Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 only chugs forward, instead of sprinting on renewed visuals.

By Daavpuke, Posted 07 Nov 2013

It takes more than spit shine for a yearly release to become a new game.  Even with the added flair of a wholly new Fox engine, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 (PES2014) needs refined content.  While there are some much needed revisions in the game, some stale modes and pressing issues quell what should be an otherwise thrilling sports simulation.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, PES 14, Konami, Review

As mentioned, the football game gets new visuals to lighten the characters dominating the field.  Crisp, fluid animations show off an impressive amount of variety, which can also be witnessed when players are subject to the physics.  Each step is taken individually and positioning sees the movement of limbs and torso into contorting ways.  Sadly, not all that shines is gold.  For instance, backgrounds are comprised of antiquated audiences.  Character models have such intense detail that they come off as if they’re puppets in certain lighting.  Moreover, this demanding task takes its toll in performance, with frames dropping during any set piece and even during play.  Luckily, the latter happens sporadically and is usually offset with gloriously fluent football action.  It Is, however, telling of how needless the overhaul has been in general, if it only leads to more problems and longer load times.

An added note this year is the choice of soundtrack, which removes the fads du jour for a gorgeous and foremost neutral soundtrack of chants and classical tunes.  A soft, sweeping rendition of “NessunDorma” takes top billing, though there is still a generic dubstep track or two.  It is, however, a long way from the days of Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas.  That’s the band, not the movie.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, PES 14, Konami, Review

Another welcome change is an overhaul of the tutorial, which now gives a choice of which skill to learn, instead of a static format.  It doesn’t quite go over all needed aspects of the game, but a good basis can go a long way already.  There are extensive command lists, for those with the patience to go through them.

Once set up, it’s possible to dive into several standard game modes, such as exhibition matches, cups or online play.  Difficulty settings and controls can be adjusted to whim, with anything adjustable from game length to auto assist.  Some may need some tweaking, as the artificial intelligence can’t always pick up on subtleties of the game, so passing and such may be done more manual than needed.  At least, controls are kept tight and responsive for the most part, with a first layer taking care of the rudimentary actions like shooting and so on.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, PES 14, Konami, Review

For advanced moves, many of the finer touches are left to stick control, which feels more natural than messing with button configuration.  Then again, combinations are present as well and several moves are hindered by the power bar for shot gauging.  Since an input needs to stay pressed in to perform the full action, many of these tasks will default on full power and therefore aren’t always an option, certainly as running has stiffness about it.  One of the bigger problems in the game is the balance between the finesse required and the convoluted way of having to bring it to fruition.  It sounds great, in theory, to manually drive the ball through the pitch, but needing to pull several inputs all at once makes this less instant than just tapping one on any occasion.

For a fuller experience than just a round of football or two, there is Master League and Become a Legend.  In the grand league, responsibilities widen to managing a full squad, weighing finances and seeing funds go to new signings.  With the fine calibrations that dominate players in this simulation, it’s important here to make the right calls at all time.  One wrong player signed could leave a squad vulnerable and opponents can take advantage of that in this brutally unforgiving game.  Since squad members react credibly to their statistics, overlooking what’s truly significant in a key position can make the worst of a good player.  Then again, doing exceptionally well can lead to international fame, by coaching the national squad.  It’s also possible to perform special calls in specific parts of the playing field, which creates new adaptable scenarios on the fly. 

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, PES 14, Konami, Review

There is also an online counterpart to Master League, which alters the model to accruing points by winning matches against other players.  These can be used to sign more and better players, as well as advance in other leagues.  It trims a bit much of the regular component in favor of this quirk, but at least it’s an innovative try.  It may, however, not satisfy those looking for more depth, certainly not as the reward system is skewed towards keeping losing players down and favoring winners greatly.  It’s going to take practice, but this game isn’t easy to pick up anyway.

For the Become a Legend mode, tasks are minimized to everything one player needs to know to become a star.  Here, the objective is to train well, watch games from a first-person perspective and grow into the squad.  It’s a terrific mode for those that want to find out just how knowledgeable they are in the tactics of football; from understanding positioning, to learning how to break crowds, use space and so on.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, PES 14, Konami, Review

Football can also be taken online in regular games as well, which includes ranked matches.  However, at the time of launch, trying to take the play over a network makes any match unplayable due to input lag.  Commands can take several, whole seconds to react and that with the instant finesse needed to maneuver through the pitch kills any game fortunate enough not to go down completely due to connection errors.  Furthermore, this large delay may have prompts assigned to different players that switch in between those gaps.  Telling one player to tackle, only to be forced to wait for a second, seeing the play switch to another squad member, then seeing them tackling an opponent nowhere near the ball is a mood killer, to say the least.  Aside from its clunky menus and iffy matchmaking, it’s the match process itself that necks one of the most important factors that this football game should handle. 

Without a stable online presence and only a select amount of different modes to enjoy, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 only chugs forward, instead of sprinting on renewed visuals.  Despite some much needed refinements in parts of its presentation, it lacks a follow through in what should make this challenging experience engaging.  Now, it’s merely entertaining for those willing to stomach its issues, treading over a capable football game.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed. (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox 360, PS3, PC, 3DS, Vita
Publisher(s): Konami
Developer(s): PES Productions
Genres: Sports
Themes: Soccer
Release Date: 2013-09-19

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