Around this time of year, video game soccer news is normally hard to come by. That being said, we’ve been getting spoon fed tiny soccer morsels in the form of club partnerships. With the postponed Euros and Copa America tournaments kicking off soon, any news from Konami or EA is usually that extra gravy on top, especially considering how Konami skipped out on E3 this year. That said, seemingly appearing out of the blue, Konami sat down with Play Magazine to talk about what’s in store for PES 2022, including the graphics and move to the Unreal Engine. As usual, the PES community went into full-on panic mode like only they can do. Now that the community has had time to react, it’s our time to sink our teeth into what was said and let cooler heads prevail.
Play Magazine sat down with eFootball PES Producer Seitaro Kimura to help address what the team’s ambitions are and address any rumors that eFootball PES 2022 will be delayed due to the ongoing pandemic. Let’s break down some of the key takeaways from the article:
PES 2022 Graphics On The Mind
“…this year’s game is a reset that’s aiming to push PlayStation 5. Fans were concerned this could be similar to the transition from PS2 to PS3 which saw the Fox-Engine powered soccer sim stumble before coming back strong on the PS4.”
By now, Konami should have had significant time with the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X to get a handle on the new hardware. It’s a big year for Konami as the company makes the switch to the PS5/Xbox Series X and the Unreal Engine. Even though it was us, the consumers, who ultimately suffered with subpar PES games on the PS3 and PS4 (mostly early on in the PS4 lifecycle), it’s refreshing to hear a gaming company admit that there were issues. Konami has hopefully learned from these mistakes and will move forward with a clear vision and list of priorities — priorities I must say that stem from community feedback.
“The next game will drop the Fox Engine in favor of Unreal Engine, pointing to a bold new future as we anticipate the photoreal results teased by Epic Games during the Unreal Engine 5 reveal.”
While we don’t know which version of the Unreal Engine PES 2022 will be using, it’s interesting to hear Mr. Kimura mention the recent Unreal Engine 5 reveal, which shows that Konami has its finger on the Unreal Engine pulse. If you haven’t seen the kind of graphics Unreal Engine 5 boasts, then head over to the video I linked above and try to distinguish what is real versus what is an actual game.
The “photoreal” comment is what has sent the PES community into a tailspin. While the community is generally focused on gameplay, the mention of graphics before gameplay has gotten a lot of folks in a tizzy.
Relax, take a deep breath.
I’m sure that the team, which by the way is made up of multiple teams including art (graphics), animation, gameplay, etc. is not solely working on a cosmetic upgrade with PES 2022. Graphics were already pretty good on the last generation of consoles, and they are a huge part of what sells games and even consoles. As much as I enjoy the new fast loading times, I can’t envision too many PES die-hards going head over heels about load times. Graphics are one of the first things you notice with a new game, especially if it’s on some new hardware, whether that be console, PC, or mobile gaming devices. For Konami to not strive for updated graphics would be criminal.
“The photorealism we aim for is exactly the reproduction of the real world itself.”
When I read this sentence, my mind immediately gravitated towards everything that involves a soccer match at the top level as replicated in PES and FIFA. We’re talking about, player likenesses, kit details, and textures, but also the environments, which includes stadium and supporter details. What we see on TV is what we want to see in PES, and this seems to be a strong focus of the PES team as evidenced by the next quote.
What Would Be Next-Level Graphics?
“This next-level realism includes atmosphere of the stadium, and the enthusiastic supporters, the players’ passionate facial expressions, the texture of the skin and hair, and detailed movement of their muscles and sweat. Even the seams of their uniforms.”
PES has always done a good job with photorealism, especially involving player likenesses, but the team usually drops the ball when it comes to generic players — as well as generic presentation packages. This is where the team needs to step up. Players like Neymar and Ronaldo seem to be the focus, and rightly so to a degree, but if it’s a choice of giving Neymar his haircut of the week as opposed to scanning some more faces, give me the faces.
“In my opinion it’s about recreating the real world itself.”
If you watched any matches these past few weeks, you have seen that supporters are slowly creeping back into stadiums. The atmosphere they create has been remarkable. With no crowds for over 12 months, the appreciation you have for stadium atmosphere should no longer be taken for granted. The impact on the players, managers, refs, and even broadcasters is tangible. These effects need to happen in PES 2022, mainly as it relates to the crowd.
An intelligent crowd that reacts correctly to the happenings on the pitch is needed. A well-timed tackle that cuts out an attack needs to be met with enthusiasm. I wouldn’t expect to hear the crowd applaud as you beat a high press by playing around it, but I would expect that when you’re in the other team’s stadium you’re playing against the crowd as well as the 11 on the pitch.
A Bigger, Smarter, More Flexible World
How does Konami expect to achieve this?
“One specific example is that with Unreal Engine, designers can take on various tasks without programmers’ help by using Blueprint. By doing so we can improve the production speed, improve the skills of individual designers, and receive many other benefits.”
And right here we see the true impact of the Unreal Engine by being able to increase the production speed by leveraging already-existing data that allows designers to focus on other areas.
“Animations are real at the time of motion capture, but how the animations are used in-game is important, and AI determines that.”
One of my favorite things about PES, and why I generally prefer its locomotion (player movement) system over FIFA‘s, can be summed up by two points. First, the game’s locomotion is based on and backed by momentum. Wrong-footing players and using their momentum against them means that you don’t have to resort to tricks and skills in order to beat a defender.
Secondly, while FIFA does boast more animations, having the animations play out in real-time is often brutal to watch. Knowing when to use the right animation is something FIFA struggles with and PES excels at. Now, branching out of these animations is a different story, but overall FIFA seems to struggle with picking out the right animation for a situation. It’s the reason why so many goals lose their luster when you see them in replay mode. As Mr. Kimura states, it’s “how” these animations are used which is the most important part.
As news starts to roll out regarding PES, it’s important to remember that we’re at the mercy of Konami when it comes to how the company releases information on eFootball PES 2022. Some weeks we might get more information on gameplay tweaks. Some weeks we might get information on graphics. This week just happens to be more of the latter.