There comes a time in the year when according to an ancient tradition, sport fans are dealt their annual videogame franchise releases. The scrolls say that every 365 days, we’re to receive a handful of new entries in long standing, traditional sport series. Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is here to fill its place in these troubled times as Konami’s representative and battle it out with its competitors. Is it a champion or does it have two left feet?
For the most part, Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 plays very well. Like its numerous predecessors, the beautiful game is at its finest when the ball starts rolling. Player movement is fluid and natural and the ball is affected by physics realistically. Stadiums in particular look true to their real life counterparts, especially the South American arenas, new to this year’s version. La Bombonera really seems like it’s about to burst open! True to the sport, playingProEvo is a lot of fun, thanks to overall intuitive controls and improvements made since the last couple of iterations. New to 2013, a few new dribbling options make the gameplay even deeper and exciting, if you can master their sometimes finicky execution.
This ain’t no photo shoot, Mr. Goalie, stand up!
Far from fun, though, is having to deal with the clutter of menus Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 places in your way way in between and even during matches. Apart from looking awful and drab, the amount of screens you have to click through just to get into the team selection screen is astounding. Not to mention the absolutely terrible online interface that is bound to have you scratching your head as you wonder why they make it so difficult just to get into a simple online match against a random opponent. The goal of making a deeper online infrastructure is far from being reached, thanks to the overly complicated interface, although the options are there if you can take a few hours off just to explore it – regional lobbies provide individual competition possibilities if you can gather a certain number of people, as well as a trading marketplace for players, including your creations.
Aside from the interface annoyances, there’s a few other options to mess around with besides multiplayer and your cookie cutter exhibition modes. The Champions and Europa League licenses are put to use in their individual championship modes, as well as the Santander Libertadores of America tournament. Each of these puts you (and friends) up against regional teams in a variety of tournament formats, for a chance at the cup. New to this year, the Brazilian League license brings much needed real world names and uniforms to squads like Fluminense and São Paulo, which is sure to bring a smile to one of Konami’s biggest Pro Evolution Soccermarkets in the world. Playing through the tournaments is exciting and authentic, thanks to the updated team rosters and real player names, which makes the old days of playing International Superstar Soccer seem so far ago.
Speaking of International Superstar Soccer, it’s worth noting how terrible the play by play narration and commentary by the British duo Jon Champion and Jim Beglin is abysmal. Not only are they usually muted, wooden and monosyllabic, but they quickly become repetitive. So much so that during my very first match after getting the game, they were already reusing lines. This wouldn’t be as bad of a problem if the lines were actually going on as the plays happened on the field, which sadly is far from what happens, they usually come in way too late and thus break the play by play illusion as a rock shatters a glass window during a hooligan riot. It’s really that bad – even worse than the old games and the screaming commentator.
Dead men walking! Dead men walking onto the pitch!
Besides those events, you can partake in an in-depth training mode that teaches you most, if not all of the soccer basics, as well as the more complicated tricks you can use during matches. Everything from simply passing the ball to an extensive foul kick drill is there for you to practice and hopefully perfect your skills for actual matches against the computer controlled and human opponents, online or off. Or maybe you’d like to get a feel or being a real soccer player? Diving into the elite mode gives you that chance. Starting from the bottom and making your way to the top clubs is back, once again, and is yet another way to keep the replayability going once you are through with everything else. Even though the customization options are fairly limited, there’s plenty to go through if you can once again tolerate all the obstacles in your way, in form of menus, unskippable (and non-voiced) cutscenes and dialogue boxes.
Other than the aforementioned problems, the presentation of the game in terms of graphics, at least, is top notch. Players look realistic and as close to their real life counterparts as possible. Comparisons to this year’s versions of FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer are bound to pop up online (if they haven’t already) in terms of who got the best looking Ronaldinho Gaúcho or ‘Carlito’ Tévez, which as always, refreshes my faith in humanity. Regardless of which side you stand with, ProEvo 2013 is a good looking game overall. Sound wise, it’ll depend on how much you can stand the now “in” tunes during menus, which can be thankfully filtered through a playlist, if you wish, or turned off altogether. Aside from the terrible commentary, the in-game sounds help give it an authentic feel, thanks to some ambient effects and voices, done in the local languages, like Portuguese chanting cheer squads in a stadium in Portugal, or screams from the players and coaches as a match begins.
In the end, Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 leaves the pitch as a good soccer game hidden behind a terrible (in all aspects) interface. Unfortunately for the game, giving tons of options and things to click through quickly goes from being a plus to being a huge turn off, thanks to some of the worst interface design I’ve ever seen in a videogame. When in comes to actually playing the game, if you stomach these issues, Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 can be a deep experience and a very decent way to enjoy the beautiful game.