Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 was a big step forward for the series last year. It recaptured some of the magic that it had lost from its first five games and managed to pull some gamers away from the juggernaut that is FIFA.
It was, however, slightly lacking compared to EA's cash cow, meaning that this year was a chance to regain some more ground. I'm always interested in the battle between the two series so was extremely eager to get my hands on a copy of PES 2013
to see if it could further close the distance in the market.
Developing a football game is an extremely hard job to do. Football is a living and breathing sport where almost anything can happen at any time. The ball itself can deflect, bounce, spin and ultimately turn a game on its head through luck as well as individual acts of skill and determination.
It's clear that PES
as a series has put emulating this to the top of the list of development tasks. PES 2013
offers a free flowing game of football where players act in a realistic way. Unlike in FIFA
, players will regularly make mistakes, be that mis-controlling the ball, over-running or scuffing shots.
You spend most of your playing time reacting to mistakes or unlucky deflections and turning them into attacking opportunities. In this sense PES 2013
hits the mark completely. Every game is unpredictable, every moment can turn into something. It's exciting when it works for you but completely frustrating when it goes against you.
It creates moments of sheer multiplayer heaven. You'll be on your feet as a last minute deflected shot spins past an unbalance goal keeper and into the bottom corner, handing you the game. When playing with friends there will be cheering along with head in hand moments, and spectators will be far more interested watching you play than they would if you were playing FIFA
This game is one for fans of football. Some might find the random incidents that occur throughout the game unfair but there is no doubt that it makes for an incredibly tense and entertaining experience.
So what has Konami added to last year's effort in order to claim back its top spot as most loved football title?
Its best and most noticeable addition is its full manual passing system. When a player has the ball you're able to hold down L2 to activate a cursor arrow at the player's feet. You then use the left stick to point the arrow in the direction you want to pass or shoot. It's as simple as that.
Simple, but it completely opens up the game when attacking. No longer do you have to worry about where the console decided you should shoot in a one-on-one situation. Through balls aren't just aimlessly hit at defenders. You can create moments of passing genius on the fly and it's incredibly easy to use.
Konami's also added a first touch/trapping button. When a player receives a Gerrard 'Hollywood Pass' high across the pitch you can tap R1 and if it's timed correctly your player will expertly control and bring the ball down to his feet, saving you a few split seconds in your attack.
Defending has also been worked on, but not enough to catch up with FIFA
's work. It feels dated and slightly unbalanced. When playing against better opponents you'll notice that they'll use close dribbling a lot more than in previous versions. This is because there's not much a player can do to hustle the ball back from a dribbling Ronaldo.
I've played against several people who can just waltz through my defence and bang it in the net without so much as a challenge for the ball.
Half the time getting back possession will feel like luck. Sometimes your defender will make a tackle as intended and sometimes he'll completely miss the ball and player, exposing the space behind him. The ball will regularly ping-pong between players legs if they are too close together, leaving you hoping that the ball manages to just spill out in the direction you need it to.
having improved its defending systems last year - albeit without perfecting it ? it's an area that Konami should really have worked on, but they haven't anywhere near as much as they should have.