PES 13: Still playing catch-up
We all know there are really only two football games on the market. The first, EA Sports' FIFA title, has taken the world by storm, leaving Konami and the Pro Evolution series to try to turn back the clock to a time when they were top dogs - circa 2006.
This year, PES 13 has done a good job of tackling some of the issues from previous years but the task of matching up to the might of EA leaves them still someway short. Still, the good points of this year's effort surround the way in which the game feels. Previously a little clunky, realism has been found in the ball control, physical attributes and, importantly, the limitations of players.
To some degree, Konami have paid attention to the right areas and have a number of innovations that come hand-in-hand with names like 'Player ID system', which ensures that the players are as close to realistic as possible; PES Full Control (FC), which includes features like the necessity to hold down R2 in order to control a pass and not have it rebound off your foot; and ProActive AI, a system that means better runs and decisions from your computer-controlled team-mates and opponents (although still one that catches you on the break a little too easily).
Things like trapping lobs or cross-field passes do not come as easily as before and require a degree of finesse to accomplish properly. Thankfully there are lots of little tutorials to hone your skills, but it can certainly take time to get to grips with. Unlike some of the versions from the past, there is a requirement to put the hours in if you want to become truly good - one game against someone half decent online will expose you if you have not learned the intricacies.
While it can be frustrating (as perhaps was the case with last year's FIFA), the tactical defending is decent, with a double tap of the X button enough to cause a lunge that does not catch you so hopelessly out of position as before. A double-tap of the shoot button also showcases a nice touch in the Ronaldo-style swerve shot that can evade a goalkeeper based on flight alone.
Still tinged with the old-school arcade feel, the menus and look of the game stay true to the Pro Evo name and there is a commitment to making the animations of Cristiano Ronaldo (the brand behind the game) sparkle. Even so, you are sometimes left with the feeling that you are playing a historical version with added bells and whistles.
Indeed, the same old problems surrounding the licences, the gloss and the interactive features that make FIFA stand out, and hold PES back, remain. Try as they might, PES is still playing catch-up. There's always next year.