Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is a fine return to form for Konami, who are looking to steal this year’s crown away from FIFA by refining their game in several ways.
There are very few sports genres that divide the market as well as the football/soccer simulator. Sure, the Fifa series may have sold a little better over the years, but the Pro Evolution Soccer games have always had a huge following as well. This is remarkable when you look at other genres, where 2K’s NBA franchise has out-performed the once-reigning NBA Live series, and there is no real competition for the Madden titles either.
We saw last year that the Pro Evolution Soccer games were making some major strides forward. A new game engine was introduced, marking the first ‘next gen’ release of the franchise – Konami had skipped the PS4/XOne versions in 2013 because their engine wasn’t ready. What we saw in the Fox engine powered version of 2014 was extremely promising, but not perfect yet. This year’s edition, we’re happy to say, improves on the solid foundations that Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 laid out.
Physics play a large role in how the game is played in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 – and weather effects are a major factor here. Those of us who are used to playing soccer in real life know what a little bit of rain can do – and how a lot of rain affects your play. In PES 2016, this is mimicked wonderfully well. In wet conditions, the ball becomes harder to control, a sliding tackle feels different and the ball behaves differently when playing ground passes and when landing after a long pass. It’s recognizable, it adds to the diversity of the gameplay and asks more of you as a player – just like it would in real life.
The paragraph above probably makes PES 2016 sound more like a simulation than like a videogame, but nothing could be further from the truth. What made the earlier (PS2) versions of Pro Evolution Soccer so popular was the fast, flowing style of gameplay – and this feeling is back in the 2016 edition. The action plays out considerably faster than it did in previous editions, and this really sets PES 2016 apart from Fifa more than previous versions did. Shooting and goal scoring is also much more arcade-like than before, with long distance shots no longer being a second rate alternative to combining your way through the defense by stringing passes together.
Though the game is much-improved, and should be an instant pickup for old school PES fans, it’s not perfect. Goalkeepers will sometimes make inexplicable mistakes when they let shots through that they should have held. Granted – this happens in real life as well, but disproportionately so in this game. Referees also still seem to have their own interpretation of the rules at times, especially when it comes to bookings and red cards. Aside from the option to turn off cards completely, we didn’t see much in terms of being able to configure how lenient or strict the referee should be to allow us to “fix” this.
Still, these are minor issues in an otherwise great game – a return to form for PES during its 20th anniversary year. While the FIFA-PES race was a tight one last year, this year’s offering from Konami exceed last year’s FIFA and shows that EA has its work cut out for them. They may have many of the licenses that PES lacks, but the game of football/soccer hasn’t been this fun to play in many years.