Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 Review

October 1, 2012

/ by Tin Salamunic

Developer(s): PES Productions
Publisher(s): Konami
Platform(s): Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo 3DS, PC, PSP, Wii
Release Date: September 25, 2012

The Pro Evolution Soccer franchise had a few rough years leading up to their latest release. The previous installments were solid, but lacked polish and made too few gameplay advancements to stand up to their competitors, namely Fifa.  With their latest title, PES 2013, Konami managed to iron out the rough edges and what we have as a result is not only the strongest game in the series, but one of the most fun and exciting soccer games available at the moment. 

The Good
- A perfect blend of Arcade and Simulation
- Visuals and animations during gameplay are superb
- Fantastic gameplay, once you learn the controls
- Improved AI

The Bad
- Bad frame rate stutters during replays
- Presentation could use more polish
- Takes a while to learn the controls
- Players’ faces look weird

After creating your avatar with an extensive character creator, you need to find your way to the training mode and learn the basics.  I spent a good hour and a half in this mode, trying to nail each training session before playing my first match.  This is one of the few games where the tutorial is actually necessary to properly play the game and you’ll fell like a better player by the end.

What makes the gameplay challenging is the precision that’s necessary to execute certain moves.  Trapping a ball after a pass requires impeccable timing, and trying to master your first Double Touch might take several retries.  Dribbling feels noticeably more realistic and pressing R2 allows for various stylish maneuvers when facing opponents. It’s challenging at first, but the more you practice, the more you appreciate the subtle changes the latest PES brings to the franchise.   

Despite the steep learning curve, the gameplay feels smooth, precise, and rewarding. You feel like you’re actually controlling the ball with your feet, rather than a gamepad. The oftentimes automatic feeling of Fifa doesn’t exist here. Passing and shooting can also be done manually, which ads unprecedented freedom and strategy to matches.  Holding down L2 displays an arrow around your player giving you more control over the direction of your kicks.  This is a great way for getting out of clustered situations, especially since you can rotate the arrow 360 degrees.

Tackling and pressuring is handled elegantly in PES 2013. To track an opposing player with a ball, you hold X, while double tapping it lets you tackle.  When holding down X, you can pressure the opposition with R1, but it requires careful positioning to be successful.  If you’ve played previous PES titles, you’ll notice that the overall pacing of the game has slowed down.  It feels more realistic by giving you time to plan your moves and play more strategically. The series has always been on the Arcade side, and while it’s still not a complete switch to simulation-style gameplay, it’s a welcome mix of both that makes the latest installment a step in the right direction.  

The AI engine has undergone a massive overhaul since last year. Illogical, twitchy behaviors of the past have been eradicated and the developers have worked hard to respond to all complaints from their fan base. The AI is noticeably more tactical and organized during games, making each match feel like you’re playing with real people, instead of a computer.  Attacking and defending AI players react more realistically and it’s in the heated moments of unpredictability that the computer intelligence shines.

Game modes offer plenty of options, but still can’t compete with Fifa’s level of depth and variety.  Football Life makes a comeback allowing you to play as both the manager and the team in Master League, giving you an RPG-style of customization. Alternatively, you can take the Become a Legend route and play as a singular footballer, but watching your AI teammates have all the fun is not the most entertaining option.  More modes from last year return, such as the UEFA Champions League, South American Copa Libertadores Tournaments, and the League Cup, but they’ve been left unchanged, leaving veterans of the franchise begging for more.  Online play is certainly the way to go if you’re looking for more variety, but Pro Evolution Soccer needs to bring a lot more to the table if they want to reclaim the soccer throne once again.

PES 2013 is a fantastic looking game, but only during gameplay.  Animations are fluid and varied; the players move smoothly without any awkward animation transitions or stutters, but outside the gameplay, particularly during replays, the visuals suffer heavily.  The frame rate during replays goes berserk and ruins the highlights of the matches - even the animations look unbelievably choppy here.   Even more odd are the players’ faces. When they’re screaming or yelling, their mouths look like black holes, stretching in strange elliptical shapes, even though the rest of the character models look fine.  Menus are clean and easy to navigate, but they lack creativity and variety. Regardless of the mode you’re playing, it feels like you’re clicking through identical pages between games.  However, none of these complaints take away from the overall package.  The latest PES is a fine looking game; it just doesn’t have the wow factor of Fifa.

The audio is exactly what you’d expect from a soccer game. There’s a standard mix of Pop songs as you navigate the menus and while the thundering cheers of fans during matches are engrossing, the commentary could be less repetitive.  John Champion and Jim Beglin’s awkward attempts at witticism and lack of excitement beg for an off option.  Despite the crowd being regularly responsive, key moments are oftentimes completely ignored. Nothing in the sound department is particularly bothersome, but there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Minor nitpicking aside, I’ve had more fun with Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 than any other soccer game in recent memory – yes, even Fifa.  While it lacks EA’s depth and visual polish, the game excels where it matters most, the gameplay.  If Konami can refine their graphics engine and revise their modes to offer more variety, the next PES could very well be the greatest soccer game of all time.  

Final Score “The Best PES Title so far” 8.5
The game looks fantastic during gameplay, but replays are filled with bad frame rate stutters. Player models are nicely detailed, but their mouths look like strange, black holes.
PES 2013 scores where it matters the most. Once you learn the controls, it'll be impossible to find a better playing soccer game - that includes Fifa.
Gameplay modes offer the same options as last year's PES, but it's the superb gameplay that'll keep you busy for a long, long time.
The cheering of the crowds is great and the menu music isn't half as bad, but the announcers are repetitive and unexciting.

Review by Tin Salamunic

Tin Salamunic is the founder of The Game Scouts. He is a Video Game Journalist during the day and illustrator at night. He's been obsessed with video games since the early NES days, collecting every major system and game on the market. Video games are the reason he pursued the illustration career and he hopes to be creative director for a video game company one day. All Artciles by Tin. 

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