It’s one of gaming’s true rivalries. To some, it almost supersedes the classic Mario and Sonic rivalry. Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA have been battling it out for the top spot in the world of football gaming since I was a child. In the early days, when it evolved from International Superstar Soccer and into the Pro Evolution Soccer we know it as today, Konami’s brainchild had same story every year. Pro Evolution Soccer couldn’t compete with the sponsorship that FIFA had. Without real kits and team names, it was always going to be hard to compete with the stronghold that FIFA had and still has on the football world. However, Pro Evo was always a much better pure football experience. This was until 2007 when EA Sports seriously stepped up their game with a whole new engine. Since then, Konami have found it hard to compete with FIFA’s realism and ever-improving gameplay. So the question is, have they done it this year? Let’s read on and find out.
Let’s start with the nitty gritty, the core of every football game, the gameplay. It’s such a strange situation. If FIFA never existed, I could play Pro Evo 2014 and say that this is a great game. One that I could even play a lot of the time. But sadly, this is one game that will constantly live in comparison to another. It’s just not as good. The gameplay feels rigid and uninspired. With an entirely new glossy engine, Konami have still failed to make players off the ball do any sort of work. In fact, the only way you’ll see any off-ball innovation is if you initiate the one-two pass. I will give credit where credit is due. Hand the ball over to Ronaldo or Messi and you will see yourself thinking that they run, pass, and move exactly like their real life counterparts. I also noticed this signature movement whenever Cesc Fabregas was on the ball, this is something that FIFA could truly learn from. Unfortunately, this is where the innovation dies. Any player that isn’t a superstar will run in straight lines, pass with no finesse, and cross like somebody lined it up with a ruler. The only time you’ll see any kind of realistic ball movement is when you shoot. To be completely honest, this feels like nothing more than a 3D version of Sensible Soccer.
One thing that I’ve believed for years is that Pro Evolution is much nicer looking than FIFA. The player’s faces and kits have looked so impressive for years. However, the switch to the new Fox Engine means that Konami have had to start from scratch. Although the players that they have made an effort to render look absolutely fantastic, and miles better than FIFA. Having to start from the beginning means that they haven’t put the work in on a number of high profile players that they have in the years before. This is a genuine disappointment, but it will get better year by year as it did before. But instead of dwelling on the ugliness of a player having a default edit face, we can focus on the positives. What they have worked on looks absolutely fantastic, adding to this and working hard on the gameplay can really put this game on top again.
It’s time to address the elephant in the room. Sponsorships and teams. You have to look at this objectively. This is a world where all games based on real sports and leagues should strive for realism first and foremost. With that In mind, the lack of real teams and kits in the most popular league in the world is truly an issue. An issue that it seems just cannot be fixed. As a supporter of the great North London Red, I find it hard to play as the team I support and love in this game. On the bright side, Serie A and La Liga sports full kits, real names, and stadiums. This is one saving grace for Konami. Another coup in this vein is the return of the Champions League. There is nothing like starting a match and hearing that beautiful theme blaring from the television. It genuinely adds a sense of awe and wonder. Bumping down a game’s score due to a lack of licensing does seem a tad harsh. However, this is a game where realism is the key to success. Pro Evo fails extensively in this instance.
Where FIFA’s menus have become easy and seamless to navigate, Pro Evolution’s are archaic and rage inducing in comparison. Getting into a simple kick-off friendly match is even a task that takes time. Setting up your squad is so painful that you would just give up nine times out of ten. The menu music is despicably horrible as well. Just avoid it completely and turn on your own tunes. Word of warning, keep it on during the matches as John Motson’s horrific commentary makes an epic comeback.
Multiplayer and online returns. There’ nothing to the multiplayer as it it just a kick-off game with two people. Getting online was frustrating for me. Finding a stable connection with another player seemed to be a daunting task, but it finally happened after 45 minutes of trying. It appears that the game just won’t work at all if you don’t attempt to connect to people nearby or in surrounding countries.
To sum up, I once loved Pro Evolution Soccer. It was an amazing series that innovated its use of the beautiful game year after year. After losing their way this generation, they never really did come back. This is a game that utilises nothing new in terms of gameplay. In fact, it appears to back track completely. Ignore the licenses for a moment, put this side by side with FIFA, it just isn’t fun and I wouldn’t recommend it to a soul. I think it’s time for some new blood to try and combat EA and FIFA, I nominate 2K Sports.
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