PES 2014 PS3 review – Fluid but flawed side is Messi on the pitch, messy off it
This unique mechanical and aesthetic quality for players is spread throughout Europe’s biggest clubs. Messi is naturally the king of the low gravity dribble and shuffles about the pitch like a hermit crab who is friggin’ amazing at footy. Robben feels lethally nimble quite unlike any other winger (even if he looks old enough to be Mr Burns’ granddad). Borussia Dortmund’s Mats Hummels, meanwhile, ranges around with a gangly grace that you won’t find with any other centre half. In contrast, even the best players in FIFA 14 merely feel a bit quicker or stronger, rather than coming across as truly unique.
While EA Canada has made great strides in recreating realistic player momentum this season, PES Productions still hold the advantage when it comes to intelligent AI runs. Far more intuitive than last year’s effort, manually instructing your teammates to move into threatening positions is now a breeze.
Hold L1 and the right stick in the direction of the supporting player you want to start running and he’ll immediately start to break away from the nearest opposition man. These off-the-ball runs are often extremely clever and once you’ve given your AI pals orders, they’re remarkably adept at creating space for themselves.
These raking runs make chipped through balls a revelation and once you properly master the system you’ll be shredding the oppo’s fullbacks to ribbons. Learning the nuances of manual AI forays still requires a keen eye for a pass, but if you’ve got the peepers of a Xavi, you can spark some utterly devastating counter attacks.
Off-the-ball runs are often extremely clever & once you’ve given your AI pals orders, they’re remarkably adept at creating space
Combination Plan is another feature that offers a huge boon for those that like their fusball of the tippy-tappy variety. A smart summer signing, this new addition allows you to quickly implement on-the-fly tactical plays with a couple of taps of L2.
You can break these bad boys out in the last third when an on-screen prompt appears and they range from overlapping runs, smart wing combinations or strikers pulling off their defenders in the box to create last gasp space. It’s a system that takes careful practice to really get the most out of (and most players will likely ignore it entirely). Still, compared to the Tony Pulis school of man management of double-tapping right on the D-Pad to go Ultra Attacking when you’re trailing in FIFA, Combination Plan adds a welcome layer of Jürgen Klopp-esque tactical nuance.
Sadly, there’s a green-skinned 230ft ‘BUT’ about to stomp over the horizon. Similar to Mario Balotelli deciding it’s totally acceptable to let off a Catherine Wheel over his breakfast bar, PES 2014’s inherit brilliance is derailed by stupid decisions. And there’s nary a more infuriating choice than the game’s front-end.
Designed like an early 90s text adventure about multi-millionaires and their existential crises involving hoofed pig’s bladders, menus are disastrous. Even the simple act of subbing a man proves needlessly convoluted, demanding multiple fumbled prods of the D-pad to switch players out.