Review: PES 2013
The past few entries into the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise have been somewhat hit 'n miss; getting a lot right but plenty wrong. This was mostly due to these games not having a clear definition of whether they wanted to be hardcore simulators or more arcadey, fun titles. So what does PES 2013 accomplish with a greater sense of purpose and direction?
- Worth The Time?Very much so
- Things LovedUEFA Champions League and wider range of licensed teams. Fluid, enjoyable and rewarding gameplay. Impressive degree of ball control, which requires skill and finesse. Clever AI allows for beautiful interplay and fast counter-attacks. Balanced blend of arcade and simulator. Great online - a game that has to be played with other people. Great degree of technical depth makes for a game that is quick to get the hang of but it will take plenty of practice to truly master it.
- Things HatedRepetitive and rubbish soundtrack grinds. Lack of attention to detail with squad lists and starting line-ups. Some character models look shoddy an goal celebrations are terrible to watch. Somewhat dull Master League and Be a Legend modes. Inconsistent player ratings.
- RecommendationAnyone looking for a great alternative to FIFA should give this game a try. Over and above that, this is a game for those who prefer more technical finesse to their sports games but also a very rewarding, genuinely fun experience.
- Name: PES 2013
- Genre: Sport
- Players: 1-7
- Multiplayer: 2-4
- Platforms: PC, PS3, Xbox 360
- Developer: Konami
- Publisher: Konami
- Price: R219 (PC), R435 (PS3, Xbox 360)
- Reviewed On: PS3
I’ve got a confession to make. You see, I’m not a fan of PES and never have been so whenever a review copy comes along I change the controller settings to something more in-line with my FIFA preferences and even apply the same playstyle. It usually works well enough and I play the game long enough to write an accurate review before returning back to the corresponding FIFA title which has grabbed me. I’m being bluntly honest here because that has not happened with PES 2013. I tried to play in my regular FIFA style but the game quite frankly punished me for it.
So it was that I turned to the tutorials which the game offers on defending, passing and just about everything else. They really allow you to master the game in no time at all and shorten the learning curve for noobs or FIFA regulars alike. I was still resistive because of its slightly foreign nature but once you give in to the game, it is a very satisfying experience that you can easily get lost in.
Usually I’d save the nitpicking for the last third of this review but I really do want your final impression of the game to be a positive one so let’s get these spots of bother out of the way with haste. The soundtrack is a regrettable and repetitive mangle of garbage with the only shining light coming from Imagine Dragons who incidentally feature in FIFA 13 as well. The commentary is better than ever but that’s not saying much because it is still halting and about as good as the Olympic commentary.
The lack of full licensing is something we’ve come to accept and Konami has tried to meet us halfway by getting licensing for many leagues such as Serie A, Liga BBVA and Eredivisie along with the mainstay UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores but it’s as if they don’t even watch soccer. Most squads are outdated with players such as van Persie and Carroll still at their former clubs. Team sheets are not even done right with players such as Suarez finding themselves on the bench. Something else that just throws off the authenticity of this game for me is the lack of stoppage time at the end of each half, the game just abruptly ends.
Goal celebrations are pre-programmed but look hideous to the point where you will want to avert your eyes and some player models look a little rough around the edges in addition to the textures making many look old. On that topic, the player likenesses are still hit ‘n miss but not nearly as bad as they used to be. Other than that, PES 2013 looks rather good. And for the love of Jesus (Navas) why is there so much Ronaldo porn all over this year’s PES? I understand he signed a deal to represent the game and be its cover star but there is a limit to how many times I want to see his face in a 5 minute span. His face is everywhere and sure he’s an attractive fellow but seriously, there’s a limit. While some players will move and behave in a recognisable manner, most players seem to be cut from the same mould and players of similar ratings will dribble, run and play in much the same way.
Let’s counteract that with a very positive look at the gameplay. For the past few years PES hasn’t been able to decide whether it wants to be a simulator or an arcade sports game and that created an inconsistent schizophrenia within the games which translated into an experience that never really drew you in because it was too busy finding an identity. Well, PES 2013 has solved that little crisis and asserts itself clearly as a title which draws from both. It requires immense skill and precise control to master with a depth of control that rivals any fighting game while also being rewarding, fun and engaging. Every combination of buttons produces a very different result and really allows you full control over the ball.
The two main contributors to this are PES Full Control and Deft Touch Dribbling. These two systems work in synergy to allow for an amazing level of control on the ball which requires finesse and intelligence to be used to their maximum potential but even the ham-fisted ogres amongst you could execute passes and runs with a fine degree of control and great precision. With this you really can ape Messi in the way he dances with the ball at his feet. The game is not as simplified and linear as FIFA generally is and opts for a more dynamic approach with physics playing a big part in player collisions, deflections and the like to really make the game come alive. That said, players still seem to skate across the pitch but it isn’t really a big detractor.
Even the AI has been ramped up significantly with faster reactions and more tactical awareness as well as better positioning. Teammates will make runs or move to cover approaching attacks from the opposition. You can also take control by clicking in the right analogue to cause teammates to run into space on demand or close down a player. This makes attacking a breeze and without even trying you will quickly string together some amazing combination plays and have mesmerising build-up play. This doesn’t make scoring or getting a shot away any easier though so when that goal finally does come, you will feel that you have earned it. Similarly with defending, you’ll feel like you’ve accomplished something when you thwart an opposition attack because while the system is effective, it still requires your full attention and diligence.
The freedom of movement offered to players makes the game play very fluidly and smoothly. It still takes skill to make the game work for you and you won’t succeed with the bare minimum effort so the game becomes very rewarding when you can make it work for you. You feel a genuine sense of accomplishment with everything you do right.
There are even great little tactical features such as defining preset formations which you can switch to on the fly and in addition to showing you a player’s stats and what their overall rating will be in a certain position, you are also shown what a player’s optimal positions are so you’ll know where to utilise them. Player ratings took me somewhat by surprise because from what I could gather in previous years, ratings consist of a combination of a player’s ability and their form in the previous football season yet players such as Nani, Rooney and Ronaldinho bare the same rating of 90 while Ronaldo sits pretty at 99 on a scale of 108. It’s all very bizarre and looks very much like one of my physics pracs where Konami appears to have simply fabricated some data because they were too lazy to source it properly.
Essentially, PES 2013 offers a rather great gameplay experience that is somewhat sullied by a few rather stale game modes. Online is still great fun, especially when you delve into Master League Online and of course UEFA Champions League is simply epic to play through with that sense of atmosphere, that theme song and those epic build-ups. The letdowns then are Be a Legend and Master League. Not to say they’re bad but they feel bland in relations to all the great tweaks and fixes that have made the gameplay so fresh and exciting.
Be a Legend allows you to either create your own player and build them up to greatness or take an established player and do things from their perspective. It’s a rather shallow mode with very little to do despite also offering the option to play in international matches and thus vie for a starting spot on both your club and national team. There’s just not much else to keep you interested unless you’re a fan of Achievements/ Trophies or want to win trivial rewards such as boots, nicknames and different accessories.
Similarly with Master League, you can either take control of a low team and manage it to glory or take the reins of an established club and then play through that team’s respective season. The trouble is that it is a bit dry and not very exciting until you get to matchday. You can make transfers but they’re more of a game of luck than anything involving negotiation skills. That said, they’re much better and more user-friendly than before and even the price that you’ll end up buying players for is rather realistic. You can also hire staff to improve your team while also purchasing equipment that does the same. You will earn focus points for won matches and these can also be spent on improving your team. A major gripe I have about Master League is that the player morale/form system is not very consistent or accurate. I could bench a player and he’d be just fine but I play him every match and both his form and morale drop.
What we have here then is the gaming equivalent of going out for drinks –it’s great with friends and you’re bound to have lots of fun but do it alone and it’s not necessarily bad but could quickly become a regrettable and sad experience. PES 2013 is a game that needs to be played with people to be properly enjoyed and that’s just fine by me because can you really keep playing by yourself a few months after this game has released?
I typically end a PES review by dismissing it as flawed but a nice change of pace from its FIFA counterpart but just as I couldn’t play the game as I normally do, I can’t end as I normally do because I am actually seriously impressed by the gameplay offering of PES 2013 and thoroughly enjoy playing matches in this game. It’s just a pity that the two long-life modes in this game are somewhat lacking a fresh spark. Luckily, you can play online and with friends for the next year and it would be fine (so long as this isn’t all you’re playing). It’s a great game which requires skill and finesse to master yet allows even the simple-minded to execute brilliant plays. The depth of the control scheme means it takes time to master but also means that it will be awhile before you unlock this game’s full potential. Until then, it is still a thoroughly enjoyable and engaging experience.