Fundamentally Robust, Technically Astute
Oh how the times have changed. 10 years ago, I was playing Pro Evolution Soccer nearly every day on my Xbox. I absolutely adored it, and never for one second looked over my shoulder at a sorry looking FIFA 04 scouring in the corner. PES, back then, was the premier football sim. It was ‘the’ football game to have, but the times have changed drastically. FIFA is now the majority, PES now the minority, and something had to change. Something definitely has.
I’ll admit, Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 was not a good game. I did not like it at all. It had clunky menus, the soundtrack irked me, the gameplay was mediocre at best and the presentation was disappointing. A lot of that has been revitalized and reworked for 2015, and the overall product has seen a vast improvement.
Pro Evolution Soccer has graphically not been on the same level as FIFA, and that continues on in the 2015 iteration of the series. It’s by no means an awful looking game, but it doesn’t look as pretty to the eye as its rival. Graphics, in a football sim, can play a major part in the way you enjoy the game. You’re playing as your favorite team for a lot of the time and bringing in players you recognize from the real sport, but when you can hardly recognize some of them or their proportions are just genuinely wrong it breaks the immersion. Now the absolute top-tier players like Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney, Di Maria and co all look great. They’re instantly recognizable, their dribbling styles are nearly perfected and their signature celebrations are mostly there. It’s when you start to move down into the lower tiers and teams that things become a little bit muddled. Within these tiers players look like mild moulds of their real world counterparts and when you’re adventuring through something like Master League and bringing up a side that you know at least a bit about, it’s really disappointing to see generic looking players. It isn’t an entire deal breaker though, as the graphics are generally pretty good otherwise. The stadiums look great and the general game is enjoyable to watch even if you’re not playing. It’s a good representation of a football sim. Crowds need some work though, but I’m hoping that’s something that’s already in the pipeline for next years iteration.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 thrives in one particular aspect of its game, and it’s kept fans loyal throughout the years because of it, and that’s its strong gameplay. While FIFA plays a more open and simulated style of the beautiful game, PES finds its feet within its arcade roots and it benefits because of that. Passes are crisp, runs are made and shots are finished with style. This is the signature style of PES we’ve all come to know and love (and even grow up with), and it’s brilliant to see how well its made the generational leap. Opposition AI are intelligent and cut out diagonal runs, goalkeepers do an excellent job of sweeping and hold up the play if they’re trying to defend a slender lead. It’s a great recreation of what we sit down and watch on TV every week. There isn’t a whole lot new in terms of features for the gameplay this time around, but it runs a lot smoother than its older brother did last year and feels like a return to form for the series, paving excellent ground work for the developers to work upon for next years iteration.
While FIFA plays a more open and simulated style of the beautiful game, PES finds its feet within its arcade roots and it benefits because of that.
You’ll find all of the common modes associated with PES are back in 2015, and they all work well. My fascination with the series has always been with Master League as guiding a relatively unknown team to the top of the rankings has never seemed to provide a dull moment. Whether it’s the (now included) second division of English football or the classic second tier that’s always been in PES’s Master League, I’ve loved to watch the world of the beautiful game evolve around me. Transferring and promoting players and watching them grow from promising youngsters to acclaimed superstars has also been a major cog in the machine for Master League, and while there are no major improvements to the mode as a whole, I’m quite the fan of its improved interface, tweaked game plan mechanics and enjoyable cut-scenes when something major happens with the team (whether a player has been selected for their international side or you’ve brought someone in). It all feels that much more polished and enjoyable.
MyClub — Pro Evo’s answer to FIFA’s Ultimate Team — returns and is as good as ever, just like the return of UEFA Champions League, Europa League, Copa Libertadores and the new inclusion of the Asian Champions League. All of these modes culminate to bring a solid package of football to fans who enjoy exploring every nook and cranny the game has to offer. There’s also a new and improved amount of skill challenges to try out and of course, the ever popular training regime that allows you to test how good your set piece skills are.
There’s always been one major issue I’ve had with the Pro Evolution Soccer series, and 2015 shows no sign of improvement unfortunately. Commentary is absolutely lackluster. While FIFA adds new phrases and sentences throughout its yearly iterations to keep up with the storylines that football tends to gravitate towards, PES’s commentary team of Jon Champion and Jim Beglin offer up phrases and sentences that have been ushered for years in the series. It’s majorly disappointing to see specifically this continue to hinder the immersion PES brings to the table. Commentary needs a dramatic lift to continue to compete with the competition, and hopefully we’ll see that lift this time next year.
Another minor gripe I have with PES is that both the offside rule and referees are again poor. Throughout my time in Master League taking Wolves back up to the top I’d encounter some of the most ridiculous calls I’ve ever seen in a game, from yellow card challenges ending in reds to players not even receiving a foul after a crazy challenge – it not only broke the immersion that the actual gameplay did so well to shape, but it produced a heck of a lot of unnecessary frustration. At times I was receiving red cards in nearly every game I played and it hindered my experience drastically. I’m not one for bad challenges, I’ve been playing and watching the sport for over ten years and I’ve seen Kevin Muscat play – I know when I see a red card offence and many challenges were not even close to those. While I know that this has been a driving issue for years, it’s still majorly frustrating to deal with.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is a giant step forward for the series. It’s finally shaping back up to the way it was in the past and has genuinely started to pose a threat to FIFA. Instead of it being a one horse race, it’s again become more of a choice for gamers on what football sim they take home. While it does still have its short-comings, the gameplay, excellent amount of modes and Master League shine in what is an excellent package of footballing class, and one football fans should at the very least try out.
PES is finally shaping back up to the way it was in the past and has genuinely started to pose a threat to FIFA. Instead of it being a one horse race, it’s again become more of a choice for gamers on what football sim they take home.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.