Gameplay = fundamental?
It’s England vs Italy, a rematch of the recent encounter at Euro 2012. The usual story for England, out on penalties, but this is your chance to change history in the virtual football arena. After a bright start, which includes Rooney hitting the post with a header after a quite sublime cross from Gerrard, Italy take charge and begin to control the match. You manage to dig deep and string together a couple of attacking moves together, but they both result in shots that wouldn’t even trouble Buffon in his sleep. The majority of the half is spent concentrating and seeing off Italy’s dangerous attacks, orchestrated by none other than the midfield maestro himself, Pirlo. Balotelli is looking sharp too, making some fantastic forward runs, but you either manage to stop the ball the getting to him or get in a last ditch challenge. To top it off, Italy’s back four and De Rossi are making it very hard for you to make any real threat on their goal. It’s been a tough half to say the least, but it’s 0-0 and you’re still in game.
Second half, you bring Walcott on for Milner to inject some pace into your attacks, but it does no good. The pattern of play remains the same, but despite Italy’s pressure and them creating some decent chances, it’s still 0-0 thanks to some resolute and disciplined defending. Efforts on the Italian goal are limited to set pieces and shots from long range, as Italy are still applying the pressure on you in both midfield and defense. The match finishes 0-0, extra time and another 30 minutes of dealing with Italian attacks. You manage it though, taking the game to penalties and doing the impossible. Yes, you win on penalties with England, breath a huge sigh of relief and bask in the glory of your defensive performance. See, that’s the thing about PES 2013, whether you’re defending or attacking the game manages to be fun. The above example (a match that actually happened), also highlights the fact that Konami’s title remains great at replicating team styles and tactics, whether it be through player statistics or the fantastic AI. Despite what the FIFA rankings say, England aren’t as good as Italy and PES 2013 highlights that, especially on the higher difficulty settings. One lapse of defensive concentration when playing on Top Player or Superstar and you will be punished. That said, the AI is quite fair, even on the higher difficulty settings. You seldom feel cheated, and if you concede it’s more than likely your fault.
Speaking of faults, manual and passing shooting still remain from the E3 code, but have been tweaked with some mixed results. Starting with the positive side of things, the manual shooting no longer requires you to hold L2 whilst pressing square to activate it. You can simply turn it on or off from the player assistance settings and get used to it the hard way. That might sound harsh, but it’s the best way to become one with the mechanic and introduce to true freedom to your shooting. If you do need a little help, you can hold L2 before shooting and a little arrow will pop up on screen showing you the general direction your shot will go. This might not be the best analogy, but it’s kind of like when you first learn how to ride a bike and use stabilisers to help you in regards to balance. When your comfortable and confident enough in your riding skills, you’ll take the stabilisers off. It’s the same sort of deal with the L2 directional arrow. You’ll take advantage of the aid during your first dozen or so matches, and then once you’re comfortable you’ll have no need to use it at all.
The manual passing, however, doesn’t give you the same amount of freedom. The five levels found in the player assistance settings don’t seem to have much of an effect on direction as you’d expect. Instead, depending on what level of assistance you choose, you get more or less freedom in terms of the power of the pass, which is rather strange. Players such as Pirlo will have more control over of the pass of a power than say someone like Vidic. It’s very much noticeable too, which doesn’t make it a bad thing per se, but you’d expect to have more freedom in terms of direction too. That slight negative aside, on the whole passing and shooting fantastic, representing a marked improvement over PES 2012. You know when you’ve hit a peach of a shot in PES 2013, something that couldn’t be said when talking about last year’s effort. The R2 modifier is by far the best aspect of the shooting though, it’s just plain superb. The quality of the placed shot is determined by the statistics and body shape of the player, so you’ll need to bear that in mind, but the satisfaction when you curl the ball into the far corner is just immense.
Part of what makes rattling home a shot so satisfying in PES 2013 is the improvements made to goalkeepers. They are far more reliable when compared to previous iterations, with the top shot stoppers such as Neuer, Casillas and Buffon standing out the most. Even in general terms, the animations for goalkeepers seem like they have had some attention paid to them, which will be music to the ears of hardcore fans of the series. Movement appears to be more natural and realistic, which does wonders to the overall quality of matches. More often that not, if the man between the sticks can catch the ball, he will. There also seems to be a move towards pushing the ball away from the goal rather than rebounding it out and gifting a striker a simple tap in. It’s just nice to see that Konami has made a genuine improvement to goalkeepers in PES 2013 rather than the small, hard-to-see changes they have introduced in PES 2011 and PES 2012.
With the preview code not featuring elements such as Master League and BAL, it’s hard to talk about about other elements without going over ground already covered in our E3 preview. The likes Deft Touch Control and Player ID still remain impressive, with the latter aspect being more visible due to the code featuring more teams and players. It would be a nigh on impossible task to point out all the players with some form Player ID attached to them without getting a list from Konami, but as you play the game you’ll come to notice these unique traits on your own. Balotelli, Nani, Rooney, Pirlo, Pedro, Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Ronaldinho, Pique and Vidic are just a few players that come to mind. Deft Touch Control is still a fantastic addition to PES 2013, allowing you to trap the ball in various different ways. If you’re good enough, you’ll find a way of combining the feature with the new nutmeg and run around moves, leaving opponents in your wake as you charge on towards their goal. It’s the usual case of “the more you put into the game, the more you’ll get out of it”.
Despite the visuals remaining largely the same as PES 2012, even at this early stage, PES 2013 has come on leaps and bounds in terms of its gameplay. It’s a marked improvement over the E3 code, with almost every tweak resulting in the on-pitch action being far more enjoyable than before. With gameplay freedom being PES 2013′s mantra, one would hope the manual passing is changed slightly so you have more control over direction. Visuals aside, at the moment, it’s the only real negative to take away from the preview code. Gameplay is fundamental and, if it continues improving at this rate, PES 2013 is shaping up to be the true definition of that statement.