By Grant Nicol

It’s the 9th round of a championship fight and after taking a beating for all the previous rounds some life stirs in the challenger, are we possibly going to see a “rope-a-dope” here?

It’s been a long time since Pro Evolution Soccer has put in a worthwhile challenge to FIFA’s dominance as the number one footballing title, but this year as soon as you put the disc in you sense something is different.

PES has come out loaded with new features and a complete engine overhaul, which sometimes isn’t a good thing in sporting games, as you risk alienating your loyal following. I can gladly say that the game definitely still feels like PES, and it is still the best football simulation game out there (always a bone of contention between lovers of PES and FIFA).

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The biggest new feature Konami has implemented this year is their new Fox Engine, the very same engine that will be powering some guy called Solid Snake from some Metal Gear series. New engines are often make or break for sports titles, and PES definitely had no chance of surviving anything but a successful implementation. I’m happy to say that the new engine breathes new life into the series without losing much of the original PES feel.

The hallmark of great PES titles down the years has been the freedom and crispness of the passing system. The passing is still as quick and crisp as ever but there has been a slight loss of freedom in the passing that will take some getting used to. The new engine also brings realism to the way the players interact on the field, every little interaction looks different, so you won’t see players getting stuck in the “stumble” animation anymore. The new engine has allowed Konami to add the new “shoulder to shoulder” feature to the game. As in real football you can now use your strength to legally ease and opposing player off the ball, be careful though as using too much force on tricky players will see a foul being given away.

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For those of you who played the demo, you would have noticed that the reaction times of the players were a bit slow, but I’m happy to say a day one patch has sorted that out. The faster game speed introduces another learning curve, but it allows for a lot more freedom while dribbling. The sprint button has always been high risk with high reward in previous titles and that phrase is even more apt in 2014. Dribbling is more difficult in this version and a combination of close control and quick dashes are needed. Once you have mastered those basics there is an almost never ending list of feints, shoulder drops and tricks to learn. There is another new game play feature called “Combination play” which allows you to activate a type of set play when you are in different situations. Used correctly this will allow you to find a player in space or create more space for yourself.

The other big new feature has been dubbed “heart” in true corny Japanese fashion. In a nutshell “heart” is how a players/teams performance is affected by the mood of the crowd. I have really enjoyed this feature as it has made playing away from home more difficult, which is something that developers have failed to translate from real life into games. Score an early goal away from home and the crowd will go quiet making play easier allow the home side to dictate play and you will be in for a long match. The “heart” system also works great when playing from home, get the crowd buzzing and the players will feed of that atmosphere and start zipping all over the field finding space.

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Konami has done a great job creating atmosphere inside their stadia, and have done a superb job recreating the stadia in the game. The Stadia all look beautiful and are honestly the best I have seen in any sports game. The graphics have also had a major overhaul, player likeness is uncanny and PES has now a slight lead in the graphics department. For all the good work done in the graphics department during the game, it is let down by the poor cut scenes that suffer from a bad frame rate. Luckily, annoying as they are they don’t really detract from the game.

All the usual suspects are back when it comes to game modes. The crown jewels in the PES offering has to be the official licensed UEFA competitions, which are done superbly might I add. You are also able to play the Asian Champions league and the Copa Libetadores. In Football Life you can once again choose between Master League, Become a Legend and Online Master League. In Master League you can now change clubs through out your career and also take control of a national team. Thankfully they have removed the endless cut scenes from Master League and the completely stupid boots.

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Sadly though the one thing stopping PES 2014 from hitting the headlines is once again Konami’s “admin” work. The game once again shipped with the bulk of the transfers not done. EA also doesn’t ship FIFA with all transfer completed but the release a day one patch that fixes this. Konami makes you download stupid Data packs. The first one didn’t even contain transfers! Never mind the fact that you can’t even download it yet on the 360. The game has also shipped with hundreds of incorrect facial animations, which a patch is expected to fix. The online is once again a disaster; I have been unable to get online since I received the game.

At the end of the day PES 2014 is a huge improvement for the beloved football franchise. Hopefully the new engine will help them push EA next year on the next gen consoles, but if they can’t sort out all the simple back-end things PES will never eclipse the glamour of FIFA. PES will always have a place in the hearts of people who eat and sleep football but will never win over the casual fan who buys FIFA every year for a kick-around with friends.

Last Updated: October 2, 2013

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014
Summary
PES 2014 is a huge improvement in a franchise with a new engine, which will provide football fans with countless hours of fun. Sadly for everything good Konami has done, if they don’t change their after sales administration, PES will never be top of the League again.
8.0
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 was reviewed on Xbox 360
80 / 100

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