The football season is well underway around the world and there’s no better time than this to release a new game into the genre. First up to the plate was Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, getting a launch ahead of its main rival, FIFA; can it make the head-start count for something and convince gamers this is the go-to football series this year?
My optimism quickly faded upon playing PES 2016 because this is Konami, they’ve done what they do best… shot themselves in the foot. I thought it’s probably best to get their biggest mess-up since those awful 2008 online servers, out of the way first, and then we can celebrate the goodness if there is any afterwards. Football games rarely change from year to year but not updating the squads to reflect reality for launch day is pretty poor going. However it’s bloody unforgiving that it’s taken two weeks for online squads to be up to date and to get the most accurate squads offline we all have to wait until near the end of October for a data pack; it’s almost unbelievable!
Having acquired a decent amount of licenses for the majority of top leagues, apart from the notable omissions of many German teams, the Premier League and Championship, where there are no English kits or badges except for Manchester United. Why would a company release a game with content that’s practically a year old? Falcao is still fluffing his chances at United, Stevie G is clinging on to life as a scouse legend at Liverpool and Xavi is refusing to vacate his position at Barcelona. It seems utterly pointless to start any offline modes yet, alas I must to provide further insight and to hopefully find some light to brighten the mood.
Putting modes to one side for now though to focus on the gameplay offline and it’s actually a revelation. The pace of the game is a little faster than last year’s offering, with control of the ball feeling even more authentic with every touch, being able to zip balls across the pitch smoothly. Running seems slightly ineffective but then it’s more about picking the right time to sprint rather than holding the button constantly.
The one thing that has never really changed in Pro Evo is the gratifying shooting system that ensures that every goal feels rewarding to score. Whether you bang in a forty yard screamer or slide a shot past a keeper in the box, each one brings the same amount of joy, especially considering that the A.I. seems to be generally tougher all round.
Now comes the strange part, upon venturing to the online side of things, it became pretty obvious that it wasn’t playing anywhere near as well as offline. In fact, the gameplay is heavier on the whole and slower, thus making it a far less enjoyable experience. To make sure it wasn’t just a one-off or down to that person’s connection I played a few more but it didn’t change throughout.
Not much has changed when it comes to the game modes on offer, however you’ve probably heard about the Master League overhaul. It’s certainly a lot simpler to navigate but the overall look is what I can only describe as cheap… which is surprising when PES excels in the presentation elements throughout the majority of the other areas and pre-match build up.
There’s also been a limit put in place for the amount of negotiations you can make during a day in the transfer window. Don’t ask me why because I’ve no idea, I like to look at my team and make offers to improve as many areas as I can at once, if my budget allows it. One clever part of Master League is the team spirit which increases the more you use the same bunch of players and win, thus creating natural chemistry.
MyClub returns with a more simplistic layout too but the main new feature is being able to improve the players within your team over time. After each match they’ll get experience and if a player levels up from this it’ll gain them attribute increases. For anyone unfamiliar with MyClub, it’s a way to build an ultimate team over time but way more tactical than other similar modes on the gaming market. The manager chosen for your team can dictate the formation and team instructions both with and without possession. You need to find players along the way that fit this style, or you can just hire a new manager that better suits, for a fee.
Much of the nitty gritty tactical side of PES goes over my head because I just want to let my skills on the pitch do the talking. That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate the finer details. Being able to swap tactics mid-game across the whole of PES 2016 at the flick of the D-Pad is impressive. If you go one nil up and want to change to the defensive formation you’ve set up, you can do just that. The amount of settings that are changeable within a tactic will separate the Mourinho types from the Moyes wannabes.
If you want other modes to play offline there’s also the official sponsored tournaments like Champions Leagues and the sole player focused Be a Legend. Neither seems to have noticeably altered since the previous year but building the career of a player is always an enjoyable task. I just wish it’d let you do stuff like actual training to improve skills, rather than let it all go on in the background.
One versus one matches are easy to get involved in online but for gamers with a more team based focus, there’s nothing for you here. To clarify, PES does offer a team play lobby, however at most I’ve seen three players in the whole world actually present in the lobbies – all in different match rooms waiting for up to 21 more people to join them. Dead as a dodo comes to mind.
PES 2016 has taken a bit of a hammering, albeit a fair one, from me. As much as the offline gameplay was truly glorious, it is significantly soured by the heavier online experience and lack of any real game changing ideas in the game modes. Factoring in the out of date squads and the baffling strip choices for the unlicensed teams (their version of Newcastle being covered in red and white is shocking), I feel like I’ve accidently put last year’s game in my disc tray.
In my eyes you’ve got two options; go pick up PES 2015 if you aren’t fussed about squads because it’s cheaper or simply wait until they’ve got their act together in about a month. At that point it’ll be a pretty good game on the whole and hopefully they’ll have made tweaks to better the online feel.