Beautiful visuals but still playing second fiddle
Pro Evolution Soccer 14 is truly a step into a new generation for the series. With vastly improved visuals and smoother mechanics, it shows that PES is trying to move forward at last.
PES 2014 is trying to build on the technical success of last year's instalment, with a shift to a new engine taking centre stage this time around.
The first thing I noticed about PES 2014 is just how good it looks compared to its predecessors, not to mention its competitor. It's a huge improvement. Some player likenesses are so real they border on the realm of uncanny. That's not it though - almost everything, from kit textures to grass detail have been dramatically enchanced.
Furthermore, stadiums have been entirely rebuilt - the dreary mausoleums of past seasons is replaced with bustling arenas, strewn with detailed banners and alert crowds which react to the rhythms of individual games. After a nasty tackle, the atmosphere will sour, the baying crowd shouting for the offending player to be dismissed; conversely, when you score, crowd now does a great job of making you feel like a star.
The improved lighting within stadiums also gives the experience a much-needed level of polish, too. PES has never felt so alive.
Unfortunately, PES 14 does suffer a little in some crucial areas. Inconsistent AI can cause players to make runs in all the wrong places, or fail to chase down a ball when you would expect them to.
When it does all come together, though, PES 2014 can be a wonderful thing. Zipping down the right wing to launch a well-placed cross, or ducking through the midfield with a killer through ball, is nicely fast-paced and, at times, edge-of-your-seat thrilling. Finishing those manoeuvres remains as tight as ever, with a real feeling of control as you expertly blast a shot past the keeper and into the top corner of the net.
PES 14 still remains leagues behind FIFA in terms of online modes. Many of the modes remain unchanged from last year, including officially licensed tournaments such as the UEFA Champions League and South American Copa Libertadores tournaments. The new addition is League mode, although it too remains largely unchanged from the version in 2012.
PES 14 is a great game but it really doesn't put much new content on the table after last year's stellar offering. A new engine is a welcome change though, with beautiful visuals taking pride of place in an otherwise unchanged title.