Bite to Back Up the Bark
It's best to leave the FIFA vs. Pro Evolution Soccer debate at the door when writing about either of the two games. After all, the chances are that whoever may be reading this, you have already made up your mind about which football heavyweight you're going to side with and follow vehemently for the rest of your football-loving life, defecting only if you go through a severe midlife crisis or suffer sudden and massive brain injuries that change your personality. I talk of Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 therefore as an entity within itself, drawing comparisons with its EA rival only when necessary because this franchise has come into its own of late. Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 undoubtedly represents a coming of age for the series, finally refining its match play and offering control over the players on the pitch that FIFA could only dream of giving its loyal players. Some feel that this 2013 offering is at best competent, but I'm of the opinion that it has the juice to cause a mass exodus of fans from the FIFA camp, convincing them that Pro Evolution Soccer actually does have the bite to go with its bark.
Release Date: 20/09/2012
Available on: PSP, Xbox 360, Wii, Nintendo 3DS, PS3, Windows, PC
Play the Game
It's always best to start with what is fundamentally the most important feature that fans will notice above all else: the gameplay. Forget what happens off the pitch for a second since Pro Evolution Soccer's main appeal is the incredibly rich on-pitch action that bestows a level of control on you that may at times make you feel as if you are actually on the pitch with them. Before you start smelling the grass, though, consider the features that you have this time around: shadowing players and being able to perform face-on tackling ensures that the defensive aspect of PES 2013 has improved drastically, not to mention that it gives you an alternative to risking an almost-certain booking for slide-tackling someone. Passing and shooting is also much improved in the game, with some flashy moves like instant-control, flicking the ball on, and also turning defenders making it much more fun to attack.
Dubbed 'PES Full Control', the control system in Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is supposed to give you more control than has ever been seen before, and you can't really argue with this statement. You can quite literally put the ball pretty much anywhere you want it on the pitch, provided that you get to grips with the intricate control system first. The direction, height, and speed of the ball are all down to you and you alone, with the latter two properties controlled by the duration that you hold down the button for. L2 allows you to place a shot anywhere within a 360 degree radius, with distance also being controlled by the length of time you hold down the shoot button.
Dribbling in the game is something to behold and can be considered an absolute pleasure because of the variety and depth that the intricate control system gives it.
So much control could be seen as a double-edged sword, however, and with such extensive move provisions comes the need to become acquainted with control system that makes it all possible. Such a variety of moves and delicate touches on the ball require some pretty advanced manual dexterity; the fact that there is a devoted training section is testament to just how much work you will need to put in to be able to pull off some of the shots that make football worth playing. When you do pull off the shots, however, you can feel smug knowing that you have mastered the intricacies of the gameplay and bettered yourself and the opposing team.
There are a variety of modes available for your perusal and playing in Pro Evolution Soccer 2013, though in all honesty, most are barely worth bothering with. Along with regular matches, you have the Copa Santander Libertadores, and competition mode. Training mode is essential if you wish to take full advantage of all of the intricate flicks and delicate tricks on the ball that this version of PES offers. Giving training mode your full attention for a few good sessions will make you much more adept at fitting in all of the complex shots during matches, otherwise you may find yourself getting extremely frustrated when mis-timing a button press or mis-placing a ball at a crucial moment, resulting in a spoon instead of an absolute screamer.
Sadly, PES 2013's career mode equivalent, Football Life, struggles to even begin competing with FIFA's career mode. Online play almost feels like a chore as well and just doesn't flow with anywhere near the same fluidity as FIFA's equivalent. Many PES fans will argue that the Master League more than makes up for the mediocrity of the others, but this mode cannot be the game's saviour forever, even if it has been improving steadily for the past few years. The lack of comprehensive licensing and the issues surrounding this are also evident in the game: this is a facet of the game in which Pro Evolution Soccer has never been able to compete with FIFA.
Though Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 excels in the match-play department, these successes do not extend to the rest of the game with such vigour. One has to admire the improvements made in the visual aspect of the game, with the graphics having improved a fair bit over the years. There is still something off about the player models, though, and the game just doesn't have the polish that FIFA has. It can be quite frustrating knowing that the players move very well across the pitch and during the game while their facial expressions and general appearance don't quite add up, looking gormless in comparison to the FIFA players.
The menus and general design of the game is the most noticeable visual downfall for the game. The design of the menus looks incredibly dated and should be considered for a complete rejuvenation in before 2014's release is even considered.
Hope for All
Most Pro Evolution Soccer fans simply won't accept that the lack of official licenses is hurtful for the game, however, and I would be inclined to agree. PES 2013's incredibly rich gameplay on the pitch more than makes up for the lack of licenses or the game's lacking graphical polish, and the fact that matches require you to carefully outmanoeuvre every opponent with micro-level skill instead of simply being able to blast up the pitch almost without thinking as in FIFA is surely a feature that attests to this game's on-pitch superiority. Though Football Life is a sorry excuse for a career mode, Master League is on hand to balance this shortcoming out. Granted Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 isn't going to turn the heads of most FIFA fans, but the depth of the on-pitch action may slowly but surely convince discontented FIFA players to leave their precious franchise behind and give the grown-up match play a go.
Play the Game
Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is developed by Konami.