Recently, I and a few other video game journalists had the opportunity to go hands-on with the upcoming latest entry in Konami’s long-running soccer series, Pro Evolution Soccer 2013. Following are my hands-on impressions of the game, but make sure to check out my general preview if you haven’t already, to get an overall idea of what the PES team showed us and what they’re specifically looking to improve and change with PES 2013!
So here we go. First, the short of it: from what I played, PES 2013 looks to be delivering on its promises, though there’s still work to be done. Truth be told, the build we played was very early, and it showed — only one main menu option and two teams were available, for example — but it showed encouraging signs of delivering on the promised gameplay improvements. For example, even at this early stage, I noticed an impossibly huge difference between relying on automatic shooting and attempting to finely control the destinations of my shots with manual shooting — I can already tell you that mastering PES 2013‘s manual controls is not for the faint of heart.
I also had plenty of opportunities to make use of the game’s manual and dynamic one-two passing, which came off to me as accurate and intuitive, with the AI also doing a great job of ensuring my teammates were always in prime positions to receive passes. My lack of skill at the game meant that my attempts at smart, tricky passing almost invariably ended up with my opponent making a trap, but nonetheless — and most importantly — I felt like I had total control over the ball and that it was my fault when I lost it.
The advanced trap and dynamic first touch features were there too. I was able to successfully – and quite seamlessly — trap the ball in a variety of situations, and pressing the advanced trap button right at the moment of the trap always resulted in my being able to take control of the ball more quickly. I was not as successful at making use of the various post-trap options, such as deft touch dribbling and kick/shoot feints, but that’s completely due to my own lack of PES skill as opposed to being any fault of the game’s.
Where the line blurs a little is the PES team’s promise of improved defensive AI. While I fully admit to being, ahem, not very good at the game, I didn’t feel particularly supported by my teammates while on defense. It usually fell to me to make any big defensive plays, and I can’t recall any times where my AI defenders really came through for me. The exception here is the goalkeeper AI, which I probably taxed more than I had any right to while on defense, and which I also felt was quite impressive and frustrating in equal measure. It was impressive in that a surprising ratio of the shots taken on me were blocked or caught, and frustrating (in a good way) in that I found it quite difficult to score when I got my chances to take shots. In that sense, the promise of improved goalkeeper AI seems to be looking good.
If I have any lasting complaint about the build I played of PES 2013 — and it’s a complaint that I found was echoed by several other journalists there — it’s that the shooting controls were far too sensitive and finicky. The amount of time you need to hold down the shot button to perform a slow, high shot compared to a fast, narrow one is impossibly small, which led to many sky-high shots on goal that flew way over the net. Honestly, you need to just barely graze the shot button with your finger to avoid charging your player’s shot meter to max and performing a high, lob-style shot, and it feels unnatural. This complaint applies to both the automatic and manual shooting controls, though I imagine the manual controls — which require you to use the analog sticks to control the specific direction and trajectory of your shot in tandem with pressing the shot button, and which I couldn’t pull off successfully even once (not a complaint) — become borderline impossible which such hyper-sensitive shooting. So with the majority of the rest of the gameplay being as good as it was and delivering on its promises, I’m hoping the crazy-sensitive shooting controls will be toned down just a bit before the game’s release.
Overall, the feeling I got from my time with PES 2013 was that it offers a very tactile soccer experience. It’s not necessarily fast-paced or “arcadey,” but it is a more realistic and contemplative video game take on the sport of soccer, an approach that has long been a trademark of the PES series. I’ve played several sports games that felt kind of hands-off in that victory or defeat didn’t always feel like it was completely up to me; like the games were sometimes on auto-pilot. I’m happy to report that this is not the case with PES 2013. The team’s focus on providing players with finely-tuned, subtle, manual control over the ball translated into an appreciable gameplay difference, even for a PES rookie like me.
In the end, it was this tactile feeling of control that made me feel like I really earned my goals and victories, and that my (significantly more) defeats were my fault, rather than the game’s. The game isn’t quite there yet, as my complaints about defender AI and shooting sensitivity attest, but it’s looking promising. If a PES rookie like me can have as good a time as I did with such an early build, there’s no reason not to feel positive about the final game.
Once again, please check out my general preview of PES 2013 if you haven’t already, and stay tuned for my continuing coverage of PES 2013, where I will also be reporting on a question-and-answer session with the PES team that sheds light on many topics not covered thus far, providing even more detailed information on what to expect from PES 2013!
Check out Konami’s official PES 2013 website here.
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