Konami have slapped another yearly helping of Pro Evolution Soccer onto our plates. Is there enough room there alongside FIFA 13, though? Is Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 tasty enough to satisfy our ravenous football gaming appetites? Do the new features combine to form a tangy relish or do they leave a bitter aftertaste? Is there any point to this metaphor?
First, as convention dictates, I must tell you about all the substantial new features Konami have granted us this year.
There are no substantial new features.
In fairness, defending has been tweaked. There are now several ways to track and challenge opposing dribblers, with defensive play now bearing a perhaps unsurprising similarity to FIFA. Passing has supposedly also been tweaked although I’m damned if I can tell any difference. Pro Evolution Soccer seems to still be running to an unseen script – if you pass too many times, it takes ill to your character and causes one of your players to inexplicably mishit the next one, relinquishing possession. Even when the game is happy for you to make a pass, the power guage has little relevance or nuance to it.
More happily, shooting is one area where Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 does quite well. The same satisfying “thwack” is still there, and the shots fizz and swerve goalwards pleasingly. Play opens up a little more than in FIFA because the defending is less forgiving, and so sometimes there is a sense of electric dynamism that harks back to the glory days of the Pro Evolution Soccer series. Trouble is, those days are the best part of a decade behind it now. Most of the time, this doesn’t hold a candle to them.
The Master League mode has been fiddled with but flip-flops between a welcome sense of authenticity (players train in the background of menus, a nice lady briefs you on upcoming events in jaunty little cutscenes) and the incongruity of unlocking power-ups/perks for your team. The Champions League mode is sheer perfection if you are of the pure conviction that Cristiano Ronaldo is the only footballer in Europe, such is the laughable frequency with which his tanned visage is thrown up on screen during the introduction.
When the game was realeased the transfers were already out of date, which to be honest we should all be fed up of forgiving. What certainly can’t be forgiven is the lengthy period of time it took Konami to release an update covering all the summer transfers. If a player changes his haircut then EA release a FIFA update, but Konami can’t even update the rosters within six weeks of the transfer window closing. How hard can putting up to date rosters in a football game really be?
Maybe it isn’t fair to reference FIFA in a review of Pro Evolution Soccer, but the fact is that those two stand alone in the market, seemingly destined to battle it out for all time. At the moment, one of them is dominating, curb-stomping the other like Mario Balotelli standing over Scott Parker. As regrettably violent as it is, one has an up to date haircut, where as the other is lying on the floor getting curb-stomped, with an old haircut.