It’s been no mystery that the tides have shifted heavily since EA Sports’ FIFA franchise implemented a plethora of enhancements, licensing deals and the ushering in of the game’s most popular mode by a mile – Ultimate Team. Since then, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series has seen a stagnated and often poor return in growth and improvement, knocking it back to the #2 position behind FIFA for the better part of eight years.
While Konami’s focus seems to be drawing upon the mobile space, Pro Evolution Soccer should still see entries throughout at least the next couple of years and here’s specifically what the next iteration needs to implement and improve upon to stay truly competitive with FIFA.
League Support and Licensing
One of the biggest detriments to the Pro Evolution Soccer series is the fact that it’s licensing deals for some of the biggest competitions in the world are almost non-existent. Most notably, the English Premier League clubs are always filled with the right teams – but not the right kits or names. EPL teams that feature in Europe’s premier competitions such as the UEFA Champions League or the Europa League are often included as officially licensed teams, but supporters of teams like newly promoted Norwich City, Southampton and Stoke City have to deal with kit and name changes that completely deter from the experience. While this is a fools dream considering the space Konami is in right now, nabbing licensing deals for some of the biggest leagues in the world would do a huge amount of good for the fledgling series and show that it means serious business.
Another sore point that often bothers me a lot about the Pro Evo series is that the squad updates – especially upon release – are poor. One of the best things about picking up an annualized football game is that the roster is updated with all of your team’s new signings and commentary will usually talk about them during your time on the pitch with said team, but far more often than not Pro Evo launches with squads that aren’t even correct before the season started, which leaves players the options to go through manually and make the changes or just play the game as it is now and start a new Master League career further down the track when the actual update is released. It’s painful, and if PES wants to flex its muscles – it needs to get the basics right.
Master League Improvements
Master League, in my opinion, is the premier game mode in Pro Evolution Soccer. It’s the reason I spent hundreds of hours on the PSP version of 09 thanks to the enjoyable transfers, the ability to redesign kits during the (off)season and the fact that you could nurture young players into global superstars. While a lot of that is still prevalent in today’s iterations of Pro Evo, Master League in the last couple of titles has been filled with wonky menus and a genuinely bothersome career outline for managers. Yes, working with a transfer budget is fine and all, but there’s no excitement to be had when you sign a big new player or anything of that nature. There’s not even an informative news bar that generates pre-game line-ups, announcements, manager talk or anything like that and it frustratingly deters the experience for players who want to get the most out of Master League. The team also removed the ability to redesign kits during Master League, which was one of my favorite things to do during the off-season to prep up for next seasons competition. Reinvigoration needs to be worked back into Master League for it to become competitive with FIFA’s career mode once again.
Improved Referee Decisions
The enjoyment of football has always been dictated by the way a referee dictates the game, whether they’re biased towards a team, are against a team, call fouls way too often or let them go way too often – a referee plays a pivotal part in how you accept a football match’s result. Sadly, referees in the Pro Evo series have always been dreadfully awful – they tend to call fouls way too often, book players for challenges that would be deemed fair and ultimately send off players for fouls that would be deemed as a caution in the real game. Last year’s iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer contained some of the worst refereeing I’ve seen in a video game and it’s a big reason as to why I often get more frustrated with PES than I do with FIFA. I think FIFA has been the only game to really nail good referee decisions, and even those refs can make awful calls sporadically. This is one of the biggest deterrents that PES has, and it’d be incredible to see an improved referee system implemented in this years game.
Finally, the first thing I think about when I play a Pro Evolution Soccer game is the commentators – both seasoned experts that call the game in real life but struggle to emulate the same excitement and passion in the video game world. Pro Evolution Soccer has always been plagued with poor commentary which always (unless you turn it off) makes the game that much more frustrating to play through. FIFA had the same problem prior to 2008’s iteration released, but what they’ve managed to accomplish now compared to then is incomprehensible. For Pro Evolution Soccer, new lines need to be recorded badly, because there’s nothing worse than hearing a commentator say something he did in 2011’s iteration of the series. Football is an ever-changing game, so it’s important to nail the commentating football fans listen to every weekend during the season – it makes a world of difference.
Pro Evolution Soccer has a lot of work to do to make itself the global juggernaut it was nearly a decade ago, but 2016 can make the improvements to start moving towards that goal. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 was a good step to take, and now that the current generation of consoles are in most living rooms, it’s important to make use of the features those consoles present. Improving on the five things I’ve mentioned above would be a surefire way to press FIFA for the top spot, and here’s hoping that the developers over at Konami are striving towards that ultimate goal of becoming #1 again. Nothing’s worse than having a one-horse race.