A lot of people ask me, â€˜which football game is better â€“ FIFA or Pro Evo?â€™ Over the years I have reviewed both titles for a number of iterations for NZGamer.com and there is no question that they are completely different games. Up until FIFA â€™08, Konamiâ€™s Pro Evolution series was at the forefront of the genre and was the best thing gamers had in the gaming world of football.
Since that time, the competition has helped to breed innovation and many would argue that FIFA has come out on top. They managed to bring a whole new level of accessibility to the game. And itâ€™s here that the real difference between Pro Evo and FIFA is apparent.
Comparatively, FIFA is for casual gamers. While EAâ€™s version features plenty of depth and realism, it certainly isnâ€™t the serious, enduring experience of Pro Evo. You could almost go as far to say that Pro Evo is the â€˜thinking manâ€™s football gameâ€™. It certainly is â€˜the patient manâ€™s football gameâ€™ at any rate.
It involves more intricacy, subtlety, and perseverance than its rival. With a lot of practice, players will be far more involved in the game than those knocking the old pigâ€™s skin around in FIFA. Every touch of the ball and the slightest flick of the control stick has a noticeable impact in Pro Evo. Mastering the intimidating number of button combinations is only half the battle too. Itâ€™s equally important to know exactly how each individual player likes to strike the ball, how his body needs to be balanced, and what part of the foot he likes to strike the ball with, to get the most out of the shot - or even just execute a decent pass.
Unlike the arcade-feel of FIFA, Pro Evo is about hyper-simulation and newcomers to the franchise would certainly feel frustrated from the kick-off. But Pro Evo rewards those who take the time to master the game, giving them more control and usually a greater sense of satisfaction when everything finally â€˜clicks into placeâ€™.
Because of this complexity, every match is a different experience. Every goal, trick, or tackle feels more meaningful Ââ€“ purely because achieving anything in the game requires a lot of hard-work and constant attention. Pro Evo definitely isnâ€™t a game to sit down with a couple of beers to unwind with.
For those who do have the perseverance though, Pro Evo has plenty on offer and this latest incarnation builds on last year's admirably. For starters, the 2013 edition offers complete manual passing and for the first time, even manual shooting. Again, both these features require a determined player, but when mastered allow you to adjust the height and power of each.
For example, long low passes can be sent skimming across the pitch into open areas without worrying about the computer guessing where you intended the pass to go. Shooting is also fully in your control, letting you fine-tune the angle and strength of your shot to eliminate any guesswork (or plain luck). Nearly every touch of the ball requires some user input, even simple actions like trapping the ball requires the player to hold down the right trigger.
Pro Evo takes advantage of pretty much every button, trigger, and analogue stick combination to unleash a daunting level of control. For instance, deftly using the left and right sticks allows players to stroke the ball around, keeping it close and rolling it around under the sole of their boot to lure in a defender â€“ before skipping past them with the grace of a flamingo. Itâ€™s beautiful (and satisfying) to watch when executed well, but frustrating and awkward until perfected.
Moving on from the controls, one of the main shortcomings in Pro Evo for me has always been the number of teams and tournaments licensed to the game. While itâ€™s a bit rough that the powerhouse that is EA Sports managed to grab them all, a lot can be said for being able to play through the A-League with the Wellington Phoenix FC.
However Pro Evo 2013 does have a decent number of teams and leagues in place. The roster of International teams from the regions of Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas are comprehensive, including squads from Romania, Peru, Tunisia, and more. Players can also expect the Barclayâ€™s Premier League (the only licensed team here is Manchester United) and also the premier French, Netherlands, and Italian Leagues. There are over 250 teams in the game, but only a small fraction of these are properly licensed, which means odd facial details on the player models and even discrepancies with the strips and player names.
Instead, Pro Evoâ€™s trump card would have to be the fully licensed Liga BBVA, which features the likes of FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, and of course, Real Madrid CF with the gameâ€™s poster boy, Cristiano Ronaldo. Also for the first time, the full roster of 20 teams from the Brazilian national league, Campeonato Brasileiro Serie A are here, offering plenty of pace and flair on the pitch which is a joy to behold. As long as youâ€™re watching skilled players behind the controls. My game resulted in three red cards and a goal-less scoreline.
The difference in skill is extremely apparent when playing online, but playing against fellow humans who are capable of mistakes does make PES a more rewarding experience. Players can find a balanced opponent fairly easily thanks to public statistics such as number of games played / won and their overall ranking in a global leaderboard. In fact, under the â€˜MyPESâ€™ section, players can study nearly every single facet of their game, complete with slick graphs and tables full of data. For those with real egos, Pro Evo 2013 is fully setup with social media networking too, allowing you to post updates and photos on Facebook.
Konami have stated that they have listened to their die-hard fans and Pro Evo 2013 has certainly improved in a lot of areas. They have matched the realistic physics that EAâ€™s FIFA introduced and definitely expanded on the array of individual animations to allow for a far greater depth to the controls. While I donâ€™t think Pro Evo 2013 will knock FIFA off its perch this time around, itâ€™s worth noting that Kei Masuda, the Lead Developer of PES, has stated that this game is the last to feature the current game engine. EA would be fools to rest easy with Konami looking to reinstate their dominance once again, and this healthy competition is great news for consumers.
Personally, Pro Evo 2013 feels a bit too much like work. Videogames are meant to be fun and, while I appreciate the finesse and hardcore aptitude required to impress in Pro Evo, I canâ€™t help but think that time would be better spent on a pitch mastering the real-life sport. Juggling the ball in Pro Evo almost seems harder than it is in actuality. The unfriendly stark menus and uninspired loading screens donâ€™t help inject much fun into the experience either. But at the end of the day, both FIFA and Pro Evo have their place. Our advice is, make sure you check out the free demo of Pro Evo 2013 to see if itâ€™s for you. Just ensure you have a couple of hours to fully explore the controls before returning to FIFA.