PES 2013 online – Why Daniel Dawkins can’t unplug himself from Konami’s soccer servers

Carrick on a blue at the base of a 4-2-3-1 with sliders set to 14-9-16-12-10-8-14? Or Kagawa as ‘floating’ SS in a 4-3-3 quick counter cascade set to 20-8-12… Look, if this makes no sense, you’re likely one of the 99% of PlayStation owners who don’t own PES 2013 on PS3. It’s okay. I understand. FIFA 13 is excellent. I’d recommend it to 99% of people. It’s just that I’m part of the 1% who obsess over PES – and I’m 100% delighted to be in that minority

Truth told, PES 2013 embraces newcomers like Luis Suarez at the Stretford End, with its jumbled licensing, staccato animations and rollercoaster learning curve. But for those willing to persevere and understand – and 50 hours in, I’m getting close – there’s never been a deeper, more realistic football simulation. If FIFA is a Belgian lager – complex, yet fit for everyday consumption – PES 2013 is a vintage single malt: an acquired taste, yet multi-faceted and completely irreplaceable.

Purity. That’s why. PES 2013’s controls utilise a system of boggling, Street Fighter-style rotations and split-second prompts, but nothing is superfluous. Nailing a Knuckle Shot – an ultra-time-sensitive double-tap of r – is hard enough in training, let alone mid-match, but get it right and, well… you’ve never been happier to see a ball swerve into the net. Ditto chest trap control, Matthews Feints, first touch… it’s overwhelming, but that’s the point. You don’t need to master PES 2013’s intricacies, but they decide games at the top level. You know, like real life.

Equally, tactics are astonishingly important – but only when you learn to read the cadence and pattern of a match. On Top Player, or in skilled online play, this radically transforms your ability to create chances, or nullify the opposition – while maximising the attributes of your previously ineffectual players. The formation menu is a mess of hidden buttons and bewildering sliders (what does 18/20 compactness mean to a normal human being?) but experiment and it’s a precision-tuned engine.

If FIFA is a Belgian lager, PES is a vintage malt.

Struggling against Barcelona’s possession game? Man mark Messi, employ a two-man DMF shield and set sliders to quick counter with wingers hugging the touchlines. It’ll work – but only if you play the way you’ve set things up. That’s the beauty. The tactics directly amplify – or nullify – your playing style. Get the balance right and it’s like peering through the innards of a Swiss watch, yet understanding the motion of every last cog and gear.

It’s this precision – and sense of fairness – that’s seen me clicking for ‘one more game’ at 12.57am on a work night, vowing to avenge my tactical gaffe, or poor execution, in a galling 1-2 loss. Or taking delight in nullifying the game of a ‘superior’ player with 300 more ranking points. Or tolerating the beefheads who only choose Barcelona or Real Madrid – often after wasting 60 seconds hovering over the menu pretending to pick someone else.

Try it.You might not like it. FIFA 13 players often have trouble adjusting to PES 2013, although not vice versa. If you can handle the really rare stuff, I guess, you’ll have no problem stepping back.

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