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REVIEW: 'Pro Evolution Soccer 2014' Looks Better Than FIFA

This latest edition of Pro Evolution Soccer boasts better graphics, even more realistic player movement and a new gaming engine, which allows for some very impressive moments. But how does it stack up to FIFA 2014?

Konami and PES Productions return to the pitch with their latest version of their highly appreciated flagship franchise - Pro Evolution Soccer 2014. Built upon the extensive legacy the teams created, the previous titles were based on one's skill, intuitive creativity, and challenged soccer fans whom enjoyed the sport. PES 2014 manages to live up to the storied legacy of its past iterations, and injects new life in the series without compromising on its original style.

It is hard to truly compare this game to Electronic Arts' massively popular FIFA series, as the lack of licenses for PES can take away from the shine that would attract sports gamers. EA cultivates exclusive deals for their sports franchises, and while PES has managed to do the same—the lack of official licenses from the world's most popular English Premier League creates a perpetual issue for PES 2014 fans. Even though all the players are there, first-time players will complain about being unable to wear their favorite club's official jersey. Longtime fans of PES already know that this is not the main aspect of the title, and will be more concerned about the game's on-field mechanics, which has improved significantly.

Graphically and gameplay-wise, PES 2014 does an extremely great job of pushing the limits of the PlayStation 3 before its console life gives way to the PlayStation 4. With the new FOX Engine in place, PES looks so much better, without compromising on the things that made the title so much fun to play. Konami has implemented "up to 1000" new faces into PES 2014 even after the game's initial release to make players like Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney (Manchester United) look astonishingly better than their real life counterparts. Creating your own football legend has been taken to another level as well, as the FOX Engine allows crafty gamers to use pinpoint modeling of characters faces, which adds a dash of legendary-ness to anyone who wants their player to look like Pele or Ronaldo.

The crux of PES 2014 are its Master League and Be a Legend modes, which play out to be essentially franchise and career mode. In Master League, players are able to take over any team and place them in any league they want, allowing them to achieve world glory and fame. As you set your rosters, map out a game plan, players can buy and sell players, which, when enforced, makes you feel like a real team owner. Legend mode gives you the opportunity to take charge of a real or user-created player in an attempt to topple all competition to become the world's best player. You're able to stay and be a "one-club man" like Ángel Allegri or pick a new team every year like Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

As PES 2014 sticks to its defined DNA, the game's on-field gameplay mechanics remain swift and crisp, albeit with an occasional lag in the game as the console tries to keep pace with the visuals. Never feeling stale or problematic, PES requires true-to-life soccer sense and vision, apart from an easy combination of a well-timed button press. Utilizing "True Ball Tech," PES allows closer control and dribbling is much tighter than ever before. The ability to push the ball ahead while sprinting is a really cool mechanic when taking on players, especially when in one-on-one situations. This is equally due to the Motion Animation Stability System, which is designed to showcase real player response to gameplay situations. Depending on the force and the direction, factors such as a soccer players size and power would impact the way the player and the ball respond.

Glorious improvements aside, PES 2014 still has yet to address their usual gameplay flaws. When compared to last year's effort (PES 2013), the UI still looks outdated and glum. The stadium crowd appears to be faceless at times. Much noise has been made about the new commentary, but it comes off as boring, recycled and at times not in sync with the on-field action. Instantly, gamers will notice how having a lack of popular real world club licenses in the game fails to bring it to a higher level. The game's controls, albeit crisp and wonderful, don't improve the dull experience of playing PES 2014. It simply plays out like an arcade experience.

Unless you're a diehard PES fan, you'll quickly realize why so much applause has been given in FIFA's direction.

There's still a lot of work that Konami needs to do in order to make the PES franchise an irresistible alternative. Licensing woes aside, adding the UEFA Champions League, the Asians Champions League, the Europa League, and the Chilean and Argentine premier leagues are steps in the right directions. PES 2014 is a beautifully lush game where football fans can just start a match and be rewarded by the experience.

A rewarding step forward for PES Productions and Konami doesn't hide their respective issues, but it still manages to create a wonderfully rich and engaging game of football.

Don't believe us?! Well, take a look at the trailer for yourself below:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 is in stores now and available for the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360, and Nintendo 3DS.

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