My love affair with the Pro Evolution Soccer series started way back when PES was actually called ‘ISS’, which stood for International Superstar Soccer. The series was quite simply the best footie series ever and offered a more challenging game, much better than the FIFA games where you could win games 17-0 at the time. When PES made its move to PS3/Xbox 360, my heart was ripped out as Konami had lost the plot and delivered one massive bag of shite.

After a few years, I moved over to EA and that’s where I’ve been for the last 5 years. However, when I played the demo of PES 2014, something felt right. It felt like real football and I was shocked. This was one game I couldn’t wait to get my hands on and review. PES was back! When I booted up PES 2014, I was greeted with the song ‘Nessun Dorma’, one of my favourite Italian songs sung by one of Italy’s finest singers, Andrea Boccelli. It was like I was being welcomed home because the lyrics in English translate to – “Nobody shall sleep! Even you, o Princess, in your cold room, watch the stars, that tremble with love and hope.”

Now I may be going a bit over the top here, but that song made perfect sense – I was the princess that shall not sleep (because I’ll be addicted), my room is cold because it’s in England and those stars, well those stars are the damn Champions League! I’ll stop talking gonads and get on with the review if I haven’t lost you already?! When you boot up PES 2014, you are greeted with a number of setting. Choose your favourite team, favourite player, your difficulty level and loads more. It’s a bit too much in my opinion. I’d rather have Konami already have it all set up and if I find it too hard, that’s when I mess around with the settings. Also, Man Utd are the only licensed English side so expect to do a lot of editing once again with team like Norfolk City and Westside London. After fannying about for several minutes trying to get the settings right, I jumped into an Exhibition Match as Manchester United against Norfolk City (Norwich City). I set my team up with ease in the ‘Game Plan’ menu and then started the match.

The first thing you’ll notice is how much the graphics have improved. PES looks better than ever and some player likenesses are just uncanny. However, that only applies to the top players. Look at other teams, especially in the English League, and you’ll find that a lot of them look very similar. Also, some of them have the wrong hair colour and look nothing like they should do. On to the gameplay and Konami have used a new match engine this year which is called the ‘Fox Engine’ and let me tell you this ? It’s mint! The game feels like real football and pulling of a cracking pass gives you a sense of achievement. Skills take time to master so it’s well worth taking up the ‘Training’ option before you get stuck in. When you have mastered the skills, and they aren’t easy, then you’ll cheer in ecstacy as you beat that last defender and run clean through. Shooting is improved but it does seem quite hard to score placed shots. Also, sometimes you’ll hit a 25 yarder which trickles along the floor, but other times it will be a belter. Maybe it’s just my positioning with the ball. The goalkeepers pull of some cracking saves but they also drop a lot of clangers. Three games in a row I scored because of a goalkeeping clanger.

Sometimes they seem to have butter on their gloves. The ‘True Ball Tech’ in PES 2014 transforms how the ball moves and how the players manipulate it. You’ll see players shift their body weight when changing direction and this adds to the realism. With the ‘True Ball Tech’ dribbling feels much tighter but it was sprinting with the ball which excited me most. By hitting the RB/R1 button you can knock the ball ahead and run onto it. This is most effective when trying to beat the last defender. Tackling has always been a bit of a flaw in current-gen PES games, in my opinion. Every time I go in for a sliding tackle it feels like my player is going in hard to hurt the opponent. Most of the time I end up on the receiving end of a yellow card so it’s best to double tap the X/A button to perform a standing tackle. The Motion Animation Stability System is designed to make the game more physical and it does a decent job. A lot of tussling goes on especially if you’re in a corner but it also happens sometimes when you’re through on goal with the last defender trying to hold you off. I guess it makes the game more realistic but it’s bloody annoying as you can’t pull off that piledriver of an effort.

There’s a new feature called ‘Heart’ which is supposed to give your team a stat boost. So say if you were a goal down and the crowd were getting behind you with 10 minutes to go. Your team then get a boost in morale and play better, apparently. I can’t say I noticed his and I’d be a bit cheesed off if I’d dominated 1-0 for 80 minutes, only to be ‘cheated’ by the opposition getting a stat boost. But like I said, I’ve not even noticed anything with this ‘Heart’ feature so nothing to worry about there methinks. The PES Master League returns but doesn’t really see many changes this year. You can join another club side throughout a season or manage a national team but that’s about it really. You can also play the Champions League or UEFA Europa League with the team of your choice and there’s always the chance to jump online. PES always gets compared to its rival FIFA and although this is quite possibly the best game in the series, it’s still behind FIFA in terms of game modes and value.