Sunday 22 October 2017

Looking for the human side of football

Review: Pro Evo Soccer 2014, Rain, Just Dance 2014

Pro Evo Soccer 2014, for Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Pro Evo Soccer 2014, for Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Pro Evo Soccer 2014, for Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Rain, a downloadable game for PS3
Just Dance 2014 for Xbox 360, PS3, Wii U
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Pro Evo Soccer 2014
X360/PS3/PC
RATING: 8.5/10

WE humans were never designed to be perfect. So it shouldn’t surprise if our tastes makes us seek out something slightly lopsided.

Confronted with the relentlessly polished machine that is FIFA, my instinct looks for signs of humanity but finds instead just finely tuned, predictable algorithms.

PES has always been the oddball cousin. Just at look at it, for gawd’s sake. Up close, the players resemble friendly zombies, the team names are mangled by frustrating licensing deals (Liverpool = Merseyside Reds, Spurs = North-East London, etc) and the squads are out of date (Bale’s still with Spurs).

But beneath the unassuming exterior lives a football sim that’s somehow more human than FIFA. The players are more fallible, but seemingly more intelligent. That’s what you want when you have control of just one out of a team of 11 – a bunch of people who react believably and smartly to your actions.

Sure, they’re simply algorithms too but capable of as much natural genius as complete idiocy – just like the ebb and flow of a real game.

It may not have the unfathomable depth of FIFA and isn’t quite so plugged into the live football world. But PES2014 gets closer to the beautiful game in my book.

Rain

PS3 download

RATING: 6/10

ALL art is quite useless, Oscar Wilde suggested in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray. He meant that art doesn’t need a function or purpose and should stand on its own merit.

Rain is a bit like that, in that it’s both quite arty and a little bit useless. Its makers are clearly in thrall to the wordless masterpieces of Ico and Shadow of the Colossus. Built around the moody architecture of Paris in a downpour, it stars an invisible boy trying to save a girl from a pursuing pack of monsters.

He becomes fully visible to the pursuers only when outside in the rain, leading to a stealthy game of hide and seek in which you dash from awning to porch in search of shelter and safety.

So far so good. But Rain never trusts you to improvise or explore, instead narrowly funnelling the player from one set-piece to the next.

It looks gorgeous, of course, and the central conceit of invisibility throws open some fascinating possibilities. Yet Rain nearly drowns its art in a shallow pool of gameplay.

Just Dance 2014

X360 Kinect/PS3 Move/Wii U

RATING: 7/10

JUST as with all the previous instalments, this has little or nothing to do with dancing and everything to do with having fun. Notionally a dancing sim inviting you copy the on-screen moves in time to a bevy of recent chart hits, JD2014 is not so much Strictly as Very Loosely.

Just leave your inhibitions at the door and an evening of entertainment is guaranteed as you flail around to Daft Punk, Katy Perry, One Direction and even some Abba, though the 47 tunes on-board are heavily skewed to the last couple of years.

Just Dance has never bothered to score your movement accurately, preferring instead outrageous generosity if you make half an effort. That makes it perfect as a party game but not so good if you’re feeling competitive.

It’s easy to view JD2014 as just another track pack for the series. Sure the neon-lit graphics are an improvement but the online multiplayer is just a little half-hearted and, outside of a party situation, the lack of accurate tracking becomes frustrating.

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