PES 2014 takes to the field once again, this time with a focus on gameplay. A new graphics engine, improved animations and a great atmosphere are the main highlights of this edition.
Leagues, cups, tournaments, and online multiplayer
Pro Evolution Soccer, which already has a patch available for download, offers several modes of play:
Match - Lets you take part in a single game by challenging AI ??or a friend.
Football Life - Allows you to play the Master League online and offline. Create your own team, manage contracts, buy and sell players, and lead your team to glory. With the new feature, you can now also become the manager of a country. Basically, the structure of the game has been simplified for improved usability.
Become a Legend - Take a single player and watch them progress through a brilliant career. In this mode, you can choose your player to be a goalkeeper, for example, making him unbeatable in goal, becoming the captain of your team, and issuing commands to your defense, just like Buffon or Casillas.
Competition - Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 brings back championship mode, which was absent in PES 2013. In addition, you can play the Cup mode, which you can configure to your taste, or play online tournaments. As usual, you can play in the Champions League, Europe League, Copa Libertadores and, this year, the Asian Champions League (all these competitions have official licenses). On the other hand, there's also a huge gap in various club teams because of lcense agreements, including English and German sides, for which Konami did not get the rights (Chelsea is called London FC, City is Man Blue, and many German teams are just entirely absent from the game).
Training - Training is the perfect way to hone your technical skills. This mode has a wide range of tutorials split into 5 levels of training. The tutorials are well explained and introduce you to the movements of the game, special moves and much more. You can then also train on corner kicks, free kicks and penalties.
During the loading stages, you'll get tips on shots and moves to do in specific situations in a game, a useful intermission that takes advantage of any dead time!
The PES 2014 menu design isn't bad, but in terms of usability, it's definitely a step back from the modern and new FIFA 14.
Total freedom of movement on the field
The game controls in PES 2014 haven't undergone any major upheavals. The main new feature is the TrueBall Tech: with the improved control of the analog stick, you can stop or control the ball through 360 degrees. The result is a striking realism and unprecedented freedom of movement in PES. This is made possible by improved ball physics, meaning there's no longer that annoying "bowling ball" effect that accompanied the series for years.
Also improved are the tackles, which are now much more fluid and believable. The power, weight and physical strength of the players can affect the outcome or impact of the shoulder to shoulder struggles between players.
Maneuvers are more logical now too; the game favors team play and the pace is slower than in previous years. It's more difficult to steal the ball from a player and get it in the back of the net. Now, you'll need to study the position of players on the field and get the timing right to take advantage of teammates' play or to take a shot on goal.
Gone from PES 2014 are the abrupt direction changes of past games; in their place are more natural movements. The cross is calibrated in a more "manual" way than before, while the shots are more believable, despite some trajectories seeming a bit steered.
The goalkeepers have improved as well. They have excellent animations and some of the saves are incredible. The way they come out for high balls and crosses is convincing, although the slowness and lack of reactivity of the goalkeeper when facing a striker leaves a lot to be desired (Y button on the Xbox joypad).
Artificial intelligence is one of the biggest highlights of PES 2014. The players handled by the CPU move well and appear more unpredictable, work as a team and when necessary, are able to take shots that leave you speechless. There are 6 selectable difficulty levels for the AI.
But playing well in PES 2014 also requires tactics which are suited to your team. The range of plays is more limited than in FIFA, but the excellent editor makes up for this deficiency by giving you the ability to create a number of modules.
An extraordinary game climate
The new Fox graphics engine in PES 2014 works well. All details have been taken into consideration, and the physical resemblance of the virtual players to the real ones is impressive (but only for the famous ones; the "not-so-well known" ones are a bit rough around the edges). Greate care was taken in the production of each of the levels, with excellent choreographic details and unique banners for each team.
Despite these improvements, the engine still has to mature: we noticed occasional frame drops, although these don't affect the gaming experience. In addition, there is the inexplicable lack of rain or snow. It's not a dealbreaker, but it's certainly unusual for a game of this caliber.
Another new feature to PES 2014 is the almost total absence of "binary": the players now move with total freedom and without pre-determined frameworks.
The sound effects are perhaps the best element of PES 2014. The audience is the 12th player on the field, supporting the team with an incessant roar, galvanizing every risky move, whistling at opponents and urging their heroes towards the goals, especially in the most frenetic of the matches. In short, Konami has managed to create an extraordinary atmosphere in which the gamer truly gets emotionally involved.
The dawn of a new era
For Pro Evolution Soccer, this is the dawn of a new era. This edition relies entirely on the gameplay: more team play, better control of the players, revised ball physics, realistic tackles and various features that improve the gaming experience.
So, has PES 2014 finally beaten FIFA? In a word - no. The EA simulator is still king, but the gap has definitely been narrowed and the Konami title is now a viable alternative.
The developers have created a fun, rewarding game, which allows gamers to immerse themselves in a stadium that has no equal in any other soccer videogame.
The Fox Engine, although still a little immature and rough around the edges, is crucial in the rebirth of the franchise. Konami definitely took a huge step in the right direction: the simulation aspect of the title has greatly improved, much to the happiness of all purists of the genre.