Pro Evolution Soccer, once the king of the football gaming genre, has fallen behind rival series FIFA during the current console generation, both in terms of sales and critical acclaim. But while developer Konami has struggled to close the gap on the new table topper over the past few years, PES 2013 succeeds where past efforts have failed, meaning football fans should have a really tough time choosing their side in the latest round of the annual PES versus FIFA battle.
Crucial to this year's resurgence are greatly improved player control options which open up new ways to approach both attack and defence. Dribbling feels more precise thanks to a refined close control system that allows players to manoeuvre the ball at their feet in confined spaces.
New ways to receive the ball and perform first touches, such as trapping a pass to instantly bring it under control, and using the momentum of a pass to flick the ball into space and buy yourself an extra yard, also make for a more lifelike simulation once you get the hang of them.
Spend a bit of time with the game and you'll soon be shimmying past and sidestepping defenders, or performing little heel taps and ball rolls to bamboozle opponents on your way to their goal. Even fancier moves and flourishes can be honed on the practice pitch, which gives you scope for exhilarating individual flair.
Passing and shooting have been improved too. The power gauges are easier to judge, while a manual passing and shooting mechanism lets you determine the trajectory of individual ball strikes. Assisted shooting and passing are still an option, but the extra level of control manual affords you feels really satisfying once you master it.
Countering all the attacking wizardry at your fingertips is a new defensive system. Holding one of the controller's face buttons sees you approach and shadow an opponent in a bid to contain them, before double tapping the same button to put in a challenge. It's a great way to apply pressure, but you can be outwitted if you dally or the opponent pulls off a skill move.
Holding a combination of one face and one shoulder button also lets you instruct the player you're controlling or a team-mate to rush towards the ball possessor and attempt a tackle, but manual tackles performed without using any kind of player lock-on offer the highest success rate. You have to time them yourself, and sliding ones are particularly risky, but they're all the more satisfying when you steal possession.
Back On Form
PES 2013 features an impressive range of game modes to accommodate all types of football fans, from those simply interested in quick online or offline matches, to those who want to take a more hands-on approach to team matters and off the field affairs. This could involve guiding a custom created player on a journey from novice to superstar in Become a Legend mode, or taking control of a team and buying, selling, training and playing your way to the top of world football in Master League.
For all its improvements, PES 2013 isn't perfect. A few niggles remain, such as the lack of numerous official licenses, as well as uninspired commentary and crowd effects, but it does do the important things right. Overall it offers a fantastic game of virtual football which is arguably the finest PES experience yet on PS3 and Xbox 360 and a genuinely worthwhile alternative to FIFA.
- Loads of gameplay improvements.
- Game modes to suit all types of players.
- Lovely graphics for the most part.
- Lack of numerous official licenses.
- Commentary could be better.
- Master League presentation is too similar to PES 2012's.