PES 2014 screenshot
PES 2014 screenshot

Probably the greatest advert I’ve ever seen appeared in 2004, when the BBC turned Euro 2004’s stars into living paintings; a move that was both inspired and bubbling with class... which is the perfect adjective for the beauty of football, the true reason why millions devote themselves to a game of men, balls and grass.

Pro Evolution Soccer, and ISS before it, epitomises that attitude towards football. It believes in moments; in memories etched in time. Where FIFA – now a great game in its own right and a package of immeasurable value – plays a match of numbers, stats and positions, PES can be that moving work of art. It is no exaggeration that I can remember goals I scored in the original ISS Pro on PSOne. That game came out in 1997. I have a list of wonderful strikes stored in my mind from a decade and a half of this bizarre yet wonderful simulation. They call it 'PES Magic'. It’s hard to argue.

In recent years, though, FIFA has been the better game. PES lost its way in spectacular style, coupling an engine that fundamentally forgot what made its predecessors great with an ugly, misguided laddishness. This was a series that once included a Kaiser Chiefs song without irony. It became ITV Football.

In that time, FIFA obviously took control – reworking its engine at vast cost to Electronic Arts, and that investment has paid dividends. FIFA is now a genuinely excellent game – one stuck in the mud in the wait for next gen, perhaps – but also one that has showed what football could look like on modern technology. The thing is, though, no matter how good FIFA is and has been, it’s still never as scintillating, as heartbreaking and as exhilarating as Pro Evolution Soccer in its PS2 pomp. It could just never elicit that genuine, air-punching, chair-leaping passion. Not for me, anyway.

As this generation continued, PES became a joke – a series looking backwards, looking at FIFA. It felt like it was probably time to retire. The legs had gone, the legend fading. Thankfully, however, someone at Konami – be it an ageing Seabass or (more likely) the fiery young blood of new PES top dog Kei Masuda – still believed in that magic, and in 2012 took serious steps to restoring pride to a team once treasured by millions.

With PES 2013, momentum shifted. FIFA had stalled, making incremental changes, yet PES had finally, mystifyingly, managed to capture the brilliance of old while feeling completely current. It looked great, moved wonderfully, and yet still conjured up those moments. Those moments you prayed you had space to save on your PS2 memory card. Those moments you called housemates into the room for.

With PES 2014, Konami has its broadest canvas to date. I have yet to come up with an idea on the pitch that the game was incapable of executing. Audacious reverse through-passes; first time volleys from impossible angles. There’s an animation for everything. And it’s not just the pretty stuff: sludgy, turgid 0-0s feel like they do in real life too – devoid of creativity and drive, lacking in technical ability. Most of the time they’re your fault. It makes the beautiful stuff all the more emphatic.

PES 2014 screenshot

Teams play with their own personalities and style. Real Madrid and Barcelona do not act in the same way, and nor do Arsenal (sorry, North London) or Manchester United. The game understands this; it reflects this. In truth, it always has, but here the effect is more profound, more tangible, almost.

In some ways, the moments Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 creates feel, well, magical. It sounds stupid to say it, but they’re almost transcendent of the form, like they can’t possibly happen in a video game. They’re too varied, seem too unique. But when you actually break it down, you can see how these things happen. It’s all about layers.

Look at Halo’s combat. It conjures the illusion of infinite possibility through a masterfully layered set of systems. Weapons, recharge, physics, individual AI, group AI. Every one crucial, every one invisible when you’re in the moment. PES does this. They’re so similar, and it's strange to even compare them.

Take this as an example. I scored a beautiful goal with Van Persie during my time reviewing PES 2014. Valencia stole the ball down the right-hand channel. He then powered past a defender, swung in a cross, and RVP leapt into the ball’s path before backheel-volleying the ball into the far corner. Glorious.

Why was this goal so amazing, though? The obvious answer is the finish – but to use a footballing cliché, that backheel was merely the icing on the cake. It actually started at the beginning. Valencia’s leg bends as he shrugs past the first defender, his weight shifting between his feet. His burst of power – seen so many times at Old Trafford - is lent drama and ferocity by the gleaming floodlights and the roar of an expectant crowd. He looks up just at the right time, before staring back at the ball and turning on the jets.

The cross, hooked in as he falls over, just evades the outstretched leg of an exasperated defender, effort etched on both players’ faces. And RVP, who switches his momentum as he notices the trajectory of the ball, reacts with grace. He scores. His face elates. He sprints to the corner, fist clenched. His teammates burst towards him. Some defenders berate one another. Others just hang their heads. Every angle is another picture. It’s more than just the backheel.

If that all sounds like nonsense, then you might be the kind of person who sees that BBC advert and scoffs at it, like ITV themselves, who saw fit to parody the vignette in a sketch less funny than Joe Pasquale’s bonus DVD extras. You might be happy with the FIFA formula – the functional, playable and reliable game. If you’re anything like me, though, you’re already at the checkout, PES 2014 in the cart.

The beautiful game indeed.

Don't agree? Read our rebuttal article by clicking the image below.

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devilnm's Avatar

devilnm

every pes up to 2014 was better than fifa..i mean if you want to go through a campaign of sorts than fifa is by far better , career mode and other modes are all nice and better than master league or anything in pes significantly..now ive played both pes and fifa for 13 years, a lot..and honestly even though fifa looks better in its presentation [the menus , the licenses] , pes is a much much better football simulation..It looks better and it feels better..the things you do ,the moves you make all look fluid and a lot better than fifas robotic gameplay..fifa tried to change their gameplay in some games and they even managed to , but the foundation always remained the same and for me it was never as much fun to play as pes..so if you want to play with your friends or just enjoy a simple football match than pes is the better game..or at least it was..because pes 2014 simply sucks...they tried something new there and i wouldnt exactly call it ambitious as much as i would call it trying to change something,anything so they can outsell fifa , and who knows one day they might make something decent out of it but not in this game..the game initially seemed terrible but i tried to play it anyway and in my first game i concentrated and managed to get the hang of the new gameplay and although it was pretty bad you could at times experience some nice things..but i quickly lost all faith in the game when my defender kicked the ball out of the penalty area and the computer just did some buggy shot with the player sliding on the ground and sort of kicking the ball in the process..now the ball was in the air , flying like that for like 30 seconds before finally getting to my goal , and than i thought well ok the gk will just catch it and thats that ..but no..for some reason even though the ball was falling directly on his head he through himself right and the ball slowly bounced in my goal..at this point i quit the match and deleted the game..why ? because its crap..and i am really disappointed..
Posted 21:03 on 26 October 2013
Pes_Is_Football's Avatar

Pes_Is_Football@ Will_TM

I registered to this site just to reply to you, feel special. Fifa fans are blinded by pretty looking shiny lubricated player models and licenses. The fact that you mentioned the way things LOOK in the game tells me that. Fifa could never ever replicate the tempo of a real match, watch a big match el classico or any derby for that matter. The tempo in Fifa is nowhere near that tempo. Its too slow. Another gripe I have with it is the fact that it is disgustingly easy to play. EA know that children are going to pick there game because of all the licences so they have to dumb it down. Every single pes there is a learning curve and the only way you are going to see just how good the game is is by climbing over it. For this reason I do not know how reviewers can even review the game after a few weeks with it. In that time they canvonly scratch this surface with a few beautiful nuances of the game shining through. Ppl dimiss pes because its too difficult and because it doesnt look as pretty even though the majority of reviewers say that pes looks better including IGN
Posted 12:10 on 25 September 2013
Will_TM's Avatar

Will_TM

Oh please!!!! that is what my 10 year old brother said when he was told that Pes 2014 is better than FIFA 14. It's no contest at all, at any level or platform. These are RAINY days for PES every one knows that as much as they all hate to admit it, maybe explains why the only weather they put in the game is bright sunny days and no rain/snow.
They could have done better with the Fox engine. 3/4 of the players look awful except for the stars- shows laziness on my part for a game that does not have much depth that FIFA has. they have few players hence they should be able to make them as accurate as possible to the real players, FIFA has over 16000 players nd 3/4 of them are pleasing to the eye nd won't scare they hell out of you.
The game play in FIFA 14 is like the real thing, slow, more technical at times direct like Stoke, or tikka tikka like Barca..it all depends on how you play it..PES, arcade has that cartoonish feel nd look about it. Unintelligent AI, at times embarassing..can go on nd on...
It's nt the worst PES ever made but certainly it's no where near FIFA. KONAMI IS STILL TRYING TO FIX WHAT'S BROKEN. (I give them credit for that). As for FIFA, 'IF it ain't broke, don't fix it.'It's in a league of it's own and the only thing that can take it out of it's throne is FIFA itself.. Don't hate the player, CHANGE the game. Whether a PES or FIFA fan, one thing is certain, We All Love Football! Let the ball roll. Peace.
Posted 19:14 on 24 September 2013
mikey126's Avatar

mikey126

pes was better back in the day....but not today especially online
Posted 15:20 on 24 September 2013

Game Stats

Release Date: 31/10/2013
Developer: PES Productions
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Sports
Rating: TBC
Site Rank: 363 9
Check Price