PES 2013 Xbox 360 review
Publisher – Konami – Developer – Winning Eleven Productions – Genre – Sports – Players – 1-4 (2 online) – Age Rating – 3+ – Other console/handheld formats – PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, 3DS
There has been a clear leader at the top of the table in recent years, and that has been FIFA. Konami has promised improved AI, better controls and more tournaments for this latest incarnation in the Pro Evolution Soccer series. Can it hit the back of the net for the fans?
The first stop should be training, to learn new moves and get used to how the players handle. Trapping the ball and executing tricks will take a while to truly master, but does offer a good degree of control. Exhibition matches against the computer or online opponents are the next port of call.
For many, the issue of licensed teams has blighted PES in recent seasons. The Copa Libertadores, UEFA Champions League and Europa League tournaments go some way to alleviating that problem, with many realistic venues. The level of difficulty in these competitions is strong, so do not expect easy trophies. Master League continues to provide the meat, in both offline and online modes. The complexities of the transfer market, choosing sponsors and sticking to a budget are more important than ever, and repeatedly playing the same tactics will see the opposition learning and combating your gameplay.
Become A Legend mode follows the career of a single player, starting with a small team in Europe or South America. Impress the manager in training as your skills develop, play well when you make the first team and then it is upward and onwards to international duty, titles and fame. Items such as trainers can be earned, boosting your stats. When your wannabe player is not on the pitch, the match can be fast-forwarded. This mode adds some much-needed depth, but does not quite measure up to earlier FIFA efforts.
Online requires up to date data and an online pass code, similar to how EA operates its sports games. A new copy of PES will include the code, which can be used for one account. Second-hand buyers will have to pay for a code. It is disappointing that online games are limited to player vs. player, without the chance to play massive 11-a-side matches in the same way as FIFA. The lobby system allows you to find a similarly skilled opponent easily, and also takes note of whether you disconnect matches repeatedly. This forms part of your online ranking, with promotion and relegation as you progress. An interesting little touch is the nicknames, unlocked by playing certain parts of the game and chosen to represent yourself online. From Welsh Wizard to Le Roi (the king), there is something for everyone.
Graphically the game does well, with some impressive player likenesses and animation. Commentary from John Champion and Jim Beglin is more than adequate but does start to feel repetitive quite fast. Your Legend player can choose a name from a huge list, which will then appear in the commentary as you play. Presentation works well and the menu system is not over complicated, although at times it does seem to be saving very regularly. Loading times for the various leagues and their cutscenes (from a press conference to the players talking in the dressing room after a match) can be an issue in a longer play session but are not excessive.
It is in the control and game engine that PES has made big strides with this release. While it still feels as tactical and intricate as earlier games, the fluid moves never feel scripted or unfair. Changing tactics and making substitutions both feel like they are making a real difference. Defending well is tough and for the most part the goalkeepers seem better, so expect the lower scoring matches that are the hallmark of PES. Konami are promising regular free updates, adding more licensed teams and balancing tweaks to improve the game.
All in all this is the best PES on the current generation of hardware, correcting many of the earlier mistakes. However, it is still lacking in online options and is much less flamboyant than its big rival. If you want a pure footballing game and can put up with the lack of licences, this could be the year for you to invest in PES.