Tags: only pro evolutions
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 is by far the best football game Konami have produced for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
With an endless stretch of new possibilities now coming into play, some of which have already been implemented by the PES Productions team, everyone - including Konami themselves - will breathe a big sigh of relief when fans first start to take in the many new changes of PES 2014.
Now armed with a new engine - an adaptation of Hideo Kojima's FOX Engine - the PES Team have a big opportunity to achieve in the final battle of current-gen. With the competition seemingly putting all their eggs into the next-gen basket, adding very little to their current-gen versions, I'm confident Konami can go out on a high before they too switch their focus onto next-gen and PES 2015.
Since picking up PES 2014 last week, I've found myself playing it every single day. Obviously. And despite a few niggles here and there, I've absolutely loved it so far. Although I still have some concerns, I'm hoping the game's first patch (which was actually released as I was halfway through writing this review), can iron out any major issues.
Like I stated back in July, the physicality of the game is absolutely incredible. As soon as you begin your first match, the game-changing difference is immediately noticeable. Seeing your defensive midfielder go up for an aerial duel, followed by a crunching sliding tackle, then to finally come out with the ball after diving into a last-ditch challenge is a thing of unprecedented beautiful. This simply wasn't possible on PES 2013.
Their animations and throw-outs have been improved massively but goalkeepers still need some work. Poor positioning, stopping lobs and saving near post shots are my biggest worries at the moment. However, with a "very powerful, very flexible" engine now at Konami's disposal, I genuinely believe the necessary tweaks can be made. I've found goalkeeper AI generally very good so far so it would be a shame if the 'keepers were ultimately labelled as 'crap', especially given how Konami are so close to getting them right.
With everything - including goal kicks, crosses and corners - now determined by a power gauge, users will enjoy much more freedom when trying to dictate matches. Heading is more enjoyable which could make tall strikers, such as Olivier Giroud and Didier Drogba, very popular on Master League Online. Although their aerial threats can be cancelled out by good defending so don't worry about them being over-powered.
Heart has been discussed all summer by Konami, however, it's influence on matches is incredibly subtle. In Master League though, gain some form, rack up a string of wins and your Game Plan screen will be glowing red. This means your side is motivated. Continue your run, keep the confidence flowing and you'll give yourself a great chance of domestic glory.
Pro Evolution Soccer's most famous game mode remains, however, there are big changes for this year's Master League mode. As well as being able to coach national sides - where you'll pick your own squads for friendlies, qualifiers and tournaments - you can now move continents by switching between clubs of all 3 regions of Master League: Europe (UEFA Champions League), South America (Copa Libertadores) and Asia (AFC Champions League).
The new-look Master League also sees the exciting introduction of the Club International Cup (an unlicensed version of the Club World Club) where the champions of Europe, South America, Asia and Africa (there's one unlicensed team called Pleasure Horn - yeah, don't ask...) battle it out to be crowned the best team on the planet.
New licenses - including the AFC Champions League, the Argentine and Chilean Primera Divisións, as well as a handful of extra licensed teams from Brazil and the Middle East - will no doubt excite millions of football fans from all around the globe. Although Konami are still a while away from securing the Premier League and Bundesliga (both of which are currently blocked by EA Sports), it's clear Konami have made some wise investments which, if still accompanied by superior gameplay and entertaining game modes, will make fans keep coming back for more.
When you first load up the game, I urge every one of you to go straight into Performing Training mode. This year's instalment is a huge step-up from PES 2013, and with some of the controls (including off-the-ball runs, player changing and skill moves) also changing, you're going to have to start again from scratch if you want to succeed at this game. From free-kicks to penalties, from lobs to shoulder barges, there's so much to relearn. Play this game the same way you do on PES 2013 or FIFA 13, and you'll only turn yourself into a frustrated mess. Learn the game, stay patient and you'll find yourself a new love. And if you fancy picking up a second perfect match, make sure you try out the new customizable camera settings to find your ultimate view.
While commentary remains more or less the same, the same can't be said about the game's visuals and matchday atmosphere. For certain stadiums, players are welcomed onto the pitch by dazzling fan mosaics which looks absolutely stunning. Stadium entrances have been made more accurate (the corner tunnel at Old Trafford for example), and physios can also be seen helping injured players hobble off the pitch. Kits and player faces are improved but there are way too many generic faces right now - more will be added via DLC though!
Unfortunately, the game's online modes have only just been activated so I haven't been able to test them yet. However, I'm full of optimism given what Konami have already announced. The idea of an 11 versus 11 online mode was first discussed seven years ago by former PES Producer Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka, so it's nice to know the long-term dream will finally be implemented.
In PES 2014, it looks like Konami have created a video game which will allow fans to enjoy a fun, satisfying and long-lasting footballing experience. Of course, it's hard to resist the temptation of looking ahead to next-gen PES - where even more possibilities will be able to be explored - however, I'm confident PES 2014 will bring happiness to millions of homes.
- PES 2014 is released in the UK on Friday 20th September. Pre-order your copy from Only Pro Evolutions.