Pro Evolution Soccer 2013's second demo came down the pipeline Tuesday. With eleven league teams to play around with, we get a better idea of what we can expect come release day.
So what’s different?
For all the flak PES takes in this department, they've added a few nice touches on the presentation front. For instance, the home crowd will vigorously boo non-calls, while the player who tumbled over throw their hands up in the air and gestures to the ref. Also, the frequency at which defenders raise their hands and appeal for offsides is increased.
The referees, in this second demo, are more card happy than before. By and large, that’s good news as in the past I’ve gotten away with plenty of cynical obstructions with merely a talking to. However, in rare cases, the men with the whistle can get a touch overzealous and caution players for some innocuous standing tackles.
The players seem to move a little looser, which is good. But that’s not to say that the “rails” are completely gone, because they’re not. There will be the odd occasion where super-cancel is needed to win a race to the through ball, or a closer player won’t respond to a pass because the game has decided that the ball was “meant” for somebody else. For the most part, however, the AI teammates are still excellent. Players come short to collect, or break forward in anticipation of a through ball. There still aren’t many moments in footy games that can compare to hitting that perfect diagonal through ball in PES, laying it on a platter for your striker.
A note on the CPU AI: they’re not perfect. And I mean that in a good way. Sometimes you can’t help but feel that the CPU always know what to do in any given situation--after all, they were programmed to-- and when you score, it's almost always because you beat the computer, rathen than because it made a mistake. Interestingly enough, in this demo I’ve encountered a few-- very few, I must stress-- instances where the CPU foolishly put too much pressure on the ball and left a gaping hole elsewhere in the defense, resulting in a breakaway several moves later. It’s nice to see something like that once in a blue moon, and know that the computer can suffer a brain cramp too.
Passing and Shooting:
Shooting feels more realistic. It seems that the long range thunderbolts have been tamed a little in terms of power. Lobbed through balls, meanwhile, seem to require a little more power for it to get over a defender’s head. That's not necessarily good or bad-- just different, and may take a little getting used to.
The default tempo has been upped. Not a lot, but it's still noticeable. If you were one of those who found the first demo’s game speed too fast to begin with, then you definitely have to go to -1.
With more players and teams to fiddle with, this demo is a good barometer for the full game. The stars’ playing styles are translated realistically into the game: The ball sticks to Iniesta’s feet, Ozil can ghost past defenders, playmakers like Alonso and Pirlo look to collect the ball from deep, while Ronaldo unleashes his trade mark dipping freekicks. Player individuality continues to be one of PES’ greatest strengths this year.
As for team individuality, it looks good on the whole. Each team’s mentality corresponds to how they play in real life. While you pretty much expect PES to get the top tier teams right, the more pleasing sight is seeing Marco Bielsa’s Athletic Bilbao pressing all over the pitch, because well, they really are that crazy. Also, teams know where their strengths are and will try to play to it. Take the Bilbao example again: I’ve seen plenty of lofted passes up to the target man Llorente, upon which he tries to knock it down to his teammates. On the other hand, I've not seen that once in my matches against Barcelona.
But there is a worrying undercurrent. While the game realistically simulates the attacking mentalities of each team, it doesn’t seem to do as good a job at differentiating how quickly, and how fervently those teams attack. It’s great to see the CPU taking the initiative, but it is a little concerning to see Barcelona playing plenty of high risk through balls, as opposed to trying to keep possession. But of course, this is only a five-minute demo match, so leaping to any conclusions is premature. Over a longer match, things will probably play out differently.
Yup, they tweaked the keepers again. For those who don't remember, the keepers in PES 2012's first demo were fairly solid, then in demo two they got dumbed down a fair bit, and by full release they were almost, well, Taibi-like.
So it's a bit of a red flag that the goalkeepers in this new demo got the treatment again. The worrying part is that they seem to parry more than they did in the first one, but the comforting news is that their responsiveness and agility remains unchanged. So all in all, there are just less clean catches in general. Personally I still prefer the keepers in the first demo, but after playing a whole year of PES 2012, this will do.
Just please, devs, don't touch it again.
With its various tweaks, PES 2013 remains a very enjoyable game, and the great AI does well to mask a host of other, smaller, PES' quirks we know and don't really love (like players locking into place when jostling for balls in the air). As it stands, there aren't any showstopping flaws to stop fans of the series from buying this game on release day.