|System: PS3, Xbox 360*, PC|
|Dev: Winning Eleven Productions|
|Pub: Konami Digital Entertainment|
|Release: September 25, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p|
by Patriel Manning
With the release of the latest entry in the Pro Evolution Soccer series, Konami aims to improve on what was already an excellent representation of one of the world's most popular sports. Have they succeeded? In a word, yes. In a thousand words or so, here's why.
Instead of reinventing the wheel with PES 2013, Konami decided on improving their simulator in just a few key areas, picking and choosing from feedback from the series' fans. The company implemented a new Dynamic First Touch system that allows a player to choose how to take a pass. The options for forward movement are absolutely silly, though in a good way. Executing them effectively will take a bit of practice but once you've nailed the timing, you'll never want to go back.
There are also some subtle changes to how dribbling is executed. Players can choose to dribble down the field using just the left analog stick. Fancy touches can be pulled off by using the right analog stick (basically controlling the ball) in conjunction with the left analog stick (controlling the player's body). Here again, the timing required to successfully dribble around an opponent or through an opposing player's legs is extremely precise. As a result, pulling off one of these moves is deeply satisfying.
PES 2013's AI-controlled players have also been given a dose of individuality, changing their behavior on the field to reflect their real-world counterparts to a tee. The play on the pitch is always dynamic, evolving, and highly engaging. Normally this sort of thing would only affect offensive play. Run down the field > pass to Ronaldo > rinse > repeat. Not here. The way the game is shaped at both ends of field forces players to make constant adjustments, making the bits of gameplay between goal celebration cutscenes some of the best football I've seen in a video game, regardless of whether I was winning or losing.
Goalkeepers get quite a bit of attention too. In PES 2012 it wasn't uncommon to see a goalkeeper make a spectacular save only to pass the ball directly to an opposing striker, who would happily place the ball in the back of the net. Now not only do they avoid stupidly embarrassing passes, but they also benefit from individual styles of play.
There are also a few small changes to the career mode, Football Life. Players can choose to either play through the career of an athlete or as the manager of a football club. Options for customization here are almost limitless. There are over 110 different goal celebration animations that a player can choose from. It's a bit ridiculous, again in a good way. There are also items that can be used to make training more effective or boost your stats, enabling quick solutions for shortcomings. You'll even earn nicknames depending on where you are and how you play, adding a Pokémon-style metagame to the career mode.
Visually, there isn't much difference between last year's game and this year's. There were a few points where 2012 would stutter and 2013 doesn't, but overall it's business as usual. That's not to say that PES is ugly, though. Far from it. Match presentation is unrivaled as far as I'm concerned. There isn't another football sim that presents the action on the field in such a "televised" manner. The replays are just that much more believable than anything else on the market. It doesn't seem like it would make a huge difference but it goes a long way to maintaining the illusion that you're watching an actual match and not a virtual representation of one. Konami's attention to detail has a lot to do with this. Things like player animation and stadium detail reveal much about their intent.