Earlier this month I took the Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 demo for a ride on the PS4 and was left extremely impressed by Konami’s latest offering in the long-running footy sim.
So how does the full package come together? Does Pro Evo 2016 take the perfect penalty, or does it slip, stumble, and hoof it over the bar? Read on and you’ll find out.
First off, lets start with how the game looks. It’s the first thing that hits you when you play it, so it makes sense that we get that out of the way. In short, it really does shine on the next-gen machines. Stadiums are packed full of life that isn’t just represented by 2D cut-outs. It’s not something that you’ll spend a great deal of time looking at, but it’s nice to notice all the same.
Pro Evo 2016 runs on the very sophisticated Fox Engine so movement, lighting and all the other bells and whistles are well presented. Players move with a purpose and look fantastic while doing so, and even more so when basked in the shining sun or dripping buckets in the pouring rain – even if they do look a little plastic in the close-ups.
It might sound like a bit of stupid thing to say, but my golly gosh the grass looks good, too. Honestly, I never thought I’d play a footy game where the grass actually looked like a decent representation of the real stuff and not a sheet of green. I’m not all that fussy when it comes to graphics, but it still managed to catch my eye.
So, we’ve established the game is a looker – on the next-gen consoles, at least – but how does the gameplay hold up? I can sum it up in one word: outstanding.
One word doesn’t cut it though and you came here to read a review, so Iet me elaborate.
Most of last year’s problems have been done away with and improved upon. Gameplay is slick and quick while not being overly fast-paced: it’s not FIFA by any stretch of the imagination. Where FIFA encourages fancy tricks, super-fast build-up play and far too much attention on the individual traits of a few select players, PES 2016 takes everything in moderation and doesn’t over-step its mark. The passing game is key and you’ll have to take your time rather than banging the pig-skin up the pitch and hoping for a sweaty goal. Players movements are all about context so there’s no need to be pulling down all four triggers, tapping X and rotating both sticks just to knock the ball around a defender. It’s simple and easy enough to get going without knowing every little trick in the book (there’s a massive command-list of tricks) but the depth is there for those who want a more fanciful game.
Individuals are still given their own moments of glory and thanks to the Player ID system they still behave like their real-life counter-parts, even if it does look a little daft at times. The real meat is in the team play and how the different units work together as a whole. Obviously the fanboys will be playing their Messi’s and C.Ronaldo’s every game, but it’s much more satisfying to find the combination of players that complement one another. Is your star striker able to bang em’ in from 30 yards, but can’t make the runs and dribbles? Don’t bench him, get yourself a competent winger of a decent central midfielder to feed the balls up to his feet and watch the goals come running in. It’s something you’ll need to think about as players tire after running out onto the pitch so many times in a row and you won’t always have your best eleven ready.
There are a few complaints, though. It’s all too easy to give the referee a good ear banging over a poor decision, but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one who’s been punked by the dodgy A.I. I played a full season and I can count the amount of free-kicks and penalty decisions that went my way on one hand. It’s almost as if the referee has a personal vendetta against you. I went down hard in the penalty area of Manchester Blue, so hard my striker had to be carried off the pitch – nada. Nothing. Zilch. I couldn’t actually see the referee, but I’m pretty sure he was counting his bribe money while have a fag at the corner flag. Bastard.
When decisions do go your way, it does become something of a treat. I’ve never been a big fan of FIFA’s way of doing free kicks: aim randomly and hope for the best. Honestly, some on-screen indicator is needed, and, thankfully, PES 2016 provides. It’s a simple enough system and it works really nicely, but it does take some time to master. Unfortunately you just won’t get that time by playing the regular game. Cheers ref, you big bellend.
If it’s not the referee giving you grief, you may find yourself threatening to cut the hands of your keeper. Animations are so complex that saves do have some added drama to them, which is nice, but when a slow lofting ball travelling at 0mph tips into the back of the net because the man between the sticks is too busy trying to pose as Spiderman, it can get a bit frustrating.
Aside from the aforementioned niggles, there’s no really much too complain about when it comes to PES 2016. In fact, I’m struggling to find that much wrong with it; the gameplay is top-notch and better than ever, and, on many levels, it’s much better than the competition. Of course there are the now infamous generic team names and unofficial stadiums, but these can easily be overridden with the handy editor that Konami provides.
There’s a wealth of game modes to get stuck into as well as Konami’s own version of FIFA’s Ultimate Team which doesn’t force you into blindly buying packs of probably-crap players. Instead, everything you do in the game earns you points which can be redeemed into building your squad into an unstoppable force, though the option to hurry that along with micro-transactions is still there. I’ve not really put my time into the myTeam mode, but from what I’ve played of it so far it’s a solid offering and should appeal to those who’ve grown tired of FIFA’s poor system.
Disclaimer: This review was conducted on using a retail copy for the PS4. Konami must have, ahem, forgot to send us a review code.