Silky smooth passing is back in this beautiful game called PES 2015
Pro-Evolution Soccer (PES) or some might know it as Winning Eleven is a football simulation. It’s very much how racing gurus will correct you when you say you bought the “game” Gran Turismo. Hardcore fans of the series will say, Gran Turismo is a race simulator as opposed to a game. This statement holds weight and I don’t blame fans for the parallelism in comparison.
Back in time
Let’s take a step back into time a little, consider this to be more like a reflection review in totality. Let’s return to the pinnacle of PES, Winning Eleven 9 or PES5. Some may remember playing this on the PlayStation2 or their PC rigs. You could imagine me pouring away the hours just marvelling at the wonderful game of football played in almost a lucid like fashion. There seemed to be this fluidity in player animations. A party gathering of guys commonly ended by the group of us staying up into the wee hours battling it out against each other. At that time, club licenses, stadiums and franchises did not matter. What mattered was the accurate portrayal of the beautiful game, the player likenesses and being able to participate in the moment.
One generation later, saw PES2008 come to the XBOX360/PS3 generation. That was where most fans as myself saw the decline in the series. Plagued by bugs, frame rate issues, it seemed that PES had lost its ways in trying to integrate itself onto the next platform. Understandably, a new piece of hardware would require a new engine. Considering the developmental point of view, there were many issues to consider like which elements should be ported over vs new content. This often led to a final product which displayed mix messages sent out to PES fans. To add insult to injury, FIFA08 on the next generation platforms breathed new life into the series. To sum it up, PES was headed the wrong way while FIFA took the opportunity to flourish on the current generation.
Fast forward a little now in time, we find ourselves on the edge of 2015 with a refresh of consoles with the PlayStation 4. The time has come again for us to find out if PES 2015 managed to capitalize on the opportunity given to Konami. How does the brand new FOX engine fare? How does PES remain relevant despite the dominance of FIFA over the last 6-7 years?
PES2015 – The review
While playing catchup certainly wasn’t Konami’s idea of fun, one has to applaud them for focusing on the true essence of the beautiful game. Normally launched side by side with FIFA, PES decided to take a step sideways and launch 2 months later. This is a welcome surprise. Being a soccer fan who eats and breathes football, I would normally head down to the store to get both. This time around, I had enough time to digest all that FIFA 15 had to offer before devoting all my time to PES. When booted up, I was greeted by a day 1, 1.13 GB patch to download some latest changes to player models, kits etc. Online services were not yet up at the time of the review, so I was not able to comment on the online features of the game. The modes were by and large similar to previous iterations with the exception of myClub which mirrors Fifa ultimate team. PES2015 offers up master league, the Champions League, Europa league, AFC champions league, COPA libertadores, leagues and cups.
While a true fan will probably say, these modes merely serve as a distraction in its attempt to measure up against its competitor, I would also agree that gameplay would be the focus despite the numerous offerings PES had in terms of game modes. Licensing problems return to the game with only a few leagues fully licensed like the Liga BBVA, Liga Adelante, Serie A, Ligue 1 etc. The notable absentee would be the German Bundesliga which was a pity considering its popularity with fans. Again, this issue has been solved all around the world with the ability of fans to import option files to obtain latest kits, stadiums into the game. It still isn’t the same having the official license. So it comes down to the most important question, how does PES play?
PES 2015 does not disappoint. I’ll break this part of the review into 3 portions. 1) Attack, defend, 2) Passing and goalkeeping. Attacking in game felt balanced. Traditional PES games saw players like Messi, Ronaldo power their way down goal with defenders not even coming close. PES 2015 does well to balance the aspect of pace and defending. Defending was also not just a one button affair to home in on players holding the ball. In fact, I found myself mixing up the homing and covering the area of a player’s passing zone. Attacking football was a joy to behold as players responded well to command inputs by making intelligent runs to split open the defense. This allowed my controlled player to either make the pass or attempt at goal. Each goal you score in PES is more often than not a unique and varied experience. This is because of the great refined engine that caters for varied outcomes. Whether you are scoring a scintillating volley from 30 yards out, a header scrambled in the 90th minute from a corner, or a routine shot. PES2015 has you covered from all angles.
Passing in PES 2015 is everything. Think fluidity in motion. With PES2015, you would really start to see a certain pattern before executing your passes. This might not make sense to you but I found this to be absolutely necessary when it comes to tearing the defenses apart. This is also the core mechanics of PES. If you are able to visualize and expect how defenses would react, it would translate to a passing event which ultimately leads to a goal scoring opportunity. Passes are elegantly executed as you move the ball around from player to player. The satisfaction of controlling possession, controlling the pace in game is everything. PES is a thinking game and that is why hardcore soccer fans would be more likely to appreciate these elements as opposed to a more casual pick up and play soccer game.
Goalkeeping is also another area which has been significantly improved. I remember the last few iterations of PES which made a mess of the goal keepers making them dreadfully unnecessary or unresponsive to the authentic brand of football. This year’s keepers react better, while not perfect. While I prefer, FIFA’s improvement on the keepers. PES is no let up as well. Keepers generally react well but there were a few times where they did not react well after stopping a first shot and dropping it resulting in goal scoring opportunities. Forums were also quick to react by commenting that keepers do not rush out to spread and cover enough. I found this to be partially true but manually controlling your keeper and getting him to charge out would more than adequately solve this issue.
In a nutshell, PES2015 is a next generation welcome back to the big stage. While one might bemoan the lack of licenses and great commentary in game, I urge football fans to look beyond just the bells and whistles and instead return and revisit your first love for the beautiful game. PES2015 encapsulates the fluidity in motion, passing, exhilarating goal scoring opportunities, game changing slide tackle all into one and should not be missed by any football fan. While we had no choice but to take away points for the licensing and the commentary, credit should still be given where it is due.
Ratings : 4 out of 5 stars.
Kenneth Choong (An avid football/Manchester United fan for all his life who also supports Borussia Dortmund in the German Bundesliga. His wife also plays PES and will never touch a game of FIFA). Up to today, he seeks to understand the mystery and Pandora’s Box behind this. Perhaps it’s the realism of football where it takes one to know one. Kenneth has played Fifa since it’s 97 iteration up to date and Winning Eleven since it’s PS2 glory days. He secretly hopes one day that EA and Konami will join forces for FIFA WINNING ELEVEN 2025 while that probably isn’t going to happen any time soon, it pays to be optimistic.
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