Every football game's promised revolution. But today it's harder to know what's new in our football titles.
It doesn't mean the developers of Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 are lazy. Quite the contrary. It just takes a little longer now before we're aware of their work.
The cynical would say that compared to its predecessor, nothing's been tinkered with this time. And indeed, the differences are so minimal that at first it's hard to notice that this is a new game.
Even more than last year, we concentrate on the control details. This is a much more fluid game - eventhough it always offered pretty fast gameplay. But due to the new button layout it's almost impossible to control the manually selected player. A shoulder button tap allows us to adjust our speed manually, regaining maximum control over the ball. But the counterbalance is it slows the game, and passes must be charged much longer. That arrows appear by players who've already been taken care of adds to the confusion.
The referee seems much less fussy than in previous games, thus keeping the number of interruptions of the game in check. However, there's many situations were he's far too generous. Stretched legs into the upper body, brutal slide tackles from behind and many other harsh infringements go unpunished.
In return, he shows yellow cards for very unspectacular fouls. It'll drive you mad - TVs and furnishings will be in danger of low-flying controllers propelled across the room. Although this flaw was apparent in earlier previews, it'll likely not be the case for the final game, if the disappearance of similar issues come the release of the franchise's past titles are any indiction.
The extremely rigid facial expressions are irritating, as it's an area you'd have expected to be updated by now, and hopefully it's another issue to be fixed come final release. Realistic faces are a big plus for authenticity and these don't hold up in comparison to the competition from EA. The improved animations are easy to recognize, however, especially in duels or in the adoption of very high balls. It's looking good.
Right at the beginning we're offered the use of a training mode. This is very neat and detailed, meticulous even, to the point of frustration. The ankle shot's built up as hard to master, but it's easy to do (charge shot and tap when player kicks the ball). Yet despite the balls flying into the net undefended, we're not given a pass on the test. Exactly why, we'll never know.
The difficulty's significantly reduced in Pro Evolution Soccer 2013. It may only be a phenomenon of the preview version, but the ease with which some opponents were defeated on the most difficult stage was very frightening. Also striking after deflections netted an unusually high number of goals.
After last year's effort NPCs were fine-tuned during a regular update, it should follow that PES13's improve slightly. This also wasn't noticeable in the preview build. What results is plenty of offside situations, because players don't move or they move strangely.
Karim Benzema, for example, has a continuous struggle with the offside rule. Again and again he can fall back for a brief moment at the level of the opposing defenders, only to sprint once more to the front. This behavior shrinks the time window for a decent ball until there's hardly any time left.
In other cases, players remain completely- and unexpectedly - in front of the penalty area, rather than continue to run free for a pass. Even the most obvious runs remain unused by idle teammates.
This brings us to a feature that's done surprisingly well in the new PES: Teammate control.
If our teammates aren't as we want, we've still the opportunity to move them by pushing the right stick. Making the player operate his squad in this fashion is problematic as the right thumb's usually busy with more important things. There's a manual version that allows us to control a second player completely using the right stick. Yet if the team mates were smart enough to operate independently, we wouldn't need this feature to begin with.
So, not a great performance from the long-running series in this build. However, as noted there's significant alterations between preview builds the closer we move towards the retail release. We're hoping for vast improvements next time we're on the pitch with PES13.