10 Oct 2012
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Review: PES 2013

By Richard Armitt

It has been a drawn out battle of giants for many years and now another round of 'who has the best soccer title' is upon us.

There are two franchises in the market, both with loyal fan bases that are equally fervent.

In recent years there has been an obvious divide between the two games, driven by production values, gameplay and some would say PES not having a full roster of licensed clubs and players.

My time with the Konami version of the beautiful game stated on my N64 when I was called International Superstar Soccer, back then you could argue Konami were in charge.

It played a great game of soccer, presentation was good and offered the right mix of competitions along with the beginnings of a player driven career mode.

Following on from that I soon upgraded to a Playstation 2 and one of my main drivers was to be able to play PES, a title that was exclusive to the platform and was handing FIFA a 5-0 drubbing.

Horrendous commentary aside the PES of ten years ago was a beautiful thing it played well and had great physics, it just delivered. In 2012 after multiple iterations I find myself playing PES again, yet I find the game lacking, it yearns for those glory days and in the face of its competition appears to have given up.

Fire the game up and it feels unfinished or rushed, as if there is a lack of polish or passion. Konami have delivered the standard combination of game modes, exhibition matches some preset leagues and cups, online games and their inevitable Master League.

Again the sticking point is the lack of licensed players and clubs, for a realistic soccer game this hampers any chance of immersion.

The use of lookalike names when mixed in with the odd real club is jarring, Konami would be better off with a full fantasy roster rather than offering a half baked mix, it's all very well offering Manchester United in full, but when they square off against my West Midlands Village the game irritates.

The main focus once again is in foreign leagues, when the target market is likely to be more concerned with the Premier League.

This can only divide the target market as a lot of gamers enjoy taking on the challenges of their heroes where even after spending a few hours renaming squads and clubs this will still feel like a fantasy league with a few name updates.

Graphically the game has two faces, the pitch environments are well realised and there is a lot of interesting background 'stuff' going on to add some depth, with TV cameras tracking the action and off pitch officials wandering around.

The player models have good moments and bad, animation being one of their biggest downfalls and this is more noticeable during replays as players almost skip frames.

Then there is the slowdown which really shouldn't happen in a game of soccer, unless they wanted to a super striker bullet time effect, this really hurts the game. Attacking or defending a busy area and players start to chug, not ideal.

As far as playability is concerned there are divided camps and while PES does offer on the surface a more arcade like feel as you snap the ball around, once a player starts taking advantage of any deeper moves some overly complex button combos come into play.

There are tutorials to work through, but they can become quite unforgiving and redundant as they stop being productive with frustration taking over. It is possible to get a free flowing match going and goals do feel easier to score than in other games, but the lack of bells and whistles can kill any sense of immersion.

I see PES as a go-to soccer game for a change or a quick ten minutes, if its a long session or regular play then I'd be looking elsewhere.

The Master League does offer a persistent character mode where you can develop a player and/or flex your management muscle, but it is incredibly slow to play through.

The mode offers some narrative by dropping in cutscenes for training and conferences, but with ugly character models, subtitles and no voice syncing they are instantly skippable. It is a mode that suggests depth, but really feels far too pedestrian and safe.

Overall, PES in 2012 feels like it has not progressed since my PS2 days and although there are devout fans that prefer the game to its competition Konami should be worried.

It may have its moments of glory, but to win a league you need to turn up to every match. To be fair to those fans there needs to be some innovation, there needs to be some flair and finesse, as it stands PES is offering Third Division football on the International stage.

It is mooted that this game will see a significant overhaul for its next outing, that has to be a massive improvement or they may as well not get on the bus.

Graphics: 7.5Sound: 7.5Gameplay: 7.5Lasting Appeal: 7.5

Overall: 7.5

By Richard Armitt

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