There’s been an avalanche of tasty demos released on PS3 and Xbox 360 for some big upcoming titles. But are they worth your time? Let’s find out.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2014
The big news with this year’s iteration is that it’s been completely rebuilt using the incredibly shiny FOX Engine, originally designed by Kojima Productions for the next Metal Gear Solid title. This should at least mean that the player characters no longer look like Bizarro World versions of the real-life superstars. Once you get past the menu (with prerequisite annoying dubstep background music), it’s hard to not be impressed with the visual upgrade – players, stadiums and supporters are all shiny and new, although the slightly taller than usual footballers take a bit of getting used to.
Once the whistle blows, though, it’s back into very familiar territory, with the kind of fast-paced passing and shooting that has become the series’ trademark. The framerate can get horribly sticky during a celebration or cutscene, but it wouldn’t be Pro Evo without the odd graphical stutter. However, much more worrying are the few occasions where gravity and physics have an argument and refuse to work together for a few seconds. Bodies slip and slide along the floor like it’s a frathouse foam party and shoes ski backwards in order to line up the perfect kick. But does this affect gameplay? Well, after the winning goal by the opposition team came from a magic moonwalk into position, I immediately turned it off and loaded up FIFA 14. I may still be terrible at Pro Evo, but I can’t excuse that kind of error if it appears in the final product. Hopefully there’ll be time for someone to add a few zeros to the gravity and friction meters.
I loved FIFA 10. For me, it struck the perfect balance between football flow and arcade thrills, just as the Pro Evolution series was scraping its current-gen low point. The iterations that followed, though, lost me – too many unneeded tweaks, too big a shift away from that perfect formula. Luckily, last year’s Pro Evo was so good that I played the demo straight for a week then picked it up the (very respectable) 3DS version so I could be digitally humiliated on the go. However, the ace that FIFA has always had is the exclusive licensing with most of the world’s leagues, making it a more obvious choice for a football purist, with its Ultimate Team mode (which I playtested – true story) being an incredibly attractive addition to the main modes.
Well, it seems from the demo that the game has really captured the FIFA that I remember best, going back to a slower pace that captures much of the beautiful game’s randomness. Play builds naturally and chances are taken in split second decisions, leading to some very authentic-looking outcomes. Maybe it’s just going from one demo to the next, but FIFA really captures the football spirit that can become so addictive. Final reviews will paint the whole picture, but at the moment FIFA 14 is looking like a real champion.
I would tell you how much I hate isometric games and how this demo bored me to tears, but I think my wife could give you a much better review:
“I can’t see anything, it’s too far away.”
“This looks shit.”
“Why is he killing those Undead?”
“I can’t read all that text, why is it so small?”
“Ooh, what’s in the chest, jewellery? Oh.”
“Do you actually like this? It’s awful.”
“Oh no, you couldn’t possibly get past that tiny wagon blocking your path, not with those giant muscles.”
“Maybe stand in that giant triangle. Nothing? Oh.”
Yeah, she’s actually got a point. Maybe this will float your boat, but there’s absolutely nothing here that compels me to keep playing.
Two bonus demos:
If jumping over minions in time to Black Betty then playing air guitar on the body of an unconscious dragon doesn’t make you beam, then you are officially soulless. Play the demo, buy the game, be happy.
OK, so you’ll have to own a PS3 and make a UK PSN login (very, very easy) but it’s worth the hassle – a fairytale adventure set on a theatre stage featuring a puppet with interchangeable heads on a quest to beat a witch. So beautiful and tactile you can almost reach in the screen and grab it.