'Pro Evolution Soccer 2014'
Microsoft Xbox 360 (PS3)
ESRB rating: Everyone
Review rating: 4.0 stars
EA squashed 2K Sports when it bought the rights to the American football franchise, but not so with soccer. Konami's "PES" series has managed to stay neck-in-neck with EA's "Fifa" series through constant changes and upgrades. Now it seems like the only real disadvantage that "Pro Evolution Soccer 2014" has is a lack of licensed teams and stadiums.
Playing cyber-soccer is now more realistic than ever thanks to a new gaming engine. While last year's game had defensive players circling around, and even through offensive players at times, the new engine allows them to get much closer and jostle for the ball. It's also possible for offensive players to shoulder barge opponents or build up momentum to speed past them.
Another new addition is Heart, which is a computer representation of each player's morale. Playing at home, with fans cheering, slightly boosts the home team's ability, but achieving the same boost during away games requires building momentum by playing well. I rarely noticed an obvious effect that Heart had on game play, but during some games it did seem like luck was on my side.
It seems much easier to handle the ball thanks to a slower pace and more robust offensive controls. Beginners will pick up the auto-feint rather quickly, but it may take a while to learn more intricate moves like shimmies and advanced goal shots. In addition, a new physics system makes events seem less scripted and allows for more opportunity to foil the offense.
Although there aren't any new modes, the popular Master League has been expanded. Now players can not only manage a professional league over several years, but also simultaneously manage a national team! This is where the lack of licensed material is most noticeable, but thankfully, it doesn't ruin the fun.
The interface and commentary could use some improvements, but overall, "PES 2014" is a great soccer game!