Just like the view from the stands on a Saturday afternoon, your relationship with PES 2014 will be one of both blissful euphoria and crushing disappointment.
For the most part, PES 2014 plays an excellent game of football, and when it all comes together even FIFA can't compete in terms of sheer satisfaction and joy. Quite often though, whether you're attacking or defending, the game falls frustratingly flat in the final third of the pitch.
This year the introduction of Kojima Productions' Fox Engine has improved Konami's game in many areas compared to PES 2013, but a few of the same old problems remain and there are some new ones too. 'TrueBall Tech' promised realistic ball physics, and the PES team has mostly delivered on that front. No matter what support settings you're playing on, short and long passes are a joy to execute. The level of success varies depending on your skill and the player you're controlling, but that's how it should be. After all, not everyone is Andreas Iniesta.
However, shooting is (pardon the pun) sometimes hit and miss. Often the ball will behave just as you'd expect, powering or curling its way towards the goal. On other occasions, you'll feel like your shots have no real weight or power behind them at all, despite your intentions. On occasion, some shot types, volleys for example, will take a strange trajectory towards the goal.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it's within PES 2014's animation and visuals where you can see the Fox Engine's biggest influence, with plenty of new player movements to observe. Players jostling for the ball, crunching tackles and collisions; all these aspects help create a realistic battle for possession while looking amazing in the process.
The visual side of PES 2014 is, in fact, at another level compared to its predecessors. The difference is night and day; player models, stadiums and crowds all look wonderful. For the first time in this console generation, PES actually looks better than FIFA. Some of the player likenesses are uncanny - it's just shame Konami couldn't squeeze more into the game on day one. More stadiums and weather types would've been nice too, but Konami has explained the reason for these exclusions already.
The new Heart system is another excellent addition. Designed so that the actions of players on the pitch have an impact on individual and team morale, its inclusion isn't entirely evident at first. However, go through a Master League season and you'll definitely notice the effect. A life-saving tackle, an inspiring shot or a moment of crowd-pleasing flair can boost your team's morale, giving you a better chance of scoring more or coming back from a goal down.
In terms of defence, the introduction of a new animation system and ball physics means that when you double tap X/A to go in for a tackle you'll more often than not go for the ball rather than the player. Holding off and timing is still everything, so if you happen to just spam X/A then you won't get very far. The slightly improved performance training mode is your friend here, as it will teach you all the basics of defending.
"For the first time in this console generation PES actually looks better than FIFA."
Beyond PES 2014's slick passing and amazing presentation, it's undoubtedly player reaction and awareness that let the side down. Neither is game breaking, but you'll find that AI teammates frequently won't react to loose balls particularly well, often giving the advantage to the opposition. It's particularly frustrating when this happens in defensive areas - and Goalkeepers remain similarly cumbersome with their positioning.
Dribbling is another area that could be improved. Animation is excellent, but it isn't as fluid or responsive as you'd expect. Player ID is still present, so the traits and style of certain players definitely stand out, but some stars you'd expect to move with more elegance. There's no middle ground either; you're either walking or sprinting by holding R1.
However the inclusion of momentum and weight-shift does have a positive effect on the game's pace, resulting in some very careful, considered and realistic play. It makes for some absorbing matches, both against the CPU and human opponents.
Despite its clear issues, PES 2014 remains a worthwhile upgrade to the series, with all-round improved gameplay and a roster of well built modes. Master League remains as deep as ever, now allowing you to manage a national team. Become a Legend returns too, accompanied by a whole host of new leagues and competitions.
The move to new technology has allowed Konami to deliverer a strong and slick simulation, arguably its best on current consoles. This is a valiant first effort of what can be done with the Fox Engine, but the series has even brighter days ahead.
A fresh foundation for the series. PES 2014 has its issues, but still manages to deliver a deep and satisfying game of football.
- The best looking current-gen football game
- Slick animation and passing
- Heart system works well
- Erratic shooting
- Occasional AI issues