I need to state that I have had to modify what was my original review of the game. It was based on code not too dissimilar from the demo many of you will have been playing to death.
However, due to a number of issues with the game, a day one patch is available, and I don’t mind telling you that it is a very welcome addition.
As a result of getting a couple of hours of gameplay under my belt with this new version 1.0.1, my views have had a bit of an overhaul – for the better! Rather than dwell on what the game played like prior to the update, I’ll try to focus on the feel of the game as it plays right now.
For the record, initial playtesting was conducted on a 360 version, but today I managed to get my hands on my PC version and have tested this version with the update provided.
So we finally get our hands on what is the dawn of a new era for PES with the new Fox Engine driving the game. Read on to find out what’s in store for us this year…
If you play a passing game without trying to score a goal, and say just retain possession, PES plays very, very well. Trying to retain control of the ball and to move it around is very rewarding whenyou learn a few tricks to create a bit of space to engineer some passes amongst team mates. I’ve never been convinced by the assistance bars for passing. I’ve tried to play with zero assistance but can’t say that I’ve ever reached a point where I was able to confidently and predictably use it. So I tend to just stick to two bars for assistance and it pretty much allows you to play how you like, bar a few curved balls (pun intended).
Passing along the ground is easy enough, but I’ve found some levels of passing in the air to be
unpredictable. There is still too much interpretation of your intended pass for my liking. I tried
a little chipped pass to a player 15 yards from me in space, by hitting the power bar to around a
third of the way, only to find the ball being sent 40 yards away to a player ahead of the intended player.
The new curved through ball pass (LB/L1 + Y and left stick) is another very welcome addition to the passing armoury. You can play in a great ball into space, without the ball going out of play to give your player a vital amount of time and space. Up until the patch update, this wouldn’t have been much help overall. But now that the catch up bug has been smoothed out, you can capitalise on a well placed ball and bear in on goal with intent.
I have a fundamental issue with the passing model deployed in PES. I’m not sure whether everyone agrees with me on what I have to say, but I’ll try to explain where I feel PES lets itself down in this area. You never truly control a player in your control. The cursor shows you who you’re controlling, but you can’t dictate to that player where to go and what to do.
The next time you’re passing amongst your team, try the following:
- pass to a team-mate and then try to move the receiving player towards the ball to meet it earlier
- when attempting to intercept a ball, try to change your player’s path to reach the ball from a different direction
- when you see an opponent read a pass to your receiving player, try to cut him off and get to the ball first
- play a through ball into space and try to get your man to change his path to the ball
The more astute amongst you will say easy – just use the RT+RB (or R1+R2) to give yourself total
control – simple! But have you ever tried to use them throughout a game? My argument is simple – total control should be default, not an awkward button press combination. Especially considering just how often you’d use it in a game. Am I being harsh on PES there? You decide.
Shooting feels a little bit better post patch. I’ve found that your body position and speed do have a bearing on how you strike the ball. If you hit the R1/RB button to run up to a ball to shoot, you can fizz it at goal. Try hitting a ball with and without the R1/RB button in training to see what I mean. I’m still undecided overall if shooting is back to being as strong as last year, as I’ve not had enough time post patch to judge it fully.
With the catch up bug gone, we’ve got a strong game on our hands. You now have to box very clever when defending. Prior to the patch, there was almost no sense of urgency to defend properly as you would just as easily catch back up with your opponent and take them out. But now it’s different proposition altogether. You’ll need to have your wits about you, and to learn the art of defending.
One feature I am really enjoying is shoulder barging. How have we been playing without it all these years? Ok it’s been an automatic feature which kicks in once you lock horns with an opponent, but having the ability to barge at will is brilliant. The extra bonus with barging is that you can quite easily be penalised for doing so! This adds an element of risk in attempting a barge, but is a brilliant feature in my books.
Defender AI can leave a lot to be desired too, as some of them either are very short-sighted and
wait until the last second to intervene a ball in their vicinity, or they seem to prefer to use the
insurance of a defender behind them to get the ball instead of reacting to the ball themselves.
Some AI decisions are odd where when you’re attacking, the closest defender will decide to back off, so that another defender can track you. It’s not always the best decision, and definitely needs some work to tighten up. Perhaps another update can take care of that – I’m optimistic about fixes given how quickly Konami have reacted to the demo issues – kudos to Konami!!
Where do I start with goalkeepers? Well let me get the obvious negatives out the way. For years we’ve been kicking and screaming to Konami to rebuild goalkeepers. One of my biggest bug bears with them is how long it takes them to put a ball down onto the ground once they’re holding it. It infuriates me how slow they are at such a simple task. Any momentum you may have, any chance of launching a quick counter attack or pass are completely lost. They put the ball down as though they don’t have a care in the world. Whilst some of you may think that this is a trivial part of their game, for me it’s more fundamental than that. It symbolises the lack of attention that has been paid to a key component of their role in the game.
How long have we been moaning about keeper’s abilities over the years? When improvements have been made to keepers – they’ve generally been around their reactions to shots taken, and how and where they parry the ball to. These more fundamental issues just haven’t been addressed.
With the superb introduction of dynamic throw-ins, why are we having to point out that dynamic goal kicks should be in the game too? It’s the bleeding obvious if you ask me!
We have the same 20+ year old goal kick mechanism. Your opponents retreat leaving the simple shot pass to the nearest defender.
Ok the new pointer system for goal kicks/free kicks adds a new dimension to where the ball will go, but fundamentally goal kicks haven’t changed.
When I’ve been leading in games, there’s no change in opponent AI with regards to pressure. I’m able to pass to the nearest defender. He can then take his time with the ball. He can stop with it, he can stroll forward with it, and there’s not an ounce of pressure.
It’s like the game is fixed, as the opponents couldn’t care less if they’re losing and chasing the
game. This is a harsh summary against goal keepers, I don’t mind admitting that. But I feel strongly about it, given the lack of improvements over the course of the last five or six years -
especially since the dawn of community feedback. But I’ll get to that later.
I’ve add plenty of instances of balls being played to the 6 yard box by opponents, and a defender runs back to take possession. The issue here is that they’ve had to cover a lot more ground closer to goal than they should. The somewhat casual attitude of your goalkeeper who is more of a spectator than a player in this situation. These sorts of short-comings should have been picked up and flagged much earlier in testing.
Now it’s not all bad with goalkeepers, as I like how some goalkeepers come tearing out to punch balls away from set pieces, and how others like to catch the ball. Its the element of variety there which is very appealing to me. We’ve been used to a very rigid behavioural model for all goalkeepers historically, so this dynamism is very much welcome.
Their reactions to shots and parries have been very good for me, and it’s not an area I normally
take issue with as such. To take goalkeepers to the next level, I’d like to see them given a “Heart” element too. Pepper a keeper with shots and breaching his goal should see some of them buckle under the pressure. Pull off a wonder save or penalty save should see them visibly become super human! But we’ll save that for suggestions for improvements.
I’m undecided about whether there are cursor change issues. I’ve seen plenty of incidents where players haven’t reacted to a ball very close to them, as the intended pass was to a player further up from them. Normally you would hit the cursor change button and take control of this player to make the most of an unexpected advantageous opportunity. But this hasn’t been all that possible during play for me. You get a player just idly watching the ball go past and not react to it.
Games have a very natural ebb and flow to them. Midfield battles will play a major part in how
successful you are. I’ve a feeling that this catch up bug fix may have an undesirable side effect: super speed merchants may be the deciding factor in matches. The new MASS system’s physicality works very well, and you can see how with the right amount of momentum speedy players can whizz around the pitch. I hope I’m wrong here, as hopefully with enough shoulder barging and pressure defenders will be able to counter them.
I made a bit of discovery during a game too – I looked around the whole stadium during one match, and couldn’t find the away team’s support! I expected to see a section of blue in amongst the sea of red the stadium was, but they just weren’t there. A very minor point, but funny nonetheless I thought.
General chanting in games is best described by the following:
It’s like the world’s worst fans have been invited to a match, and don’t know the words to any of the terrace songs sung. The constant droaning of “woah woah woah woah” is just plain awful and wrong. I know you can add your own chants, but it’s a very cumbersome process to do that for every single team in the game.
However, the new ambience to matches is fantastic. As an away team, you can feel the crowd’s
derision at your team during the game. At home, you can enjoy a partisan crowd cheering their team on to victory. It’s a very good addition to the audio experience.
Prior to the patch I took issue with dribbling abilities. Specifically the response times for your
moves. But having had a good play session, I’ve decided that I’m very happy with how you can
dribble in the game. Players respond to your will much better, and so you’re able to concentrate on what you want to do, not how you’re doing to do it.
You will get tussles with defenders whilst dribbling, but you can play your way out of trouble.
Barge them, use the special control (R2/RT), or hit the sprint button to burst away if you have
space. You have options now, and the only barrier in the way is your mindset.
Corner routines are unfortunately very bland. The players always seem to line up in the exact same way. All attacking players are around the back post waiting for a ball there. No variety in
movement, no-one near post.
That’s been my experiences with corners, but I happened to notice in my last game that when
defending a corner, the opposition were spread out in the box – so perhaps there are more surprises in store in the game.
The cursors have now been fixed and back moving at an acceptable pace. I can’t say the overall menu system is particularly pleasing to the eye, or user-friendly, but it’s functional. Perhaps a quick glance at PES’ opponent may help to outline how hopelessly dated this is…
So now I face the unenviable task of trying to summarise where PES 2014 is. After the much heralded new beginnings, is PES headed where we want it to go? This is a question which is both complex and yet so fundamentally simple to deal with.
The complexity is derived from trying to decide on whether the essence of the game has been
encapsulated in this new model. With the much heralded core pillars of the game, has PES changed for the better?
The more I’ve been playing, the more I’ve been surprised at how challenging the game is.
Fundamentally, the main question we’re all asking is – does PES 2014 play a good game of football? My answer to that is a resounding yes. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how the new engine and features have combined together to create a thinking man’s game.
Yes there are minor flaws in the implementation – and I must stress that these are minor, and not game breakers which is crucial. I was very surprised by the change in the game that the patch delivered. Not only does it give us a competitive game of football, but it also demonstrates that Konami can and will address issues we raise with them.
I’m sure further playing will uncover ways to beat the system, but I’m also confident that Konami will address these issues too.
I’ve not had the opportunity to go online with the game yet, but will do so over the course of the coming weekend. A verdict on the system will be delivered next week.
For now, go grab a copy of PES 2014 and settle in for some cracking games of football!
My score: 8.5/10
Thanks for reading.