Pro Evolution Soccer 2014: As We Play

As we play offers the thought strands of the reviewer as they’re going through the game. This offers unique content for the reader so they can come to understand the conflicting feelings of the reviewer as they’re playing a game for the very first time.

All feedback on this concept is welcome.

Bale isn’t in Madrid

So I happened to leave the opening screen running while preparing to set up for this As We Play and can already answer one of your biggest questions. Gareth Bale is absent from the Real Madrid squad. It appears Konami and the Pro Evo team weren’t quite as on the ball as EA and FIFA. Wonder if a patch will be added post launch or there’ll be some form of DLC to make this happen? Especially since he, you know, just scored in his debut for the team.

 

Rooney looks like a thug

Oh, and they chose to give Mr Rooney a shaved head, not the full head of hair he paid thousands for. Just wait until he finds out about that!

Pro Evo got its sexy back

Pro Evo got some of the mojo back last year with 2013. The game went back to the arcade-esque style we all know and love and was actually good fun to play. But it’s all about building momentum and FIFA has been the dominant force in football games for quite some time. So does PES build on those promising steps of last year? Most definitely, yes.

I’ll be honest, I’m not an experienced football player. I don’t pick up annual instalments of either game and I only ever dip in and out for some quick gameplay time. For the purposes of my overview, i’m going to set the difficulty as a regular, finding myself somewhere in the middle of a total beginner and someone distinctly average at playing the beautiful game.

Name-dropping

Unfortunately, the English League is still cringe-worthy to behold. It’s PES, so you already know what to expect. I know FIFA has the licensing for almost everything, but the names for the clubs make PES seem like an uncool grandparent trying to talk shop with their ‘in-the-know’ grandson. South Wales Football Club are newbies Cardiff City, but have been branded with a green badge with two dragons either side of an shield that looks like an Arsenal kit.  Then you’ve got West Midlands Village decorated with a heart and two unicorns at either side touching horns, through to the Potteries. This is made worse by Manchester United being the only team to be appropriately branded and named. Still, at least the player names are mostly authentic. Well, they were until the recently added patch which seems to have wiped them all away again…Urgh…

However, if licensing is going to continue to plague Konami and this is the way future PES games are going to go, they should also get rid of the Manchester United branding until things change. It actually draws more attention to the fact they’re not affiliated with the Premier League than anything else.

 Football 4 Life

So I started by taking a look at Master League which allows me to perform managerial duties as well as play a game of PES. The best of both worlds, if you like. In Master League, you only have a one year contract as a manger and offers from other clubs will pop up for you while you play.

The aim here is to be World No 1. No pressure, right? You can sign new players and develop current acquisitions. New this year, you can also jump between teams and even manage a national team.

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Signing players is really straight forward and simple. You can look at the negotiations screen and check out the players under observation. You can also pilfer aspiring talent from the youth leagues or manually scroll through the transfer market to get your player of choice. Simply register your interest, forward time and the player and his club will offer some terms or outright reject the offer. Little tidbits of info will accompany the player. The game will give you vital stats like age, overall quality, whether they’re left or right footed. It’ll also offer little nuggets, like if the player can develop further or if he is on the verge of retirement.

The simplicity of Master League suits me as someone who isn’t all about creating tactics for every inch of the field, and proves there is a massive difference between the intricacies of FIFA and the subtle touches of just playing the game on PES. There’s definitely a clear market for both games.

Out on the field

First, and I apologise in advance but i’ve got to get this out there. ShopTo sponsoring PES, and they’ll have a review up? *ugh*

What’s important is the game itself and it is pretty special. PES 2014 is a joy for me to play. I’m passing and shooting like a pro in just a few minutes, but the quality in play still hooks me. I’m making dynamic goals that vault off the post then get tapped in. I’m offering slick headers from outside the goal box. I can even power boost the ball from the halfway line and get in a screamer. It’s just pleasure and entertainment from start to finish. The game works masterfully as a couch fest.

Limited variety

But one can’t deny the limited options compared to FIFA. Simple exhibition matches, training modes, then the Master League and the Champions League tournaments are the main sources of entertainment. There’s no Ultimate Team here or all the other benefits that come with FIFA’s locked-down licensing.

PES keeps it very simple, but what it does, it does very well. For instance, the heart system has a fascinating, reactive impact on the game with players responding to the fans outpouring of support and the way the other team is playing. The way a team will support a player who is having a particularly rough time out there. It adds a layer of emotion to football that has never been seen before in a video game and it works bloody well. I definitely want to see this expanded on next year and can’t wait to see how the next-gen systems will support it.

FOX-DIE

All of this thanks to the FOX Engine which has recreated the PES experience and started everything from scratch. Though as good as the game looks, you can tell its been scaled back and isn’t meeting its full potential. We’ll see that next year, undoubtedly.

While the expressions of fake players look good, you really see real Rooney looks (despite the hair) as well as his Man Utd counterparts. It’s a little depressing to see the amount of emphasis has been put on making those players look right and making everyone else look generic and not at all life-like. It almost makes you wonder how great PES could be if it was allowed the freedom and budget of FIFA. Maybe we’ll get to find that out in a few years time.

But the engine is great. The crowd come to life, the lines-man and referee have more identity than ever and the players are more in tune with their emotions. While PES 2014 is a great game, it’s the evolution of this franchise that has me most excited. PES will benefit massively from next-gen. That much is already clear.

 

About the author

Ray Willmott

Ray is the founder and editor of Expansive. He is also a former Community Manager for Steel Media, and has written for a variety of gaming websites over the years. His work can be seen on Pocket Gamer, PG.biz, Gfinity, and the Red Bull Gaming Column. He has also written for VG247, Videogamer, GamesTM, PLAY, and MyM Magazine,