Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer and EA Sports’ FIFA series have long been at each others’ throats. And while, overall, it hasn’t been a one-sided battle, phases of it have tilted more in the favour of one of those two competitors. At first, it was PES that dominated the scene, the football (or soccer, if you want to be… well, wrong) game that everyone wanted every year.
With FIFA 08, though, Konami’s franchise lost some of its ground, and with every following FIFA game, EA Sports started taking a more dominant hold of the market, until finally, FIFA was the force to be reckoned with, selling like peanuts and receiving legitimate praise. However, after FIFA 13, the series slowed down a bit- FIFA 14 was nowhere near as good or as refreshing as FIFA 13 was, and FIFA 15 is, barring a few tweaks that have to be lauded, more of the same.
"Using the famous Fox Engine and building on PES 2014’s stuttering yet remarkable steps forward, Pro Evo Soccer 2015 has brought the PES franchise back into the limelight with a shout"
Sensing the FIFA series’ slowing momentum, it seems that Konami has chose to strike. Using the famous Fox Engine and building on PES 2014’s stuttering yet remarkable steps forward, Pro Evo Soccer 2015 has brought the PES franchise back into the limelight with a shout, announcing to the world that the FIFA series may have won the past few battles, but that the war is still very much on. PES 2015 is excellent, thrilling, challenging, and rewarding, and for the first time in half a decade, Konami has managed to outdo EA Sports- and they have done so in a very spectacular way.
I was surprised when I realized, after having played several hours of both FIFA 15 and Pro Evo 15, that the Konami game appealed to me more than the EA game did. I have always been one of those nitpicky football fanatics that appreciates the FIFA games for being as authentic as they are- proper chants, licensed team names, licensed stadia.
Plenty of times, the fact that PES did not have those things proved to be almost a deal-breaker for me. But I realized that this year’s PES was more authentic than FIFA on a deeper level, a level that matters more than licenses and chants. When you play a number of matches in PES, you realize that it has managed to capture the intricacies and the complexities of the beautiful game almost to perfection, in a way that FIFA just hasn’t managed to do in the last two or three years.
There has been a lot of focus on tactics in football in the last few years- and with managers like Jose Mourinho and Louis van Gaal both in the highly publicized Premier League, tactics have become even more important to the football watching public. And PES makes the art of winning football matches while holding controllers a very, very tactical affair, and the matches are better for it. The main reason for this huge improvement in the game has to be the AI.
"The artificial intelligence- both, friendly and opponent- in PES 2015 is surprisingly good. Wingers make bursting runs, full backs overlap with them, strikers make intelligent diagonal runs, goalkeepers and defenders come out to tackle, players drop back to defend when they lose possession, and all of this is done in a very organic, realistic way."
The artificial intelligence- both, friendly and opponent- in PES 2015 is surprisingly good. Wingers make bursting runs, full backs overlap with them, strikers make intelligent diagonal runs, goalkeepers and defenders come out to tackle, players drop back to defend when they lose possession, and all of this is done in a very organic, realistic way. Not only does this make it very exciting for you to play when you’re attacking- spotting a teammate’s run and then sending him through on goal is more satisfying than it has been for a long time in any football game- but it also gives defending that much more of an edge. You always have to cope with intelligent play by your opponents.
What’s even more impressive is that your opponents adapt to your tactics and the way you play overtime. Slow and lumbering defenders might be exploited by pacey strikers, especially those that come on as substitutes, and if you try and get in on goal using the same tactic too many times, your opponents will eventually find a way to defend against you.
Whip in crosses from the same area towards the same player too often and the opposing manager might bring on a tall, muscular defender who has the ability to win headers. Try and cut defenses open with too many through balls, and you might realize that the opposition has started playing a much tighter game with very little spaces for you to exploit. Have one of your full backs receive a yellow card, and the opponent might look to take advantage of that with trickery and flair in that wing of the pitch.
It all comes together and makes for authentic and extremely enjoyable play, which makes winning matches all the more rewarding. The fact that you have to keep adapting to your opponents, just like they have to keep adapting to you, means that you probably won’t play too many matches that are similar to each other. Every match feels like a new experience, which means that there isn’t much chance of you getting bored due to repetition.
"It may not have the superficial authenticity or the stadium atmosphere that FIFA can boast of, but when it comes down to the on-pitch action, it has to be said that PES 2015 takes the cake this year."
There are a few glitches and bugs here and there, as you expect them to be- sometimes the generally realistic physics go haywire, and there are some players who look nothing like they actually do- but overall, PES 2015 is a pretty polished game. There is a sense of weight to the controls, and the game in general is much more responsive than previous instalments. The visuals, too, are generally top notch. A few old problems, like band menus and boring commentary, still persist, however this time around, it does not feel like they’re getting in the way of your enjoyment as much as they might have in previous PES games.
Off the pitch, Konami have, quite shamelessly, tried to rip off FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode with the new myClub mode. While it’s a much more simplified and basic version of FUT, and not nearly as rewarding or as addictive as the FIFA series’ extremely popular online mode is, myClub still has to be deemed a good foundation for Konami to build on in the future.
It takes a while, but once you’ve spent a considerable time playing PES- at least more than a couple of hours- you realize that this is a very authentic football simulation game. And that’s where its main strength lies. When you’re playing PES, you’re playing proper football, and it doesn’t do anything that you wouldn’t expect to see in a football game.
In fact, it simulates the nature of a football match very well. It may not have the superficial authenticity or the stadium atmosphere that FIFA can boast of, but when it comes down to the on-pitch action, it has to be said that PES 2015 takes the cake this year. We can only hope that PES Productions will go from strength to strength now, because with PES 2015, they have a damn good foundation to build- or rather rebuild- on.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 4.
Rewarding tactical play, Never gets boring, Excellent AI, Huge improvement over last year.
A few glitches here and there, Online play still not as good as it should be, Old flaws like boring commentary still persist.