By Andrew Harrison
Pro Evolution Soccer has been redone this year, using a modified Fox engine designed and built by Kojima Productions. The Fox engine sure does make things look pretty, but does that translate to a great-playing sports game? Yes and no.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 relies on four key systems within the aforementioned engine. TruBall tech brings the game's back to where it should be: the ball. PES' MASS – which stands for Motion Animation Stability System – means we get better physics in terms of collisions, leaning and movement. The new "Heart" system means that in-game players will be affected by the emotions they'd be experiencing on the field at the time, causing awesome plays or embarrassing bungles. Team dynamics seem to be greatly impacted upon by Heart as well. Finally, PES 2014 relies on its "Core", which Konami credits with providing everything from stadium atmosphere to player's facial reaction.
Visually, the game is breathtaking. Players, crowds – and the stadiums they're in -- are alive and very vibrant. A game on new engine on an aging console, you can tell that Fox -- and this year's PES -- has been designed by those who know how to make use of every inch of power the Xbox 360 and PS3 can provide.
Belting out an outstanding amount of teams from an abundance of different leagues, the game also ticks the boxes on the variety front. Sadly, only the most dedicated football fans will recognise most of these teams on offer. It's a pipe dream, I know, but I would have loved to play PES 2014 as any Premier and A League team.
Like most sporting games of this generation, PES 2014 is happy to provide assistance to those new to the franchise or the game itself. It's a great help for those who fear getting lost in a sea of rules and confusion. The problem is, AI-assistance in the actual game is so strong, I was finding PES far too easy with aid on, and utterly impossible with it off. It took a lot of work with the training wheels off to pass between players and co-ordinate crosses for a chance to score. Buggy AI sometimes made this even harder, though those problems were fairly infrequent.
Other than the usual season play and exhibition matches, there is a mode called "Become a Legend", where you're able to make a pro of your choosing – right down to physical appearance and attibutes – and take him through a career. It's a neat little mode, but also makes some games feel very tedious and long. If AI players won't pass to you when you're in a perfect spot for a cross, you basically just end up frustrated. On the upside, you can set your pro's training regime to increase his stats; I had a striker with amazing stamina and amazing bicycle kick, and was very happy to export him into PES' other game modes once I was done with his career proper.
I almost lost my lunch when I saw that the game supported 22-player online multiplayer. I wasn't able to hit up a game that large, but I'm confident it will for some of the best (or the funniest) console-driven games of football on record. I'm sure it will also provide for some amazing replays and highlights clips on good ol' YouTube. Who wants to be the first to present a 11-player, undefeatable flying V formation? At any rate, 2-4 couch co-op also makes for an incredibly social and enjoyable experience.
Overall, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 appears to have taken more of a turn towards proper simulation as opposed to the earlier arcade-like editions of the game. It appears as though Konami really wants this game to take back the football title from EA's FIFA franchise, but I'd argue they should have stuck with their roots. Yes, competition never hurts anyone, but I'd rather have games with two very different feels than carbon copies of the same thing. Think NHL by EA versus NHL 2K by 2K. Even better, think NBA Jam and NBA Live. Gamers want a hardcore experience as well as an arcade-type one, and we don’t' have that in football any longer.