Wednesday 28 September 2016

Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 review: Back in the game

Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (XOne/PS4/PC/X360/PS3); rating: 8.5/10; age: 3+

Published 09/10/2015 | 11:19

PES 2016: Unpredictable and thrilling
PES 2016: Unpredictable and thrilling

FOR everything PES 16 gets wrong – and there’s much to choose from – it all fades away in a heartbeat when a thrilling match hits the groove of end-to-end football.

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After several years in the wilderness, the franchise is finding its feet again. But it has conceded acres of ground to great rival FIFA that it may never make up.

For some gamers, FIFA’s advantage is just cosmetic – the TV-style razzmatazz, the amusing punditry of Martin Tyler with Alan Smith, the bang-up-to-date rosters of players and teams.

For others, PES simply can’t compete across the board, particularly with the likes of FIFA’s brilliant Ultimate Team. The collectible card mode is represented by MyClub, which made its PES debut last year. But it still feels relatively underdeveloped beside FIFA’s FUT transfer market.

PES 2016: The MyClub collectible mode has developed but can't compare to FIFA Ultimate Team
PES 2016: The MyClub collectible mode has developed but can't compare to FIFA Ultimate Team

For my money, however, PES 2016 has an edge where it counts – on the pitch.

 

PES 2016: The ball and player physics are right on the money
PES 2016: The ball and player physics are right on the money

It’s not inarguably better than FIFA 16 – just different in its uncanny simulation of the vagaries of pitch meets ball meets players’ bodies. This year, Konami’s development team built a new collision system that produces realistically entertaining results as footballers jostle for position and the ball. Because it’s so true to life, the moments of unpredictability – when the ball can end up anywhere – are balanced by a real sense of control. The game gives you confidence that, most of the time, the ball will go where you intend.

From the zoomed-out camera view, you could be watching a real game, yet controlling it.

Up close, the PES illusion falls apart a little. The lack of official licensing for the Premier League is just hilarious after all these years (North London Reds, anyone?) and the player roster far from current (Gerrard still lines out for Liverpool, for instance, and Konami admits updated teams are still weeks away). Meanwhile, the instant replays constantly expose the jerky zombie artifice behind the illusion when the camera zooms in for a close-up of a tackle or shot on goal.

Yet sweetly tuned controls and a real sense of player individuality create a true believability that FIFA struggles to match.

If you’re a fan of EA’s juggernaut but becoming frustrated with how the game flip-flops from year to year in terms of balance, you owe to yourself to give PES a try. If you’ve been a Pro Evo supporter all along, you’ll be overjoyed to see the franchise back near the top of its game.

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