PES 2013 preview: ditching the arcade knock abouts for a slower paced sim

Here’s a tactical conundrum that would have even Mourinho sweating: how the chuffing hell does Pro Evolution Soccer win back the hordes of fans who’ve defected to FIFA over the past few years? A major shake-up of the PES foundations is the first step, and Konami knows it.

“[We need] a totally new engine,” says European PES team leader Jon Murphy at the world first reveal of PES 2013 in Brazil. “We’ll see a lot change when we have the next generation of machines.”

And while we’re unlikely to see PES on PS4 for another couple of years, our in-depth hands-on with the series’ latest instalment proves there’s plenty of fight left in Konami’s sleeping giant as we head towards the final whistle on PS3.

For those who’ve kept the faith, this could well be the year PES rockets back to those dazzling PS2-era highs. That snappy, on-rails feel from last year? Gone. Players now move smoothly across the playing surface, tilting and weaving with a delicious human roundedness. Canned ball animations? Nope. Now it sprays about the place with unpredictable authenticity, pinging off shins, bobbling along the turf and arcing through the air like, you know, a ball instead of a torpedo.

The overall impression is that PES 2013 has finally, brilliantly, gone back to its simulation roots, ditching the zippy arcade feel of recent instalments and serving up an experience that feels slower, more reactive and – crucially – more like real football.

The slower pace can be attributed to three key gameplay enhancements, which Konami shows off by sticking footage of PES 2013 next to real-life footage of Barcelona in action – a telling juxtaposition proving just how confident the team are that PES is bang on form once more.

Pes 2013 PS3 screensNumber one is a mechanic called PES Full Control, which incorporates a number of improvements to the manual passing and shooting. In practice, the passing model feels much the same as last year (which was already excellent), although that irritating rainbow-coloured power bar has thankfully been killed.

It’s the revamped shooting system that really shakes things up, with the addition of manual shooting resulting in our first few attempts soaring off towards the corner flag. Squeezing L2 as you shape up for a pop on goal sends the ball exactly where you’re aiming with the left stick, so you can’t just thrust it left or right and hope to make the net bulge.

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