Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2013

All the world loves soccer, sometimes to a slightly worrying degree. America has football, Canada has hockey, the rest of the world has soccer. With an audience encompassing a crazy-huge percentage of the planet’s population, any game based on it had better do it right. Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 nails the gameplay, with a smooth, fast pace and a control system that offers something for both pick-up-and-play gamers and those who want to sink their teeth into its deep move set.

It’s worth noting, before diving in too far, that Pro Evolution Soccer is a series in the midst of reconstruction. The gameplay modes are identical to 2012’s version, the visuals are passable, and it’s missing official licenses for most of the teams. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done to bring this up to speed in everything but the gameplay department. Seeing as it controls perfectly, however, offering a round of soccer that flows gracefully from one situation to the next, these problems are easily forgiven.

The major upgrades for this year’s model are all in the gameplay, which goes a long way towards proving the developer put its priorities in exactly the right place. The systems involving the more subtle moves, such as trapping a passed ball by bouncing it lightly off your chest so it drops perfectly at your feet, ready for instant maneuvering, require some tricky timing. The pace of the game and the basics are simple enough, though, that a total scrub can pick up the controller and have a great time getting the ball moving. A more practiced player can use the special moves to great advantage over a noob, of course, but that’s why a deep tutorial system is instantly accessible for every trick in the game.

If that makes PES 2013 sound suspiciously similar to a fighting game, there’s a good reason for that. It honestly feels like a fighter involving an eleven-member horde a field, with basic moves being fun to pull off and incredibly effective in the hands of an experienced pro. The more complicated moves, which require careful timing on the button presses plus good situational awareness to use effectively, aren’t quite as pyrotechnically flashy as a three-bar super, but they can be just as deadly. Your body is a team strategically arrayed about the field, and the AI does an incredible job of keeping the non-controlled teammates in positions so that you can always press forward or work defense in a near-effortless flow of action.

Closing Comments:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 has done an excellent job at refreshing a series that had gotten rough around the edges. There’s still plenty of work to be done to recreate the game modes for next year’s model, but the additions and changes to the basic gameplay have made this something to anticipate. In the meantime, the core experience of the on-field play is more than strong enough to easily justify this year’s release. Like any of the best games, getting the most out of the deeper moves is going to take more than a little practice, but the payoff is a near-magical level of control. Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is tactical arcade sports action at its finest, and an easy way to lose far too many hours maneuvering a bouncy black and white ball into a net at the end of a grassy field.

Version Reviewed: PS3