Feature Article
FIFA vs. PES: Which Game is For You?

Think fast: If you were to buy only one football game for 2013, which one would you get this coming Tuesday, FIFA or PES?

After playing both games’ respective demos, it’s hard to name one clear frontrunner—they both excel in certain aspects and fall down in others. One of the most commonly used barometers to compare the two is “realism”. But the term has become somewhat overly used and, in a way, can generalize things too much: Realism in which aspects? Even if we narrow it down just to the gameplay, it becomes clear—the more time you spend with the two demos—that both games are realistic, and both games are not.

It's a funny thing. Nowhere else on OS will somebody see such a varied opinion on two games' portrayal of one sport. For every one member who thinks PES has reached the holy grail, there's another who sees it as too over the top, and that FIFA looks more like the real thing. So the better barometer, really, is which game’s strengths will you, the one handing over the money, be more receptive to, and which game’s weaknesses will be less detrimental for you. And, ah, now that becomes a more interesting debate.

PES... If You Enjoy the Game From a Bird’s Eye View

As if you needed to hear this again—but PES’ brilliance really does come out most when you’re paying attention to everything that’s going on on the pitch. The AI players make runs with purpose, and more importantly they work as a team to create space. That flies under the radar most of the time, but it shouldn’t, as that’s a huge part of what attacking in football is about. Instead of every player thinking for himself—that they all make runs in hope of receiving the pass—PES’ AI players look capable of going one step further, making dummy runs to create space for another teammate to run into. The result is some immensely intuitive and satisfying attacking sequences that evolve organically, depending on the run of play.

FIFA... If You Enjoy the Game From an Up-Close Perspective

Both games have tried to lay claim to the term “freedom”, but this is one department in which FIFA fares better. It has been the series’ forte all along. Let’s put it this way: PES is at its most impressive when you see the entire sequence of play, while FIFA shines if you look at it in moments. Certain moments, like a juke here and a nutmeg there, a through ball finding a striker breaking free down the channel, will leave you with the feeling that yes, this is the football game.

So, whereas PES’ biggest strength is simulating the behaviors of twenty-two players, FIFA’s biggest strength is, alternatively, simulating the realistic behaviors of one—yours. And if AI is the star of PES’ movie, then the star of FIFA is surely you. From the right stick dribbling from what seems now to be a long, long time ago, to the 360 degrees movement, to recent years’ dribbling improvements, FIFA’s strength has always been the ability to give you all the tools you need to emulate the skills of your favorite footy heroes. It’s the one thing that we’ve taken for granted for a while now, especially since the series has done this for so well and so long. But in all honesty, the amount of control you have on the ball is staggering.

PES... If You Enjoy the Game’s Unpredictability

Even during the series’ darker years, one thing that never really left PES was its anything-could-happen feeling during the course of the game. Now that the franchise is back on solid footing, that feeling is as vivid as ever. Playing the demo for PES 2013, there were plenty of deflections, goalmouth scrambles, and just manic passages of play that will inevitably bring you to your feet.

FIFA... If You Enjoy a More Controlled Chaos

To be fair, FIFA this year has added a touch—no pun intended—of unpredictability into its gameplay with its first touch control where, depending on factors like the speed of the pass and the technique of the pass receiver, the touch can go awry. It’s a good start, but by and large, the game is still geared more towards the Barcelona style, slow tiki-taka type play. Just like how PES can accurately portray the more hectic moments of the sport but can sometimes be a little too end-to-end, FIFA, on the other hand, does a great job at simulating the methodical side of the sport, but can at times feel a little too one note.

PES... If You Enjoy Single Player Games

Part of PES’ realism is in the way the CPU plays the game. Teams generally play true to their style, though at times you may still need to adjust their tactic sliders to bring out the characteristics of some of the more extreme teams, and also to fix the few that don’t fit into any type of tactical presets. The CPU also manages its team competently, altering attacking and substitution patterns depending on the how the game progresses. In short, playing single player games against the computer on PES is satisfying because over the course of ten, twenty matches, you will probably get to experience a wide range of styles—from slow, cautious games where both teams put men behind the ball, to end to end, all-hell-breaks-loose shootouts.

FIFA – If You Enjoy Multiplayer Games

On the other hand, FIFA is great for those who like to play the game with fellow human gamers because it can help mask one of the game’s bigger weaknesses—the CPU’s lack of variation in play style. In fact, as plenty here on OS have testified, playing against the CPU and playing against a human player can really be like night and day. Plus, the increasing popularity of FIFA’s various stellar online modes can extend the game’s shelf life immensely, even after Manager Mode or Be A Pro runs out of steam.

Final Thoughts

So—and surely you’ve expected this—the answer to the original question, FIFA or PES, is that there is no clear answer. It all depends on your preferences. The obvious suggestion is to download the demos, give both games a whirl, and draw your own conclusions. And of course, there are also the aspects of the two games which we don’t have access to yet, like manager and be a player modes, which means that checking out—shameless plug alert—our reviews will also help you in your purchasing decision.

But this has been a fun exercise, no? If not just to see how lucky we are, as football game fans, to have two series that push each other year in and year out. Be honest, loyalties aside, and ask yourself if you would be okay with playing whatever your second choice football game happened to be for the rest of the year. Chances are most will answer yes, even if a little begrudgingly. Now head over to the NBA 2k forum and ask the same question. See?

Happy football gaming, folks. And here's to hoping, come next Wednesday morning, you're still in an acceptable shape to get to work.

FIFA Soccer 13 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 BEARYChi @ 09/21/12 01:15 PM
FIFA 13 for PS3 and PES 2013 for PC..........thats how i do.
# 2 wjmooner @ 09/21/12 01:30 PM
I have chosen PES since WE9 on the Xbox. But I felt that the scripting on PES last year was out of control and ruined the enjoyment of the game for me. Plus shooting was broken, although from the demo it looks to have been fixed. I have always enjoyed playing FIFA too, and bought WC2010. For me, the chance to manage the USMNT during career mode is the final reason to switch to FIFA in four days.
# 3 Pappy Knuckles @ 09/21/12 01:32 PM
Already paid for PES. The Fifa demo didn't impress me much, but I didn't give it much playtime either. I'm not even sure if I'm gonna bother with the early release right now. I guess we'll see later.
# 4 ezio @ 09/21/12 02:02 PM
Right now if I had to choose it is PES by a mile. I already have PES ordered and will reserve judgemnt on Fifa until I play the early release because the demo did not impress me at all.
# 5 msuhockeycj @ 09/21/12 02:34 PM
Preordered both, cheating I guess as relates to the question.
# 6 BrettMadden @ 09/21/12 02:35 PM
I have always been a fan of both series, with FIFA taking a lot of gaming time since the 09 release. As a 40-year old gamer, I have less and less time for online play. When the little one wakes up at night, that does not make for a great recipe for online gaming.

PES for me leads the way for offline play, it's more in-depth via the Master League and of course the Option Files make up for any license wants & needs.

Despite being a better FIFA player, ranked in the top 2,000 during FIFA 11, I prefer getting blasted yet learning the nuances of the PES Series. The improvements from PES 10 to 11 to 12 to now 13 are HUGE. FIFA has improved marginally over the same span and in some areas EASPORTS has either ignored or deliberately programmed the series to be more of a hard-charging, rough and tumble fast-paced series devoid of any player stamina depletion.

I may give FIFA a look on the Wii U, I think with the Tab aspect, the series can 'grow again'. September 25 will be the first in while in which I will have passed on the FIFA Series.

PES 'Steelcase' awaits my pick-up at Gamestop
# 7 LingeringRegime @ 09/21/12 02:41 PM
Last few years I have bought both games. And every year I have played PES more. The only reason I bought FIFA was for the manual controls and the fun online play.

Now that PES has manual controls, I don't need FIFA anymore.
# 8 RedPhazon8 @ 09/21/12 03:00 PM
Out of the two, PES is the only one that has any sort of spectator/coach/sim modes. Neither have it on the level of the NBA 2K games, but PES would be the only one I'd be interested in.
# 9 DBMcGee3 @ 09/21/12 03:22 PM
Based on the two demos I'd have to go with FIFA. Better looking game by a mile, and the controls feel more natural in my opinion. I really didn't like the dribble control on the PES demo at all. Maybe I'll give it another shot after reading some favorable reviews.
# 10 bigball12 @ 09/21/12 03:25 PM
After YEARS of FIFA, Pes is the game that DESERVES my money. FIFA is way to similar year in and year out, PES clearly has established itself as a worthy rival after a run of several years of mediocrity. Konami has done an amazing job this year, and with Team Up being patched in a few weeks after launch, Multiplayer will be very robust as well.
# 11 rckabillyRaider @ 09/21/12 03:47 PM
already purchased pes on pc last night and totally enjoyed it. Looking forward to fifa on ps3.
# 12 DetailsMakeTheGame @ 09/21/12 04:05 PM
# 13 BQ32 @ 09/21/12 04:18 PM
Its kind of humerous seeing most side with PES when we know fifa will outsell it by probably a 5-1 margin. Ironically for me Winning Eleven 7 was the game that got me interested in soccer games in general and to a greater extent the sport of footy, but I am a hard turncoat and swear by fifa. I am an ex basketball collegiate pointguard so ball handeling is important to me and the stuff I can pull off on fifa is rediculous. Now with increased teamate AI making more intelligent runs the online world is going to be in a whole lot of trouble lol. FIFA all day.
# 14 RaptorMania @ 09/21/12 05:02 PM
I'm a star mid-fielder and I will be getting PES.
# 15 Stormyhog @ 09/21/12 05:11 PM
I will be getting PES for sure already have it pre-ordered. What I love about PES is the player indivduality.
# 16 inkcil @ 09/21/12 05:48 PM
PES for me...CPU AI, singleplayer and PES option files make it THEE soccer game to own, IMO.
# 17 keator @ 09/21/12 06:05 PM
Gonna have to check out fifa 13 on Season Pass tonight to get an idea if this game is any different that 2012. I really enjoyed fifa 12's online season mode, where you had 10 games to try and get your team promoted. One of the best online ideas ive experience in a sports game
# 18 Avantgarde4 @ 09/21/12 07:06 PM
downloading Fifa now.....better be good.
# 19 UK0wnag3 @ 09/21/12 08:36 PM
Will most likely end up going to the midnight release of FIFA. I've played PES this year and I really enjoyed it, as i did with FIFA. But I always find more longevity in FIFA's career mode.
For me it breaks down as PES is football, and FIFA is a video game. And I'd like to buy a video game.
# 20 Cavani161 @ 09/21/12 08:45 PM
Originally Posted by BQ32
Its kind of humerous seeing most side with PES when we know fifa will outsell it by probably a 5-1 margin. Ironically for me Winning Eleven 7 was the game that got me interested in soccer games in general and to a greater extent the sport of footy, but I am a hard turncoat and swear by fifa. I am an ex basketball collegiate pointguard so ball handeling is important to me and the stuff I can pull off on fifa is rediculous. Now with increased teamate AI making more intelligent runs the online world is going to be in a whole lot of trouble lol. FIFA all day.
The stuff you can pull off in FIFA, good luck trying that in a real soccer match. The defense is FIFA is the biggest issue of the FIFA series, and has been for a number of years.

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