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PES 2013: PES is exciting again - and it really could reclaim the footy crown

Hands-on with Konami's tactical contender

It's an interesting time in the battle between the footy heavyweights. With FIFA 12 really pulling away from PES in unit sales, Konami's former genre champ seemingly has nothing to lose by pushing the innovation boat out in this year's instalment - and EA could just as easily end up resting on its laurels.

The result is a PES that again makes significant changes in feel and gameplay, with a slower pace and risky control introductions that could transform the way you approach post-pub virtual footy.

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As usual, Konami's presenting its PES 2013 additions in the form of three pillars: Full Control (PES FC), Advanced AI and Player ID. These were mentioned earlier this year in the form of a press release, and we have to admit we weren't exactly blown away. How wrong we were.

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An extensive hands-on during a ridiculous trip to Sao Paulo, Brazil teased one of the most tactical, exciting Pro Evo instalments in a long time, and a game that many present in South America felt could genuinely give FIFA a shock result later this year.

Most significant to PES 2013's transformation is the aforementioned PES FC, which the feature bullet point list says lets players activate manual shooting, pull off various first touch-related skills, and make use of the new 'Full Manual Passing'.

The latter is basically the introduction of dynamic moves to player dribbling - a bit like FIFA 13's own system - which gives your virtual footballers greater accuracy in tighter spaces. This means insane dribbling through a packed penalty box, Barcelona style, is now absolutely possible - and supremely satisfying - with more skillful players like Iniesta.

On the subject of superstars, they really feel different this year. When Ronaldo is on the ball, alongside the giant name above his head you can also feel his skill and power behind the controls as he seemingly effortless beats defenders and draws fouls.

He also benefits from the introduction of Deft Touch Dribbling, another dynamic dribbling system which has your wingers making tighter touches when they're close to the line. Controlling old Winker on the edge of the box has him performing little heel taps and ball rolls. As well as the obvious gameplay consequences, this looks fantastic thanks to a brand new roster of animations.

PES FC also encompasses Dynamic One-Twos (again creating better accuracy in tight spaces), Enhanced Keepers (who look better and act far more realistically this year) and Advanced Trap. Trapping has you pressing R2 upon receiving a long cross. Bugger it up and the ball will bounce or speed ahead of your man, making it easy for defenders to clean up.

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It adds a risk-reward element to offensive play, and advanced players can use the trapping system in conjunction with the right stick to faint a shot in the box or flick the ball in any direction they want.

But the absolute best addition to the attacking side of PES is Full Manual Shooting, which in our early demo allowed us to hold L2 to turn off all assistance whatsoever and often perform some ridiculous, unpredictable strikes.

The PES team is still working out how the implement the system for the final game, but during our hands-on time we saw some truly unexpected and awesome manual goals, with curl and brutal deflections contributing heavily. With FIFA 13's mission being to "capture the unpredictability of real-world football", it's ironic that so far PES is the game that has surprised us most.

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