Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2013

Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) was by far the superior football game throughout the whole of the last console generation, but has spectacularly fallen from grace since HD consoles hit the market. In an attempt to improve things, the developers of PES have this year made a reshuffle with longterm dev lead Shingo “Seabass” Takatsuka moving onto other projects. So has this reshuffled injected fresh blood and vigor into the series, or is rigor mortis setting into this dying series?

Gameplay

In the redesigning of the passing system and the shooting techniques, PES has at least tried to update its ways, if not completely change them. Listening to fans concerns they have included a free passing button which lets you have direct control over where you place the ball, both at long and short range. This is a welcome addition as it allows for more intricate play and results in the player having more control over the destination of their passing. The manual shooting also allows a greater sense of accomplishment when curling in a world class strike from range.

Alas however, it still feels like PES, not like football. Although you can trigger player runs, if the CPU is left to its own devices an intelligent run is a rare as a genuinely humble footballer. The players still feel like they are moving along pre-prepared gridlines and any real inventiveness has to be conjured up by the player.

This is not to say it is without genuine improvements. The way the camera angle changes during free kicks is nice. More importantly the goalkeepers are better represented with quicker reaction times and smarter positioning.

Pro Evolution Soccar (PES) 2013 screenshot 3

 

As well as featuring bog standard exhibition matches, PES also gives us the Champions League and Copa Santander Libertadores, both officially licensed competitions. These serve only as interesting distractions because, as ever, the main meat and drink of the series remains its Master League mode.

Here you can take over a club and keep their existing players or start anew with a fresh batch of lowly skilled squad members. This is the more challenging option but the goal in both cases is to take your club out of D2 obscurity and into the higher tier of success that is D1. Along the way you can now employ alongside the usual scouts such backroom staff as coaches, athletic trainers and club doctors. The higher their salary the greater the positive impact they will have on your players.

But be careful as you can bankrupt your clubs finances and this will result in what is effectively a ‘game over’ scenario that will end all your hard work. Thankfully the game gives you plenty of help, even suggesting ‘realistic’ player transfer targets to guide you in a financially viable direction. The mode enables you to shape your managers look to a certain degree and includes press conferences and meetings with players. These events are little more than cut-scene window dressing however, as you do not get to make any key decisions here and they have little bearing on how the club is run.

Events advance on a weekly scale and you can set up your training (allocating points to the areas you want to favour) around big match days. Tactics are simply rendered in the game plan menu and are an easy to use, drag and drop affair.

The other more recent series stalwart has been the Become a Legend mode. This sees you take control of one player in an otherwise CPU controlled squad. Again you can either use an original player or create your own. In creating your own you choose a position and a player type (finisher or all rounder for example) and allocate focus points as you see fit. This then leads to you joining a lowly starting club and working your way up to a large club and Euro success. As with Master League mode, cut scenes abound but are little more than visual diversions.

You can check how your stats are progressing and also allocate points on your training regime as they become available. Getting a better agent gives you a better chance of moving to a larger club. The key to improving your rating with the manager at your current club (and to become a first team regular and eventually, captain) is to play consistently well over a season.

The default view is a sort of just above head level camera that takes some getting used to, but can be changed, as per previous instalments. What is new are the items can be purchased using game points (GP) from the PES shop. These are either consumables that you use up after one game or permanent items like boots that give a constant bonus.

Pro Evolution Soccar (PES) 2013 screenshot 2

 

Looks and Sound

In terms of presentation PES 2013 has decided to go for bright, clean menu systems and horribly cheesy Euro pop for its menu music. I know music is a subjective thing but upon starting my career as a Master League manager I actually had to press the mute button on my TV remote to stop the awful background noise.

Graphically the game fares better. The character models move in a smooth enough fashion and star players have distinctive running styles and animations. However on changing from fast dribbling to tight turns the players still feel slightly robotic in their movement. There are some nice touches however, like your Master League team training in the background as you look through that mode’s menu screens.

The stadia are decent enough in their rendering but the ordinary player models are really not that detailed and there is a distinct lack of graphical polish on everything from in game animations to pointless cut scenes.

To Sum Up

I have no doubt that what PES 2013 represents is a real attempt to address the problems of the series and to up its game to compete with FIFA. In order to do this, what it needed to have was no less than a full scale rebuild of the CPU system and many new animation frames for the players to make the game as flexible and dynamic as the real thing.

Instead the old system of movement was kept in place with the new additions to passing and shooting adding solid new elements without addressing the old flaws. Add to this a functional (but not spectacular) training mode and online setup and you have a package that is respectable but not a knockout title by any means. If you buy two football games this year, make this your second, budget purchase.

6/10

[Version reviewed: Xbox 360]

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 will be released on all major consoles on 21 September 2012. You can order it from our online shop now.

Author: Michael Youngman

Your friendly neighborhood gamer and film buff. Equally at home in the art-house or multiplex cinema. Loves all types of game but 1v1 fighting is a fave. I like a good natter every now and then so why not contact me on twitter.

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  • MartynNewton

    There has been some discussion in a few places over our score which I wish to clarfiy.

    At PopBucket, we think too many games get too high a score too frequently. By definition, a 6/10 means it’s a good game. It works out exactly the same as a three (out of five) star film. Do you all considered a three star film bad? Do you refuse to watch a three star movie? So I’m not sure why a 6/10 game is considered poor.

    Throughout the review, mentions are made to the improvements made across the board. This combined with a good 6/10 I feel perfectly describes a game worth your time. As Michael pointed out, this game is worth a purchase, just probably not a day one if you’re undecided on whether to get this or FIFA 13.

    And cost to the consumer doesn’t make a difference in case you’re thinking games are expensive and need to be looked at in a different way to film. Cinema ticket prices are a good £10/$10 each these days, so spending £40/$50 on a game is very good value for money in my opinion.

    We feel that 6/10 is realistic score as Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is not the best football game ever, therefore doesn’t deserve to be considered anything 8 or above. It doesn’t redefine what we expect from a football game, it’s nothing special, it’s just a solid, good game with many improvements in gameplay and presentation over the last installment.

    I’d love to hear from more of you on the matter of our score, so please post your thoughts below.

    Martyn

  • kris

    Shite score considering the game has been averaging 8s and 9s everywhere else. Can tell from the way this was written than the reviewer wanted to score this low from the first paragraph. Poorly written and blatantly biased.

  • Will

    Would like to say that this is the only review I’ve come across so far that I completely agree with! How on earth this game has got such high scores is beyond me, the very base of the game is on a tired, outdated engine which has NEVER performed to the standard expected from a series that was once so impressive.
    I love PES, I’ve never been much of a FIFA fan, and I still love ps2 PES but this engine has been a clunky mess and a complete nightmare in my view. The game does nothing revolutionary, nor does it stand out compared to past Pro Evo’s even, and there is less game modes than in previous versions! So why are there high scores everywhere!?
    I could understand it if things on the pitch had dramatically changed, but they really have not all that much, there’s subtle improvements which I’m grateful for but for me it’s clear that without a new engine this game simply cannot be anything more than a very well polished turd.

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