Next PES gunning for FIFA 14 with talk of a “giant-killing” set of features. Ball-centric control & FOX Engine tech lead the way

“Our ultimate goal is to let you win with the team you love,” says PES creative producer Kei Masuda. “If we can make a giant-killing possible, it’s a huge difference to FIFA.” Konami hopes to change the way you play and think about football games, inspired by results such as Celtic’s heroic 2-1 Champions League victory over Barcelona – and, in turn, perform a giant-killing of its own.

Next PES gunning for FIFA 14

Currently, FIFA and PES prioritise power, pace and star players, forcing you to pick elite teams. Konami aims to create a more realistic experience, using untapped factors including home crowds, mental strength and advanced tactics. Make a crunching last-ditch tackle, say, and it’ll motivate your team – resulting in more aggressive off-the-ball runs or crisper passing. Effects will be regionalised: UK crowds relish up-and-at-’em physical contact, while Brazilian fans might go wild for a nutmeg.

Kei Masuda

PES creative producer Kei Masuda

Konami learnt from the harsh transition from PS2 to PS3. “Our biggest struggles were with online play,” says Masuda. “As we moved to PS3, EA changed its engine, but ours was based on the PS2 game. We only brushed up on animation and some of the AI features.” Konami has responded by setting up a new UK studio dedicated to areas such presentation, translation and commentary. It’s also made a key signing – the Fox Engine technology that powers Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes. PES uses a modified version, with all-new physics and visuals. Marketing producer Manorito Hosoda previously outlined how PES would use the FOX Engine tech : “We’re just sharing the fundamental part of it with Kojima Productions. We have to tailor the engine specifically for football games.”

Early animations show a player taking
a lofted ball with the outside of his boot, and swivelling 180˚ while juggling the ball
in the air – all under your direct control

PES’ fresh focus is ‘ball-centric’ control, using a concept called (and stay with us here) ‘barycentre’ physics. You control your player’s body and balance, even off the ball. For example, you can feint to the right before taking a pass, and sweep the ball into space with the outside of your left foot to shoot. Players’ control radius is three times wider than in PES 2013, enabling precise manual touches. Early wireframe animations show a player taking a lofted ball with the outside of his boot, and swivelling 180˚ while juggling the ball in the air – all under your direct control.

A player’s 360˚ movement extends to vertical space, enabling unique control of, say, shin high passes.

Bottom line: it looks more fluid than FIFA, and complex skills employ intuitive right-stick sweeps. “It’s more important to understand how the trick works in real life, rather than the buttons required to emulate it,” explains PES team leader Jon Murphy. Physicality is improved, so players can jostle off the ball for position for headers or tug at opponents’ shirts.

The new engine will debut in this year’s PS3 PES, and allow a seamless transition to PS4. PES has a lot to prove and many features are clearly works in progress. For example Masuda talks about editing stats on the go when you’re away from your PS3. “The concern is that [fewer] people will play games on the TV,” he admits, “so we’re trying to make it possible to edit players on your phone, or pick your formation. When you turn on the game, you can instantly start playing. One of our aims is for PES to fit our users’ lifestyles.” Konami is investigating new editing tools and “a better environment” for players to share their editing data, too. If Konami gets it right this might do for the underdog what oil did for the nouveau riche of the Champions League.