There have never been a short supply of excellent soccer video games. Yes, EA's FIFA series dominates the soccer market around the world, but there is stiff competition on its heels. Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer franchise has been a fantastic franchise for years, and has really upped the ante with its technical improvements for 2014. It has always been behind as it doesn't cater to casuals like FIFA does. It's also lacked the available team selection, but Konami has helped itself in this regard for PES 2014.
Konami went above and beyond with PES 2014 with the introduction of Kojima Production’s Fox Engine to the franchise. This is the same engine that powered Metal Gear Solid. The result of doing so allowed for some of the best physics in a sports game, ever. The introduction of TrueBall Tech allows the ball to be the center of attention. Players have complete control over how they move, which in turn, allows better passing and maneuverability. TrueBall Tech is a full 360-degree, two-footed control system that allows for great one-on-one match-ups. By judging your players’ speed and the ball mechanics, this engine allows for some very rewarding battles on the field.
Konami has also instilled the Motion Animation Stability System (MASS). This allows for collisions that the series has never seen before. Collisions look real and flow naturally. There's no clipping or hiccups in the animations. This also allows for realistic ball movements, which in combination with the collision engine, brings one of the most realistic representations of any sport to a video game.
One of the better features in PES 2014 is the new emotional drive engine called Heart. Other sports franchises should incorporate this feature. Helping Konami to fully capture the passion and pageantry of soccer (football), PES 2014 introduces the “12th” man. This extra emotion helps fuel the home team, or break down an individual player with a bad game going. Any one moment can spur momentum and swing the game. This gives the home team a clear advantage in a hostile environment
With all these technical advancements to the game engine, there are a lot of advanced controls in PES 2014. There is a training mode to help get you accustomed to all that you can do. Different shots, passes, and moves are all allocated to different buttons and using the right stick. It seems Konami put its stock in the fact that customers already understand the game of soccer (football). These controls will take a long time to master, as pulling these off in the heat of the moment can be extremely tough.
Speaking of tough, the A.I. in this game can be downright nasty. The A.I. plays very smart, and is very physical. At times, possibly depending on the ratings of the players on the field, the awareness isn’t there. Konami has noted that player ratings play a huge role in this game. There are not an abundance of fouls called, and sometimes the referees miss a call. The crowd will surely let them know they missed it.
The Fox Engine looks beautiful. It brings the stadiums and players to life. The gameplay is smooth and fluent. The only issue is with the cut scenes and some of the replays. These scenes will drop significantly in frame rate, which takes some of the emotion out of the game. It would be nice to see a patch that addresses the performance of these cut scenes. Otherwise, shadows will cast across the field, and the lighting looks really good pouring onto the field.
PES 2014 features player entrances before each game. Besides that, the overall presentation in the game is lacking. There are no statistical overlays, and it doesn’t feel much like a television broadcast. The only tv-style graphics are during halftime and postgame. While they look the part, it would be nice to see the series show more information during the game. The menus in the game look astounding. Each league has its own menu look.
The announcers sound good and they get the job done. There seems to be some dead time, but the announcers are very dynamic when action occurs. They do help to complete the capturing of the essence of a soccer game. The color commentator doesn't really comment on all that much during a game. As for the overall sound, the crowds sound phenomenal. Sometimes the crowd chants can get redundant, but the emotion is felt during big events. The music in the game is fitting, but strangely it’s a mix of opera and Latin music, but both cater to the sport.
The major complaint of the series in the past has been the lack of teams. If you live in Europe or South America, this is the abundance of teams that are featured in PES 2014. Konami did go out and get the English Premier League (UEFA Champions), so Real Madrid and Manchester United are playable in the game. The others are a mix of football clubs and generic national teams. This is what happens when the main competitor has the FIFA license. It’s also difficult if you are from America and are unsure of where the football clubs in this game are located. When choosing teams, the menu doesn't show you the ratings of these clubs.
Play modes feel minimal in comparison to recent sports games. Besides standard exhibition, season, and online modes, the mode that stands out is the Football Life mode. In this mode, you can either start a career as a team owner/manager or as a player. There’s also online league play. As a team owner/manager, you choose the team and are given a set of players. You build the franchise from the ground up and manage the payroll. You can be chosen to coach a national team if you do well enough. If you just want to hop into a season with your favorite football club and their correct rosters, then that’s what season mode is for. There is also a competition training mode to help build your skills at the game.
EA might have its Infinity Engine, but the Fox Engine brings a clean physics engine to the equation. PES 2014 is one of the most technically advanced sports games ever created. It is worth playing just to experience how a sports game should represent its real life counterpart. With excellent visuals, tight gameplay, and a challenging A.I., the game never makes you feel cheated. It perfectly captures everything that is soccer. The challenge of scoring a goal is highly rewarding, once achieved. The lack of an abundant amount of game modes and household name football clubs might turn off a few people. This game is certainly for the hardcore soccer (football) fan.
+ One of the best representations of a sport in video games.
+ Fox Engine enables extremely realistic physics and graphics.
+ HEART aspect of the game helps create the genuine soccer (football) experience.
- Aimed for hardcore fans of the sport.
- Bad frame rates in cut scenes.
- Lack of abundant game modes and relevant teams.
A copy for PS3 was provided for review