Is there still room in the competitive world of yearly sports iterations for the newcomer or non-fanatic? If so, then Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 (PES) does a bad job at clarifying this. That doesn’t mean this decent update isn’t once more staying strong to its realistic challenge. However, it does have priorities towards some elements and less in others, which make this year’s release less formidable. This is a review from the occasional layman’s eyes.
Football comes in several forms in this game and within that, there is room for a lot of customization. There are several cups and tournaments to choose from, along with practice matches and online play. Strangely, a simple season is missing, but no matter, as the game will alleviate that elsewhere. Players can take on the role of manager and take on all the responsibilities of a club. This is also available online for a true test of skill, though slightly altered. Lastly, Become a Legend lets players create their own football star and take that singular peon towards stardom for themselves and their team. While most these game modes are roughly the same and end up being one or more matches, it’s these special managerial modes that truly strike a captivating factor of being part of this thing called football.
Naturally, the vital factor here is how the game play out. There are good and bad parts. The good is that PES offers a lot of ways to do any given thing. More so, it adds manual controls and skillful touches that highly increase accuracy. By aiming in a given direction, passes and shots can be directed exactly where needed. Defense automatically keeps a pressuring distance to time an interception. There is thought put into it and even if it can be tricky from time, at least the controls respond adequately along the skill of players. Some will be quicker than others or adapt better and so on. The fundamentals have been ringing true throughout the ages and this 2013 iteration won’t be different.
There are sizable grievances, however. One issue is noticeable off the ball, when trying to select a player. In an attempt not to pick a random player as close to the ball as possible, it’s now feasible to manually shuffle through players. Nevertheless, it often does more harm than good as the artificial intelligence (AI) has difficulties figuring out which player is wanted or plain refuses to appoint the most desirable option. This makes gaps in coverage that can be critical to cover.
A second nuisance is just how convoluted the more advanced elements are. Looking through the command list, there are dozens of nuances in moves, all similar and requiring a slight increment of finesse. It’s overwhelming, confusing and just too tricky to correctly pull off most of the time. As most inputs need to be done in a split second, players often won’t react as wanted or just screw up inexplicably. The tutorial will also fail at teaching these mechanics, partially because it blocks progress. If players get stuck on one shot, they can’t learn the next one. Why apply a punishment in a tutorial is baffling.
Luckily, aforementioned fundamentals are easily associated with simple tricks to perform well enough quickly. Before long, matches will rack up precious bragging rights ad nauseam. The AI adapts well to most challenges and defensive play is tough. More so, drops in defense or accidents are always immediately punished and turn into threatening situations. This is further represented in the end game where players start slacking due to fatigue. Those that stay fresh will gain a sizable advantage over their winded opponents, leading to new ways to create plays. Yes, PES 2013 keeps action at a high at most times. A goal is always only a few seconds away, though there are tactics that work better than others. Specifically, creating space and switching direction with through balls often cut open defensive lines for penetrating attacks.
More fun can be had in the alternative game modes: Master League and Become a Legend. In Master League, all aspects of managing a football team get dropped into the player’s lap. Finances need to be balanced, game plans need setting up the optimal team for the game, transfers bring in talent and fill gaps in the squad; every little thing will need to be decided and managed. This certainly can be captivating at first and it will most definitely be the most rewarding way to play football, but there are a few issues as well. First off, the same unapproachable factors return that make it hard to decipher how to properly run things. Icons and submenus are unclear and the generic documentation hardly covers everything. Still, once some sleuthing and experimental work is done, a team should be ready to take on the world. The prime touch here is that the game offers options to play the match, only taking on coaching and let players do the work or just get the result. It covers all bases for all types of players.
The online portion of Master League focuses more on balancing a good team, signing the optimal squad and taking that to the opponent. There are still the options to either play or let the team put in the effort, but unfortunately balancing will take a lot of fun out of playing online. At least people who aren’t on par with the in-crowd that annually picks this game up no matter what won’t really stand a chance, as matchups differ wildly in quality. The rating system in place shows numerical differences between squads that make it obsolete to even have a matchmaking system at all. Given online play is a big part of the community, this will need work to really make an online Master League take the game to the next level.
Become a Legend is the best possible mode to get fully immersed, as players can play an actual squad member. With a wide variety of cameras, it’s also possible to make this football experience the closest possible experience from being on the pitch. Unfortunately, off the pitch things won’t be as engaging. Again, the balance here is off and so players can spend season after season not being called up for games, despite being eligible. Exacerbating this are the constant loading periods and stops in progress that bring down the pace to a crawl. If there is finally a playtime, it’s a glorious adrenaline rush of proving one’s worth on the team. Sadly, these moments are few and far between. Who really wants to spend hours watching a screen and not playing the game?
Still, there are some saving graces to sideline play as well. In an almost comical, unfitting manner, PES 2013 forces light RPG elements in play, where it’s possible to equip enhancing boots or use items to accelerate growth, lower deficiencies and so on. It’s not intrusive or unbalanced, which make it the perfect gimmick to simply boost the experience and create some extra joy when unlocked; certainly given the game encourages players to unlock exclusive items by playing online.
Those accustomed with Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 need not fret; only laymen have no place here. The football game is as adaptable as ever. Still, all this versatility and entertaining differences in gameplay possibilities don’t take away that there are several issues within the core of the game. That alone negates any progress the game would make. A different choice in priorities could’ve made it even better than it is now. Yes, it’s still a good game. It’s unfortunately not all it can be, and it only has itself to blame for that.
David Gabriel, NoobFeed.