Matt’s note: I tried something that most review sites didn’t do for PES, and that is give the review to someone who’s not much of a football fan. So much so that’s he’s calling it “soccer”. Pleb. I wanted to see how much fun it’d be for a non-football fan and, of course, I played it myself to see how it’d be for a serious fan and long-time football gamer. For that reason, I’m going to write a paragraph or two of my own thoughts as a hardcore football fan with my own score, and then average the scores out for a fair analysis of the game.
Even moreso than EA’s FIFA series, PES prides itself on mechanics over all else. This is supposed to be the game for football purists, with gameplay taking utmost importance over the flair (and exclusive licences) of FIFA. Unfortunately, this year’s entry to the long-running franchise plays second fiddle to FIFA in every single aspect of the game, including the gameplay mechanics, and the disappointment by this is only compounded by the regular PES lack of licences and general polish. Gameplay feels clunky and uninspired and the player’s mobility is bottlenecked by the control system, requiring a huge amount of practice to become even slightly decent.
PES 2014 is a disappointing entry into a series that has been rather disappointing for the last few years. It’s football and thus it’s still fun (for me), but once again it takes the back seat to EA’s superior FIFA series. In an incredibly competitive games market, I can’t think of any reason whatsoever to recommend PES 2014 over FIFA 14. I mean, if you find it cheap and you’re into football then you might think about picking it up, then it might be worth giving a go, but if you’re looking at picking up a football game this year then I can’t not recommend FIFA 14.
It’s been some time since I last played soccer and even longer since I’ve played a soccer video game. Longer still has it been since I was playing a soccer game and consciously thought “hey, this isn’t a piece of shit, I’m actually having fun.” To give you a rough idea that was on an N64, so this review of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 was doomed to begin with. Seriously, it is a piece of shit, and I have not been having fun. Yes, this is going to be blunt.
Pro Evolution Soccer is realistic in the same sense that beer-pong is comparable to tennis. It is roughly familiar, but with a significant number of clumsy idiots uncontrollably flailing about. The control system for soccer games has never been impressive (…right?) but directing whatever player the system determines you are controlling is frustrating and the manoeuvres pulled by players are damned mind-boggling. Many times AI-controlled opponents manage to outwit people-players just as real-life people would on the real-life field, except while in the latter it is due to relevant skills, agility, athleticism, rugged good-looks etc.; in the PES universe it’s because my possessed being was running in circles around the target like a drunkard. Thumbsticks are less than ideal for top-down running ventures such as soccer games, though I’m hesitant to recommend any alternative. Just don’t make soccer games. Easy fix.
The way in which things so simply fail to operate in PES14 is simultaneously captivating and nauseating, the most obvious being the rather unforgivable travesty of poor visual effects. Upon a successful goal, players from all over rejoice through awkward jump-hugs and high-fives in a glorious 10-20 fps with the effort put into their facial design only embellished by a serious case of the jaggies and awkwardly unconvincing cheers from an audience that may as well consist of identical, faceless twins. It’s also always sooo much fun to spam the start button every time a goal is scored to skip the endless celebration, then the replay and then the slow-motion replay. All of which is necessary, of course. It’s also very awkward that the game presents such an overwhelming amount of information in the first screens but doesn’t properly implement any efficient tutorial. Either take on the game head-first and try to remember the buttons from the diagram, or go through tedious lessons on several slightly different but effectively similar techniques. Intuitive.
This awkward sensation is ever-present, especially with pre-recorded commentary that is deliberately vague so as to be flexible and almost always at least slightly relevant to whatever action the player manages to make. Commentators in this game are more frustrating than the equally-unnecessary real-life renditions, since the information can never accurately reflect the actual situation. That the opportunity to omit something that is so dreadful and tedious in real-life was offered yet so tragically and enthusiastically declined makes it difficult to believe that “fun” was a goal for the development team.
I’ve decided the simplest way to express my concern with this thirteenth rendition of “The Video Game of The Game Soccer: But Not FIFA” is to plagiarise a bit from Wikipedia, the best-ipedia, and address each nominated “Feature” that helps it to stand out from the rest. Surely then we could validate its existence in a universe that already has twelve other not-FIFA games, right?
“PES 2014 will centre everything on the ball: how it moves, and how players use it. Physics of the ball, stature of the player, speed and height of the pass, everything will be taken into account to recreate the most realistic football experience on a home system.”
The interaction between characters on the field at all (since the only time characters seem to exist is on the field) is equally realistic in this title as in that that came out up-teen years ago – oh wait, sorry that was actually a FIFA title as I now recall. So, PES14 is at least on par with FIFA from an entire generation ago. Seriously, a single foot jutting out will still send offensive players flying in the wind and bodies bump into each other in an unimpressively lack-lustre fashion; which would be absolutely fine for a soccer game, if it wasn’t bragged about so confidently.
“The audience will have an influence on the performance of the team.”
So the incessant humming along to Twelve Days of Christmas influences… the… team? I expected there to be chanting but this is literally the only song I’ve heard, and there’s not even words put to it. Talk about atmosphere.
“On the pitch, the performance of an individual player, good or bad, will also have an effect on the team, giving them a moral boost if he has a moment of individual brilliance; or forcing his teammates to support him if he is not doing well. “
Apparently the performance of players under my control also encourages the friendly AI to run offside as soon as possible, to catch me unaware and slap an advantage to the other team when I pass it the (unbeknownst to me) offside bastard because why-the-fuck-not?
“Introduced in PES 2013, the Player ID system recreated faithfully the movements and skills of about 50 star players. In PES 2014, that number is increased and will also apply to complete squads to replicate a team’s playing style.”
Why? Why is this a thing? If the Football-Club-Management side of this game was any good this would be crucial and commendable, but since the only milk-able enjoyment is from that whole on-the-pitch side of things, all of these details are lost on anyone looking for an actually decent-enough time.
“With the new Combination Plan, users will be able set up a variety of different tactics in key areas of the pitch using three or more players. These players will make very different runs to exploit holes in the defense or midfield, using the flanks, curved runs, or overlapping play to make themselves available.”
I can’t say I noticed any impact this had on the gameplay whatsoever.
“New for this year, players can now change teams in the Master League and coach a national side. Players are also able to create 3rd and 4th kits. Some third and fourth kits are official. The PS2 version has the same characteristics of the other versions. UEFA Europa League also appears as a single-mode.”
Yay? It really feels like they’re scraping the bottom of a very small barrel trying to think of any reason why you should upgrade to this latest edition of the same old dish. Enjoy whatever games you enjoy, and if that is any previous PES title then so be it; to each their own. If you’re not a great sports-game-fan I would recommend you walk in the complete opposite direction, but I guess you’re already headed that way, hey? In either or any other case, if you’re on the fence, just remember that PES14 will cost you a full 80 Australian dollars, while a second-hand FIFA game can be found for sub-$50.
And a football costs, what, like 20 bucks? Seriously.
Select Start Media was provided with a review copy of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 by Mindscape on behalf of Konami.
Also, since the almighty Matt is a little pre-occupied at the moment, the header image here is a dismal mimicry of his usual format. Please excuse that.
Fair score (not just the average):