Every year, Konami does its best to outperform interactive footie’s premiere contender, FIFA Soccer. In 2011, the series’ releases were both quality titles that any sports gamer would be proud to own, but EA Sports’ venerable franchise took the cake as being the best of the two offerings – at least in my opinion. While Pro Evolution Soccer 2012 was a very fun and enjoyable experience, it lacked some of the finesse that its competitor featured, not to mention a diverse selection of game modes.
Advancing to present day hasn’t changed the battle. Another year has passed, but the two companies are still fighting for retail sales. The competition is as fierce as it’s been in recent memory, and Konami has stepped up to the plate in a relatively big way. In fact, after last year’s review scores and sales figures came in, the company decided to go back to the drawing board, and the result is a polished, thoroughly entertaining and impressive title. As a result, the gap has shrunk, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 stands as a worthwhile investment for armchair footballers.
Where Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 has improved the most is with regards to its mechanics. A brand new Full Control option has been included, giving advanced players the moves they’ll need in order to reign supreme against tough competition. For instance, one can now press a button to bring up an arrow for precise passing, making important passes more accurate than ever before, with the same being true for shots. Additionally, one touch dribbling abilities can be utilized in order to get by stalwart defenders, with other neat maneuvers aiding the player’s cause. They’re all available for demonstration in a tutorial mode, but be warned: it takes a while to get used to get the hang of certain things. However, when you do, your game will go to another level.
Complementing the Full Control system are two other noteworthy features: ProActive Artificial Intelligence and Player I.D. As its title suggests, the former list item is in charge of making the game more realistic by upping its digitally crafted players’ imaginary brainpower. On the other hand, the latter option was included to make the game’s premiere players look and move with more realism. Both additions have certainly enhanced the PES experience, making this year’s iteration more of a polished experience than last year’s. Even on normal, opposing defenders are tough to crack, and it’s easy to tell who the elite players are when they’re on the field.
Those who are worried that the inclusion of more realistic features may take away from the series’ popular mixture of both arcade and simulation facets should relax. Although it does happen to be more lifelike than before, Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 still retains the fast-paced, arcade-inspired elements that fans enjoy. As a result, both camps will appreciate this offering. It’s fast-paced and strategical, but is also accessible. Newcomers can simply pick up a controller and play, while returning players will be able to improve their attacking and defending thanks to the inclusion of Full Control.
While forward momentum is certainly on Konami’s side, EA Sports still has the upper hand when it comes to licenses, game modes and presentation. FIFA Soccer 13 boasts an unbelievable amount of teams, leagues, players and game modes, making it tough to beat, and its animations are often jaw dropping. Its competitor presents improved animations, impressive ball physics and a decent amount of options, but its players don’t dance around the pitch as well. While running, they’ll occasionally move unrealistically, in a jutting kind of way, but don’t take that as being a major issue. It’s there, but isn’t overly noticeable, and doesn’t affect the experience much at all.
Despite featuring quite a few teams, including some international and created offerings, this franchise is still lacking licenses. Those who follow the UEFA Champions League or Copa Santander Libertadores can still expect to find all of the necessary teams, locations and trophies from those leagues, but they’re the only major ones worth noting. Still, with that being said, there’s a lot of fun to be had as a member of either bracket, especially when things ramp up to eleven during cup finals. Add in an impressive stadium creator and you can make your favourite piece of home town architecture.
After you’ve had your fill of playoff style action, you can jump into a customizable tournament mode featuring an increased amount of teams, head online against tough competition, or check out the Football Life menu. The latter two options are the ones which need to be explained in detail, so we’ll start with the online modes. First off, it’s worth noting that an online pass is included with new copies of the game, although my specific code was invalid. Thankfully, I was able to head online without an issue, which made my review process quite a bit easier than I was expecting after finding out that the code wouldn’t work.
Once online, users will be able to choose from a few different options. The expected exhibition match mode is there, as is a ranked version where fans can battle against similarly levelled foes in an attempt to become the best Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 player in the world. However, if single matches aren’t your style, why not jump into a timed online tournament, or even Master League Online? Therein you can try to bring your managed team to glory through detailed managing and confusing transfers. It’s definitely an option that a lot of folks will gravitate to, though some may prefer to stick with the offline version.
Now that we’ve talked about the Internet enabled features present within this interactive footie experience, it’s time to talk about Football Life in more detail. You see, that part of the menu actually houses both versions of Master League, alongside a Be a Pro mode. With Master League and its complex decision making plus options for both coaching and playing, you’ll be able to experience what it’s like to run a fledgling or professional club. Conversely, in Be a Pro, you’ll be attempting to rise up the ranks from the created PES League to the noteworthy ranks of the UEFA Champions League or Copa Santander Libertadores league. Needless to say, there are a ton of gameplay hours to be found within both modes. However, their dialogue and light RPG presentation facets leave things to be desired, even though skill boosting items and energy drink consumables have been added in.
One of the issues that I had with FIFA Soccer 2013 was its commentary, which felt unnecessarily dry and lacked colour. The same problem exists within this series, as Jon Champion and his partner Jim Beglin provide suitable but unimaginative play calling. There’s a lot of dead air, and the interesting stories that make the commentating so great in other sports games, such as NHL 13, are noticeably absent here. It’s a shame because Konami did a good job of advancing just about every other facet of the experience, from adding in some new teams to greatly enhancing the way that the on pitch action plays out. Unfortunately, the only noteworthy presentation enhancements all relate to the game’s graphics and player animations, which are both quite impressive, though aren’t exceptional.
It’s certainly safe to assume that the two venerable football series will battle it out again next year, just like fans throughout the globe will argue about the proper name of the beautiful game. Whether you call it footie, football, or soccer, it’s all the same, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 certainly does it justice. There are areas for improvement, but this year’s offering is definitely better than its predecessor, and I applaud Konami for putting so much work into improving what was already a very solid franchise. Although this release ends up with the runner-up badge in my books, it does so with grace, and isn’t far off the pace set by its highly publicized competitor. Hopefully next year will bring even more advancements, which will make this very good sports title into a masterful experience.
This review is based on a copy of the game that was provided to us.