans.
The menus in my opinion are a mixed bag. As you start the game you are asked to choose you favourite team and player. The team logo is placed on the main screen and the colour scheme is based around them. The favourite player is shown next to all if the modes. This is a nice personal touch to the menus that has gone down well with fans.
Last year, PES 2013 had far too many options on the main slider, where as this year Konami have condensed the menus to only 5 options. Match, Football Life, Competition, Training and Edit with three additional options (Statistics, Online Settings and Options) neatly tucked away as square logos in the bottom left hand corner of the screen. This makes the UI much easier to get around and is overall much cleaner.
It must be said though, compared to competitors in all different sports, the menus really do look outdated and don’t make the most of the tools it has been given.
This is what PES has always been about. While other games in the past had the flashy menus and major licenses, PES always delivered amazing gameplay, and that is where it really counted. That was then, and while 2013 was a big step towards recapturing the glory days, those days still seemed so far away. This year, many believe the old PES is back. I’m disagree, the old PES can never be back. PES 2014 is a whole new ball game. It is different in almost every way. If 2013 was an evolution, then 2014 is a revolution. Never before have I seen such a drastic change in the way a game plays, and I am happy to say that it really is for the better.
Passing is the cream of the crop. This year in order to pass the ball effectively you need to make the right decisions. There is an unforgiving nature about PES with regards to passing, if you are careless you will lose the ball, make no mistake. However if you master the art and make smart and creative passes you will gain so much satisfaction. Player stats really do make a difference as well, so this cheeky inside passes may work nicely with Pirlo, but don’t expect Ryan Shawcross to be able to replicate it!
A favourite new feature of mine is the Advanced through ball. It takes some time to get used to but once mastered it will become your best friend. An in game target system comes up as you attempt an advanced through ball allowing you to decide where to put your pass. Like I said, it takes some mastering, at first they can go all over the place, but after a while you will learn how to control it and make pin point passes.
Shooting isn’t as great, shots from distance feel like a waste of time more often that not, with a fair few shots not even troubling keepers. It doesn’t seem to have the same zip that shooting in 2013 seemed to have. Having said that, again it is based on stats, powerful strikers such as Wayne Rooney can really drive shots at the goal. Advanced shooting isn’t too much different for me either, with the accuracy perhaps slightly better. The biggest disappointment in the shooting department is the finesse shots. Last year, finesse shots felt like they had a lot of purpose, this year it doesn’t feel the same. I have personally been general shooting with less power rather than using the finesse shot as it seems to work more effectively. These are however all things that Konami are working on, and have already improved upon with a patch that has since been released.
Dribbling in the game is fantastic, the tussles to be had whilst running with the ball produce “wow” moments. You don’t necessarily even need to be the strongest player on the pitch to hold your own. Playing as Giovinco, when I wasn’t sprinting, I had a good level of control over the ball even when players were putting me under pressure. It’s all about keeping composure and looking for ways out of trouble. However a downside to dribbling, and this is a sentiment shared to me by my colleague Asim, there seems to be two levels of dribbling, what can be seen as almost walking and then sprinting. Nothing in between, at all. This is definitely something that needs to be addressed in the near future.
Opponent AI is another one of the major changes for me. Teams previously went straight from gaining possession to attack extremely quickly. Now you can see team styles in play. Teams pass the ball around with the purpose of maintaining possession and creating an attack. However teams can also play route one football, and that is what is so great about the AI. There was never a plan B in 2013, now there is a plan C, D and even E.
Goalkeepers have been improved. A mass of new animations come with them meaning there are more ways for them to make saves. Having said that they are by no means perfect and maybe one of the biggest issues in the game comes with them. Keeper positioning at times is incredible poor, and while Konami have detailed that they are looking at a fix in a patch, it really does need to be stressed how poor it can be at times. Goalkeepers will stand sideways when the ball is coming at them allowing them to really only dive in the direction they are facing. This also means that they parry the ball in to the net as they are standing too far away from the post to parry out for a corner. If the keeper was positioned correctly then they would actually be doing the right movement. It must be said though that since the online patch, I have seen much less of that.
Heart is a brand new concept that makes the atmosphere with in the stadium effect the players momentum, The different styles for different continents is fantastic and Heart is already one of my favourite features of PES2014. When playing as Manchester United I could see crunching tackles really get the crowd going and playing as Santos a neat trick or flick did the same. It is a feature that definitely grows in to the game, the more you play the more you will recognise the signs. A massive worry is that this could be used as an exploit, but it really isn’t that overwhelming, it can just give your team a boost to push further.
M.A.S.S is another big feature for PES this year. True physical collisions had been missing from PES and this feature brings it to the table. You see some very realistic collisions which look amazing, but you also see some not so realistic ones. A big flaw is that with this system in place, referee’s give fouls for even the slightest contact, even if it is not in the context of a foul. There have been some strange decisions given where two players have just run in to each other and a foul has been given.
Master League has seen it’s self stripped down to the core. It has has removed 99% of the cut scenes that 2013 had, making it a far more streamlined experience. But it has had coaching staff taken away, detracting a bit of depth that last year had. You can no longer create a manager in your own image either, which some will like and some will hate. The big additions to Master League are the abilities to move clubs at the end of each season, and also the ability to manage International countries and lead them to glory. Other than those additions, it is generally the same as last year so a lot of fans will be hoping next-gen consoles will see a revamped Master League.
Become a Legend hasn’t changed too much either, however what annoyed me was the absence of training games, it was 4/5 weeks before I played a match and I just had to keep forwarding through the calendar.
2014 has seen the acquisition of the AFC Champions League. Another major club competition to add to the UEFA Champions League and the Copa Libatadores. This is a fantastic license, which I spoke about in depth in a previous article on WENB. It provides Konami with leverage to push PES in Asian markets and pleases the fans.
League Mode has made it’s way back in to 2014 after taking a year off in 2013. This is great news as it was sorely missed last year.
When this review was written, the online servers were not yet active so I can not comment on them unfortunately.
I am pleasantly surprised with the soundtrack. Some nice old school tunes, reminding me of the footballing years that have gone by. Nothing too special, but not something that can be really criticised.
Commentary remains largely the same, with a new new soundbites. Commentators now actually talk about specific players by combining their name with a separately recorded statement. This has been implemented quite nicely and works quite well.
There will be plenty here to keep fans occupied until this time next year. Master League and Become a Legend are both modes that will get months and months of playtime. When the servers are online, Master League Online will be another huge mode for fans to get stuck in to. Combine all of those with general online and offline exhibition and all of the continental competitions to take part in, I can not see PES2014 getting old fast.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 is a game based around what happens on the pitch. I believe it has accomplished it’s goal of getting right back into the minds of fans as a relevant game. It is by no means perfect but this revolution can now be worked on and Konami can show that PES is ready for next-gen. That will be the biggest test for Konami, but for now they can be pleased with what they have accomplished.