Naturally there's no story required for this game, but there are so many game modes in PES 2013 that every soccer fan should be satisfied. First up is the Match Mode which allows you to enter an Exhibition Matches, Ranking Matches to achieve the number one rankings, Friendly Match Lobby to play online with customised settings, or even the ability to Watch Exhibition Match between two CPU controlled teams. Following that are the UEFA Champions League and Copa Santader Libertadores Modes which allows you to enter the Competition to become Europe or Latin America's top club, play an Exhibition Match, or Watch and Exhibition Match.
In the Become a Legend Mode you chose from either the European or Latin American Leagues and then set up your player with his name, position, looks, skillset and much more. Once the game is set up you will then follow this player through a career and when you hit the matches on the pitch you control that single player. It's a great, fun, way to experience the life of a soccer player - but a little more personality to the storyline and cut-scenes would go a long way to generate even more interest.
We do have a few niggles with the Football Life modes. When managing the team there are moments when text appears on-screen, but occasionally you aren't given enough time to read it all. It would have been nice to have dialogue rather than text based conversations too. Even if you don't speak (that can take you "out" of the game so to speak), there is no reason why you assistant or other people can't talk - no doubt having to record all the dialogue in multiple languages would have been a chore for Konami, but in our books, worth it. The Blu-Ray disc would certainly have enough space to include multiple languages.
Following the Competition Section the game offers Training Drills which are handy to learn the nuances of gameplay, an Edit mode to change players, teams and stadiums, an Information Menu to check online information and news and download updates and packs (including new stadiums etc), a Gallery to check match results, check nicknames, play back saved replays and view the game credits, and finally an Options Menu to check Personal Data, Online, System Settings and access the Playlist Editor. To say this game is loaded with features and options is an understatement indeed - but, in fact, there's so much detail in many of these modes it almost becomes overwhelming at times (especially for newcomers like me).
All these modes are nice, and certainly well thought out, but how does PES 2013 play on the pitch you ask? When developing PES 2013 the team paid particular attention to individual skills and abilities for players and full control over shots at goal. Gameplay is pretty standard in that X passes the ball, Square shoots at goal, R1 sprints, and so non but you can also press the L2 button to modify ball movements. It's all super slick and very natural indeed. Of course you can also set up team strategies and plays during matches.
I'm going to sidetrack here for a bit, but it is believed that from next year the Pro Evolution Soccer series will be developed at Konami's new PES London Studio - or at least will be partially developed there including European customisation and given that the majority of the game is based in Europe this is can only be a good thing. It's also rumoured that Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 may even use Kojima Productions new Fox Engine which is powering Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes which, if true, would not even provide many visual enhancements, but also support for next-gen consoles (read: PS4). Of course, much of this is speculation at this stage.
Last year Michael complained about the Replay system in the game where after every goal, or foul, replays would show the moment several more times over. While skippable he complained they became annoying. Well, guess what. Konami haven't changed a thing and now that I've played this year’s title I agree wholeheartedly that it becomes annoying and there needs to be an option to turn them off - although it is nice to be able to save any goals for later playback (how about an option to upload to Youtube though Konami?). Finally as you progress through matches you will earn new nicknames such as "The Sniper" or "Il Papero" and while these are nice and can be assigned to your player it would be nice to know under what conditions these nicknames are unlocked.
It's not all perfect with the visuals though as we have seen occasional clipping issues on the players, and more prevalent tackles where bodies don't even touch (it reminded us of Italy robbing Australia in the World Cup a few years ago!). While players look fantastic on the pitch, when the game cuts to close-up shots of players they tend to lack some realism compared to real-life counterparts. Having said that it has no impact on gameplay, just presentation. Also disappointing are the crowds which, while active, certainly don't look realistic and not even up to the wonderful crowds seen in Sega's London 2012 this year - then again Sega's titles doesn't have anywhere near the complexity to gameplay so perhaps it's a resource issue with CPU/GPU power.
Of course as with almost any sports game the audio lives or dies by the on-pitch calls from players (which are pretty good in this game), while the commentary by John Champion and Jim Beglin was quite good but does become repetitive and isn't overly accurate with some comments being off the mark in particular about the matches excitement levels. If a match is scoreless at half time comments will often be made about the lack of excitement - despite multiple shots at goal or keeper-required saves. In looking back on Michaels review of last years game he had almost identical comments so I doubt much work has been done here.
Despite playing numerous soccer titles over the years it has been a long time since playing one in depth for review - and we had a lot of fun. Technically Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 looks and sounds wonderful while the gameplay is engaging at all times. We can't do a detailed comparison to previous years, but our experiences with this game have been very positive indeed. Definately worth a look for casual, or hardcore, soccer fans.
Review By: Dave Warner