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PES 2014 Review (360)

Pro Evolution Soccer lost its way a few years back. Perhaps that’s a little unfair, and that its truer to say that it just didn’t advance at the same rate as its main rival, FIFA. This year they are coming back fighting, announcing many new features to the game, built with a brand new engine. Could PES 2014 be the iteration that wins its turncoat fans, including myself, back?

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Everyone who has played a PES game knows they don’t always get all the player and team licenses. This version is no different, with Manchester United, an official partner of the game, being the only fully licensed English team. I’ve bad news for Rangers fans though, there isn’t even a Glasgow Blue or Old Firm Blue in the game. The main European leagues, other than the German, are all in there though, along with an official endorsement from the Champions League. This means that the game not only has the greatest team competition in football, but some of the best football music including Carnival de Paris, Nessun Dorma and the Champions League theme tune. While a little unconventional for a video game soundtrack, it is very PES.

The case sleeve of the game tells us some of the new features in this year’s PES, and a lot of them echo what EA Sports were talking about during their E3 briefing and Ignite engine announcements. More emphasis on the ball itself through TrueBall Tech, more dynamic crowds that affect player performance, and more fluid and natural body animation. They’ve called their animation part M.A.S.S (Motion Animation Stability System) which “creates true physicality for each individual player, who interacts realistically while jostling and leaning. Controlling the body is a vital skill.” It’s the combination of TrueBall Tech and M.A.S.S that sets PES apart now. Rather than a list of skills that can be performed under various button combinations or stick waggles, using the right stick in PES is taking control of the players body movement as a whole. One on one battles become a lot more personal and physical, with the outcomes being determined more by the players attributes than merely knowing what button to press for a rainbow flick. It also enables you to be more physical as a defender, and allows you to make the choice between trying to go in with you foot, or to just ease your opponent off the ball with a well placed shoulder.

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The result is a more natural looking product. Players can take on multiple opponents and beat them, not because they perform a step over followed by an Around the World, but because their player has better balance and skill. It’s not just the attacking moves that look good, but the tackling too, with tackles being more varied and fluid than ever before. The Core of the game has had major updates too, which means the players, or at least the licensed ones, look a lot more realistic and more like their real life counterparts. Form plays a big part on players, and some of them can have a bad game. But if you have strong players around them or a good strong crowd, they can help lift them during a match, and the turn of one players performance could be enough to change the outcome of a match.

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PES 2014 is not without its flaws though. Obviously there are the licensing issues, and in terms of game modes they aren’t quite as interesting as you have in FIFA, though the Champions League is pretty special. There are also a load of graphical issues in the user interface where it seems that placeholder text hasn’t been removed, so you get notifications that read: “Congratulations on winning the [Champions League]”. Unfortunately online on the Xbox 360 is just plain broken at the moment, with the latest Data file seemingly being corrupt and you not being allowed online without the latest update! The commentary is also a bit bare bones and not well presented, and there can still be some bounding box issues between player and ball. I’m pretty certain I hadn’t seen Robin Van Persie score with his chin before!

So, is PES 2014 the Dawn of a New Era? For the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise, yes! For the whole football game genre, maybe not quite yet. The presentation of the game as a whole is still a bit dated, but once you do get into that match day it’s a whole different experience. The gameplay is truly realistic again, possibly more so than FIFAs now. If they can sort out the Online patch problems, then they may just have reconverted me.

3.5 Pavarotti tracks out of 5

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