It’s one of gaming’s biggest rivalries – the annual releases of Pro Evolution Soccer and FIFA. Konami’s entry is kicking off this year’s edition, and FIFA will have a tough time getting back into the game.
Looking back at last year’s Pro Evolution Soccer, it was already clear that Konami had the best foundation to build on this year. Perhaps that was clear at EA as well, since they’re switching to a brand new (graphics) engine this year with Frostbite. How that will turn out we will know in a couple of weeks, but what’s clear is that Konami has taken what was already good last year and turned it into something excellent.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 doesn’t radically change the game that fans have been playing since last year, but instead refines the experience. Passing, dribbling and shooting – three major ingredients for any soccer game, have all been improved. Passing in a little more arcade-like this year, with the ball sticking to your foot as if it was smeared with glue. Sure, it looks like that in real life when Messi and Iniesta are on the ball, but here anyone can feel like that.
Shooting is a little different as well, with more control over how powerful your shot is going to be (and thus your chances of keeping it from flying over the bar). Passing also feels smoother, but this could also be due to enhancement in AI – with players anticipating where the ball will be better than they did before. That’s not to say that they behavior and level of play have been enhanced unconditionally though – in fact, these are not robotic players but rather players who make mistakes every now and then – as they would in real life. The one exception I’d like to point out here is that goalkeepers have been improved significantly, and show far less of the silly behavior we saw last year.
The actual soccer engine driving Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 is, I would dare say, without equal. I’ve never played a more fun and more refined game of soccer on any platform. The game hasn’t radically changed from last year in terms of game modes (or, sadly, licenses), but it’s nice to see that Konami’s efforts have been directed to the basics of the game instead. Unfortunately this means that the only aspect lacking in PES 2017 is still its lack of licenses – especially in terms of national leagues. There are plenty of teams on offer as long as they’re active in the various European cup leagues, but if your local favorites didn’t get that far then you’ll have to do without the correct names and commentary.
There is no doubt in my mind that FIFA will once again sell more copies than PES this year – its fanbase is simply too big, as is EA’s marketing and licensing budget. However, I seriously doubt that FIFA will be able to rival Konami’s latest when it comes to the experience of playing a game of soccer. I would gladly see them prove me wrong, but until then I will happily enjoy what is the best soccer game ever made – so far.