PES 2016 Review (Xbox One)
PES 2016 is possibly the best Pro Evolution Soccer game we’ve seen for some time, but it’s still lacking that polish that would make it a great game.
The first thing anyone will notice is how long the menus take to load. A ridiculous amount of time is spent starting up the game, waiting for it to check on updates to the game or the rosters, before you even get to the menus. The menus themselves are fairly clear and intuitive, but again you will be waiting for whichever game mode you chose to load.
PES 2016 contains the familiar game modes of single matches, cups and leagues, along with the ever popular Master League mode which allows you to build and manage a club how you like it. You have the choice of taking up a club as it stands, or starting with a fresh team of generated players to build on. As usual, PES 2016 does not include licenses for any of the English clubs, other than Manchester United, but it still has a good roster of European clubs, along with some from South America and Asia. An official Champions League license bolsters the teams as well as the game modes available.
The “myClub” game mode is essentially a take on FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode. Here you build your own club from the ground up to take on the AI or other players online in either individual matches or competitive leagues. Rewards from the matches can be spent on buying new players for your team through either the marketplace, where you bid on players other teams are selling, or through your scouts. Each scout will add one player to your team. There will be a couple of skill ranges and percentage chances of the type of player you get, depending on how much you pay, and the scout have certain criteria which helps you aim for a certain type of player. It’s a more gradual route than opening packs, like in FIFA, but you also avoid all the dross players that you likely don’t want.
For the players you don’t want, rather than selling them off you also have the option to turn them into coaches to improve the other players in your team. This can be handy if you end up with too many players for the same position in your team. Occasionally you may want to cycle your players however as you need to maintain contracts on the players that you use. One slightly odd feature is that rather having a manager that gives a bonus to his prefered formation, he instead dictates your formation, so if you want to change formation then you need to go and hire a new manager. Managers don’t come cheap, but all the big names are there for you to hire.
Once you get your team onto the pitch, if you are playing against the AI you will have the choice of actually playing the game, or watching a simulation of your team against your opponents. You are still able to make tactical calls and substitutions, and can bring up a stats view that has a 2D match engine similar to the old Football Manager games, but other than that you just need to sit back and watch your team. This mode is also available in the Master League games, and it is rather nice. The gameplay in PES 2016 is some of the most realistic seen to date, and just sitting back and watching it is as enjoyable as watching the real thing. The possibility of changing weather conditions adds a further layer of realism to the match engine.
Actually playing the matches is thoroughly enjoyable too. Where in FIFA I would always have the tendency to push the ball to the wings and use pace to get down the line before crossing in an attempt to score, in PES 2016 it feels a lot more natural to try to build up the play with patient passing, utilising the whole pitch. Close control and skill moves are a lot more about having the right position and heading in the right direction than simply remembering a button combination. The result is a game that feels a lot more like a simulation. Going back to playing, or watching videos of, FIFA, it looks a lot more arcade like than originally experienced when compared to PES 2016. A lot of my complaints about FIFA 16 are not present in PES 2016, especially around the controls. Never while playing PES 2016 did I make a mistake and shout at the controller for not selecting the right player, or passing in the wrong direction, which adds to the feeling that PES 2016 is a more natural, realistic simulation of the game of football.
PES 2016 doesn’t have the same polish that EA SPORTS can give to FIFA, arguably down to budgets and licenses. That said, the character models are still rather good, even of those that aren’t licensed. However, the clunky, slow menus are a big drag on the overall experience of the game. The animations of the players are possibly more basic in PES 2016, yet again they seem more realistic. There’s no where near the same amount of player snap (when the player’s base position moves to match an animation) in PES 2016, and all the contact between player and ball looks spot on.
Konami have experienced a bit of difficulty with patching the game and roster updates, which has put a bit of a dark cloud on the game. However they are also adding a lot of good content for free, such as a recent myClub special based around the El Classico match. Each day, if you logged in, you were given 10,000 credits. Enough to make a draw at an El Classico player, with almost a 50% chance of gaining an Elite player. Effectively you had a chance of getting a Ronaldo, Messi or Neymar free, every day. Konami also recently announced the license to the UEFA EURO 2016 and will be releasing a free update to the game to feature gameplay based around the competition. EA SPORTS usually release a standalone game for the Euros, so it will be interesting to see what happens there.
Overall PES 2016 is enjoyable to play, once you get by those menus. Unless your are obsessed about licenses or button combination skill moves I would recommend it over FIFA. Unfortunately the game does suffer from the dreaded frame rate drops on the Xbox One, but for chilling out over a mindless game of football, PES 2016 offers that relatively stress free experience. 2015 marks the 20th anniversary of the Pro Evolution franchise and it’s good to see it moving back towards its original prowess.
7 players building up the play out of 10