When it comes to premium football games on consoles you have two options, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) or FIFA. Both fans feel very passionately about their preferred title and are normally very loyal to that brand. FIFA is the old man of the two series having first been introduced in 1993; PES however didn’t come about till 2001, as it was previously known as ISS (International Superstar Soccer). Traditionally PES always had the better game play and FIFA had the best licenses however over the past few years and since this current generation of consoles FIFA upped it’s game to have loads more features and improve it’s game play. It is fair to say that since PES 6 the game and the sales started going south and with FIFA’s mammoth marketing has kept it at the top for nearly five years. But could PES finally be close to catching up? Or could this be the year that it really does go neck and neck over the finish line?

Konami have really outdone themselves this year and have pretty much put together a whole new game experience. The game features pretty much the same game modes as in previous years but there is a distinct and quicker feel to getting into a game. You have “Master League” where you step into the life of a manager and enter a world of tactical thinking to try and push your selected team to the top of world rankings by winning as many trophies as possible and maybe be lucky enough to win the famous treble (League, Domestic Cup, and Champions League). Then you have the “Become a Legend” game mode where you create your own footballer and play only as that player in matches, you choose whatever position you want and look to assist your team in winning games and trophies whist looking to break into the international scene and look into moving to some of the biggest clubs on the planet. In “Become a Legend” you also have individual awards and trophies to work towards such as league player of the season for each of the different divisions, Most valuable player for each cup competition, then you have the two major individual awards that every player wants to win, “UEFA Best player in Europe” award and the “World footballer of the year” award.

PES has a few critics over its licenses in the English league as this season it only has Manchester United but it makes up with loads of international club team licenses. The non-licensed teams have the correct player images and correct names so apart from the badge and actually team name they are spot on. No one can knock PES for its cup competition licenses. The game features separate modes for the “UEFA Champions League” and the “Copa Santander Libertadories” which is the South American equivalent. When loading up the UEFA edition you get the iconic Champions League theme song come on and an amazing looking clip that makes you feel like you’re about to watch a Champions League match. On top of all these game modes you have the online modes if you feel you’re good enough for the challenge.

The game has many new tricks and skills that can be practised in the training area, they can be quite difficult to get the hang of but once you get used to them then they will really enhance your experience of the game. The graphics look really good, the players faces look sharp and the lighter tones makes it look more realistic. The player’s movement still seems a bit jerky, it doesn’t feel as fluid as it could to but the way you can pass the ball around and the players making themselves available for a pass makes the game more exciting to play. However I would expect this to change in next year’s edition as it is will be developed on the FOX engine. The AI within the game beats FIFA hands down, it’s not perfect, but it’s much better than FIFA in this department. Players try and make themselves available in space for a pass and will cover for a defender if he comes missing, the full backs will make those overlapping runs to support the attack which can be a big help when it comes to breaking teams down.

The online mode has also seen some subtle improvements and it certainly takes less time to find an opponent. Within the online mode there are a number of competitions you can get involved in which adds more fun when competing online. The game also takes you through a fair grading system where you play your first five games to determine what level you start the game on.

Many people agree that this is the first PES in a few years that really works well, they have made a lot of changes and I think they will really pay off. The game looks great and it plays a lot better than its predecessors. To answer the question “could this be the year PES comes out on top?” I think it has a very good chance of being right up alongside FIFA if people just give the game a chance.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2013 is available now for Play Station 3, Xbox 360, Wii, PSP, 3DS and PC.

Review in association with Duracell Gaming Accessories, which are available from Amazon, Play.com and Zavvi.com Review by Thomas Thompsett, White Room Games. Edited by Luiz Ferreira