Published by Konami
Developed by Konami
The transition from the last generation of consoles to the current was a rocky one for the Pro Evolution Soccer series. Over the last few years however, there have been signs that the series is back on track. In fact last year Konami produced the best Pro Evolution Soccer game for several years and it was as good as any other football game that was released in 2012. Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 takes some steps forward on the pitch this year too and manages to offer an enhanced and more enjoyable experience. However, off the field there is still room for improvement.
There aren’t many surprises in the gameplay modes that PES 2013 has to offer. You can take part in one-off matches either against the AI or against a local or online rival. Fully licensed UEFA Champions League and COPA Santander Libertadores tournaments are on offer once again. Online and offline competitions can be experienced in the Competition mode. Training mode allows you to take part in free training and a series of tutorials that will help you to get to grips with the finer points of the game. There’s also an Edit mode which allows you to modify various aspects of the teams and players included in the game. There’s an Xbox Live Party mode which offers you another way to play online. Finally there’s the Football Life mode which offers the Become a Legend mode, where you get to play through a virtual career, and online and the traditional offline Master League modes.
I’ve always regarded the Master League mode as Pro Evolution Soccer’s main attraction as it is the mode which really offers the long-term challenge in the game. Not a whole lot has changed this year to be honest but the changes that have been made are certainly interesting. To be begin with you can now choose to start in Europe or Latin America and you can choose to begin with the default Master League team of poor and average players or to opt for your chosen team’s real-life squad. Sadly there’s no option to create your own team for the offline Master League, which did exist in earlier versions, but you are able to do this for the online Master League mode. Unfortunately, the Master League mode is littered with boring cut scenes, most of which are taken from last year’s game, and these needlessly slow the pace of the action between matches. As you progress through a season you’ll earn points known simply as GP and these can be used to purchase items which can help to improve a player on your team. For instance purchasing a stopwatch and equipping this to a free item slot on a player will make their speed training more effective. Personal trainers, extra positions, skill boosts and mini goals are just some of the other items you can purchase. You’ll also earn various boots as rewards for your achievements in the mode and these boots can be equipped to a player of your choice to boost specific attributes. These additions are worthwhile and add some RPG qualities to the Master League mode but the mode on the whole could really do with reworking as it’s feeling a little stale.
Of course it’s the action on the pitch that really matters and it’s here that PES 2013 shows itself to be better than any other Pro Evolution Soccer game to have appeared on this generation of consoles. You are given more control over manual passing and shooting than ever. Simply holding down the left trigger brings up an arrow (you can disable the visual guide if you wish) that you can use to easily guide your manual passes and shots. Of course you’ve always been able to disable automatic passing and shooting in previous versions but this serves to make the game too difficult for those who can’t dedicate a lot of time to the game. Having the ability to play with auto passes and shots and switch to manual passes for those moments where you want a little more precision makes the game a more addictive experience. It has to be mentioned however that the ability of the player your controlling does have an effect on how accurate your passes and shots are so don’t expect a fictitious duffer to suddenly pull off exquisite long-range passes just because you’re manually directing where he should put the ball. A variety of new skills moves have been added this year too which help to make the game even more addictive. Most of these new moves are not easy to perform however and again the ability of the player in question does have a bearing on how successful these manoeuvres are. The game also features a new dynamic first touch system and a more realistic dribbling speed and both of these additions help to refine the gameplay experience. The ability to control players who are off-the-ball has been retained and doesn’t feel quite as fiddly as it did in last year’s game.
Two of my pet peeves with previous versions of Pro Evolution Soccer are referees that were far too quick to use their cards and goalkeepers who couldn’t help but spill the ball into the direction of opposing attackers who were only too glad to put the ball into the net. The referees in PES 2013 are a little sensitive and do brandish yellow cards for the slightest of fouls at times. As a result you’ll need to make sure you time your tackles well to avoid finishing a game with less than eleven players on the pitch. The goalkeepers do seem to have been improved this year however, making far fewer mistakes without being unrealistically good. As a result the goalkeepers seem much more realistic and there are fewer cheap goals conceded which makes the matches much more enjoyable and fairer.
Some of the old presentation issues still persist in PES 2013 and whilst some of these are understandable, some are plain annoying and completely avoidable. There are official licenses for the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, COPA Santander Libertadores, a host of international sides and six national leagues: Portugal, France, Spain, Holland, Italy and Brazil. The top English league is once again made up of 19 fictitious teams and an officially licensed Manchester United which is disappointing although it is by no means an irreparable situation thanks to the included editor. The editor will also come in useful when you wish to move the players that changed clubs before the transfer window shut as not all of these have been included (no doubt Konami will correct this with a free update as they usually do). When playing the game’s Master League mode you’ll encounter fictitious teams with stupid names such as MRABSPOR and WONDENGINE. It’s not only the team names which are nonsensical with staff members also being given crazy names. The cut scenes that adorn the Master League and Become a Legend modes have mostly been recycled from previous versions which is disappointing. The ability to turn these cut scenes off would have been appreciated.
Visually I couldn’t honestly say that PES 2013 looks any better than the last few games in the series which is no surprise really considering we are now in the latter stages of this console generation. The good news here however is that there are no real performance issues here with the frame rate remaining solid during matches. The game’s cut scenes in both Master League and Become a Legend mode are essentially PlayStation 2 quality however and they look poor. Not that it matters much however as it’s the quality of the visuals on the pitch what count and the player animations, for both their general movements and signature moves, look accurate and the visual quality of the players and the stadia are more than good enough. The camera angles are generally fine, although some new ones would have been appreciated, but I do miss the ability to tilt the camera view when going towards either goal which was present in earlier versions.
PES 2013 is just as accessible for deaf gamers as any of the previous games in the series. The match commentary is once again not subtitled but as before this can be considered something of blessing as it’s so repetitive and inaccurate at times that it doesn’t have any real value. The cut scenes in the Master League and Become a Legend mode are subtitled. All of the game’s tutorials (found in the Training mode) are subtitled so you’ll have no problems in getting to grips with the game. The game uses a variety of icons to convey information both during the matches and on many of the game’s menu screens. To the developers’ credit, most of these icons are self-explanatory. The game manual has been well written going into detail to explain the game’s controls and its various concepts.
With Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 being the first football game I’ve played this year it’s impossible, at the time of writing, to say if it’s the best football game I’ll play this year but what I can say is that it’s the most I’ve enjoyed playing a football game on the Xbox 360 to date. There are still some rough edges here but they are mostly to be found in the presentation of the game rather than in the gameplay. The gameplay is where Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 really hits the spot and it feels better than any other Pro Evolution Soccer game that I’ve played for many years. There is still some room for improvement of course but on the whole this is a great football game that fans of the series will love.