Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014
Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 has been out for the past three months. The title see the introduction of a major gameplay update via the use of Kojima Productions’ famed Fox Engine used in the Metal Gear series.
Since we were big fans of the changes made to the PES series since its reboot in 2011, we were curious to see how PES 2014 would look and play. After spending countless hours playing the game offline and online (winning the French Ligue 1, UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores and AFC Champions League along the way), here is what we thought of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 Playstation 3 version.
As with all of its predecessors dating back to the Pro Evolution titles of the 2000s, PES 2014 loads and is ready to play within one minute. This is worth pointing since the flashier FIFA 2014 takes somewhat longer to load before being ready to play. Home from a hard day, boot up your console, select PES 2014 and you’re ready to be rid of the stress demons in 60 seconds.
Graphics and Presentation
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 sees a departure from the bottom of the screen iOSesque icon driven menu in favor of a simplified almost text driven look. If you’re a veteran of the old Xbox and PS2 version of the game it might seem like a case of déjà vu. Though the menu is nothing like the flashy, graphic intensive mosaic menu of EA Sports FIFA 14, it is effective and will take you to where you want to go quickly.
Be warned that the soundtrack for PES 2014 is very limited and consists of about 20 odds songs including several used in the past and a couple of Italian opera songs. We found this to be a major annoyance but quickly fixed it by creating a playlist with some Top 40 material loaded onto our PS3 via a flash drive.
Stadium and Crowds
PES 2014 features nineteen stadiums including Old Trafford, the San Siro and the Stade de France. In the mix are some fictitious but well-designed stadiums including the Konami Stadium that seems to be the default for many teams in the game. Regardless of which one you choose to play in you will be greeted with a fantastic stadium atmosphere that captures the essence of major European soccer matches. You can get lost in this and coupled with some fantastic new pre-game animation, feel like you are actually on the pitch ahead in front of thousands.
Localized chanting is back in Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 and improved over last year. We were pleasantly surprised to even find North African music coming from the stands when playing at Morocco. Also, stadium announcers can be clearly heard and often speak in the language of the country that the match is being played.
When PES 2014 was released in September some of its player faces were totally off. For instance, Manchester United’s Rafael looked like a Southern California surfer rasta while Boca Junior’s Juan Roman Riquelme had the face of a fat fortysomething year old man. These and many other facial inaccuracies were corrected in the much-anticipated Data Pack 2 of the game.
Now we have a product chock full of brilliant player likenesses that in some cases are better than those in the license-heavy FIFA 14. Along with the spot on facials, builds are accurate and there is a decent amount of emotional facial and posture animation based on what is occurring in a given match.
This is an area where PES 2014 routs FIFA 14 by a score of 5-0. Post-match celebrations after winning a league or cup championship in FIFA are severely limited and feature little more than the triumphant team posing with a trophy. PES 2014 rewards you for all of your hard work and ups and downs with winning players throwing their hands up in the air, collecting their trophy and taking an extended celebratory lap around the field while fireworks fly around the stadium perimeter.
This goes on for few minutes this year as it has over the past few years in the Pro Evo series. Celebrations are tweaked this year with some new animations of champions in their glory and of their team name being engraved on the tournament trophy in the case of the UEFA Champions League Final. We thoroughly enjoyed this feature as we caught our breath after thrilling finals.
The game modes in Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 are the same as those in PES 2013. The addictive Master League and Be a Legend of Football Life are back along with the usual international cups and licensed (such as the French Ligue 1 and Spanish La Liga), partially licensed (such as the Italian Serie A) and unlicensed (most notably the English Premier League) leagues. The fully licensed Argentine Primera División and Chilean Primera División are now included in the game for the first time ever. A notable and welcome change in the Master League is that the ability for manager to switch teams and manage national teams.
The highlight of PES 2014 game modes is the fact that it includes what are arguably the four biggest international club competitions in world football – the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, the Copa Libertadores and for the first time ever, the AFC Champions League. This alone can make the game worth purchasing as long as it plays well…which we shall touch upon next!
Without the glitz and countless licenses of the EA Sports FIFA series, gameplay is what has taken Pro Evolution Soccer to almost cult status among football gaming purists over the years. Not to rest on their laurels after a stellar three year run, the Konami PES developers have essentially rebooted the franchise again with a significant gameplay update to give us a product that is quite a departure from PES 2013 while increasing the realism of the series. The changes take some getting used to and a bit of retraining even if you excelled at PES 2011 to 2013. However, once you get the feel of things you’ll not want to let go to the controller.
Game Speed and Flow
The first thing that struck us about PES 2014 is that it is a slower game than its predecessor. This is not because Konami decided to put things into slow motion for some reason but because Pro Evo 2014 features much more scrappy gameplay (including hard challenges, tenacious defenders and quick counterattacks) on Regular level and above. Almost every game against a decent opponent is a dogfight and there are no easy wins (go to Semi-Pro level for that). The best analogy of what PES 2014 plays like that we can think of is a cagy UEFA Champions league battle between two of Europe’s elite teams.
Despite the slower gameplay, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 features incredible fluidity in player motion. Players move realistically in a countless range of animations more than ever before on and off the ball from angling for a goal to bruising collisions with other players. After playing both games we would go as far as to day that PES 2014 has better player motion and animation than FIFA 14.
PES 2014 is the most defensive and physical game of the Pro Evolution series since its inception thirteen years ago. If you are a seasoned veteran of the game you will immediately notice how much smarter the CPU defenders in the game are. They now anticipate your offensive moves and like real world defenders will position themselves to intercept the ball, body you off of it, slow you down or go in for a tackle when the opportunity arises. As a result you have much less time to pass or shoot the ball before the likes of a virtual Xabi Alonso or Gerard Pique sticks a foot in to strip the ball or throws his body between you and the ball.
Player strength varies as in real football and is reflected in gameplay. If you’re Wayne Rooney, you will have the upper hand over someone like Aaron Lennon in a one on one battle in PES 2014. However, if a bigger and stronger player like Martin Škrtel comes beckoning either be prepared to try some skill moves or hit the R1 button to outrun him. In a body on body skirmish for the ball, you won’t stand a chance.
PES 2014 features a new range of offensive controls that have to be learned before you can master the game. Once you get the feel of things via the Training options you will notice that the need for strikers to use their bodies to fend off defenders is more prevalent than ever because of the physical slant of the game. Gone are the days of repeatedly pressing the sprint button to outpace the opposition. Now if a defender is challenging one of your forwards who has the goal in his sight, your man will have to jostle will the opposition player to keep himself between the ball and the goal and to keep himself balanced enough to attempt a shot. Every goal in PES 2014 is the product of working hard for it. As a result, the feeling of accomplishment when you score is magnificent.
Given the incessant defensive pressure in PES 2014, off balanced shooting is now a norm as attackers battle to retain possession of the ball while finding space for a shot. However, if you can master the improved ball physics of PES 2014 (Konami calls this TrueBall Tech) then you can gain an advantage by shielding, trapping or knocking a ball coming from an incoming pass away from the defense. This is all done with the right analogue stick as in FIFA but with a bit more variety and options. Master this and you may find yourself flicking and incoming ball a foot into the air for a spectacular half volley into the upper corner of the net.
Goalkeeping in Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 can be erratic at times. This may be the TrueBall Tech in action. Before Konami’s first software update / patch of the game, it was bordering on terrible where goalies parried just about every shot. This has since improved greatly. However, shots that ‘keepers used to hold on to in PES 2013 are now more likely to be blocked or tipped. We’re still debating whether this represents an improvement or not.
A shock to the system at first, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 requires acclimatization. Once you get your mind and fingers around the new features of the game, you won’t want to put it down. It becomes as exciting, unpredictable and addicting as the real thing. PES 2014 is indeed football evolved and a fine effort from Konami.
Check out our Video Games section for more on EA Sports FIFA 14 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2014.