Every year, as we all await the arrival of the long beloved FIFA, Konami jump the gun by releasing their competing football game first.
Pro Evolution Soccer has for years now stood in the foreshadow of its big budget rival and with this year’s release, can it finally dethrone the mighty FIFA?
It’s always felt like a poor man’s FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 continues that fact. That’s not to say that PES isn’t fun, it is, it just feels like all of its functions and features are copied from EA Sports’ beast. One thing it doesn’t copy though is its presentation. A simple tiled menus are easy to navigate and nice to look at and each first play of any of PES’ modes treats you to a step by step tutorial before removing the shackles. Exhibition matches, online matches and training modes are standard with Divisions being PES’ iteration of FIFA’s Online Seasons which plonks you against an opponent as you rise up the ranks and thankfully it’s just as addictive as FIFA’s.
MyClub mode is a more confusing version of Ultimate Team. Although it walks you through the basics, navigating the plethora of lists and menus is a chore and trying to get your cursor on the players you want to move around is a nightmare. Bear with these annoyances though and you’re gifted with quite a deep club management sim where the slightest changes can make the biggest difference and you don’t know satisfaction until the team that you created wins a tough match. Getting a team with a high Affinity score (which is the team’s chemistry) is quite the challenge. Using scouts and transfer windows to gain and lose players, convert key players into trainers to help your team grow, manage your managers are just a few ways of making your very own dream team. The same can be said for the Master League which has improved tenfold. Over the years its failure to evolve has caused PES to suffer but that’s all changed. Tidier menu’s, cut scenes for key events, more focus on team balance and the fantastic new Transfer system which makes things easier to track the best players for your team makes this year’s Master League the best yet.
On the pitch, it’s like trying to juggle while doing a handstand. So many things happened all too often for me to call it a fantastic game of football. Players stop in their tracks when accidentally running into another player instead of stumbling. This happened way too much. Even causing many conceded goals that were easily avoidable. Even between the sticks. Yeah the goalkeepers have their own personalities and act differently to each other but their animations are wooden and a tad bit unrealistic. I played a match where my keeper caught the ball during a scuffle in the box, I wanted to quickly run ahead and kick the ball upfield to my attackers but instead he stopped dead and triggered a slow animation which allowed the opposing defenders time to get back. Oh the rage!
It’s tough to dribble too. Unless you know the correct button combinations to keep the ball close whilst having the freedom to move, you won’t keep the ball for long. Overuse of the sprint button is tempting but ill-advised as players hoof it a fair distance away to catch up which makes it a walk in the park for opponents to tackle. Speaking of tackling, sliding is easily the best form of it this time around. Unlike FIFA, slide tackling in PES allows the player to manoeuvre enough to initiate a perfect one almost every time, great when you’re defending, not so much when you’re yards away from the winning shot.
PES does do some things right though. The goal celebrations are fun to play around with, the player likenesses are accurate even though the ever pesky absence of licensing remains, through balls and crosses and the ability to sink in some superb goals are all here in all their glory with overhead kicks and cheeky headers aplenty. The dynamic weather is a great addition making superb use of the now famous Fox Engine as it can suddenly rain mid-match.
Master League is a huge improvement
MyClub mode is addictive
Blasting in some amazing goals
Passing play is silky smooth
Dynamic weather changes the gameplay
Some menus are confusing
Too many unrealistic on pitch issues
Tough to master advanced controls
Robotic facial expressions
Absence licensing remains an issue
Stop and start pacing
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is a footballing heavyweight although miles away from dethroning the mighty FIFA. Too many bad things happen for it to be a true classic. The fun and addictive MyClub mode and Master League will surely keep you playing but you have to get past those issues on the pitch first.