PES 2014 preview: 40 minutes of footballing bliss

Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (previously Winning Eleven) series has had its fair share of highs and lows. Lauded for its intricate handling of the basics of football, like passing, dribbling, ball physics, one can argue that the success of the PES franchise as it stands today is an understatement to the quality the franchise offers football fans. PES is no longer the de-facto football sim one would buy today, and that is majorly owed to the licenses, or lack thereof.

EA Sports, on the other hand, have seen that as an opportunity and have year-after-year successively bought in a plethora of licenses and features to its FIFA franchise. Seamless online gameplay, a deep manager mode, top-notch presentation are all aspects lacking in a PES game and synonymous to FIFA. An example: In PES 2013, getting started with an online game is a science in itself. Never have I had to face such an un-intuitive system for playing an online match. In this day and age!

The present situation is that FIFA has taken out the major of the PES market share. Konami knows that they’ll have to evolve, to stay in competition. As far as the licences go, Konami shifted its base to the UK, citing that lobbying for licences would be far more convenient than doing it from Japan. A positive step, but as of today there’s been no information on the Premier League licenses. With PES 2014 Konami have implemented a brand new engine, the Fox engine. The PES engine was an ageing one, and a refresh sounds good. How will PES hold up against its arch rival in 2014? Read on to find out.

Screen Shot 2013 08 01 at 4.34.50 PM 1024x574 PES 2014 preview: 40 minutes of footballing blissBefore I start, for the sake of this article I’d like to add that I’m not biased towards any of the two sims. I’ve been playing both of them since the mid-90s, and am a witness to their evolution. I got a chance to play an early build of PES 2014 for about 40 minutes. The Konami reps say that this is still not the complete version. And only two teams were available, FC Santos and Bayern Munich.

I played FIFA 13 more than I played PES 2013. FIFA successfully creates a fantasy world around you. In a matter of moments, you become a part of this world. It is a comfort zone, and anything done differently anywhere else is seen as an inconvenience. That was my first feeling with PES 2014, with the menus, the general feel and the minor changes in controls. Ten minutes into PES 2014 and I realised how easy it became for me to overlook what this game was actually all about. I’m a huge fan of the sport, and playing PES 2014 told me exactly why I am so.

I played five matches, with both the teams. There was one thing I never felt playing a football sim (or any other game) before, that I felt with PES 2014, and that is organic-ness. There was a certain earthy way in which the players were dribbling, passing and running. I won’t say that it felt real, but it felt just right. When I had the ball in possession, I could feel the weight of the players dribbling with it, could feel it when they turned, when they passed. Even when I executed a shot at the goal, trying to curve the ball, I could feel Neymar’s side footing flick the ball’s bottom. It was all very organic.

On my second game, I noticed what was so different about this version of PES. The ball and the player are two entirely separate entities. So when you are dribbling with, say Arjen Robben, by principle, you’re controlling only Robben. The ball reacts to how YOU control the player. And controlling the player is organic in a way that it is subtle, yet sophisticated and utterly complex. I mentioned this to the Konami rep, and he confirms this. This is a feature added to PES for the first time. In the previous versions of PES and FIFA, animations of ball movements when dribbling is scripted.

This feature alone brings in a whole new level of footballing simulation. This changes the way the players and goalkeepers react when in contact with the ball, and gives the player a whole new level of control and freedom.

Screen Shot 2013 08 01 at 4.36.33 PM 1024x574 PES 2014 preview: 40 minutes of footballing bliss

Moving on to freedom, I always admired the PES series for giving the player an unspoken freedom in a way he dribbles, passes and shoots. The Fox Engine way of rendering the ball amplifies that. In short, I’ll say that you, as a player, have total control over what you’re going to do with or without the ball. Fancy words, sure, but I mean it, I really do.

Talking about the other features may appear more generic in magnitude as the one I mentioned above, but they are still worthy enough. ‘Combination Play’ is a feature where one can set up pre-defined attacking moves. Its surprising how well this works, and adds to the realism of the game. With Bayern on my side, I set my full-backs to attack from the flanks when possible. During the game, when Schweinsteiger got the ball in his possession at the half line. I notice the space on my left opened up. And Philip Lahm gushed forward covering that space. I passed, and the entire team moved in a way that was suited to accommodate Lahm’s forward run following by an incisive pass or a cross. This is exactly how Bayern plays, it was very reminiscent to their unique style.

Like I said before, I wont comment about the realism in the game. Games aren’t meant to be real, thats why they’re games. I suggest you put on your footballing boots and hit the park if you want a real game. But I’d like to say this, during my 40 minute playthrough, I thought like a how footballer would think, and that was what was so beautiful about my time with PES 2014. Many have used the word pure to describe the PES experience. Yes, PES has always given us that football experience, but with 14, this is as pure as pure can get. And this is not even the final version of the game, far from it.

I’m gonna be keeping my horns erect for PES 2014, as it looks like a game I can clearly drown into. For all the FIFA fans (myself included), do take this article with a pinch of salt.  FIFA puts you in a comfort zone and makes it difficult to leave that zone. Take the plunge, for once, have patience, explore, most of all, give PES 2014 the opportunity it deserves. I know, absence of licences is a big issue, but the internet is populated by many patches, that’ll sort your teams and leagues out just good.

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