Published on September 18th, 2012 | by Adam Vjestica3
PES 2013 Review
Platforms: Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: PES Team
The football fan is a fascinating creature. In fact, it’s one of the most aspirational and resilient creatures on planet Earth. This bizarre contingent of replica-shirt wearing mammals tirelessly follow their respected clubs with an unwavering, fierce devotion; forsaking money, time and sometimes, even family to display their love of the badge and pride of the shirt. But what makes this steadfast, stubborn loyalty so extraordinary, is that most of the time, its completely inexplicable.
Footballs fans are not simply bound by their love of twenty-two men kicking around a leather ball. The football fan is addicted to the emotional torment that the cruelly named ‘beautiful game’ brings. The moments of pure elation, the smatterings of disillusionment, and the lashings of utter, debilitating disappointment that wear down even the oldest veterans of the game. Every season; every match; every nail-biting minute is met with the unattainable expectations of thousands. And yet, these gluttons for punishment continue to turn up in their droves.
Defeats, relegations, financial bankruptcy; the stinging betrayal of a club’s star player; seemingly, nothing can pierce the football fans’ thick, armadillo-like skin. But every year, strangely, the football fan endures. The question is ultimately, why?
One reason. Hope.
The hope of another season; the hope that maybe, just maybe, this will finally be their year. This time, things will be different. This is the year their team will finally return to glory. That one unforgettable season; that one memorable victory or special player that inspires a football fan for generations. To achieve that single moment of glory which can carry a club through any hardship. All they have to do is hope.
And in many respects, that’s probably why the video game world has yet to turn their back on the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise. The glory days of Pro Evolution Soccer 2, 3, 4 and 5 still linger fondly in the memory. The end result: stubborn, unexplainable hope.
The Seeds of Recovery
Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer franchise has huffed, puffed and failed to find match-winning form in recent years. It’s been bullied by FIFA, and subjected fans to sub-par versions of the game they once loved – each with their fair share of frustrating flaws and baffling niggles.
Unsurprisingly, PES’ annual updates are now met with a sigh of resignation. The hope is still there, but its fading fast. And Konami desperately have to start giving the fans something to rally behind. Something that they can cherish and support; just like the good old days.
Thankfully, Konami has delivered a Pro Evolution Soccer game that fans can finally be proud of. PES 2013 reignites the fire of hope inside every PES player. It’s the most fluid, finely tuned and enjoyable PES on this generation of consoles. And, though by no means perfect, paves a far more positive outlook for the series’ previously uncertain future.
PES 2013’s presentation is the first pleasing surprise fans will notice upon booting up the game. Everything is slicker, more modern and crisp. From the menus, to the character models themselves, there’s a noticeable improvement to every aspect of PES’ visual makeup.
The audio tracks that accompany the menu screens won’t be to everyone’s taste (tracks can be deselected and swapped out for your own playlists should you choose to do so), but choosing obscure music tracks is part of the norm for football games these days, so it’s hard to criticise here.
Before you can kick off the action, the game kindly invites you to partake in completing a number of training challenges as way of a hands-on introduction to PES 2013’s new gameplay mechanics; each of which feel like a general improvement on last year’s outing.
The strange super-fast, hyper dribbling system that dogged PES 2012 has been refined for PES 2013, slowing the inhuman pace of before and adding a wealth of deft touches to your dribbling capabilities. By holding R2, players can vary the speed of their dribbling, burst past, or attempt to nutmeg players; they can also move freely within a 360-degree circle. And yes, for the first time it does actually feel as though you are moving in a 360-degree circle as opposed to the previous games pseudo circle.
The dribbling feels fantastic, harking back to the days of PES 5, as you taunt and tease an opposing player with the ball. Nicking it past an outstretched leg or bamboozling a hapless defender are all achievable with the right anticipation and execution.
The R2 button comes into play again for how your player receives the ball, as does clicking down on the right stick. You’ll be tasked with trapping the ball at your feet, cushioning a long ball with your chest to carve space for a volley, lifting the ball past an attacker with a subtle flick, or killing the pace of an over zealous pass. The R2 button is the most important button in exploiting PES 2013’s new nuances. And there’s a satisfying depth to each.
The defending system has also been greatly improved upon for PES 2013. Before defending was clumsy, reckless and tedious as you aimlessly held down X and attempted to dispossess the attacker, often fouling them without intention. This time around, PES 2013 offers a system more akin to FIFA’s tactical defending, though arguably, its much more enjoyable due to its simplicity. By holding down X, the player can jockey and slow an attack; then when the moment is right, double tap X to make a challenge. If you hold R1 whilst holding down X, your player will rush the oncoming attacking and attempt to lunge the ball from them. You can also call in a teammate to help you pressure your opponent into a mistake. Timing is vital if you’re to come away with the ball and not foul the opposition.
Speaking of fouls, the referees in PES 2013 are competent but overly strict. It’s great to be able to be sent off finally (a rarity in PES 2012) but sometimes you’ll be unfairly brandished a yellow card for a less than serious foul. Overall however, they’re consistent where it counts and never blow for phantom fouls or miss key decisions.
Once you’ve worked your way through the training mode, PES 2013 offers a plentiful selection of options, many of which have been marginally improved upon from last year’s outings. There’s the fan favourite Master League (including online Master League), exhibition and competitive online matches, the Copa Libertadores and Champions League modes and the edit mode where you’ll spend most of your time fixing the unlicensed team names. (The online mode was not available at the time of review.)
Yes, as you’ve come to expect, PES 2013 is sadly bereft of a number of key licenses; most noticeably, the Premier League. It’s something that isn’t going to change anytime soon thanks to EA’s immeasurable wealth and knack of procuring licenses, but its easy enough to look past and rectify these omissions, on the PC and PS3 versions especially, by finding a data pack.
Quite The Spectacle
On the pitch, PES 2013 unfolds into an exciting game of football. The action isn’t as frenetic as before, which is a good thing, and each goal scoring opportunity requires precision passing and clever build up play. You won’t be able to just sprint past everyone with ease; beating your man is just one way of potentially opening up the opposition but usually a lot more work is required.
Passing feels smooth and realistic, crossing creates less goal scoring opportunities than before (it was far too overpowered in PES 2012), and shooting is the most satisfying its been in years. Fans of the long shot will be happy to fire off speculative efforts whenever possible and make use of the new ‘knuckle shot’: a shot which has extra spin to haunt the keepers.
Scoring goals in PES 2013 can be a thing of beauty. No goal feels the same which is a testament to the great on-pitch mechanics and believable ball physics. The goal netting is still far too loose however, and looks rather daft when you do slot the ball home.
Overall AI and player movement is again, a clear improvement on last year’s outing. Teammates run into pace when open or gestured by clicking down the R3 button. Defenders also hold their shape convincingly, so you’ll never be left with a gaping hole in the middle of your defence.
Animations are the best they’ve ever been, with players realistically jostling and colliding on the pitch – though there’s still the annoying ‘stumbling’ that occurs when you’re getting unfairly muscled off the ball. PES 2013’s ‘Player ID’ is still a cut above the competition, with famous football stars looking and moving exactly like their real life counterparts – and if you’re good enough, playing like them, too.
The difficulty of the computer will pose a stern challenge, and in fact, the game is actually more enjoyable at a lower setting. It’s worth swallowing your pride as the end result feels like a more responsive and fair outing, as opposed to the computer having an impregnable defence and near flawless passing.
Early adopters of PES 2012 will be ecstatic to hear that the goalkeepers’ AI in PES 2013 is exceptional. After the disaster of last year’s outing, Konami have rectified the useless stoppers and provided more than able keepers to deny even the most clinical of strikers. They really are a joy to beat and the balance feels absolutely spot on.
Taking A Dive
So that’s the good news then. An enjoyable game of football in every department and a definite improvement on last year’s outing. But there’s still a number of disappointing niggles that prevent PES 2013 from returning to the grand heights of its PS2 predecessors: Disturbing load times, woeful commentary, generally unappealing modes and a lack of customisation.
The load times for PES 2013 are jarring and verge on annoying. From starting up the game, to entering a match, even with the game installed on the PS3’s hard drive, the load times are substantial to say the least.
When playing Master League, the game confusingly forces you to play with autosave enabled, meaning every time you stop on a date (which takes a while in itself) the game decides to save and increase the games labouring load times. With the action so adept on the pitch, it’s a shame most of your time is spent staring at menus and listening to the grating music.
Master League itself has also lost some of its previous charm. Thankfully the annoying player talks have been mostly removed, as too have the silly chairman pre-match stipulations, but its very much the same outing as last year’s, with the new addition of items and equipment the only real noticeable highlight. Nevertheless, equipping players with new boots that makes them significantly better statistically, just doesn’t really seem right.
Become a Legend is still a mode which seems pointless to the PES purist, and playing the Champions’ League and cup modes isn’t really all that enticing outside of Master League.
The commentary and crowd noises are once again disappointingly dire. Jon Champion and Jim Beglin provide no useful insight whatsoever bar a few key phrases and sound utterly miserable throughout. Jim Beglin is so boring to stomach that he actually makes you miss the chirpy idiocy of Mark Lawrenson. He’s devoid of any charisma and attempts to discourage almost every piece of good play.
The crowds are a cardboard gallery of incoherent noise, and barely seem to be interested or intune with the onscreen action. There’s a few recognisable chants to be heard, but they’re still delivered in a very weird, unconvincing way. The selection of available camera angles also leaves a lot to be desired, with a scarcity of options that might not please everyone.
Overall however, PES 2013 is easily the most accomplished outing since the days of Pro Evolution Soccer 5. After seven years of hurt, fans can finally relish a PES game that delivers an enjoyable game of football on the pitch but is hampered by more than a few annoying problems off it. The new dribbling mechanics, dynamic first touch system, excellent goalkeepers and the clear refinement in nearly every area bodes well for the next instalment of PES.
Challenging For Trophies Once Again
Summary: For the first time this generation, PES has finally rediscovered its form. The on-pitch action is compelling, offering enough depth for the hardcore players and refreshing accessibility for the newcomer. The intricate build-up play, intuitive defending system and sheer fun of scoring goals will keep football fans hooked throughout the ups and downs of another turbulent season. Sing it loud from the stands people: Pro Evo is back.