Video Game Review: ‘Pro Evolution Soccer 2013’ a Scrappy Sports Game
CHICAGO – 2012 marks the first time in three years I haven’t played the new “FIFA” game with my annoying wannabe-European roommate. Like clockwork, each year he’d bound into our apartment with the world’s premier soccer title, unwrap it, pack the hookah (making me guess the flavor even though I could never tell the difference - and told him this every time) and we’d proceed to play until I beat him, at which point he’d lose interest in playing me, and instead move to his bedroom to play on the easiest mode with the best team and I presume drink creme de menthe and listen to The Smiths. I do feel bad for this. It must be pretty devastating to spend 60 dollars on the game based on the sport you cherish, only to be beaten by a guy (me) who isn’t the biggest footy fan, and picks his team based on dirty sounding player names (Kaka’s all over the ball!).
Video Game Rating: 3.5/5.0
I bring this up because by and large, “FIFA” was my introduction to the worldwide international juggernaut that is European Soccer. The game had everything: MLS, National Teams, and a dozen and a half other leagues, too. The game was so massive that even individual referees got their own A.I tendencies and quirks. Thus, when it came time to approach “Pro Evolution Soccer 2013”, I knew going in that comparing it to the gargantuan “FIFA” would be like comparing a Lamborghini to a Ford Escort.
What I did not expect was Microsoft Excel. Upon loading “PES 2013” (as the kids call it), I was greeted by half a dozen menu items trying to customize my experience. I was asked my name, what I wanted to call my main game data, what region of the world I was from, what I wanted my virtual footballer to look like, and of course to enter my online pass. Initial impressions make you think of a PC game, actually. Menus, options, and detailed customization of the basic experience all attempting to make sure you eek out the most enjoyment possible from the game.
Photo credit: Konami
Once you sign your life over to Konami, the game begins proper…with another menu asking if you want to tackle the tutorial. Since my soccer knowledge is limited to my hardcore “FIFA” tactics, I opted to engage in the tutorial, and hoo-boy is this thing in depth. One of the big features of this year’s title is “PES Control” which allows control over your dribbles, passes, and shots by holding one of the trigger buttons on the controller. This essentially allows you to out-deke your opponents, pop the ball over their head (or through their legs) and a bunch of other complicated moves that I’d likely never ever use during the course of a game.
Photo credit: Konami
The control is tight, and despite things being reversed from “FIFA”, with B being your lob-pass instead of X, and Left Trigger being your Turbo instead of Right Trigger, I felt pretty in control of my players right away, and once I started a game and was down 0-3 at half, I knew it was my own doing, and not the fault of the game. Certainly a good sign.
Graphically the game is serviceable. The camera is so pulled out from the action that it’s really difficult to enjoy the details, anyway, but it wasn’t as if this game had me yearning for the graphical superiority of “FIFA” or anything. There are a few interesting touches. For example, in Management mode you get in-game cutscenes of board meetings and team practices and it gives “PES 2013” a personality that is lacking from the “FIFA” games. Also, after every goal, the game defaults to a replay that you can control.
Where “PES” ultimately falters is in terms of scale. There’s no way “PES” can get into an arms race with “FIFA” and EA Sports and expect to win. EA has more resources, connections, and money, and any attempt to usurp them once they put their engine behind a franchise is futile. So, “PES” is missing a lot of teams, a lot of stadiums, and players. There’s no MLS integration for fans of Chicago Fire or San Jose Quakes. A whole bevy of English teams are missing too, with the only officially licensed team being Manchester United. So, if you’re a hardcore soccer fan, you’ll be sorely disappointed (but probably already own “FIFA” anyway and are curious how this game fares).
But “PES 2013” is scrappy. It doesn’t feel like a second rate title that people may assume it to be. The control is tight. The management mode is solid and personable. The graphics serve the game well. If you have to choose between this game and the new “FIFA” you’d be silly not to buy EA’s franchise. But if you’re a casual fan, or have a kid who recently started playing, and perhaps come across “PES 2013” at a discounted price somewhere, I’d say go for it, even if Kaka is not included.
By Paul Meekin