Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 goes head to head with FIFA 14, but is it an even match, or is PES 2014 the underdog? It's all kicking off
A few years ago, during a particular slump for Fifa, Pro Evolution Soccer took the crown as football sim of choice for the masses of fans of the beautiful game. Though, while Fifa may be back on top after a string of innovative releases, Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 definitely has got some tricks up its sleeve.
With a new engine in tow, a load of gameplay improvements and stunning visuals, can Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 take a winning lead and relegate FIFA 14 to the lower leagues? Read on to find out...
PES 2014: Gameplay
The real strength of Pro Evolution Soccer has always been its core, simulation style gameplay. While FIFA is a glossy, fast-paced rendition of the beautiful game, PES slows things down, putting more control over all aspects of the players into your hands.
In PES 2014, gameplay is well and truly fantastic. Never has a football game given you so much control over those 11 men on the pitch and never has each one of those players felt quite so unique. If you play as Real Madrid, you'll instantly notice when Ronaldo takes the ball, as his particular way of running, along with some of his trademark movements are mimicked fantastically,
The same goes for Messi, his tricky style, combined with tight controls, make pulling off skill moves an enjoyable and rewarding experience. This feature, known as Player ID, was introduced last year, but has seen a dramatic improvement this time around.
Actually, a lot of what makes Pro Evolution Soccer so good is its sense of reward. The first few matches, unless you're a seasoned PES veteran, will no doubt end in frustration after a flurry of misplaced through balls and wayward shots.
But give it time and you'll begin to connect with your through balls, stringing together a number of passes and you'll start to win matches. The sense of achievement you will get when you play the perfect long field pass far out ways the same situation in FIFA.
Last year's entry to the series was a big step forward, but this year the move to the brand new Fox engine takes everything even further.
Players move with grace, skipping with the ball and controlling with the skill you expect to see on a Saturday afternoon. Yet, the ball doesn't stick to their boots, instead it bobbles around, meaning one false move and your well-timed run will have all been for nothing.
Slide tackling is also kept to a minimum, with defenders preferring a much more jostle-based approach, this helps the realism no end.
These mechanics stem from two new editions, Motion Animation Stability System and Trueball Tech, but, in truth, the naming is just there for marketing. All you need to know is that it works.
While we do love the slightly faster pace a match on FIFA offers, Pro Evo 2014''s toned down style gives you longer on the ball and more time to pick out a pass and decide how you're going to play forward.
One area of disappointment is the AI, which can be odd at times. Defenders often leave you far too much room, especially as you enter their half. This leads to vast areas of the pitch being rather sparse.
Opposition strikers are at fault as well, as there were times when they would simply keep on running until they ran the ball into the arms of the goalkeeper. These are only slight niggles, but they do detract from the overall quality.
PES 2014: Features
It seems that Komani really spent the time trying to improve the graphical look, along with the gameplay, for this year's release, instead of sticking in a load of new modes. Pro Evolution Soccer stalwarts like the in-depth, yet lacking Master League is still around, you can now manage a national side in this mode, as in the Competition mode.
You can also try and take a team to glory in the Champions League, Europa Cup, Copa Libertadores and the Asian Champions League. Each of these tournaments looks great, thanks to official branding and neat little touches to really crank up the realism.
The headline feature, though, as mentioned previously is the completely new Fox engine, which makes the game look absolutely gorgeous. We'd probably go as far as to say this is the best looking football game ever. From the grass, to the colourful boots of a player, there are lovely details everywhere and player likenesses are also very well done.
However, it does often seem like this engine is just that bit too powerful for current-gen hardware, as we sometimes witnessed a sudden frame-rate drop when the action got a bit hectic.
PES 2014: Teams
If you're choosing this game over FIFA then it should come as no surprise that Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 simply does not rival EA's sporting behemoth when it comes to teams and licenses. PES, as it has done for the past few years, focuses on a sole licensed Premier League team, Manchester United, with all the others replaced by generic titles.
Looking to play a London derby? That'll be North London (Arsenal) versus North East London (Tottenham) then. Kits are missing too, though thankfully the days of Ryan Gills being a tricky winger for Manchester United are over as all teams have real player names.
Further afield though, things look a little rosier. European leagues such as Serie A and Liga BBVA are fully licensed, as are a load of South American clubs. Celtic is included too - good news for the Scottish football fans out there.
The lack of licenses does seem a slightly shallow reason to mark this game down, though not being able to play as, say Championship side Leicester City, was a little bit disappointing.
PES 2014: Menus
If the slick presentation of FIFA seems to improve year on year, the anarchic, painful to navigate menu system in PES is still sticking around. Actually getting into a match seems to take an age, and tinkering with your tactics and starting line-up ends up being far too frustrating to make it worthwhile.
Annoying music also follows you around the game, so we'd advise turning it down and sticking on your own tunes. Probably best to keep that music on during the matches as well, as the commentary is atrocious.
PES 2014: Multiplayer
PES 2014 does offer a multiplayer mode, both for some classic multi controller set-ups and online matches. Online works pretty much the same as previous years. There's a ranking system, plus a matchmaking feature that finds you suitable opponents - both are nice additions and make the online feature something yo'íll keep coming back too.
But nothing is better than hooking up a few controllers and having a good old Pro Evo tournament.
PES 2014: Verdict
It may not have the fun factor of FIFA 2014, but Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 should not be dismissed as easily as it has been in recent years.
Komani has crafted an unrivalled, realistic football simulator, which looks just as good as it plays. Yes, it lacks the big-name licenses and glossy finish, but it has a deeper sense of achievement that makes it a joy to play, and master. There's a five star game in here somewhere and it'll be great for everyone when we finally see it.
PES 2014 release date: Out now
PES 2014 price: £35