I arrive to the Konami booth shortly before 4pm and confirm my appointment with the ladies at the reception desk. I’m greeted by Steve who brings me into the gaming area. “What games are you here to see in particular?” he asks. “PES 2014” I reply. “I’m glad you said that” he smiles and we head straight over to the PES set up with the familiar DS3’s ready to rock.
Steve boots up the game and lets me take Bayern Munich while he takes Santos. “Are you familiar with PES?” he asks and I reply that I am, so we jump straight in. Its quite clear however that I’ll most certainly have to relearn the game all over again, and to be honest, I can’t wait!
The first thing I notice is the facial graphics of the players in the tunnel as well as the lighting which bounced off the walls and onto the players faces. The FOX Engine’s lighting system already impressing.
We skip the rest of the cutscenes and jump straight into play. While its clear there is a new engine underneath it all, there is still that familiar PES feel which fans will instantly appreciate. Player animations are greatly improved with subtle body movements with skilful players a dream to watch. In particular, Phillip Lahm stood out for me. The clever AI ensured that he made a break from Right Back to provide support and when I played an over-weighted pass to him, the ball slightly bobbled up with his first touch but was swiftly taken under control on his second as he injected some pace into his run. The speed here was something that stood out for me with the speed differences between players feeling more apparent than previous versions. There was also a greater feeling of acceleration and the M.A.S.S also stood out as I managed to skip passed an oncoming challenge while maintaining my balance and having the momentum of my initial run allowing me to power on through.
The physicality of PES 2014 is also greatly improved. With the right analogue stick, I was able to jostle more effectively for the ball. When defending, I was able to force smaller players off the ball just by shifting my weight. Wrong timing of this, such as shifting your weight into players while not overly close to the ball can result in you giving away free kicks which felt realistic, especially for the more blatant obstructions.
Trueball Tech was also a feature that impressed me. I had a player chase down a ball towards the corner flag as it was bouncing, he managed to get a first initial touch on it but it was clear the ball was a completely separate entity as I was unable to get the second touch in, with the ball getting away from my player and him sliding in vein to keep it in.
For fans of the series who had gripes with the keepers, there is a lot of very positive improvements in this department but first I’ll start with the negatives, which were minimal. In fact my only real issue with them was with the keeper-charge when the ball/opposition were outside the box. If you find yourself in a one-on-one situation with a striker and you are rushing out with your keeper, I felt the keeper didn’t quite know how to react, ie. he didn’t make a slide attempt but more-so just ran out to the striker and kind of stood infront of him.
Keepers within the confines of their own box however, are an entirely different story. There were plenty of great animations here including a far more realistic scramble across the box to cover shots that may or may not being sneaking in to the bottom corner, and depending on whether it is going in or not, the appropriate dive/leaving of the ball to roll out occurring. Again, in a separate instance, the Trueball Tech feature was once again apparent. The opposition striker took a slightly heavy tough and my keeper, while holding triangle, was able to pounce on this mistake and bravely dove at the feet of the striker to secure the ball. Keepers also react better to snap shots, sticking a hand out or parrying the ball in a realistic manner (ie. you felt that the keepers hands would have been stinging after a quick snap shot that he saw last minute and could only parry it away with two hands), and there were also a variety of low dives pushing the ball around the post.
Some other features of the new engine that really stood out include the dynamic tackling animations, particularly during a blatant slide tackle from behind by myself. The player seemed to be getting away from me but my sliding foot came down on the back of his trailing leg, with this in turn preventing him from running away, resulting in him falling down in a realistic manner. Also sliding at different paces, either from standing, a slow run, or a sprint, all feel different and appropriately weighty. I was also able to push players off the ball as they were turning which resulted in them twisting and falling backwards as their momentum pulled them down.
Freekicks have also been reworked and now require the use of two analogue sticks, with one stick dictating the direction you approach the ball from and the other focusing on where you strike the ball with your foot, allowing you to curl the ball like Beckham or cut across the ball like Roberto Carlos. They initially take some getting used to but a guide can be turned on and off using R1 allowing you to fully understand the intricacies of striking the ball different ways.
In the demo I played, some of the stadium atmosphere was stripped down and didn’t feel as good as the trailer. When asked about this, I was told that the E3 hands-on demos are focussing on the the brand new movement of players and the engine, with the more aesthetic stuff being implemented in later iterations. The build we played was roughly 60% complete I was told.
After two games Steve, had to leave to deal with his other appointments but I asked if it was ok if I hung around for another while later. I didn’t end up leaving the Konami booth until E3 shut down for the day, 2 hours later…
At roughly 60%, this version of PES is showing all the signs of finishing this generation as the top footy game, providing some slight niggles regarding keepers outside the box are ironed out and refereeing decisions are slightly tweaks, which I’m told are continuously being worked on. We’re looking forward to getting our hands on the next iteration of this preview and we can’t wait to see what else Konami have in store for us. Is the King back? Right now its too early to tell, but if PES2014 continues along this route for the next few months, the throne’s current occupier shouldn’t make any long term plans…