PES 2014 Review
Let’s get one thing straight right away. There’s been concern from some quarters that the decision to build PES 2014 in Konami’s new Fox engine could derail the series just as it seemed to have found its feet with PES 2013.
Well, fear not. That hasn’t happened.
PES 2014 isn’t a huge leap forward from last year’s entry, but Konami has made some tweaks that change the game for the better. As a result, PES 2014 is a fantastic football game and one that serves to prove that PES 2013 wasn’t a one off.
If PES 2013 showed the world that PES is back, PES 2014 tells us that it’s here to stay.
PES 2014: Feints, Tricks & Combinations
If you’re going to get the most out of PES 2014, then you have to realise that this is a game that rewards players who make the effort to learn all its nuances.
While there is certainly fun to be had for those who don’t want to go beyond the basics, the game provides the greatest satisfaction, and is at its best, when embraced as the technical experience that it is.
Feinting one way before cutting back the other and leaving an opponent in your wake; receiving a pass and ensuring that your first touch takes the ball away from a defender before using a trick to flummox them; successfully implementing one of PES 2014’s new combination plays – these are all things that not only require varying degrees of practice, but a willingness to dive head first into the toolset that PES 2014 offers the player.
This depth is the reason that PES 2014 is so satisfying when everything goes to plan. It’s not only the fact that you managed to time your button presses and stick flicks correctly, it’s the fact that you chose the right option for the situation with which you are presented.
As such, PES 2014 starts to feel like a series of tiny puzzles as much a test of technical skill, every goal a testament to your intelligence as well as your ability.
When you win in PES 2014, you feel like you earned it and that sense of reward is a hallmark of the PES series at its best.
PES 2014: Through-Balls & Physicality
One of the best things about PES 2014 is the way that the game ‘gets’ through-balls. Rather than always trying to play the ball directly into the run of a receiving player, regardless of context, PES 2014 seem to understand where the opposing team’s defenders are and threads the ball in-between them accordingly.
As a result, the passes that break down the opposition’s back-line are much more akin to those defence-splitting passes you’ll witness on a Saturday afternoon.
Threading a canny through-ball between centre and full-back to meet the run of a winger making a run inside not only looks realistic, but feels great.
One minor complaint is that, in tight areas, the game can occasionally feel a little unresponsive. AI teammates can also lack urgency when it comes to both attacking and defending.
Standing in a cluttered midfield while teammates refuse to make what seems like an obvious run, or watching defenders and goalkeepers fail to respond quickly to a dangerous situation can be frustrating.
Another change that PES 2013 players will notice when it comes to PES 2014 is that the game has a far greater sense of physicality. You can really feel the tussles between players both on and off the ball and this has a discernable effect on the game, both good and bad.
Catching up to an opposition attacker as they run at your goal and then flicking the right stick to shoulder barge them off the ball feels fantastic.
What doesn’t feel great is becoming embroiled in mini-improv dance performances in which you and one or two other players stumble and trip around each other and the ball, which is apt to happen now and again.
In fairness, many PES fans love the series for its ability to encapsulate the messiness of football, not just its glamour and style and PES 2014 has that sense of unpredictability so valued by the game’s fans.
PES 2014: Menus, Interface & Realism
While we’re praising PES 2014 for its realism, it’s worth mentioning that Konami has done a good job when it comes to animation. The way players move, shoot, tackle and collide looks convincing
When it comes to player models, ‘convincing’ is not a word you’d consistently use. Don’t get me wrong – your Ronaldos, Ozils and Riberys all look fantastic. But you can see where the time’s been spent.
Some players are nigh on unrecognisable, while others look a little ridiculous. Arsenal’s (or North London’s, if you want to use PES parlance) Santi Carzola, for example, looks a bit like he’s had Eddie Marsan’s face smashed into his own with a spade.
It also must be said that PES 2014 seems to struggle in pre-game cutscenes, goal celebrations and the like. These oddly stuttery scenes are unpleasant to watch and while this isn’t a big deal, given that the core game is so good, it’s a shame, as the game looks pretty good on the whole.
What is less forgivable is Konami’s constant failure to create a game with menus that aren’t an abomination. PES 2014’s menus aren’t the worst in the series, for what that’s worth, but they are still terrible.
Unattractive and fiddly at the best of times, laggy and unresponsive at the worst, PES 2014’s interface ensures that this is another great PES game inexplicably ensconced in an ugly and anti-user-friendly wrapping.
PES 2014 In Summary
The amount you get out of PES 2014 will depend on how much you’re willing to put in, offering as it does a technically rich set of tools that not every player is going to be prepared to dig though.
For those willing to stick with it, however, PES 2014 is an incredibly rewarding game that, at its best, is both an incredible simulation of the game of football and an immensely satisfying challenge.
The game isn’t perfect, but it certianly comes recommended. To borrow one of football’s many clichés, PES 2014 is a great base from which the series can kick on to bigger and better things.
Version tested: PS3
Note: Please be aware that we haven’t yet had the opportunity to test PES 2014’s online functionality.