PES 2013 may look great, but can it break out of its niche?
After a rough transition, Pro Evolution Soccer started to find its feet with the much-improved 2011 edition. Since then, Konami has mostly been content to refine rather than revamp, catering to a core niche of soccer nuts. As we head into the 2013 season, PES 2013 is looking better than ever, but it may be at the expense of the broader audience that once made PES the dominant soccer sim.
It’s remarkable how granular the controls have gotten in sports sims—particularly soccer sims. In PES 2013, it’s quite possible to receive a pass and segue right into a nutmeg—a move that sends a pass right through an opponent’s legs. Revamped defensive mechanics make it possible to hit an attacker from any direction with a couple deft taps of the X or A buttons. The possibilities are a little intimidating, to be honest, but also the sort of thing that soccer nerds seem to crave.
Ronaldo the Roadrunner
In terms of sheer graphics, PES 2013 is one of the better looking sports games on the market today. One element in particular that jumps out though is the animation—every move is smooth, nuanced, and interesting to look at. And the players seem to have a lifelike weight to them that the competition has struggled with to some extent. In a nice touch, many star players have had custom animations worked into their repertoire, making them that much more recognizable on the pitch. When you see Ronaldo flying down the field with that roadrunner like gait of his, you’ll know you’re in trouble.
After years of neglect, it sounds like Konami is overhauling Pro Evo‘s creaky online, which has long been one of its weakest components. PES 2013 will include “rival ranking”—a fancy term for online matchmaking—and a revamped friends list that makes it that much easier to see what your buddy is up to. It’ll have a hard time matching up with FIFA though, which has made great strides in mixing social networking components and status updates with traditional matchmaking. So while PES 2013 is taking a much-needed step in the right dierction, it still has a ways to go.
Too Complicated for its Own Good?
Konami made a point of highlighting a new tutorial mode during the presentation, as well as noting that the controls have been simplified (feints only require the use of the stick now, for instance). However, there’s still a sense that PES 2013 is a soccer sim that’s designed for hardest of the hardcore in the soccer sim community. On the one hand, such depth helps it differentiate itself from the competition. On the other, it means that it doesn’t have much of a chance of growing beyond its particular niche.
It seems like Konami is pretty much holding serve with PES 2013, with most of their major changes being tweaks that will go more or less unnoticed by more casual fans. It’s great to see improvements to the ball-handling, the defense, and the AI, but mechanical depth has never been a huge issue for PES 2013. It’s the outdated online and franchise modes that could use much more attention; and outside of a few updates, it doesn’t seem like they’ll get them. For longtime fans, that’s a small price to pay for a soccer sim that looks and plays better than ever. For everyone else, it may be a case of “wait til next year.”
Is Pro Evolution Soccer ready to take the next step? Or is Konami content to hold serve for another year? Let us know in the comments!