PES was well received by the industry as a whole last year, lauded for it’s huge advancements and innovations. For me though, despite being a solid football game, it still fell short in several ways. This year, things look to be taking another huge step forward, and following a presentation and hands-on with Konami at gamescom, here’s why.
If you read my review last year, you’ll note I said that PES was beautiful in some ways, but in others it looked dated and unfinished. This time around it looks as though those woes may be a thing of the past..
Despite any issues surrounding the relationship between Konami and Kojima, I was assured that the Fox engine was here to stay, and that can only be a good thing. Once again, Konami have used 3D scanning for a number of the high profile players including: Brazil’s Neymar and Juventus’ Álvaro Morata - both of whom feature on the cover. The leap in graphical prowess though comes from those players that weren’t 3D scanned. Last year, I complained about some less than impressive recreations of players, but with the help of the Fox engine and images provided by clubs, Konami have been able to closely design a huge number of players to an amazingly high standard. Over 2000 players will be done to this standard on release, but more will be released further down the line.
It’s not just the players themselves that have had a makeover though; everything from the grass, the camera angle, the crowd, the emotions, have all been improved to a much higher standard as well as the introduction of dynamic weather. The result is arguably the best looking and most realistic football game to date.
PES has always lived in the shadows of its EA sports compatriot when it comes to the licenses and player likenesses. While Konami are still lacking the holy grail that is the Premier League, (with the exception of Manchester United, whose official kit, sponsors and team all return this year), they are focussing on those licenses which FIFA don’t have. The big news at gamescom was that Konami has secured the rights to the European Championships and this year’s PES will feature the full 2016 Euros as well as official national teams. On top of this, Konami will now feature more teams from the Bundesliga, Ligue 1 and Serie A, as well as the returning Champions League, complete with music and branding. Konami has also secured the top continental competitions for another season, with the Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana and Asian Champions League all returning.
Whilst they may not be the huge and instantly recognisable brands you would associate with football, it is not at the fault of Konami, but rather the bureaucratic world of football. Konami are evolving PES into its very own thing rather than following the crowd, and through their limitations, they are becoming something equally as interesting.
We all have a favourite. The one that you watch on repeat on YouTube hundreds of times. Of course, I’m talking about goals, but this year sees PES introduce tonnes of celebration animations including those iconic ones that have been synonymous with your favourite (or least favourite) players. The game doesn’t just stop after scoring, now you take control and replicate some of the sport’s best and worst recognisable celebrations. Everything from Gareth Bale’s love heart, Luis Suarez’s dueling pistols or even Francesco Totti’s crowd selfie will be included in the game. And what with the improved graphics, this makes Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 even closer to the real 90 minutes of a football match than ever before.
Moment-to-moment gameplay tweaks
Everything, as you would expect from an annualised franchise, has received a metaphorical lick of fresh paint, with a few new tricks introduced. Aside from 1-on-1 feints used to deter an oncoming defender, PES improves the general physics of each player, making 1-on-1 tackles much more realistic. Big players can barge smaller players off the ball and onto the ground, if your shorter player goes against a six-foot-eight beefcake for a header, the outcome will be very one-sided. There is weight behind every player and you can feel it with every step and kick of the ball.
Aside from the controlled players, there have also been improvements made to the AI. Your AI controlled teammates now work together in teams of 2-3, making their existence on the pitch more important than ever. Defenders will cover optimistic teammates who fancy a dribble, midfield generals look to poach the ball from the attacking team, and attackers scream for the ball.
There are also three times as many animations in this year’s iteration; everything from joy to elation. Players will contend peculiar decisions, throw their arms in the air at a missed opportunity or jossle with opponents for the referee’s attention. It all feels like a huge leap forward from last year’s version and is a promising sign for the future of the series.
It all seems like a promising step in the right direction for Konami and PES, and with the demo now available, you can try out the new improvements yourself. It doesn’t stop there though, as this is the 20th Anniversary of Pro Evolution Soccer, they have “so much more to do”.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 will be released 18th September on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One Xbox 360 and PC.