Firstly, please allow me to indulge myself. After 9 years of contributing to PES Gaming in a formal way, this will be the last ‘official’ piece I scribe for the site. Due to the sites links with Soccer Gaming, there may be occasional crossover pieces, and my name may feature on a forum here or comments section there, however, after being one of the Senior Members of the editing and blogging team since 2007, and a long term forum post contributor before this, I am officially moving on from a role that has provided me with some great experiences. I would like to thank Double D and Barry for their excellent work this calendar year, and hope they continue to breathe life into the site for years to come. I would like to thank all the committed PES players who took part in the Interfering With Play leagues of 2008 and 2009, I thoroughly enjoyed organizing and running them for you guys. Finally, I would like to thank every single member of the PES Gaming community, who has agreed, argued, slated, contributed or simply read one of my long winded and boring posts over the past few years. These have been few and far between in the last 12 months, however prior to this I know I had a decent readership, so thank you!
So my final piece, my final article. I wish I could say it was on a happier note, however the main reason for me moving on from PES Gaming is nothing to do with time commitments, family or work. The reason is very simple, I no longer play Pro Evolution Soccer. I feel it would be exceptionally hypocritical to roll up onto a site that is designed for fans of a particular game, only to never actually play that game in my own time. The passion and love for a game and indeed a franchise that first grasped my in 1996 has gone, and whereas I will still happily fire up my old PS1 for games on ISS Pro 98 or look fondly at PES 6, the truth is that the current PS3 offerings have slowly diminished the enjoyment I feel when playing Konami’s game.
My initial plan for this article was to write a list of 100 ways in which Konami ‘needed’ to improve PES in order to (in my opinion) compete in a modern day market. As I started, I realised that I was simply looking for faults in a game, which isn’t the sign of a good article. Therefore I have simply put together a few points which hopefully will make someone, somewhere take note. If not, then, unlike previous years, I will not be here in 10 months time to complain about not being listened to, but instead smile and acknowledge the fact that some things don’t change. If these changes are implemented however, there is a chance that Konami will have a game worthy of its older predecessors, and I will be more than happy to pick up a copy next year!
When Konami initially released their ISS titles for the PlayStation, they were entering a bustling football gaming market. The lack of licensing, branding and even budget wasn’t so much an issue, because ultimately, there were other games doing exactly the same thing. The difference was the gameplay. Konami created a game that was exceptionally enjoyable to play yet felt like real football. It was impossible to dribble through players and carry the ball the length of the pitch unopposed like many of its rivals, the game played like the matches being watched on TV. Skills such as heading and defending were equally valued as running and shooting, and this translated throughout the early Pro Evolution Soccer era.
Other titles started to employ professional footballers to promote their games, whereas Konami held on to their relatively low marketing budget, making their game a mainstream title using almost independent levels of promotion. This allowed it to see off many bigger budget titles, by maintaining a truth to its gameplay roots. The pinnacle of this was PES 6, which married excellent game play with a plethora of new game modes and options allowing a single player gamer to take his or her pick of multiple ways to get into the action.
Since that moment, Konami tried to shift the power and compete with their number one rival, FIFA Soccer, a game which had been poor throughout the early parts of the 2000s. They brought in Ronaldo and then Leo Messi (before going back to Ronaldo) to promote the game, they started tampering with game play speeds and game modes for the sake of change and ultimately, neglected to constantly evolve and improve their unique selling point, the quality of the action on the pitch. This brings us up to 2013 and a game which may well be Konami’s best every football game. Unfortunately, the level of improvements have seen FIFA simply overrun PES, and the once exceptionally game play now even looks dated and feels robotic.
I would like to stress that point again, that PES 2013 is the best game Konami have managed to produce and develop. It is better than anything else on the current generation of consoles, and competes head to head with PES 6 on the PS2. However, the baby steps made each year have seen it get overtaken, and the genuine concern now is instead of learning to run in order to travel forward, it is going to revert into crawling by.
So here are my points that I feel Konami and PES must address. Without these, FIFA will only run further into the distance. If you agree with these, I am glad, and please feel free to add your own in the comments section. It is a shame that many of these points are additions to modes which we have spoke about for years on this very site, and a lot of them can also be found on FIFA 12 / 13. If PES are claiming that FIFA has copied them, then it is really a case of embarrassment, because EA Sports have done everything better!
• The Animation of players are no where near the level expected nowadays. What worked in 2006 does not work in 2012. Subtle improvements are not good enough for a modern gaming audience. If we compare a first person shooter from 2006 to one made in 2012, the animations are much more realistic and life like, the same can not be said for Pro Evolution Soccer. Players are limited to what they can do by the animations, and having to wait for a ball to bounce or leave it to run out of play because they can’t slide to get it should not be happened. A complete overhaul of the animation system is required here. It may be costly and may be a risk, but it is the only way PES will move forwards.
• Collision detection is arguably worse than in 2006. Players feel like solid objects that have very little flexibility at all. Whilst this ties into the animations, it also ties into the fact that players seem to have a virtual skeleton made up of 6 parts (head, torso and two arms and two legs). Modern day games see virtual sprites have joints at their knees, elbows and waist, allowing for more realistic movement but also reaction to impact from external factors. On PES 2013, when a player is hit in the leg, his whole body spirals into a predetermined animation. Compare this with FIFA 13, where a plays leg with move differently to the rest of his body based on the collision. At times, this may look untidy graphically, however it will eventually develop to be smooth, and give players a feel that they are controlling footballers, not football playing robots.
• Artificial Intelligence is still very poor. As someone who works in a professional football environment, I genuinely question Konami’s research and planning stage prior to programming. The movements players make off the ball still seem to be very much ‘on the rails’ with little creativity or intelligence. Watching the games I have played, I find it amusing that it is not a well timed run of the forward that springs the offside trap, but instead the inexplicable positioning of a full back standing 3 m behind the defensive line which keeps him onside. Defenders possess no sense of danger, and will usually run alongside an attacker as opposed to making a recovery run back to the goal or to influence the next phase of play. Games are becoming more intelligent, and what was acceptable 5 years ago is no longer allowed. Watching the developer videos of PES 2013, I saw nothing that I would have quantified as intelligent football play.
• The goalkeeping issue is simply unacceptable. I am not going to drone on, as Double D has gone through it at length, but anyone who genuinely thinks the GK have improved needs to play 10 minutes of shooting on FIFA 13. Animations, intelligence and controls are all a long way from the required level.
• Heading should be about timing and positioning, not simply standing and mashing the button.
• Set pieces are far too robotic. FIFA gives players the opportunity to create their own plays. PES is using the same format as it has done for the past 10 years.
• Defending is no longer an art form on PES. In the need to try and create swift, attacking, fluent play, Konami made defending an after thought. I personally used to love the battle of keeping a clean sheet, whereas now the CPU with attack the same way each time, and the should they get a lucky break or deflection, the AI will ensure their forward is onside or the GK lets it bounce. This is no more apparent than against Human players, whereby the score lines are regularly high.
• The once great Master League is now hanging by a thread. Magic boots, limited players and a very strange funding system has ruined what was once the best footballing game mode . Will Konami fix it? Probably not. Will they continue to add questionable features that act as simple novelty? You bet. A brave decision now would be to walk away from Master League altogether and create a game mode that is new and fresh. Taking a grassroots club from the lower leagues to the big time is one solution, providing different pitches and stadia, as well as poor opposition progressively getting better.
• Referees are getting worse. The penalty issue (or lack of) from 2010 seems to have reared its ugly head again, and the lack of retrospective bookings and the erratic ‘play on’ decisions make the game at times unplayable. If I hit someone after the ball in a tackle, I’d expect a Yellow Card. This happened in PES 6. It happens on FIFA. It does not happen on PES 2013. Inexcusable.
• The replays are still limited to ten seconds. Furthermore, there is no way to export or upload replays to be viewed anywhere other than the console, in game. Most games that have replay allow You Tube uploading. Dated
• The shocking exclusion of league mode just reeks of trouble. Why take out anything of a game that is already way behind in terms of sales? Unless people are genuinely moaning about it, keep it in. The same could be said for PK mode, Challenge mode, Scenario Mode etc. Konami just take items away for no obvious reason. They need to stop doing this.
• If you have a license, milk it. FIFA will throw Premier League logos everywhere. The Europa League isn’t even playable. 50% of the Champions league teams aren’t licensed. Must be better.
• The once great edit mode is now showing its age. Why not take (another) leaf out of FIFA’s book and have a PC based creation centre, which allows for easy transfer of information and data. It would mean the game could be edited much quicker by novice editors, meaning more people are likely to play the game.
• Online play is still laughable. I am yet to play a decent Konami game online. There has been little to no improvement in terms of the treatment of players quitting mid game, and connections are still exceptionally shaky.
• The game’s woeful transfer updates are chronic. Using FIFA as an example, the game updates every week. Not only do player’s stats changed based on their recent performances, but line ups and injuries are taken into account too. I am still waiting for Joe Allen to be moved to Liverpool on PES. Konami need a team that at least seem bothered about the aftercare service, not 3 sporadic updates with a couple of new boots.
• We spoke on here 2 years ago about overuse injuries, whereby players pull up late in the game after doing a lot of sprinting. FIFA implement it. Players still have the same single injury of holding their leg.
• Konami still use the woefully dated form arrows that have no relevance to the players real world performance. A player could score a hat trick game one and have no form game two. How does this work in relation to real football?
• Commentary now officially falls as the worse on any sports game. Anyone who doesn’t believe me needs to play one game on NBA 2k13 then compare the dialogue to that of Jim Beglin.
• Adding managers was a nice touch. However when you bring off Wayne Rooney for Manchester United to be created by an African Manager, questions have to be asked on what is the point. Simply attach a manager to each team, allow him to be customised, simple as that.
• In my opinion, the games presentation still feels so dated. Yes the music has improved, but fonts, the language used by the game, the menu screens all feel very laboured. They look nothing like the screens shown on TV. A complete overhaul is required.
• Stadium editor is a great feature. The fact it was added and has remained the same for three years is not good enough. Improve it.
• Support between the actual game and the community is not good enough. An online hub linked to the PSN or Live should be the norm by now. EA Sports do it, Activision do it, and Ubisoft do it. Is this Konami cutting corners, or just admitting they are not as big a company?
I am sat at a junction now. My list still has ten points to add, however I feel that I will be banging my head against a wall by the end of it. Each of these points could be an article within themselves too. I would also like to point out that I hate using FIFA as a comparison to PES, however the annoying part is that whilst FIFA’s gameplay is getting stronger each year, its overall package (which ultimately is what we are paying for) far outweighs that of PES. It is also worth pointing out the sales figures. Concentrating on just the 360 and PS3 versions, PES 2013 has sold just under 1.07 million copies worldwide. 900,000 of those were for PS3 and 370,000 were from the Japanese market. Compare this with EA Sports title, which has sold 8.78 million units. With a gulf like that, the worry is that EA Sports will continue to invest, whereas Konami may see the franchise as a lame horse! I take no pride in preferring to play FIFA 13 (in fact it makes me feel quite dirty) however I have always chosen to play the game I enjoy the most, and for the past two years, that has not been Konami’s offering.
I really hope I am wrong, and that I will sit here next year holding a copy of PES 2014 in my hand, systematically ticking off each of these points, and playing a truly exceptional football game. I will remain a fan of this site, and will still follow the build up to PES 2014 through Soccer Gaming, however, for now at least, my time with PES has come to an end.
Thanks for Reading