By Steve Wright
In the last couple years, the battle between football game giants has been a tad one-sided. Actually, that’s nice way of putting it; in the last few years, EA’s FIFA series has been socking it to Konami’s PES.
This year, according to Konami’s PES Productions, that’s all set to change. The developer behind PES 2013 promised a major overhaul of fundamental components of the game in an attempt to beat down FIFA – or at least catch-up. But, have they succeeded?
For the most part, they have.
PES 2013’s most drastic changes lie in the “Full Control” system, which give you a multitude of control options… most of which I struggled to initially understand (that being said, I play football games for about a month and a half each year at about this time). First Touch controls are part of this new system, and they help players to manipulate the ball however they’d like when receiving a pass. You can either hold down a trigger to trap the ball, or click and flick your right stick to pop the ball in the air past a defender. That last bit? Super cool when you can time it right.
Additionally, you’ve now got complete control in the way in which you decide to pass the ball. Holding down the left trigger will allow you to choose where to send the ball – with a full 360 degrees of movement -- rather than just sending it directly to a teammate. You can also do something called dynamic one-two passing… again, if you’re able to master the control system.
Defensive schemes are also drastically different from last year. With controls that somewhat remind me of FIFA, you’re now required to hold down a trigger alongside an opponent to jockey with them, and then use the A button for a well-timed tackle. Or, a double-tap of the button seems to work as well… but if you can time that trigger-button combo, you’re much better off.
As you might have picked up on, you almost have to think of PES 2013 as a fighting game; you can get by with the simple stuff, but if you want to excel, you’re going to have to learn some advanced combos. Dynamic one-two passing was a skill I never could seem to pick up, and I struggled initially at proper defending as you’ve got to have your button presses timed quite well. Frustrating? Yes. Rewarding when you finally do get it? Hell, yes.
The game has been slowed down as well, which makes it a bit easier to control your players and plan what you’re going to do next. The game’s “ProActive AI” helps in that regard as well; players seem to jockey themselves into a position that allows the ball to be passed up the pitch with a far better flow than the sometimes jerky FIFA. Whilst usually on the ball (pun intended), at times the AI players abruptly stop on a dime, as if analysing too many scenarios and not being able to make a decision on just one.
Online and offline game modes remain largely untouched from last year, but with so many tweaks under the hood, that's absolutely fine.
If PES’s goal this year was to solidify itself as a contender to FIFA, it’s succeeded. PES Productions definitely got the fine-tuning right this year, though they'll definitely need to work on robust online functionality in PES 2014 to tackle (again, pun intended) FIFA’s Ultimate Team modes. On the whole, this year’s PES is a tremendous leap in the right direction for the faltering franchise, and one that fans should be proud of.