Published on March 25th, 2013 | by David Bryant23
What FIFA 14 Can Learn From PES2013
FIFA’s commercial success over the last few years has I’m sure exceeded all of EA’s internal projections and because of this meteoric rise, the only game mentioned in the same breath as the latest FIFA title these days, is Call of Duty. In terms of sales anyway, but away from the media hype and meticulous financial reporting FIFA has just one true rival, a rival which EA ignore at their peril.
The demise of PES has been well documented since the turn of this console generation but the shoots of recovery have been evident more recently too. The promise of a new engine for PES2014 has raised expectations further but until Konami show their hand, what the future holds for PES still remains unclear.
What about the now seemingly forgotten PES2013 though? Well, I’ve spent some time playing it recently and as well as thoroughly enjoying myself it’s also shone a light on some of FIFA’s own deficiencies which EA could change without having to reinvent the wheel. So with that in mind, what can FIFA 14 learn from PES2013?
Space, Positioning and Pitch Dimensions
One of the first things I noticed when playing my very first game of PES2013 were the dimensions of the pitch. It feels absolutely massive compared to FIFA and the gameplay benefits from this extra space on a number of levels. The regulatory dimensions for a professional football pitch are freely available from both FIFA and UEFA so either Konami have artificially extended PES2013’s pitches beyond the norm, or EA have got it spectacularly wrong.
If anybody owns both games I urge you to try the direct comparison. Play any standard exhibition game of PES and then jump back to FIFA and play a game at the Emirates, a spacious pitch by any standards. The difference is stark, not only in overall pitch size (see 18 yard box, to corner flag distance), but player model size too. FIFA’s players look huge, and on a smaller playing surface it’s easy to see how problems with pressure and increased game speed come about.
Could some of this could be caused camera angles perhaps? In which PES goes for a more aerial view compared to FIFA’s flatter default camera position. Sadly, manually changing FIFA’s camera to mimic PES does little to explain-away this feeling of claustrophobia, it just feels and looks to small in comparison.
The benefits this extra space provides to PES are obvious in that you actually get thinking time on the ball. Not so much that you can amble but enough to allow your football brain, rather you’re your button reflex to dictate play. The additional room also means that formations can move organically, up and down, left or right as the ball position changes. This makes PES look more natural and the best example of PES2013’s better use of positioning is probably goal kicks. In PES the only player in camera shot for a goal kick is the goalkeeper. In FIFA there’s the goalkeeper, a full back four, a few attackers and most of midfield. Watch any football match; anywhere in the world and see for yourself which setup is closer to the real deal.
I found this lack of space the most frustrating element when going back to my beloved FIFA from PES, mostly because the problem at least on the surface seems so simple. PES has a bigger pitch; therefore it also has more time, space and freedom to play. FIFA in comparison feels cramped and its far superior animation fluidity only heightens the problem because the space you do have, becomes condensed that much quicker anyway.
After playing PES2013 I’m convinced now, more so than ever that EA must go back and look at fundamental pitch and player dimensions for FIFA 14. The difference between PES feels far too great for it to be artistic direction alone and if Konami have indeed artificially extended their playing area, it may be logical for EA to do the same.
Tackling and Jockeying
It’s been two years since Contain came to FIFA and when I first saw it in action at a very early web conference I was in awe of EA’s new jockeying system. But as the presentation on Contain was coming to a close, the systems one major flaw struck home. What if you can hold just a single button and mirror another player’s movement indefinitely?
That’s the battle EA have been fighting with Contain since its inception and what PES2013 has shown me, is that it’s probably time for Contain to depart. Konami don’t have a perfect jockeying system themselves, nor do they have one which is pushing technological boundaries, but for the most part, what they do have works. You hold “O” to jockey and everything else from lateral positioning, to how far you drop off is completely free and under your command with the analogue stick. To time a tackle you release “O” and then press “O” again and that’s it. It’s brutally simple but crucially it places the right amount focus on user ability allowing clear definition between good defensive positioning and bad defensive positioning.
Contain is a defensive crutch which needs removing from FIFA’s already extensive range of assists and I think the community would actually be very receptive should EA decide to get rid of it. One thing EA should keep is the initiation of a defensive jockey via the face buttons (rather than trigger) because transitioning from jockey to tackle feels much more natural this way. But apart from that, Contain should go and in its place, a simpler tackling mechanic which rewards user skill and intelligence should take over.
Before I delve in to this topic I’d just like to make one thing very clear, PES2013 does not have better locomotion physics than FIFA, in fact it’s probably PES’s worst and most glaring deficiency. The animation fluidity can be jerky at times, player torso’s and player legs still look like separate entities and transitions can feel very stop, start in certain situations.
What’s important though is that these minute delays between each animation in PES2013 actually add a more realistic feel to movement in terms of the time it takes for things to happen on screen. In FIFA 13 everything feels instant whether its turning, taking a first touch or passing, the entire game is alive with urgency and responsiveness. The engine is literally bursting to show you what it has to offer and that’s a brilliant thing. The trade off is that 90 degree turns direct from sprinting with no physical penalty are all too common in FIFA along with a host of other locomotion niggles exploited regularly online.
Like I said right at the start PES2013 doesn’t have brilliant foot planting tech, or advanced weight distribution physics but what PES does have, is the knowhow to make one of series biggest weaknesses in to one of its strengths, perhaps accidentally I don’t know? I’ve championed Locomotion improvements for FIFA both here and on FSB for well over a year now but as well as new technology like NHL’s “true performance skating” system I think EA also need to look towards the speed at which FIFA’s beautifully animated players move. Just a single frame added or subtracted could make all the difference in this finest of balancing acts.
Presentation and Licensing
It might seem a little odd for me to pick out licensing as a strength of PES2013 compared to the fully licensed FIFA game which is industry renowned for its authenticity. But this is less about the volume of licenses each game possesses on disk and more about what Konami have done with the licenses they do have, namely the Champions League.
When the Champions League mode starts up in PES2013 and that iconic music begins to play, it literally sends shivers down the spine. Not only because it’s the Champions League, but also because the boundaries between game and reality are blurring right in front of you – for a second, I’d forgotten I was on the Playstation.
After the rousing intro you then find that everything within the Champions League mode in PES2013 is custom built for Europe’s most prestigious competition. Every menu, sub-menu, ad board, cut scene and league table is meticulously crafted around that single license and it’s a joy to play through. In fact, it feels like it could be a separate game entirely and that really is the hallmark of brilliant license utilisation.
For EA to do something similar with FIFA and all the weight of official licensing it carries would be a big challenge but it shouldn’t be viewed as an impossible one either. At the moment, besides an official logo and a different colour scheme we actually get very little bang for our buck with FIFA’s licensing power and PES2013’s Champions League mode really is the shining example for EA to follow.
Signing up leagues and teams to be licensed officially in your game is the easy bit, using those ingredients to create the feeling of regional diversity and bespoke atmosphere is much more difficult and at the moment, compared to The Champions League license at least, FIFA is some way off the pace.
Playing PES2013 has been an eye opening experience for me and having not played since PES 2008 and not bought it since PES 6 I have in part, managed to rekindle many fond memories of old. It’s a different experience to FIFA and it always has been but whilst FIFA is being railroaded by mass market dominance, PES seems to have stayed quietly within the same fundamental framework, some of which still surpasses EA’s technological advances even now. This single-minded approach has clearly held the game back in other areas too, but PES remains a very playable and very enjoyable football experience when it fires on all cylinders.
The issues around pitch and player model dimensions were the most alarming difference between the two games and discovering that alone has made this process worthwhile. I’d urge EA to look at this as a priority if they can and will make that point through the channels I have open to me. I’ve shared discussions around pitch size with EA devs in the past and the constraint as I understand it, is actually the stadium models, which would need to be re-modelled from scratch. That would represent a huge undertaking for EA but the potential benefits on offer I feel would perhaps ratify that effort and decision for them.
Football gaming news is soon to be swamped with Konami’s new PES engine and the FIFA 14 reveal but there’s still plenty of mileage left for me with this year’s crop of games. Ironically playing PES2013 has actually made me a better FIFA player (at least it seems to) so as hype builds for the next generational leap, I’ll be enjoying both games happily until September.
If you have any questions about my time with PES in general or the thoughts above, hit the comments.