When it comes to football games one of the most talked about (and one of the worst in my opinion) is the EA Sports FIFA series. At one time they had decent competition from Pro Evolution Soccer which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, but a lack of licenced content and minor improvements between titles created a gap so big PES was left eating FIFA’s dust. Now I played Pro Evo a couple years back on the PS3 and I was amazed at how much more fun the game was than FIFA despite still having teams such as Man Blue and Merseyside Red, not to mention players who looked nothing like their real life counterparts. However since then PES has improved drastically and with Konami dropping all other AAA titles but this, well it could be on for a comeback that will see the franchise knock FIFA off its perch (much like Sir Alex Ferguson said he’d do to Liverpool when he took charge of the scum…I mean Manchester United).
It seems that Konami have begun to learn from FIFA and gamers who were disappointed with a lack of official content, considerably improving the latest title in many areas. Instead of players who have one name and look like someone from a different planet, players now show a real resemblance to their real life form, with many players signing deals to promote the game such as Neymar and Totti (whose famous selfie celebration also makes it into the game). As well as the faces of the players, the game now has more official teams than ever before with the likes of Manchester United now being included, however, there is still more room for improvement with teams still geographically named like Derbyshire (Derby) and South West Glamorgan City (Swansea City).
Despite fewer teams being geographically named though I still think more has to be done with this because without official leagues, teams, kits and badges from the number one league in the world, it still sadly lacks behind FIFA in some aspects. Licencing has obviously improved nevertheless with PES not only having exclusivity over the Asian Champions League and UEFA’s top tournaments but it has also bagged the likes of Copa Libertadores and exclusive Brazilian teams that were poached from FIFA. This is a serious step in the right direction, but like I mention above, when it comes to the Premier League they need to make a bigger effort if possible to get the licensing because this can be a big factor to some people. That said, going with leagues such as Serie A first is probably a smart move as licencing costs will be cheaper, but they’re still getting some of the more reputable European teams that gamers will recognise.
Regardless of the improvements made so far I was left disappointed starting the game because it was like it was mocking and teasing me. Why do you ask? Well because the squad rosters are yet to be updated for the 2015-16 season so I was watching my beloved Liverpool (Merseyside Reds) still lining up with players such as Steven Gerrard, Raheem Sterling and Mario Balotelli. Ok so I wasn’t too bothered about the last two, but seeing Gerrard’s name again just sent me into a mini depressive state thinking about what an icon the club has lost. This is another reason why people won’t be keen on getting PES 2016 before FIFA because they are last year’s squads but don’t worry faithful PES heads, they are due to be released in October so don’t let this deter you from buying the latest instalment.
Everything so far aside, it’s time to get onto gameplay and how this year really takes the game to a whole new level that surpasses what has been delivered by FIFA. To start with something so simple, yet at the same time so genius, and that is the weather. With a new Dynamic Weather system, you finally have environmental factors contributing to the game and it wasn’t long before I witnessed this during an exhibition game. It was a rainy day in the Konami stadium, but the players were up for a bit of a scrap and after 80 minutes of play it was all square at 1-1 when their keeper went to kick a ball and slipped on his backside, fumbling the ball for Coutinho to smash it home and give me the lead. This isn’t something I have really seen make an impact before, but it adds to the realism of football and is a really clever move by Konami in my books.
Not just that though but mechanics have been improved in terms of player movement and the effects of players mistiming moves and colliding with players. If two players collide 10 times in a row, each collision can have a different effect and lead to a different outcome. In a sense, this is similar to how FIFA now allows players to pick up a number of injuries depending on contact made, but with PES it isn’t about injuries but more how you impact the game. Your speed can be affected, you can lose or gain control of the ball, you can genuinely tussle for a ball and out-muscle someone, you can end up stumbling a little or falling flat on you bum, there are so many different variations of what may happen that there is too many to cover. The important thing is that you master the controls to avoid colliding with opposition (or your own) players which could turn your attack into a sprint back to defend a perfectly timed counter.
Whilst gameplay has significantly improved there is still that arcade feel to it, which for me is more fun and is one of the main reasons that it’s more enjoyable to play than FIFA. But there are a couple of downsides in terms of set pieces, as it’s like something from a football game in the 90s where you have lines to show the direction you want to hit the ball, the height you want on it and the curve. Now it’s great that you can put your own height on a ball rather than relying purely on power like FIFA, but it does seem like a bit of a prehistoric system in terms of mechanics, and I’d like to see something a little more fresh and innovative. Penalties too aren’t great, they’re again similar to FIFA in the way you aim, but slightly less predictable as to where the ball will go and to pinpoint where you want to shoot. This, however, does make penalties that little more challenging rather than just some routine exercise to get through.
As for game modes there isn’t much that is new here except for a revamped Master League, you’ve all the same modes as previous seasons with the likes of myClub (PES’s version of ultimate team) and the become a legend mode (Be a Pro for FIFA fans). Now these are fun to play but compared to FIFA’s ultimate team, myClub isn’t as well designed I don’t think, although I like how you use scouts to get new players. As for the become a legend mode whilst pretty cool can become annoying. This is because you obviously start off at a lowish rating and so your stamina isn’t great, but despite the fact you could be the best player on the pitch scoring 10 goals a game, if your stamina runs out and the ball goes out of play you’ll be subbed off quicker than Fabian Delph on his debut for Manchester City. Now this wouldn’t be as bad if it wasn’t for the fact that you then have to watch the rest of the match, which can be fast-forwarded, but it’d be nice to skip until the end.
Overall this is a massive leap forward in terms of the development of PES and for the first time in many years it seems to have beaten FIFA to the coveted title of the best football game of the year. I’ve already converted a few friends from FIFA to PES having let them play with me and I’m sure if anyone tries the demo they will soon change allegiances too. There is still far to go for Konami, but what they have accomplished is very impressive and if they can continue on this path I can see a new champion in the war between FIFA and PES for the foreseeable future. I’ve really enjoyed the new mechanics that cause player collisions to have a bigger impact on the game than ever before, and dynamic weather too has dramatically increased the realism of the game. Still more has to be done in terms of official licensing and maybe tweaking existing game modes to be a little more unique to the similar areas in FIFA. That said I don’t think I can award anything less than a 4/5 just for the sheer impressiveness that has sprung from nowhere…FIFA and EA Sports, you best be watching your back closely!
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.