PES 2013 Preview: Gameplay is King

by on July 24, 2012

In the first of our PES 2013 previews, we decided to take a good hard look at how the gameplay is shaping up. The most important factor in a football title is simply how it plays on the field.

The football game genre is ever-changing, with people often commenting about evolution, not revolution. It’s hard to think of any game that is evolving as quickly as Pro Evolution Soccer; the 2013 entry feeling more polished than ever, despite the unfinished nature of the build we’re currently playing.

One of my personal bug-bears about PES was the movement. It’s always felt a little wooden to me, perhaps it’s a hangover from the days of d-pad control (which is still present if you so fancy). You’ll notice I said “was“, that’s because everything feels much more fluid. Movement is smooth and thanks to the plethora of tricks, controls and other devices at your disposal, PES 2013 feels superior to its 2012 iteration almost immediately.

So let’s start with the new moves, because nutmegs have been added. No, it’s not a random animation you’ll see by chance, this is something you’ll actively have to do. This is a sublime inclusion, you don’t just have to nutmeg an oncoming player, there is even a nutmeg shot in play, to allow you to humiliate an oncoming goalkeeper. Once again, remember that this is player controlled, not accidental nor incidental to a pre-defined animation.

Another new foible is something that adds yet more realism, something that happens more and more in the modern game; full laces shots. Now, if you hit the shoot button just before you make actual contact (after choosing power, with a normal shot) you will hit the ball with full laces, making it move all over the place and confuse a goalkeeper. Of course it’s not a “win” button, but it’s yet more realism, yet more evolution.

You’ll have more options than ever when it comes to attacking, if you want to play a 1-2 pass, of course you can, but now you can move the off-the-ball attacker in whatever direction you want, then play the through ball and you’re away. Knock the ball to the left of the defender and run round him to the right? Check, that’s there too. Again, none of this is random animation kicking in, these are all deliberate, player controlled actions.

PES 2013 doesn’t stop there however, with yet more tricks up its sleeve. The incredible close-control you can utilise is sensational. Taking immediate control of the ball, you can flick it over your head, run onto the ball and volley it top corner. The poor defender will be left utterly speechless, bemused as to what has just happened. Speaking of shooting though, the weight is spot on. Every shot gives you a unique feeling, every goal feels earned and at the risk of repeating myself, that word comes back again, it feels wonderfully fluid.

Even at this early stage, some of the player likenesses are superb, but even better are the player styles. Wayne Rooney is a perfect example of this, his every action has been meticulously included for his digital likeness. The way he runs, the way he shapes for a shot; it’s magnificent.

Defensively, PES 2013 feels better too. You can put pressure on the attacker by holding the applicable button, tracking his run and trying to force him one way or the other with the left analog stick, before jabbing at R1/RT to make the tackle. You can still make last ditch tackles too, but this way of defending feels incredibly satisfying, allowing you, the player, to watch the attacker then strike when you feel able. Of course it can go wrong, commit too soon and your opponent has left you looking foolish and with a major problem on your hands.

The total control that is afforded to you with manual passing will separate the men from the boys when it comes to online gaming too. It’s simple to do, but getting it right, pulling off a flowing passing move finishing with a goal will make any football fan squeal with joy.

And that’s why PES 2013 is so bloody good. It’s not often you get to say you scored a goal that stirs the mind, body and the loins; a visceral strike breaking from the attacker’s toes that makes the net bulge, and to a football fan, what’s better than that? We’ve only talked about gameplay here today – and to be honest, we’ve barely scratched the surface – because that’s the fundamental factor that makes a football game great; there will be a time to discuss aesthetics, a time to discuss licences.

It’s already clear at this stage that steps have been taken to make sure that Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is the best current-generation Pro Evo title to date. The strides Konami have taken forward are worthy of any discerning football game fan’s interests. Unparalleled fluidity mixed with total control that takes time to master, people should be very much looking forward to later this year, because Jon Murphy and Co have stepped up their game.