There’s a sense of confidence, and dare I say swagger, from the PES team this year. Now whether that has more to do with a change of direction in marketing or if it’s actual confidence stemming from the product, it’s hard to tell. But I'm fairly certain it's not all PR hype. There are a lot of positives to take away from the videos we saw in the past week, and since we’re at the point in the calendar when we’re hungry for any sort of new soccer action, those clips had a lot of us salivating, and possibly raising our expectations. Don’t look now, but the first test is just around the corner when the demo drops.
2) Good Looking… Like a FOX
No, the visuals, aided by the FOX engine, are not gamechanging—not yet, at least—but they are better than PES’ previous efforts. Most of the player close-ups looked realistic (the anthem miming needs some work though), and more importantly, certain animations seemed a lot more fluid than what we’ve gotten in the past.
It should be pointed out that, according to various sources, the gameplay clips used to create the tutorial videos came from various builds of the game, so I’m basing my observations, the visual ones anyway, mainly from the two IGN videos. Most of the encouraging signs were in the little moments—the flicks, taps, and jostles that flow into each other without previous years’ deliberate entering and exiting into canned animations. There was a particular play in the second video, when Balotelli held up the ball and turned his man in one fell swoop, that just looked natural and intuitive. I know it's only one moment in the game, but it's still very encouraging indeed.
3) Proactive AI Runs
On attack, it’s the same smart stuff we’ve come to expect from PES.
The AI teammates look like they will have no trouble finding and exploiting space to support your player. The thing that really stood out, from the clips, was the AI's anticipation. In the tutorial videos, we saw weak side wingers bursting down the flank two or three moves before the diagonal through ball was played. As well, in the first IGN video (around the 6:40 mark) Neuer punts a goal kick upfield to Toni Kroos. Muller, the right winger, anticipates the flick on and starts his run into the space behind before the ball had even reached Kroos. Again, there’s a risk of reading too much into these small moments, but it certainly looks like the AI teammates will be more alive than ever in PES 2014.
4) Some Old Annoyances Still Remain
However much progress the game looks to have made, it’s still only a one year cycle (right, Mike Wang?), and a few of the “quirks” that both endeared and frustrated us (mostly the latter) seem to have remained. In no particular order:
- Jon Champion and Jim Beglin returns for another year in the commentary booth, complete with their (mostly) generic one line interjections.
- Defenders still have their occasional brain cramps and ball-watch.
- Goalkeepers still have a few weird animations, and the occasional ill-advised weak parry when they should've tipped a shot over the bar.
5) The Jury's Still Out on "Heart"
Of all the new features in PES 2014, this is shaping up to be potentially the most divisive one. The heart system boosts or penalizes player attributes, during the game, depending on their performances—think of it as confidence, or motivation, basically.
As I’ve mentioned before, this is one of those things where there’s a very small sweet spot in terms of balance—exaggerate the effects too much, or too often, and it can ruin the match experience, whereas too little or too infrequent and the feature loses its relevance. If you're scared off by this, worry not, it can be turned off, so those who don’t care for it won’t be stuck with it.
Personally, I’m still waiting to hear (or see) more of the logic underneath first before making my mind up. Will individual players have different mental traits that determine the frequency and intensity of the boosts/penalties? And will those boosts be for specific attributes rather than across the board, and for how long? It’s a good idea in theory, but it definitely feels like there needs to be some individualization, tied to a player’s mental state, for it to work well.
How do you feel about PES 2014 after all the videos?