It feels unfair to begin a preview of PES 13 by comparing it to its nearest and dearest rival, but not doing so would ignore the proverbial elephant in the room. It would be an understatement to say that over the last few years, Konamiís football game franchise has had a considerable amount of its thunder stolen by EAís FIFA series. To put it bluntly, itís been booted firmly into second place.
Itís tempting to chalk this up to funding and cast FIFA as the footie sim corollary to Man City, a former mid-table club turned league dominating beast due to an injection of largesse and talent. An element of this is self-evident in PES 13ís presentation. The player models and animations look the part and the in-game commentaryís decent, but the crowd noises sound generic Ė presumably because Konami doesnít have the funds to send a sound team around the globe capturing club chants and region-specific crowd reactions.
The overriding factor in FIFAís success and PESís downfall, however, is as crucial in the gaming industry as it is in professional sports: direction. FIFA had it and PES didnít Ė that is, up until PES 11, a game that, while far from perfect, indicated that Konami had woken up to the fact that it could no longer rely on the affections of its rapidly deteriorating fanbase. PES 12 continued the push, providing a style of play that wasnít arcade-like, but wasnít exactly a straight sim, either. The emphasis here was on fast-paced attacking football and placing more control in the hands of the players in aspects like like shot-taking, dribbling and ball-trapping.
PES 13 feels like the next step forward in the journey started by PES 11. Its improvements can be broken down into the three key areas: gameplay, an improved AI, and Player ID (which has a bearing on both). First up is the PES Full Control (PES FC) feature, an advanced version of PES 11ís Total Control system. What this means, according to Konami, is that players can now put the ball pretty much anywhere they want on the pitch, in any direction, at any speed and at any height.
This being PES, the level of each individual playerís skill is brought to bear Ė you canít just hammer the buttons and expect a result. Put the work in and youíll become a defenderís nightmare, issuing quick cuts through the back four and lofting balls into space for headers. Players can also mess about with their Dynamic One-Twos; clicking LB and the A button sends a nearby attacker running in the direction dictated by the left thumbstick, allowing the player to either feed them the ball in space, or use this as a diversionary tactic to flummox the defence Ė although, admittedly, this works a lot better against a human adversary than the gameís improved AI.
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