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PES 2022: What to Expect From the Unreal Engine (Part Two)

PES 2022 photorealism

eFootball PES 2022

PES 2022: What to Expect From the Unreal Engine (Part Two)

PES 2022 will be on the Unreal Engine, but it’s hard to believe Konami’s Fox Engine will turn eight this September. Debuting back in 2013, the Fox Engine was first used on PES 2014, which as you might remember, was a game that released with a lot bugs. Many of them eventually got ironed out through numerous patches, but most folks migrated over to the newly released PS4 and Xbox One platforms that year, and PES was not on them. It was around this time that EA’s FIFA series really started to pull away from PES in sales, in part due to the success of FIFA‘s Ultimate Team, but also due to the fact that it was the only footy game offered on the newer consoles at the time.

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In part one of this two-part series, we covered a lot of the elements of the Unreal Engine that would surround the gameplay of PES. Now, let’s talk more about gameplay and a couple other leftover elements.

PES 2022 And The Unreal Engine

PES 2022 unreal engine

Gameplay And Interactivity Authoring

I’m going to assume everyone reading this knows and understands what “gameplay” is. Interactivity authoring is a different beast altogether. As it relates to video games, interactivity authoring is a tool that can help to create user interface (UI) elements such as HUDs (PES‘s radar) and menus. Widgets like radial buttons, sliders (as displayed in a menu, not the impact of sliders on gameplay), and so on all fall under its domain. If you’ve played PES in the last 10 years, you can already hear the marketing pitch of “new and Improved menus” in your head.

The Unreal Engine takes this, as well as gameplay, and enhances both by giving game developers enhanced control over the logic that is embedded within artificial intelligence (AI).

How Does This Differ From The Fox Engine?

Information regarding interactivity authoring and its use within the Fox Engine is hard to come by, but like I mentioned before, if you played PES over the past 10 years you’ll know that Konami must have struggled with the technology because the menus were consistently terrible, especially once you dove deeper than the top-level menus.

As it relates to AI, the Fox Engine was supposed to usher in a new wave of improvements to create a more life-like experience. At times, the AI is good — maybe even very good — but play PES long enough and the AI shortcomings will start to show (an issue common to all sports games).

How Could This Impact PES 2022?

Menu improvements aside, this is going to be all about the potential gameplay improvements. Starting with AI, the Unreal Engine utilizes behavior trees to help branch different animations and actions. If you’re unfamiliar with a behavior tree it’s essentially a model that allows a software program to shift between different actions. Basically, think a bunch of “if-then” statements on steroids. If you want to go outside and get the mail from the mailbox, you need to:

  1. Move to the door
  2. Open the door
  3. …You get the point

All of these actions or potential actions are pulled together through queries. In the case of the Unreal Engine, it’s called the environmental query system. These queries happen exceptionally fast and must be adaptable to the point where they can respond and react to different inputs picked up on by the AI perception tool. Maybe this is the reason why my PS4 Pro used to sound like a jet engine when playing PES.

All jokes aside the ability to store more AI behavior trees and process them more rapidly in hopes of giving the AI more spatial awareness by creating smarter movements is music to my ears. Think of how many PES iterations have been released in a row where you wished the spatial awareness for your AI teammates was enhanced. In theory, that 50-50 ball your player completely ignores to run back to space should be eliminated by increased spatial awareness, allowing your players to interact more intelligently with the surrounding environment and actions produced by said environments.

The AI overall is good in PES, superior to FIFA in my humble opinion, but it could use some work when it comes to how static and rigid players are when following advanced instructions. Set your team to “All-Out Defense” and you’ll see your players immediately retreat once the ball is lost in your opponent’s half instead of having the closest player close down the ball or simply defend higher up the pitch without user input (taking over that player). The possibilities are endless but, yes, we’ve been sold this bill of goods before. However, there’s hope and optimism with what the Unreal Engine has already accomplished when it comes to some of the massive multiplayer experiences that currently utilize the Unreal Engine.

Integrated Media Support

Integrated media support refers to various media types (audio and visual) and how a system is able to accommodate (support) them. Media is a huge part of any game, not just sports. Imagine playing a game like The Last of Us Part 2 and there’s no soundtrack or Madden without crowd noise.

In the words of the folks over at Unreal:

Sound is vital to creating believable and immersive environments. From ambient sounds to interactive sounds of vehicles or weapons, from music cues to spoken dialog, audio in a game can make or break the user experience. 

In combination with the hardware power found in the new consoles, the Unreal Engine is capable of supporting 4K at the highest frame rates, as well as enhanced audio through a seamless integration of the video production pipeline (more on how this relates to PES below).

How Does This Differ From The Fox Engine?

With HDR support and upscaling to 4K, the most recent versions of PES have been able to produce relatively high quality graphics, but at costly price of sacrificing fps (frames per second) — particularly during replays and cutscenes. HDR is an option for those with HDR-compatible TVs while maximum resolution depends a lot on your TV/monitor.

Frame rates, anti-aliasing, textures, and level of detail will all improve for PES with the Unreal Engine.

How Could This Impact PES 2022?

There a couple bullet points the team over at Unreal put together. Let’s break them down.

  • Play professional-level video and audio live in the Unreal Engine, composited into the virtual 3-D world on the fly.

The first point the Unreal team touches upon should impact crowd noise and cutscenes. Higher quality cutscenes, both inside of matches and during Master League, is a welcome addition. While the cutscenes aren’t a deal breaker in their current form, the in-crowd audio could use a boost in order to create the best atmosphere (how we all miss crowds!). More intelligent crowds, feeding off the improved AI, would be nice. Something as simple as the crowd applauding your team when you play a nice bit of footy, such as breaking a high press by building from the back, could be a nice touch.

  • Apply effects to the imported video directly in the Unreal Engine, like chroma-keying, lens undistortion, color correction, and more.

Again, cutscenes seem like the main benefactor here with this bullet point. Chroma-keying (think green screens) could help with some of the transfer signing cutscenes, player nicknames, and managerial pressers. Being able to import high quality videos while also using enhanced green screen technology could be a huge add for pre-match presentation elements such as the entrances and stadium-specific events for Konami’s licensed partners.

  • Synchronize the Unreal Engine with the timecode and frame rate of your input video, to eliminate timing issues.

Have you ever looked at a replay on PES before? Notice how the frame rate, especially on the PS4, drops from 60 fps to 30 fps and the “choppiness” is abundantly clear? Konami and other game devs currently use little tricks like motion blur to help hide some of the jaggies and other visual imperfections found in replays. The Unreal Engine sounds like we’ll finally see smooth replays, hopefully at better viewing angles as well.

  • Render video feeds from the Unreal Editor or from your running game project back out to your studio’s video pipeline.

We talked about rendering earlier in this article, but it’s worth mentioning again what the Unreal Engine can do. With faster and higher quality renders, this allows them to extract these videos and put them back into the production pipeline. Tools like interactive tutorials could be enhanced, giving players new to PES a better avenue for picking up the controls and nuances of PES.

Unreal Engine PES 2022

Platform Support And On-Set Tools & Content

One of the main benefits of the Unreal Engine is the ability to support multiple platforms. Whether it be PC, gaming consoles, or mobile devices, the Unreal Engine supports a wide range of hardware and VR. Interactive content capable of streaming on multiple displays is intriguing, especially if you think about the ways it could benefit sports console games through virtual reality.

In regards to content, there are templates, samples, and a host of other data sets that come along with acquiring an Unreal license. For instance, Quixel Megascans is one such provider of incredibly detailed textures:

How Does This Differ From The Fox Engine?

Content and cross-platform support were available on the Fox Engine, but it was limited to Konami taking into account that it was proprietary information. Again, the resources needed to create gameplay elements that can now be added and tweaked thanks to companies like Quixel Megascans cannot be understated. For a company like Konami, whose recent focus has been on the mobile gaming market, not having to shell out additional money is a game changer that could allow them to explore its game more deeply and improve on the modes we all have come to love.

How Could This Impact PES 2022?

This gives Konami a head start, which is huge considering the company took a year off to help ease the transition from the PS4/Xbox One hardware to the next generation of consoles. A new engine and new hardware is nothing to sneeze at, and while Konami did take a year off, the learning curve should be lessened thanks to the switch to the Unreal Engine.


PES 2022 Unreal 5

Which Version of Unreal Will Konami Use For PES 2022?

Your guess is as good as mine. In all seriousness, when the latest Unreal Engine was revealed back in May 2020, Konami had already announced its intention of utilizing the Unreal Engine, which was and still is utilizing Unreal 4. While Unreal Engine 5 has not been released yet (slated for sometime in 2021), Unreal has confirmed that the 4th version will be forward compatible with 5. This is huge news when you factor in all of the upgrades 5 has over 4, namely the Nanite and Lumen technology that makes shadows, lighting, and visuals in general that much more impressive.

If you’re interested in the tech details available in Unreal Engine 5, check out this video from Digital Foundry. That said, since we’re all about sports here on OS and this is a PES-related topic, check out KnightMD’s recent video that breaks down the Unreal Engine 5 in simple terms, explaining how PES can benefit from it.

Bottom Line

There are a lot of reasons to get excited about eFootball PES 2022. For starters it will be the first PES on the newer, more powerful consoles. I’m especially intrigued with how Konami will choose to integrate the haptics in the PS5 DualShock controller. Secondly, PES 2022 is two years in the making, so we’ll get to see what Konami spent two years developing. No pressure Konami!

Last and certainly not least, a new engine is here. With Konami abandoning its Fox Engine, which was synonymous with Metal Gear, it will be intriguing to see how the game not only looks but feels. Will the animations be smoother? Will collision and contact in general be more realistic? Will the audio, menus, and presentation be improved upon? These are just a few questions I can’t wait to answer when eFootball PES 2022 releases.

Stay tuned as we keep you up-to-date on all the news leading up to eFootball PES 2022’s release.

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