Platforms: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, PC (reviewed), Xbox 360, and Xbox One
It’s the pre-season friendly fixture and the crowd is buoyant, their excitement palpable, the atmosphere electric. ‘The King is Back’, ‘Long Live the King’ they chant. Things often go well in these first few games, there’s no pressure – it’s a time for showboating, showing off new bells and whistles. Can the Winning Eleven team keep it up for a whole season filled with many more matches?
Pro Evolution Soccer has floundered for years. The series has gone from the top of the table to the depths of National League in a matter of years, and now spends its time battling to avoid relegation from the collective consciousness.
For me, the last truly good iteration of PES was PES5 on the PS2. Subsequent entries in the series struggled with the leap to next generation consoles and for a while the PS2 engine outgrew its welcome on the Windows versions of the game as Konami wrestled to get the 360 and PS3 under control.
In the meantime, EA’s FIFA series went back to the drawing board, reinventing itself as a game that played a lot like the older Pro Evolution Soccer games and capitalizing on Konami’s next-gen issues. EA’s franchise established itself as the new number one football game. Pro Evolution Soccer never regained its PS2 era momentum but there’s always the hope that this is the year…
Is this the year? Well, that’s a tricky question with a couple of answers. Yes, it is the year if you’re playing the game on the new generation of consoles. The PS4 and Xbox One editions of PES2016 utilize Konami’s FOX Engine to great effect and the game finally seems to have ironed out the kinks in its 360-degree control scheme. Players no longer feel as if they are bound to an 8 directional track and the opportunities for playmaking benefit greatly from this newfound freedom of movement.
Presentation is greatly improved as well, close-ups look great and the player animation is top-notch with a lot of the stiffness of the legacy animations done away with in favour of new motion captured moves.
On the PC it’s a different story. The game plays well enough but runs on a hybrid engine, a mix of elements from the FOX engine and the augmented PS2 code that ran on the last-gen consoles. I enjoyed my time with PES2016, the game carries a lot of the improvements of the current-gen console version but is let down by sluggish performance and lackluster visuals. Gameplay will win-out for some but the poor presentation is a real letdown.
This clumsiness extends to the game’s menus as well; there are a lot of them too. The cluttered tile-based interface makes navigating the Master League and Cup competition’s various transfers and tactic screens a real chore. You’ll be hitting the ‘Progress’ option as fast as possible in the hopes of getting to the next match.
Konami have done a good job with this next generation of PES when it comes to the console versions but the PC version needs another year or two to get things ironed out. In the meantime, there’s always Option Files for older entries to fall back on.