I got some hands-on time with Konami's Fox Engine–powered PES 2014 at E3, and the game seems to be iterating nicely, especially compared to the feel of the FIFA series. Now, this isn't to say that PES 2014 surpasses the Xbox One version of FIFA 14 that I got to play, as it isn't at that level, in my opinion. However, when compared to current-gen FIFA stuff, PES continues to feel much more organic and individualistic with its on-pitch action.
As a bit of disclosure, I'm not OS' soccer/football writer, so I'm speaking from limited experience with PES (I'm familiar with the FIFA series). However, from what I played, I was able to see quite clearly the difference between PES and FIFA. With this year's game, Konami is changing the ball physics so that everything feels more live, with less of a tethered feeling between the player and the ball. I noticed this on certain passes that didn't connect in a canned way, and some goals were scored where the goalie would dive and only get a piece of the ball on the short side, causing it to dribble in. The shots felt like they had lots of velocity, and players would properly plant before they would release a shot, creating a much more level trajectory if proper time was taken.
The ability to do more in one-on-one situations is also evident, as both thumbsticks provide a wealth of options on offense and defense. By holding a trigger, you can manually pass in any direction, which is great for finding openings to your teammates. You can also go into a controlled dribbling mode which makes shifting body weight and changing direction much easier. The right stick allows for all sorts of great side foot touches and quick moves, and I found the passing responsive and accurate when I attempted some fancy drops and through passes. The right stick allows for some cool abilities on defense, as you can press to the side to attack a player and block his shot, or other directions allow for different types of tackles and seal-outs. Admittedly, my timing was a little off with some of the right stick controls, but it was nice to see a very large toolbox for players who want it.
Set pieces and corner kicks have been revised a bit in terms of your options as well as their presentation. There is now an inverted arrow interface that allows for specifically placing your shot, which means a better visual representation, but it does look a bit goofy. You can now also execute more complicated fakes and layoffs for free kicks, which creates some great misdirection that isn't found in the FIFA series.
I also noticed the individual detail on how certain players went about their business. It was clear when I controlled Arjen Robben that he excelled at supporting the front attack with his speed and passing skill, and it allowed for plays to develop from the core of the field rather than from flat-out wing sprints. Just the same, it's evident that players like Neymar have an explosive creativity and shot ability unlike other players on the pitch.
In terms of the Fox Engine visuals, I'd say that the net effect of the new engine is a benefit to PES 2014. Admittedly, the introduction sequences are a bit spotty, with some textures and details popping in as the scene plays out. Also, I thought the crowd looked cool at times, but then you realize everyone is doing the same animation. There certainly is a raucous vibe in the stadium, so it does feel authentic even if it isn't always totally convincing, visually speaking. On the positive side of things, the character faces and animations are great, with some actual emotion and celebration that isn't seen in the FIFA series. The game plays incredibly smooth once everything gets going, and there are very few moments, from what I saw, where animations don't jive.
As someone who hasn't played a whole lot of the PES series, I definitely liked what I played from this year's game. There was a great fidelity to the animations, particularly for tackling, running and shooting. I felt there were more “situations” where chances could develop or where a defender could become involved. I think the presentation is a nice half-step, and it's likely to get a whole lot better when the franchise goes next-gen.
My time with PES 2014 at E3 was positive, and I'm curious to get my hands on a more fulsome demo of the game. Our main soccer/football writer Kelvin Mak will be providing coverage on this game up until and through release, so look to him for the scoop on PES 2014.