Preview: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014
Written by DJ Kinsey
Published on Wednesday, 18 September 2013 09:40
GameFocus had the opportunity to sit down at a recent Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 event to try out the latest installment in Konami’s soccer simulation series on the Xbox 360. I was a
huge fan of PES 2008 sinking an incredible amount of time into the Master League mode of the game. In fact PES 2008 was the impetus for me to switch to an HD TV so that I could garner a better view of the field as I climbed the ranks of the European leagues. While I also purchased PES 2011 I found that it wasn’t able to capture the magic of the 08 title.
Within minutes of playing the 2014 iteration of the PES series it was instantaneously obvious that an incredible amount had changed since the previous versions I had played, due in large part to the Fox Engine. From the first pass I could feel that the players no longer had the ball on a string so that upon receiving a pass the players had to take more time to control the ball before dribbling. It felt that they now had to take several more steps in order to accelerate to a full-fledged sprint. This new mechanic throws a wrench in the time tested video game soccer strategy of flipping a quick pass to a winger so that they can sprint up the wing before crossing the ball to a striker. Instead I was forced to advance the ball up the field with surgical passing instead of sprints down the lines. While more difficult this mirrors how the real pros have to advance the ball in the beautiful game instead of relying on a strategy that in real life only works in house league.
Speaking of sprints I was also surprised that unlike the majority of sports games, the ability to turn the speed up a notch did not mean that hitting the RB turned each player into greased lightning. Instituting the “dash” button only added a nominal increase to player speed. Turning on the jets alone was no longer a viable strategy to get the ball up the field as experienced on other titles.
PES 2014 had several other notable changes from previous titles I had played that influenced the foundations of the game. It felt much easier to feed the ball to players in the midfield that were surrounded by opposition players. Whereas previously this may have been the surest way to have the ball stolen, there felt to now be a greater balancing whereby if a player has sufficient real estate on the field they can thread a pass out of harm’s way even with opponents in the near vicinity.
When players came in close contact with each I found there to be a new physicality to the play that was absent from previous soccer games. Players will block play with their bodies and push each other out of the way as they struggle for the ball. As a result my focus was not solely on the ball anymore, I was also acutely aware of the positioning of the rival ball carriers, their trajectories and momentum.
Precision player control was a two edged sword. The new 360° control permitted movements and passes never before possible. Sending the ball exactly where directed sounds easy enough and the obvious desired goal of any game. What I learned was there was a new responsibility that came with this ability as it was much easier to inadvertently send passes to completely empty portions of the field and I often sent it out of bounds for no reason other than unsure hands. Previous titles would auto assist errant passes, inferring intent and directing them to the closest teammate. No longer is this the case as the angle on the stick chosen is the angle that is employed by the game.
In game graphics were not cutting edge but were certainly well done. While not the best in the sports genre, player models were competent as was game presentation. I did find the inclusion of players getting sweaty as the game progresses to be a nice touch. The PES commentary has always been the strongest amongst the video game sports titles with Jon Champion’s excitement and lively attention to the climaxes of the game still present.
Overall these game play options all felt to be a further gameplay refinement towards a pure soccer simulation. Since competitive soccer is no walk in the park, translating the game’s intricacies can’t be accomplished with only a couple of the buttons offered by a gaming controller. Double taps, dual sticks, and combination button moves were all available to have my players move with the required fluidity. Naturally there is a very large learning curve to master these move sets so I did not have sufficient time to truly delve into this facet of the game. I am not ashamed to admit that in the three contests I participated in, while close on several occasions, I was unable to bulge the net behind the oppositions keeper. This was no different with PES 2008, which I so dearly loved, as the franchise simply takes a long time get comfortable with.
With a build described by the folks as being 3 months from final product I was very impressed with what was delivered. I look forward to spending more time with the game, learning the finer simulation details and being able to finally deliver that first satisfying goal into the opposition net.
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