To avoid any arguments or confrontation, there are three subjects to avoid in conversation: religion, politics, and the big FIFA vs. PES debate that rages each year and divides gaming football fans whilst raising tensions in a heartbeat.
Before this debate gets underway, I feel compelled briefly explain my history with the biggest football games in Europe before a barrage of abuse is aimed in my general direction.
Way back in 2005 before This Is My Joystick existed in this world, fans of arcade-style football games played FIFA whilst real football fans scoffed and played what many considered to be the best football game ever made, which was Pro Evolution Soccer 5. Rather than beating someone 6-0, gamers had to play tactically like the beautiful game and grind out a 1-0 win.
It was around this time that I became acquainted with our editor Andy Corrigan on a website called Pro Evo Network, where a full league quickly became Nirvana for footy fans and my management of the French side Rennes will stay with me forever (which is not something I should probably admit in the public domain).
PES 6 came along the following year and although the game had a few issues, it was probably my most played football title ever. Yet after this glory period, a wind of change swirled through the traditional football games as PES quite frankly went to shit and was riddled with lag and strange glitches. Meanwhile, back in EA headquarters, FIFA was changing things and ironically becoming a thinking man’s football game, whilst PES started to have an arcade-like feel in a bizarre switch-around. The rest, as they say, is history.
Enough of the past. This is 2012 and we have two brand new games to play, but the age-old argument of ‘which is better: PES or FIFA’ rages on as it always has.
Although I am guilty of switching to FIFA in recent years, I still play with PES controls and zoom the camera out when putting my game head on, so maybe this is where my heart lies.
PES comes to life on the pitch.
With great excitement and a hint of nostalgia I opened my review copy of PES on the 13thSeptember after being genuinely impressed by the demo, but my excitement quickly turned to disappointment to see that the Man Utd squad contained Berbatov but Van Persie was nowhere to be seen. I’m sure this will be corrected in an update, but this is mid September; it can’t be that difficult to have something like this ready.
Enough of my complaining. I’m a sucker for a David vs. Goliath story, so let’s resist being shallow by mocking the fact that FIFA have so much money that they can own the vast majority of licenses, forcing PES to include made-up names of players and team names such as West London Whites. Gaming is not all about names and labels, so let’s take a look at what the game itself has to offer.
PES fans will be familiar with the Become a Legend, Master League and licensed Champions League modes, but the true strength of PES has always been the gameplay which takes time to master but brings great rewards to those that invest a little time.
If you think football games just consist of a sprint, pass, through-ball, cross, tackle and shoot button then this is probably not the game for you. To get the most out of this game you need to master a control system known as ‘PES Full Control’. A quick look at the manual illustrates that this is no arcade game.
PES players have unbelievable tekkers.
Once again this feels like the PES that we all fell in love with so many years ago, despite us drifting away and becoming spoilt by EA with their shiny bells and whistles. The gameplay and controls that PES offers feels like being reunited with an old friend that you could talk with for hours.
Many aspects of the game may look a little too old school on the surface to gain any new adopters, but I can still promise great rewards for those that are willing to give this underdog a chance. This is the best offering from Konami in many years.
FIFA is quite the opposite of PES and is all about more bang for your buck in an unashamed Jerry Bruckheimer movie kind of way; some might say that it is shallow with no heart and soul, but it will entertain the hell out of you whether you like it or not.
EA continue their strong partnership with Sky Sports and footy fans will giggle with delight when a player pulls up limping only to hear the commentator say “Now we go down to our sideline reporter, Geoff Shreeves”.
There is no escape from this attempt at authenticity. If you head over to Career mode, you get Sky’s Alan McInally announcing other goals from games around you with boundless amounts of enthusiasm and lines such as “Michael Owen with a long-range screamer”, not to mention talking you through penalties as they happen. This genuinely gives you the feeling you are actually being featured on Sky Sports.
There are negatives to FIFA though. Ultimate Team is probably in need of an overhaul and appears to be little more than a Vegas Casino. The only purpose is to empty your wallet as quickly as possible before you get bored of the game and look back thinking: “did I really spend £50 on virtual items?”
With so many game modes at your disposal (over 50 tournaments for starters), the menu system can be darn right confusing sometimes and has been neglected by EA; it desperately needs some attention.
Separating the online pro and offline pro can only be a good move which will hopefully stop offline boosters and mods ruining the online aspect of the game. The shoehorned Kinect aspect is fun, but only resulted in my wife laughing at me sat in my pants with a controller frantically shouting “Substitution” several times, only for nothing to happen.
FIFA has evolved into much more than just a football game. When starting up your console it can be quite difficult choosing exactly what to play. For example, do you continue with your offline or online career? Simply play a season’s match? Or settle down and tweak your Ultimate Team? These are just a few of the many options available to you which will guarantee you won’t be getting bored anytime soon.
In truth, no matter what I or anyone else will tell you, your mind as to which football title you will purchase this year and which camp you belong to is a decision that has probably been made before the demos even came out. Make no mistake, though; this one particular argument will be the subject of many a heated debate in the pub and terraces over the next few weeks.
If you are a real football fan, it would be unforgivable to not give PES 2013 a try this autumn for just how far the game has improved. Sure there is the cheesy Euro pop soundtrack, dated-looking menus, lack of licensed teams, strips and players, but this has never been Konami’s strong point. You could argue that these things are just gift wrapping anyway, and their true success lies in concentrating on the most important aspect of any sports title: the gameplay itself. This season, PES fans will not be disappointed.
As for FIFA, with maybe a hint of arrogance, EA must realise they are on top of their game. Although they have tweaked rather than revolutionised their franchise, football fans have something that can only be described as “everything under one roof”. There are so many authentic football experiences to play through, even the hardcore fan will be kept very busy until the end of the season. In that respect, it represents better value for money.
Konami have improved PES immensely this year and edge a step closer to regaining their former glory. Yet rather than sit back on their throne, EA have raised the bar yet again with FIFA 13, which is proof that competition is good for consumers and presents gamers with a pleasant dilemma of what good football game to buy.
So although this year’s PES vs. FIFA fixture is a very tight match, I think FIFA just snatches a 1-0 win deep into injury time. Just don’t ever underestimate the underdog, because as Jimmy Greaves once said, football is a funny old game.