E3 2013: Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 Hands-On Preview – FOX Balls
Written Monday, June 17, 2013 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
Despite adopting Kojima Productions' new FOX Engine, at first glance PES 2014 doesn't actually look all that different to past Pro Evo iterations. In fact, it looks almost exactly the same, possibly even a little worse, especially as the game stutters during the opening cut-scenes prior to a match. Players wait in the tunnel and emerge onto the pitch, and while it looks nice enough, the frame rate currently doesn't cut it. Until you actually get onto the pitch itself, where it actually matters.
Arguably PES is still playing catch-up with EA's FIFA series, but Konami is once again promising huge sweeping changes for this year's version, which will only be coming to current-gen consoles. Konami presumably doesn't want to make the same mistakes it did in rushing out PES 2008 as its first proper opening gambit on next-generation consoles at the time, PES 6 for Xbox 360 excepted. So while Konami takes its time bringing PES to Xbox One and PS4, for now we have PES 2014, built on the FOX Engine, adhering to six key design principles.
Hands-on as FC Bayern Munich versus Santos FC, we first notice the new TrueBall tech, which frees the ball itself from simply sticking to a player's feet. New physics applied to the ball dictate its behaviour and how it moves, as well as how different players are able to use it. Aspects like first touch and control set the top players out from the rest, with the weight and angle of a pass fully under your control. It sounds like a minor addition, but it does make a difference. Player ID too has been massively expanded, so more players will possess their own unique style and signature animations, making them seem far closer to their real-life counterparts.
TrueBall is one of PES 2014's six pillars, and the rest are MASS (Motion Animation Stability System), Team Play, PES ID, the core and the heart of the game of football itself. That last one is all about replicating the emotion and passion of the beautiful game, which to be fair, PES has never had much of a problem with in the past. It's the nuts and bolts of Pro Evo's intrinsic playability that needs the most attention, and like PES 2013 before it, PES 2014 seems like another step in the right direction for the franchise. What's more those six pillars sound less back of the box bulletpoints, and more a statement of intent from Konami pertaining to the areas that it wants to hone and refine.
Visually, PES 2014 still needs work, but we're thinking it could be symptomatic of utilising a new engine. It could be that the new gameplay mechanics are all in place and Konami is using the rest of its time before release to polish up the graphics. PES 2014 plays a decent game of football, with fairly slick animation, a greater sense of physicality between players (there looks to be much less clipping this time around too) and a gratifying ebb and flow to the action that's akin to a real match.
We're not sure how well it'll measure up to FIFA 14 (Dan played that and will have a preview for you soon), but having smarter teammates also helps PES 2014's case immensely, as mounting an attack and placing a through ball actually works like it should this time around. A player will actively find space and make a run, so when he does receive a pass, you're on target with a chance at goal. That's exactly what we find happens during an attack against the Santos FC defensive line, tapping a ball through from Robben to Mario Mandžuki? who then smashes the ball straight into the corner of the onion bag. Goooooaallll!
Free kicks, penalties and corners have also been overhauled for PES 2014, although the new interface these employ looks pretty ugly. Huge balloon-like dots map out the path of the ball as you line up corners, which hardly screams refinement. It just looks shoddy. Again, it's a case of Konami needing to pay attention to the visuals (the screenshots make it look far better than it currently does) and tighten things up, something it has plenty of time to address before its impending release, presumably this autumn as is usually the case.
Konami is really laying the apparent innovations on thick for PES 2014 with those six gameplay tenets promising to give FIFA a run for its money this year. PES 2014 certainly plays nicely, but it desperately needs some attention where the graphical finesse (or lack thereof) is concerned. It's all well and good that PES 2014 feels right in gameplay terms, but like or not, how the game looks will also ultimately play a part in whether football fans will choose Konami's annual effort over FIFA 14. At the moment, PES 2014 needs work or it might see out the current-generation as a footballing also-ran.
PES 2014 will be running on goal for a release later in the year.