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FIFA 14 meets PES 2014 in this year’s premier digital-soccer derby

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014

Above: A screenshot from PES 2014.

Image Credit: Konami

Sound

In this category, it’s not even close. FIFA 14 has the best commentary in all of sports gaming, and it features an eclectic licensed soundtrack as well. The English-announcing duos have plenty of anecdotes to share while calling the action on the field with a television-style cadence. FIFA’s music covers a wide spectrum of genres and artists, including Bloc Party, Nine Inch Nails, and Brazilian rapper Marcelo D2.

Crowd chants are authentic as well, adding to the live-broadcast feel. I never got tired of hearing Arsenal fans sing about how their team is the greatest one the world has ever seen (outside of Rio de Janeiro’s Vasco da Gama, of course).

PES’ play-by-play is less natural and more limited. It’s serviceable but far from top of the class. Even worse, the game’s soundtrack is small and embarrassingly generic. Outside of some nice orchestral pieces, you’re left with stock-music sounding renditions of songs like “Guantanamera,” which I ended up hearing an ear-numbing number of times because of the annoyingly meager musical variety. Chants are OK, but with the game’s lack of licensed clubs, the crowd noises are more basic.

Result: FIFA scores off a cracking volley, giving it a comfortable 3-0 cushion over its rival.

Presentation

Again, this is where FIFA really separates itself from its veteran adversary. FIFA 14 has completely new menus, which reflect the look of EA Sports’ broader catalog. The tile-based layout is reminiscent of the Xbox 360 dashboard, and it’s a significant improvement over previous years.

FIFA 14 4

Above: FIFA 14 features new, tile-based navigation.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

Pro Evolution has an archaic, utilitarian menu system that is equal parts ugly and uninspired. I got lost in a sea of screens on more than one occasion, and the old-school cursor that you use to select items gave me flashbacks of PlayStation 2-era UI. It’s 2013. This is inexcusable.

Unfortunately, the navigation isn’t the biggest problem for the Konami offering. PES continues to suffer from a crippling lack of licenses. Yeah, it has the UEFA Champions League and Conmebol Copa Libertadores, which represent two of the biggest club-football competitions. But, a slew of players and teams are straight-up fictional or completely absent. Want to play as the aforementioned Arsenal side? You’ll have to settle for “North London.” What about running and gunning with 2010 World Cup finalists Holland? You can do that — as long as you’re cool with having fake uniforms and players. Brazil plays with green uniforms … green uniforms. Come on!

FIFA, on the other hand, has a comprehensive list of licensed teams and leagues. It’d be nice to have the Champions League and Libertadores, but I’d much rather have my beloved Seleção playing with its famous canary-yellow jersey.

Result: After a promising start, PES is starting to crumble. FIFA goes up 4-0 after a deadly counterattack.

Innovation

Pro Evo has been trailing its blockbuster competitors for a while now, and it has been in need of a revamp for a long time. While the last couple of releases have pushed the series in the right direction, PES 2014 is a watershed release for the franchise — one that should give its fans a lot of hope. Fox Engine is a true innovation, bringing exciting gameplay and graphical possibilities that will only improve with the next generation.

Now, Konami just needs to polish up the rest of the game and shell out some cash for a few more licenses.

FIFA 14 2

Above: Pro Evolution has improved quite a bit, but FIFA is still the better soccer game.

Image Credit: Electronic Arts

In many ways, FIFA is behaving very much like Pro Evolution did when it was on top, choosing a safe, iterative strategy for its golden-booted goose. FIFA 14 is a great game because FIFA 13 was a great game and so forth. That doesn’t condemn EA’s effort. In my opinion, it still has the better soccer title, but PES’ advancements should inspire the publisher to push its million seller.

Result: PES 2014 gets an honorable goal at the end, putting an end to FIFA’s clean sheet.

Postgame wrapup

Even though the scoreboard has FIFA 14 winning 4-1, the match was a lot closer than that. PES 2014 came with new weapons and showed a lot of heart and determination, but EA Sports still has the best overall lineup. I can’t wait for next year’s faceoff.

Whether you’re a FIFA or Pro Evo supporter, this is a great time for soccer-game fans.

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