PES 2013 Zombiegamer Review | Getting Reacquainted With a Great Old Friend

In a nutshell

PES 2013 marks the triumphant return to form for the series. The gameplay is more engaging, offering the most freedom and is more intuitive than ever before. There’s also a host of licences now for that authentic football experience – while Fifa has the Barclays Premier League, PES has the Champions League. The series’ trademark; the Master League is deeper than before and more satisfying. PES 2013 is an entry in to the series that will finally give PES fans reasons to brag again.

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Distributor: SterKinekor
Reviewed on: Playstation 3
Also available on: Xbox 360, PC
If we had to give it a numerical score: 9.0/10

Features

I can’t remember ever having popped in a PES disc in the past, jogged through the menus and been impressed with what’s on offer. PES has always been about the Master League, and that was about the some of it until the Champions League mode was introduced a few years ago. PES 2013 offers quite a bit more than the diminutive offerings the previous games boasted.

Match mode offers straight forward exhibition matches where you can play versus friends online, against random opponents online or against AI. You can either play ranked online matches on non-ranked. You can also create custom friendly matches by creating a private lobby where you can customise the rules and conditions. PES 2013 also has quite a bit of spectator modes, where you can watch AI-controlled matches.

PES 2013 again features the fully licensed UEFA Champions League. You can either play an exhibition match with the teams that featured in the latest Champions League; or compete in the tournament and even just watch matches. The fully licensed Copa Santander Libertadores is a South American tournament where players compete to become Latin America’s top team. Here you can also just play exhibition matches, compete for the title or watch matches. There’s also a Cup Mode to conclude the cup competition, where you can compete in the various country’s cups – there’s quite a bit on licensed cups now, but you will want to upload the options files to get more authenticity here.

Football Life consists of the ‘Master League’, the ‘Online Master League’ and the ‘Become a Legend’ mode. The latter has you take on the role of one player and develop that player as you progress through the player’s career. The Online Master League allows you to take a custom team and develop it as you would in the Master League, but the you compete online versus other player-controlled teams. This league is probably the most competitive of the modes, obviously because it’s against non-AI. It should therefore prove to be extremely popular.

The Master League is still where I focus most of my attention on with PES, and in PES 2013 it’s the mode that impresses me the most by a long shot. I have never played such a deep football career that involves so much of the club’s responsibilities. As the manager you handle the press, support staff, finances and the players and their development. There is so much depth here, that I find myself spending fifteen minutes in between matches just tinkering with the various features and my players’ development. The design of the Master League is absolutely stunning and so consuming. There are loads of classy little touches, like the fact that you now have a genuine reason to earn XP as you need to keep buying attributes to add to your player development. You can only allocate the purchased attribute once, so you need to keep earning to keep spending and progressing. The progression process is an enduring process and therefore so gratifying. Another great touch was the ‘winning of boots’ that you get for winning matches. All your players start with standard black boots and you need to win the various generic and branded boots. The cherry on top, and what keeps you wanting, is the fact that you can only assign one pair to one player, so again, it will keep you wanting.

The Online Mode offers more than just the ability to randomly compete online. Besides the Online Master League, you can create football communities to compete against each other and make use of the social features. Here you can chat and share stats within the community, and the biggest advantage of the community is that you can be pitted against regular rivals from across the globe, within the created community. Players compete with the community for rankings and even virtual prize money.

Gameplay and Controls

PES 2013 offers a proper Tutorial Mode which is the first port of call when you boot up PES 2013, and believe me, it is absolutely necessary. You are introduced to the ‘Performance Training’ where all the skills and mechanics are thoroughly broken down for you. You can skip it and return to hone their skills. Everything from the dribbling skills to defence mechanics are taught here. PES 2013 offers the most extensive manual control-system I have experienced in a football game, and I have been playing most football games since they were invented. You can now mimic anything I can think of on the field – things like being able to nutmeg past players, and there is an array of trapping moves, traps-to-flicks… so, so much can be controlled manually. Be warned though, these moves are often quite meticulous, and to make matters worse, the tutorial will only let you pass when you have it down to a tee. The problem is that you have to achieve the move perfectly whilst being pressured by defenders in the tutorial. I spent ages in the tutorial, and while it adds so much to the ‘total control’ theme, I need to keep going into the pause menu to refresh my memory on the control scheme. If you do get the whole lot down though, I don’t see any other football game satisfying you after this if manual controls appeals to, just because of the sheer amount of freedom that PES 2013 offers. The manual controls add so much new angles on how you go about things in the game.

The control-mechanics have evolved so much over the years, almost to a point over being overly complicated in certain areas. Thinking I am a seasoned PES player, I participated in only a few tutorials in the thorough new tutorial mode and jumped straight into matches. I found myself chipping with every other strike. It turned out to be that I was lifting off the ‘dash’ button [R1] as I was shooting and then hitting the dash button again. This was another, rather annoying way you can chip now. The basic control system is straight forward, but there are so many new tweaks here and there. The design’s primary focus now is to give you ‘Total Control’, and that is exactly what you get. You can now even switch to totally unassisted or manual striking. Another new feature I could not come to grips with. You literally shoot in the exact direction you are aiming at. I tried this only for a match and did not enjoy it at all. When running at the goal at very acute angles, I find it difficult to then have to totally control the direction of the shot – so I prefer the assisted strike. You do get the best of both worlds though in the normal settings. You can shoot by shooting as normal or hold in L2 which brings up a direction indicator. For the one-on-one situations, I loved this new feature, but for the more furiously paced games, the assisted strike is easier to deal with.

The ‘Total Control’ system continues with the passing in PES 2013. Like with the shooting, you can hold in L2 to bring up the direction indicator, swing the arrow around and pass [either lobbed or on the ground] to the exact direction you want. We have had through-ball passing systems for years now, but this takes that aspect to a whole new level. You can now control the power and exact direction for though-balls and so your game is now way more wide-open for sending players into open spaces and then pushing the ball in front of them. As I am typing this, it doesn’t sound as ground-breaking as it actually is – really, it opens up your gameplay possibilities to a whole new level.

Other improvements I noticed, other than the latter major aspects, include improved AI in both assisted defence and on the attack with through-balls etc. The physics with both the ball and the players running speed is more realistic. So the game looks and feels more natural or realistic. The physics model has been given a more natural weight and feel, meaning the ball travels across the pitch in a more realistic manner. Then when defending, the AI seems to assist more and make better decisions – so when you are commanding the your teammates whilst defending, or when you are trying to send them on runs; they seem to react more soundly. The AI still stumbles here and there but the overall AI quality is definitely better than before.

Sound and Visuals

It is clear that Konami have also been working on improving the visual quality, and while PES 2013 is still not quite ‘Fifa quality’, it is now an attractive looking game in most areas. I suspect a new game-engine would be the next step needed to improve the visual quality any more.

The basic presentation has improved dramatically; jogging through the mode-menus is actually impressive looking now. Then you get to the archaic sub-menus and you are reminded [too much] of the PES games of old.

On the pitch, the players’ newly improved ‘Player ID’ really seems to have paid off, and so the players’ likeliness is better than ever. The bigger stars look and run remarkably like their real-life counterparts. The players’ animations have been given a boost to, and so the animations are more fluid and realistic looking. This aspect is also still behind the Fifa series in my opinion; but of a very acceptable and actually quite easy on the eye quality – not something I would have said with games gone by.

The sound quality is of an apt grade to, and while I absolutely love the Brazilian theme-song, after playing religiously for over a week, I can think of two or three songs featured in the game…. Oh yes, then there’s the show-stopping original Champions League anthem, which is one of the sweetest tunes any footie fan will ever hear in a game!

Closing Comments

All the new niceties aside, PES 2013’s game-play reminds me of why I fell in love with the series all those years ago. I have the greatest respect for the Fifa series and play them every season, but I see Fifa as an exhibition game; all twenty-two players on the pitch are in top form and are playing to the crowd. Everything generally goes to plan and falls easy on the eye. Dare I say PES is more like the real game; it’s not always pretty, teams rarely fire on all cylinders, not all passes connect and every other strike does not end up in the back of the net. PES makes you work for it, you’ll stumble along the way, but fortunately PES 2013 offers you the most and the most effective mechanics to do so than ever before with the series. The ‘total-control’ mechanics make for the most authentic gameplay possibilities, and thus the most challenging.

I would agree with Konami in saying this one can now take on its rival head-to-head. It does not play perfectly fluid, but the manual options and the general gameplay is intoxicating. It is also the best game in the series by a country mile. If you’ve ever had any love for any PES title in the past, you won’t want to miss this one.

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