PES 2013: PES is exciting again - and it really could reclaim the footy crown
30th May 2012 | 13:00
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.
SHOOT TO KILL
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.
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.
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.
The counter to all these attacking advancements is a new defensive system called Responsive Defending. Double tap X (on PS3) and your defender will dive in with a leg in an attempt to perform a last ditch clearance. It works well, but when mistimed can also work against you if you cause a foul or get mugged off by Ronaldinho as he simply hops over your lunge.
PES 2013's second 'pillar' is more of a promise than something that's strongly apparent in the early demo. ProActive AI makes tweaks to computer opponents, mainly in reaction to the new FC controls, and players are said to make space for you when you're pulling off Deft Dribbling moves on the touch line.
In reaction to fan feedback, defensive lines now push a little further up the pitch rather than camping in front of the goalkeeper, as often occurred in PES 2012, with fullbacks bursting forward more readily to take advantage of space. More info on PES 2013's AI is promised for E3.
Pillar number three on Konami's football tripod is Player ID, which promises to take capturing the 'personality' of star players to the next level. Perfectly recreating Messi's arse-scratches is a claim every FIFA and PES seems to have made since 2007, but PES 2013 appears to have made more of an effort than past efforts.
Just as you can see in the PES 2013 teaser trailer, the dev team has captured the running style and shooting posture of Christiano Ronaldo, so he looks just as camp-arrogant in the game as in real life. "40 to 50" other superstars will get the same treatment in PES 2013, and thankfully not all of them play for Real and Barcelona.
Via a presentation video, we saw Kaka's frantic scramble runs, Neymar's piss-taking stepovers, Puyol's lunging tackles and - brilliantly - John Terry's attempted torpedo header clearance from the England vs. Slovenia game at the 2010 World Cup (we've literally begged Konami to release footage).
The build we played only featured two teams (Real Madrid and Flamingos), so we didn't get a wide-scale demonstration of how impactful the individuality will be in-game, but you can feel the difference when dribbling with Real's main man compared to the comparatively sluggish Ronaldinho.
In action, PES 2013 is a slower-paced game than its predecessor, which fits in with the extra time required to pull off manual passes, ball trapping and mental manual shots.
It's a game that suddenly feels full of soul and encourages players to be more creative in their play - looking for the top corner, passing to Ronaldo who can dart through the box with ease, and flicking the ball over the last man after a long cross before slotting it home.
The slower pace, combined with the great PES FC additions, makes for a more tactical, skilful game, which not only shakes off last year's image as 'the arcade footy title' but, according to some FIFA-loving journos on our trip, might seriously be enough to see them switch allegiance this year.
Us? We were very impressed. Our upcoming FIFA 13 hands-on session suddenly has a lot to live up to...