Review: PES 2014 Gets The Ball Caught Between Its Feet
I've always preferred FIFA to PES but it looked as if the Japanese franchise was gaining ground on its western counterpart and then PES 2014 came along.
- Worth The Time?Only rarely
- Things LovedThe way the crowd behaves and gives stadia real atmosphere is as great as the slick passing game you can play on the field. Champions League is a wonderful experience as ever. Arabic commentary! The game looks absolutely great at times...
- Things Hated... but suffers from stuttering and frame-rate drops interspersed with mediocre visuals. Game modes are stale and lack depth, the menus to navigate them are just as antiquate. Gameplay feels lethargic and slowed down. The absolute lack of attention to detail in squads, player likenesses and player stats is disheartening. The overly complex and clumsy control scheme is a chore to keep a handle on.
- RecommendationPES fans may enjoy this new iteration but regular football fans will find little to like about this game and it's approach to the beautiful game.
- Name: PES 2014
- Genre: Sport
- Players: 2-8
- Multiplayer: Co-Operative, Online
- Platforms: PS3, Xbox 360, PC
- Developer: PES Productions
- Publisher: Konami
- Price: R540 (PS3, Xbox 360), R360 (PC)
- Reviewed On: PS3
Pro Evolution Soccer is a peculiar creature. It enjoyed a great reign of supremacy on the PS2 but has stumbled somewhat on this console generation; playing substitute to the first-choice player – FIFA. Expect that trend to continue on the next generation of consoles because while PES 2013 was a bold step in the right direction but this year’s effort feels somewhat stale. I’d even go so far as to say it’s a step in the wrong direction.
It’s far from awful but PES 2014 has a bit of ambition that gets muddled up and leaves the game feeling like a lot of the effort has been put in the wrong places. This review is months overdue so don’t be surprised by the fact that I just gave away the punchline. You’re free to go now.
Still here? Okay, if you insist.
First off, rainy weather conditions, Stadium Editor and Spanish stadia are all out of PES due to a licensing issue with FIFA. Straight off the bat, FIFA is already screwing over its competitor. Funny, isn’t it?
PES is quite definitely being marketed to a different market or simply trying to capitalise on markets EA has neglected with FIFA. The Agentinian and Chilean leagues are fully licensed as are many other South American teams. You’ll even find the Copa Sudamericana, South American equivalent of UEFA Champions League. There’s even Chilean, Argentinian and Arabic commentary. Just as in real life, the Arabic commentary is particularly entertaining but as always this is PES so it gets a tad repetitive and tiresome rather quickly.
There are more licensed teams than ever and yet a number of the biggest teams, mainly in the English Premier League, remained unlicensed having to go by silly names such as Man Blue (that’s Manchester City).
This is something that I can accept, I’ve been overlooking it since I first touched PES but what really bugs me is that in 2013 the developers couldn’t be bothered to update squads, get player likenesses up to scratch or even have player stats that make sense.
Just looking at the Liverpool (Merseyside Red) team, there are a number of players who transferred away early on in the transfer window but are still in the squad such as Jay Spearing or Fabio Borini. It’s something to be fixed in a title update but really speaks for where PES puts its attention.
The teams it pays some attention to –Man Utd, Barcelona and a few others – have up to date squads (mostly), players who look like themselves and inflated stats. Gareth Bale (who is still at Tottenham in this game) is rated the same as consistent Utd underperformer Nani. There’s a measure of what sort of stats inconsistencies and discrepancies we’re talking about.
Other teams are treated a little unfairly. Player ID recreates the likeness, attributes and movements of dozens of star players and the play styles of a number of teams but this system suffers from the same issue as Gran Turismo 5 with its Prestige Cars. These cars were exquisitely detailed, behaved and handled realistically and crumpled beautifully in a collision. Any other car looked acceptable at best with blocky damage generation. In fact, it’s worse in this case because at least those cars looked like their real life counterparts.
A number of players seem to have a generic face altered slightly to somewhat describe but not match their features. A number of players look alike while others look nothing like themselves. It’s a frankly unacceptable and laughable display highlighted only by how good the star players look.
It is difficult to believe that anybody involved with PES watches football given the completely fictitious player ratings and hilarious roles. Iniesta and Fabregas are described as “Hole-men” whatever that means. Mascherano is known as “The Destroyer” and suffice to say my brother and I burst out laughing at this.
Since I’m on this superficial rant, what is up with the music in this game? It’s like the cumulative playlist of someone with multiple personality disorder. Things open boldly with Nessun Dorma before cutting to some Eurotrash then literally anything from any genre of music. I may have heard Jewish folk songs at one point. Hava nagila, hava nagila, hava… oh right, we should keep moving.
Where focus has really been poured onto this game is in the gameplay and its underpinning mechanics, as always. There are two new systems governing the way the game on the pitch namely TrueBall Tech and Motion Animated Stability System (MASS). Why yes, you can take this as proof that I read the back of the box.
As the name implies, TrueBall gives the ball more realistic physics and movement so that it moves completely individually from the player which allows it to move in far more ways and with slightly less predictability. MASS takes these ball physics, the stature of the player in possession, speed and height of a pass and more to make the ball move far more freely and naturally. In addition to this MASS also promotes physical contact between players but the game seems too eager to show this off and results in copious amounts of needless tussling between players.
That’s par for the course with the new systems implemented in PEs 2014. Granted they’re not entirely new systems but just tweaked versions of what came before with flashy new acronyms but they make a big difference and not necessarily for the better.
You see, for all these words and blurbs the systems don’t work as well as you might think. The ball still looks a little robotic when it moves as do the players. The dynamic nature of these systems does lend some unscripted unpredictability to the game. Few moves or passes feel like they’re following predetermined paths but it all feels so damn lifeless. Even shooting and scoring a goal is a dull affair.
Despite this, I’m not one to indulge in the passing game that Barcelona plays but even I can appreciate the free-flowing and organic feel to passing. It’s fast and precise although weighting passes is a little tricky initially. Dribbling too is tight and finely controlled though pulling off any skill moves with some consistency is nigh impossible given the complexity of the control scheme. They require too many buttons to be held and are far from intuitive.
FIFA favours a relatively simple control scheme that is easy to get the hang of but takes skill to fully utilise whereas PES simply throws a very complex, needlessly so, system of controls on you. There are too many button combos and means by which to control the game that are simply very difficult to get into. It’s a curve that you slam into and forces you to adapt to this complex control scheme or suffer by not being able to contend with the AI.
Part of adapting is using Combination Plan which is great in theory, not bad in practise but makes the game feel clunky. This allows you to set up a variety of formations and plays for different tactics in key areas of the pitch which can be triggered or activated with a few buttons presses. You can exploit defenses, use flanks, initiate curved runs, overlap play or force players into space. It’s a great concept but the implementation is clumsy and doesn’t feel natural while also trying to control the player on the ball.
It would ruin the momentum if PES 2014 didn’t feel a bit lethargic and slow for all these mechanics. Quite honestly, the game feels badly slowed down at normal speed almost to accommodate these new features which require more thought and tactics. What we have is some kind of football RTS of sorts and it doesn’t work all too well.
The game looks great but only at times and not always while in motion. In fact there are times where it looks fairly mediocre and you’ll notice the frame-rate drops erratically or stutters during goal replays. There is no excuse for these technical issues whatsoever, the game certainly shouldn’t be threatening to break my console.
Oddly enough, the crowds and stadia look pretty great, this might be due to the fact that the crowd provides tangible atmosphere and actually has an impact on team performance. No, really. It’s not brutally obvious but rather a little more subtle, which is the way you’d want it.
Roaming the menu you’re dealing with a functional but dated UI, it makes use of a faux mouse-pointer for God’s sake. You’ll quickly find the game modes lack any real depth, in fact they’re all largely the same as previously.
The Be A Legend mode allows you to play as a single player or your own created player which you can build up whilst Master League let’s you take control of an entire team but has no real changes to note. You can change teams and coach a national team but that’s all there is to write home about. Furthermore, the economy in Master League is broken to the point where you’d wonder whether PES Productions follows football transfers at all. You either have way too much money or barely enough, and this is with teams which should be on a similar level.
The online and the modes are barely worth mentioning but overall the modes lack depth. There is a distinct lack of identity or freshness. Master League in particular feels lifeless, a string of meaningless matches between skipping ahead through multiple dull matches.
The game feels stuck in the past. Dated game modes that are ageing, an archaic UI and an approach to football that simply doesn’t link up with the ever-faster and more frenetic pace of the beautiful game.
I can’t go a PES review without the obligatory praise of the UEFA Champions League and Europa League, both are done perfectly with excellently recreated match build-ups and atmosphere. It’s a small nugget of brilliance that always shines in any PES title.
Ultimately, Champions League, the passing and a few other things are all that holds as good about this game. Apart from these things it feels tired, outdated, misdirected and sorely missing the point of what a football fans want in a game.