Every year the footballing world waits with baited breath for the new season schedule. Fan’s looking to see when the big derby games are going to be played. Man United Vs City, Barcelona Vs Madrid, England Vs Germany and, of course, Pro Evolution Soccer Vs FIFA. For over a decade the fierce rivalry between the two major football games has raged, and this year Konami have tried to get an early goal by releasing PES 2017 weeks before EA’s FIFA. But will PES be able to hold this lead and go on to dominate its competitor?
Getting to the main screen you will notice PES 2017 has all the usual modes that are standard for modern football game's; campaign mode, Vs modes, tournament modes, online modes, make your own pro modes and … nothing much else. Nothing that really sets PES 2017 apart from FIFA, and definitely nothing you can point to as being a creative or new. With FIFA 17 rolling out ‘The Journey’ mode I was hoping for a little bit more in this department from Konami.
What Konami wants you to know however is that it has the UEFA license. What this means is that they are allowed to have the European cup competitions; the Champions League and Europa League. Konami want you to know this so much that instead of just having them as part of the normal campaign, they’ve made it a whole separate mode. Here you will choose your team and you can take them through the either of the cup competitions. But that seems to be as far as the money is stretching as PES 2017 only has a handful of licensed teams, and even fewer licensed leagues. This means that that instead of playing Man United Vs Man City you get the thrill of Man Red Vs Man Blue. Thankfully the teams are populated by real players, so Man Red does have the likes of Rooney, Ibrahimovic and Pogba. You can, through various means, go about changing the team names, and kits, to resemble their real world counterparts males this a minuscule problem, but does possibly say something about the amount of money Konami are willing to spend.
Modes do not make a football game, however. No, the most important aspect of any sports game is the actual game play. FIFA can have all the new modes it wants, but if it plays like crap then it’s all just money down the drain. Does PES 2017 makeup for it’s lack of game modes with its game play? No. No it does not. Konami boasts that PES 2017 “centres on the concept of ‘Control Reality’” which apparently translate to being slow, ponderous, dull and frustrating. Football is an often fast paced, frantic, exhilarating game, where a team can concede a goal 20 seconds after missing a penalty. This excitement is sorely missed in PES 2017, as athletes known for their speed and stamina trot around the pitch like it’s a sunday stroll in the park. An annoyance that becomes worse when a player gets the ball. Doesn’t matter if you find a player that can sprint off the ball, the moment their feet comes into contact with it their pace is drastically, and very jarringly, destroyed.
While it is true that, generally speaking, you run slower with the ball than without, the sudden slow down in PES 2017 is preposterous, can completely destroy all momentum and kill an attacking move. The effect isn’t so noticeable if you’re playing one of the licensed teams available, but God forbid you want to play as your favourite team in the second division, then the slowdown becomes painfully clear. If the likes of Messi and Bellarine play like they're walking through treacle with the ball, Jonjo Shelvey has no chance! This might be what Konami called ‘Real Touch’, if so then the word ‘Real’ has no place here.
Along with Konami’s “Real” Touch comes their dedication to making sure the players resemble their real life versions. While this is true when looking at their models in the menu selection screens, this does not translate to the on the field graphics. On the pitch they more resemble subbuteo players than real players. The graphics on the pitch is that more reminiscent of a game at the beginning of last gen consoles, with the players all looking plastic (hence the subbuteo reference), a look further compounded during replays where Konami has added a baffling soft filter to the camera making everything look even less realistic.
On the subject of being plastic and subbuteo the way players move remind me more of a mannequin than a man. It’s not a big complaint but many of the player's movements are jerky, like they don’t have proper joints. This is most noticeable when the goalkeepers dive to make a save, here it just looks laughingly wrong. Not a big thing, but it can take you out of any realism you might be able to dig up from this game.
What PES 2017 has done well is the AI of the players off the ball. When you are able to get into an attacking position (helped a lot by pitting Barcelona against St. Yellows. Yes that’s a real name Konami named one of their teams.) you can often find a good amount of support in the box, actually making intelligent runs, that can lead to some pretty spectacular goals. It’s just a massive shame that creating these opportunities is such an agonising chore to muster up.
PES 2017’s biggest sin is that it takes the beautiful game that I love so much, sucks all and any excitement, fun and enjoyment from it, leaving a dry, dull husk. Fans of the series will probably defend it u saying “It’s more tactical!”, “You’re supposed to be doing rainbow flips up and down the pitch!”, but if you want a sports game that is slow, plodding, “tactical” with only fleeting moments of action and excitement play Madden!
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (Reviewed on PlayStation 4)
The game is average, with an even mix of positives and negatives.
PES 2017 might be a giant leap for PES, but it’s a very little step for football games. Little to offer off the pitch and a joyless chore on the pitch. For hardened PES fans there’s probably enough to satisfy, but for the rest of us we look to FIFA with hope and trepidation. Don’t screw us on this one EA!