Since its reboot in the 2011 version of the game, Pro Evolution Soccer has returned to its best form like a world class striker emerging from a slump with a hatrick. The title continues to improve with Pro Evolution Soccer 2013. Here are our thoughts on the game after spending the countless hours over the last couple of weeks delving into its abundance of features on the Playstation 3 console.
This is something that is a must mention for PES 2013 since the game loads faster than ever and certainly much faster than competitor EA Sports FIFA 13. Start it up from the PS3, skip through the intro animation and you can be in a game within a minute. This at least twice as fast as it take FIFA to start up, perform updates and load a game while you kill time waiting playing skill games.
Graphics and Presentation
There is no major change with the graphics in Pro Evolution Soccer since last year. The game continues to look fantastic with very realistic interpretations of the cathedrals of world soccer from Old Trafford to the Bernabeu (although you have to update their names because of licensing issues in some cases). Other stadia (including fabricated ones) look great as well and definitely have a strong soccer feel about them from the player tunnel to the pitch and stands.
Player likenesses for players on major European, Asian and South American club and international teams are spot on in most cases from facial features to height and build. There are some near misses however. The one that most caught our eye was the bizarre Neanderthal look of Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema. Maybe Konami will fix this in their next data pack.
Goal celebrations do seem improved from PES 2012 with what seems to be a much bigger set of player celebratory antics now on show. Trademark goal celebrations for well-known players (such as cover athlete Cristiano Ronaldo) are included in the game.
During matches players will notice that crowd chants are more localized ever before. For instance if playing in the Spanish La Liga, a near miss will result in a collective “Boom!” sound from the crowd. If playing as Real Madrid at home, you may be treated to “Ronaldo” singing if the game’s cover athlete is lighting things up.
Our favorite presentation improvement with PES 2013 is its updated navigation system. This year’s version is similar to but a bit stripped down from the last couple of years and much more intuitive to use. This is particularly so in the screen for setting up matches. There is now much less horizontal scrolling and screen switching to find what you need. For those looking for a quick start, just hit the Game Plan button to find everything you need to manage your team under it.
Lastly, commentary in English is about the same as it has always been and in need of some improvement to cut out repetitive statements and somewhat misplaced remarks. If the commentary bothers you, Spanish, French and Portuguese are also available in the North America.
There are no major changes with the available game modes in PES 2013 apart from the removal of the old League mode. Now if you’d like to play a season in one Pro Evolution Soccer 2013’s available leagues, you have to play in the Master League. Some may not mind this but as in FIFA we think it is nice to be able to play a season without the pressures and drama of club management.
Other than that, all of the game modes that we have come to expect in the Pro Evolution Soccer series are back for the 2012/13 cycle. These include national team competitions such as the International Cup, European Cup and a number of major domestic European league competitions, the UEFA Champions League and the Copa Libertadores. The one new league addition this year is the exciting Brazilian Serie A featuring the likes of Ronaldinho, Neymar and Wagner Love. While the league itself is not licensed, all of the teams are.
The near legendary Master League is back again as part of the game’s Football Life with some minor updates from last year such as the ability to use earned points to buy performance enhancing boots for your players (the boots makers in the game such as adidas and Nike probably love this). You’ll also have a fairly fit but quite stern female assistant manager now who briefs you during ML cut scenes via captions. We’re hoping to see speaking characters soon.
This is the reason we buy Pro Evolution Soccer. It doesn’t have and probably never will have all of the flash and league licenses as the big budget EA Sports FIFA. However, apart from just a couple of disappointing years in its history, PES’ gameplay is what has drawn soccer gamers to it over the last decade.
This year sees are series of gameplay improvements to PES that may not be fully appreciated by the casual soccer gamer. However, to those of us who have been playing the game for a while (especially since its famed 2011 reboot), they are absolutely brilliant and make this edition of Pro Evolution Soccer arguably the best ever. However, before we look at them, we must point out that some of the new gameplay features require practice to master. That’s what the new Performance Training mode is for.
The pace of the game in PES 2013 is noticeably slower in this year’s edition than last. Konami has been tinkering with this over the past few years and may have found the best default game speed since the classic PES 2007 this year. We thought that it was quite reflective of the real world game and is adjusted accordingly based on locale and situation. For instance, the pace of a big English Premier League clash or El Clasico will be quicker than that of your average La Liga match. If the pace is too slow for you then there is a game setting to speed it up.
While even the classic PES games on PS2 featured virtual star players with some of the unique characteristics of their real life counterparts (remember the Roberto Carlos stutter step free kick?), PES 2013 introduces Player ID.
Part gameplay improvement, part added realism, Player ID sees big name players in the game given even more of the skills, moves, celebrations and antics of actual players than ever before. For instance, you’ll see Ronaldo’s low-driven power shots and Zlatan IbrahimoviÄ‡’s sublime finishing from his karate kick shots from corners to cheeky back heel goals.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is the most physical incarnation of the franchise ever. As in real life soccer, there is a shirt pulling, obstructing and an abundance of outstretched arms. However, as in the professional game, none of these seem to ever be called as fouls by the match referees. As a result, forget about pressing R2 and sprinting past defenders to goal scoring glory. You now must pass, use off the ball runs and deft footwork to create solid chances at goal.
Defense is a different beast in PES 2013 that in PES 2012.
While last year saw a massive improvement in the Pro Evolution Soccer defense system and AI, PES 2013 introduces new controls for effective defense. Now you have to press R2 and X to slow an attack and double-tap of the X-button to attempt to execute a well-timed challenge. Got PES culture shock? We did but were able to figure things out via Performance Training. If you don’t learn how to use these basic new controls, you’ll find attackers shredding through your defense.
One change with the PES 2013 defense that required no training is aerial defense. Even average defenders now seem to anticipate the trajectories of air balls better than before. Defensive masters such as Nemanja VIdic or Gerard Pique are now in their best defensive form because of this and Player ID.
A feature of FIFA via the right control stick for a while now, what is called Dynamic First Touch has been introduced in Pro Evolution Soccer 2013.
It requires some practice to get used to this but once you’ve mastered the art of working the R2 button to trap and control a balls or tap it past a defender in one touch, you will learn to love it. As with FIFA, it is sometimes the only way to get a decent shot at goal against tough defenses from Professional level and up.
Goalkeeping has been practically rebooted in PES 2013. This came as some surprise to us as we had expected the same old goalie animation and moves that have been around since 2011. Instead players are now treated to a new army of keepers who now seem to make better decisions. They also have a full new arsenal of saves that are the most dramatic than ever seen before in Pro Evolution Soccer and EA Sports FIFA.
Well-known goalkeepers such as Iker Casillas and Gigi Buffon have been given the Player ID treatment that allows them to stand out from average goalies as in real life. Great unless you are playing against them in the more advanced levels of the game.
So there you have it! The evolution of Pro Evolution Soccer continues for the better once again with PES 2013. Continuing to build off of the pioneering PES 2011, Pro Evo 2013 douses us with a unheralded bucket of realism via Player ID, improved AI and gameplay tweaks. Well done Konami!
Gameplay: 9.5 /10
Graphics: 9.5 /10
User Interface: 10 / 10
Online Features: 9.5 / 10
Longevity: 9.5 / 10