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Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 Demo Impressions

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My knees are close to being useless; the cartilage has all but left me, and arthritis plagues me. Even though the injuries keep me at a lower level than what I used to be at years ago, I can still play a great game of soccer.

That’s kind of where the Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) series is at. The game is years past its prime (the PlayStation 2 era), but it can still pull out a great performance when it needs to (the current console era). This year’s game seems as though it won’t break the mold — but that hasn’t stopped me from putting together a list of the good, the bad, and the average experienced in the new demo.

Goal!

Being able to press a button to make a player dart into space for you is great in FIFA Soccer 12, but I like what Konami’s offering seems to have — smarter runs by the computer.

It’s nice to see a darting Wayne Rooney cutting in front of his defender so I can quickly loft a ball in front of him for a chance on goal. Having to control when my players make a run can sometimes use up a precious moment I needed to beat a defender or open a defense.

The smart runs didn’t always materialize, but when they did I took notice, and they worked.

Those runs led to goals.

Unlike in the FIFA series, I see a more eclectic mix of goals when I play Pro Evolution.

I scored a bicycle kick and a rocket to the upper right corner in my first game; scored after a snazzy one-two just inside the center of the 18 in the next; and then I fell victim to a game-tying diving header in my third match.

PES used to have a tagline that was something along the lines of, “You never score the same goal twice.” I firmly believe that’s held up.

Passing is another gameplay element that shines like one of Christiano Ronaldo’s new Nike boots. This year’s iteration of Konami’s soccer game keeps the passing game slick, accurate, and useful. The new PES FullControl is a noticeable improvement.

Chief among the changes made with FullControl is how players can trap the ball. Players can actually tap a button to receive a pass with a much more cushioned trap to keep play tidy, or go a different route by flicking a ball as it reaches you to try and round a defender. They may be little things, but the way you trap a ball can decide your very next move, what options are available, and offers new ways to control the speed of play.

In FIFA 12 — and I know I’m comparing the full release of a year-old game with a new game’s demo, but bear with me — it seems that through balls, and through balls over the top are the best passes. You can certainly play a great game without them, but more often than not, if I want to rack up some online wins I just play the two types of through balls and lay waste to the competition.

In Pro Evolution 2013 it feels as though the short, long, and mid-passing game is a legitimate way to not just hold possession, but to also weave around the defense and create a scoring opportunity.

Indirect kick

You’re either going to love or hate the pace of the new title. The game is… more action-packed. However, that shouldn’t be taken to mean the game is more arcadey. It just doesn’t slog along like FIFA 12 sometimes can, and fast players actually feel quick, and professional players turn and control the ball like they should — on a dime.

Red card

Try as I might, I could not get my keeper to throw a ball far out for a quick counter. Instead, he seemed destined to act like he’s from a lower division, and prone to throwing the ball short to a player under pressure no matter where I aimed and how long I charged the throw. This is especially disappointing as Konami claims that ‘keeper distribution is something they’ve improved upon.

Another item of concern deals with both the menus and graphical prowess of the game. In short: both suck.

FIFA’s menus are resplendent, enthralling… and honestly, I could go on with more adjectives and verbs. There were times where I would get caught up checking out the 2010 FIFA World Cup menu more than I’d play the actual game on the pitch.

Pro Evolution Soccer has had the same boring menus for years. Now, I know that the soccer on the pitch is more important, but putting a little more effort into something so simple would be a nice change of pace.

In terms of graphics, good lord is this game ugly. I like to tell people that I wear snazzy indoor soccer shoes and outdoor cleats because it’s really the only thing people are seeing when I’m heading out to a game that’s unique and flashy.

I consider the player models and graphics in a sports game to be similar, as it’s really the main thing you see in the game. That’s why I have to be disappointed with PES 2013. I’m normally not a graphics snob, but when you stare at soccer players for the majority of the game I expect the visuals to be much, much better (though it would be remiss not to add that the likeness to star players such as Ronaldo is accurate, just not always pretty).

Final whistle

This new game of soccer (football if you prefer it that way) doesn’t feel that much different compared to last year’s game. The changes aren’t as monumental as, say, FIFA 12′s were last year from its previous iteration, but PES 2013 is still a good game.

It’s hard to tell just how good — or lacking — the new game is based on such a simple demo. After three matches, however, it seems that if you were a fan of last year’s game, you’ll enjoy the new one; and the new FullControl is a genuine improvement. The gameplay on the pitch isn’t revolutionary, just another solid outing.

But hey, at least I can still sub in anyone for my ‘keeper.