After regaining their once spectacular form over the last few years, Konami and PES Production’s 2016 entry into the football genre promises to be their best yet. Touting new and improved mechanics, as is custom on a yearly release cycle, can Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 hold off the ever looming FIFA entry?
Recreating the beautiful game has always been the top priority over at the Pro Evo camp, let EA have their licences and flashy menus, with PES, it’s all about the gameplay. And to be fair, it’s never been so good. All the talk regarding the new ‘advanced collision system’ that seems very reminiscent of the usual buzz words and hype surrounding a games release into the wild, is actually true. Amongst many other improvements, you can genuinely feel this coming into play. Darty and nippy wingers will soon run into trouble against stocky defenders they come up against, whilst strong, stout attackers, more realistically, will have a greater advantage when it comes to jostling and winning headers.
The physicality of the game is difficult to pinpoint onto one aspect, instead you’ll feel it in everything you do. Momentum and weight come into play in almost all facets, whether it be attempting a potentially risqué tackle, or just scurrying through sluggish defenders. The AI feels stronger this year too, instead of the nearest opposing player just rushing straight at you and swiping the ball away, they’ll play more conservatively and wait for opportunities to pounce. It can lead to a more thoughtful style of play, giving you time to think and plan your actions, instead of just instantly sprinting out or passing as soon as someone comes near.
One of the largest improvements this year over the previous outing is the sheer responsiveness and fluidity of the controls. This of course helps to tie in excellently with the more physics based approach this time around. It not only makes individual players feel more unique, but also shows off their real life talents too, controlling players like Tevez or Aguero can feel a world apart from others. Of course everything that made last year’s PES so entertaining on the pitch makes a welcome return too, the realistic feel of how counter play can be so devastating to either side means one mistake can easily change the outcome. This is without doubt, the closest you’ll get to the real experience in terms of drama and flair.
A slew of additions help to increase the realism too. Dynamic weather changes and new goalkeeper personalities mean surprises are bound to happen; along with new and updated animations making their appearance, hopefully it’ll be less likely for repetition to set in too quickly. In fact the only thing that’s such a far cry from reality, are the referees’ inattentiveness to players’ flagrant disregard for another’s wellbeing. I mean you can seriously afflict some atrocities on this without the man in black giving two monkeys. It’s an odd choice, but perhaps it’s yet another thing tied into the physics-orientated style of the game.
In terms of modes on offer, there are the usual quick matches, tournaments, training and online offerings to peruse. Yet these might not see much action compared to the improved Master League career mode and of course, myClub (PES’s version of FIFA’s Ultimate Team). Master League has, thankfully, had more than just a quick lick of paint applied to it. It not only looks much more modern and streamlined, but also more closely resembles a football management game due to its calendared appearance. It might still not quite measure up to FIFA’s career mode, but little touches here and there make strong cases to give it a try. The game will generally make a large fuss about signing high profile players to your team by triggering press conference cutscenes too, making grabbing that big named star feel just that little bit more special. A nice little touch is that those star signings will generate more income from fans too, such as selling more shirts with their favourite player’s name emblazoned on the rear. The transfer system seems a bit more intuitive and rational than before, but sadly you still can’t negotiate personally with the player.
Pro Evo’s ‘myClub’ could well be quite the time sink for a lot of players too, particularly those who’ve dabbled in FUT. Expanding on last year’s debut, there’ve been some beneficial tweaks and added polish without managing to flip it on its head. You still can’t transfer players for example, but people in your roster can now level up, (slowly) increasing their stats and experience; overall giving it a solid RPG-lite feeling of progression. Players you don’t want, or have no real need for, can be converted into a trainer which will remove them, but in return will give a stat boost to another player you choose. It’s a decent system complete with rarity colours and the hunt for better players driving you forwards; however people who wish to really succeed will undoubtedly have to consider spending extra (real life) currency here.
As far as the game’s presentation goes, it can be a bit of a mixed bag. Textures and fidelity on things like clothing and certain players’ faces not only look fantastic, but realistic too, as do the incredible amount of animations in the game. The physical collisions between players and the ball look great and believable, especially when in slow motion where you can see each individual contact point. A lot of the menus have been spruced up to give a more modern (and competing) feel, with the Master League receiving a lot of love too. However, the crowds can look a little too generic at times despite how pronounced their effect can be in terms of sound. The commentary track has its highs and lows too, with inane tap-ins that bear no consequence on the outcome of the game receiving the same excitable admiration as spectacular 89 minute volleys that tie up the game.
On this generation of consoles at least, PES Productions have proved once again that it’s substance over style that should matter most; that the gameplay itself has unquestionably done more than enough to warrant a recommendation. The lack of licences isn’t particularly a deal breaker anymore due to the ability to download custom strips and even managers, and the effort put into modernising the atypical Konami menus is welcomed too. FIFA might still look better in certain areas, but PES feels better where it matters most, on the pitch.