PES 2014 PS3 review – Fluid but flawed side is Messi on the pitch, messy off it
Rows of low-res boots framing Master League’s home is similarly embarrassing and the bizarre collection of tunes, which range from overwrought opera to clawing Europop are offensive enough to inspire daydreams of filling your ear canals with cement. Compared to FIFA 14’s über slick new panel menus, the virtual corridors you have to navigate to get to PES’ wonderful core are about as welcoming as that Resi effort with all the undead Dobermans.
Even worse is the all too regular intervention of lag. Similar to PES 2009, this year’s entry is occasionally crippled by constant stuttering. Pre-match cutscenes are less stable than your average Tom Cruise chinwag on Opera, while replays are simply broken, often chugging away between 10-15fps.
Yet the most annoying occurrence is when the actual matches themselves temporarily freeze. Unleash a shot that narrowly grazes the side netting and PES 2014 will often pause for a split second, leaving you in a state of suspense akin to watching a Breaking Bad finale while you’re desperate for the bog. Rebounds also cause the game to screech to a halt for several seconds, making predatory poaching needlessly difficult.
Perhaps these lag issues can be banished to the great beyond with a post-release patch. But if you’re an unlucky soul who doesn’t have your PS3 connected to the internet, slowdown will forever blot your matchday programme.
While these problems usually don’t crop up when you actually score, the sight of near misses being greeted by Foghorn Leghorn stuttering is embarrassing. With PES skipping PS4 this year, the fact Konami only had to put out a current-gen product and has still semi-borked the port is hard to forgive.
A quick word on keepers, too. While goalies can generally be relied upon to put in respectable performances, I’ve seen some drop – and please excuse my complete lack of French – almighty, unforgivable b*llocks. Pan Hands 101 is very much back on the curriculum, and every keeper from Casillas to Cech has been swatting up, with an alarming amount of spilled shots.
Though the last few paragraphs have been less cheery than your average Rangers’ tax return, I still love PES 2014. Despite some considerable technical hiccups (perhaps a teething problem of switching to the Fox Engine), the on-pitch action is mostly terrific.
To put into context just how head-over-pointy-shoes in love I am with the game, let me tell you a quick story about a Champions League campaign I embark upon. Playing as Barca, I stutter through the group stages, before putting in a professional performance against Napoli, demolishing Chelse… uh, London FC in the quarters, then scraping through a nerve-shredding 3-2 against Real Madrid in the semis.
And then comes a final to rival Istanbul. Trailing 3-1 to the blue side of Manchester with an hour gone, I somehow end up triumphing 4-3 with an 87th minute winner. I ‘may’ have shouted ‘NEEEEEYMAAAAR!!!’ after that pot-winning header with a shrill cry loud enough to wake coma patients. I can honestly say it’s the most enjoyable game of virtual football I’ve had since my ruinous obsession with the series back in the halcyon PS2 days.
That said, there’s no denying FIFA 14 offers a substantially more polished, seductive package. Often shaming PES with its immaculate presentation and ambitious suite of online features, it remains the football game that’s most easy to recommend for the average PS3 Player who just wants to play a few weekend games with their mates.
And yet, I can forgive PES 14 its rough edges. Yes, the licensing issue is still infuriating – kiss goodbye to any notion of proper Premier League names or anything relating to the Bundesliga outside of Bayern and Schalke. And true, Master League now seems a perfunctory afterthought when placed next to the alluring Sky Sports News-style bells-and-whistles that have been implemented in FIFA’s Career mode since 12.
When PES 14 truly shines, though, it outplays its megaton rival in several key areas. If you’re willing to scrape beneath the surface and accept its technical and licensing shortcomings, then this offers a nuanced, deeply rewarding game of football. If Konami can iron out those issues next season, PES United could yet be champions.