Konami has promised that PES is going to be pushing boundaries, offering an open and adaptable footballing experience and making individual skill a bigger part of the game than ever before.
In recent years, the progress PES had made seemed to slow somewhat and, at least in terms of accessibility and presentation, it lost ground to its competitors. This year sees a glorious return to form for the franchise with a few genuinely new ideas.
You’ll begin as usual by giving the game a few little details about your level of experience and so on. You’ll then be encouraged into the training modes that will show you the basics. This can be skipped out, if you’re a PES veteran or if you just want to get on with it but it’s worth completing all the training tasks to learn the intricacies and the new control moves, even if you’re well experienced with previous PES games.
Training Offers Real Improvement
The Performance Training mode is eventually quite useful, at least in patches, but vague instructions and a complete lack of feedback on what it is that you’re not doing properly conspire to make certain training tasks a case of trial and error. Frustrating repetition and an eventual unexplained fluke mean that sometimes you’ll progress without you ever really learning what the game set out to teach. In some instances, all the Performance Training mode serves to do is prove that you definitely shouldn’t ever rely on the pot-luck nature of certain skills when you fashion a valuable scoring chance.
The licenses are more robust than ever, with Champions League and Copa Libertadores signed up. Several big leagues have signed deals to be represented but unfortunately for some of our readers, that doesn’t include the English Premier League, which only has Manchester United under official license. That’s not a major concern, PES releases are usually very closely followed by any number of unofficial edited files you can use to add in all the proper names, teams, kits and badges.
Player models are lifelike enough, without being universally perfect and the game generally looks quite gorgeous. The player animation, in particular, is so fluid and lifelike that it adds a layer of realism above any previous releases – at least in as much as how it looks. The only time the visuals were a let-down was with the little video swipe with the PES logo when you transition from gameplay into a replay – it’s badly digitally artefacted and often slows the frame rate for the second or two it flashes across the screen. Certainly not a big concern but an odd one, nonetheless.
Music is significantly improved too. No longer are we subjected to an overwhelming majority of mimicry in particular styles. Tracks are licensed and reasonably varied. While that might sound like a minor thing, it makes a big difference to the menus where navigation is simple and intuitive as well as being swift and responsive. The combination makes the whole package feel more polished than ever before and even though transfers aren’t quite up to date (RVP isn’t at Man Utd yet but Kagawa is) and some of the makeshift kits are a bit basic, it’s still a level of presentation that represents the series’ best in years.
Where PES has always been strongest is in its Master League mode. This returns, along with the option to play an online version of it where each match is against a human opponent. Those are tucked away behind a Football Life menu option which also contains the Become a Legend mode which again allows you to play through the career of an individual.
So far, everything we’ve touched upon has simply been the PES we know and love (or not) with a bit more polish and some incremental improvements. PES 2013 is more than that, though. There’s a real step forward for the series in this iteration and it makes the game feel really fresh. This is the PES experience that really feels, perhaps for the first time, that it’s a proper next-gen game. Most of that is down to one little button: RT/R2.
Here’s the Game Changer
When defending, the right trigger is used in conjunction with a face button for applying pressure and choosing your moment to tackle. Held together, the buttons stand off your opponent, closing him down. You can stay like this indefinitely, directing him into unfavoured channels or slowing his advance but it also helps to set up the perfect timing for a tackle. It’s easy to pull off, but needs to be timed perfectly to really master.
- More licensed content.
- Presentation has been honed.
- New controls and animations conspire to make a real difference.
- Master League mode is still brilliant.
- Commentary, obviously.
- Some minor visual issues.
When attacking, that right trigger is a real game changer. It traps the ball and takes it under control. While that might sound fairly pedestrian, if timed perfectly – and again, it’s very tricky to master – it buys you an extra yard of space that can enable a tight turn or a half second of control that unlocks a defensive line and makes so much difference. Really take the time to learn the intricacies and there are nutmegs, flicks and control moves to be found within the trigger mechanic. Used in conjunction with the new ability to slightly guide the runner during one-two passes with the right stick and the possibilities for smart attacking play around crowded penalty boxes are unparalleled.
That focus on individual skill manifests itself in a much deeper way than first imagined too. Players like Ronaldo will be able to spin on a pinhead, dancing around the ball as they do it but you’ll need to play to the skillful player’s strengths in order to get the most out of them. It really does encourage you to learn how your chosen team plays and utilise their strengths in a much more personal way than before.
That’s not to say it’s perfect. Commentary is as dire as ever, replays aren’t as polished as we’d like and it can still be quite easy to beat goalkeepers on their near posts – especially if they’re not one of the world’s superstar ‘keepers. It’s nothing that has any major impact on how the game plays but there is still some room for improvement.
PES 2013 has made huge strides forward in how it plays over last year’s game. It’s no longer a case of living with the slight, niggling issues with the gameplay, animations and fluidity of it all so that you have the astonishing depth of the Master League mode. Those concerns have all been addressed and the game has generally been strengthened throughout. In addition, the new control systems add genuine depth and character to the game in a way which will make a significant difference to how it’s played. Konami has done an exceptional job with making the controls and animations all feel realistic and it translates into a fantastic on-pitch experience.