There was a time when Pro Evolution Soccer was the king of gameplay. While FIFA has always had the edge in terms of presentation, Konami's title could stand proud in knowing that it had the gameplay mastered, but then something went wrong. Somewhere along the line Konami and the Pro Evolution series lost its way, while FIFA kept evolving, going on to win the hearts and minds of gamers. But this year could be different because Pro Evolution Soccer has its swagger back.
While to me, FIFA has always been the game which offers gamers a fantastic amount of options in terms of gameplay modes, Konami has slowly been working to solve this issue. While the Master League has always been a mainstay for any fan of the series, Pro Evolution Soccer has evolved into a lot more. Gameplay modes such as Become A Legend, Champions League, UEFA Cup and the like are now joined by My Club, an all new mode which is essentially Pro Evolution Soccer's answer to Ultimate Team.
In myClub you are able to buy players using GP points (or via microtransactions) which are accumulated throughout the entire game, so whether you are playing online or offline, you'll always gain the points you need to build your myClub team. In this mode you'll have to keep players happy or their upset the balance of your team and you'll also have to deal with the scourge of most football managers - Agents. Overall myClub sounds like nice addition to a game, and a possibly rival for FIFA's Ultimate Team, although we've not really been able to test it since the servers are not currently live, so its hard to say for sure how this mode will pan out (we'll write a separate article with our impressions once the servers are live).
Of course for all the game modes and improvements off the field, it's the on pitch action that counts the most and in this respect EA should most definitely be looking over its shoulder this year. Thanks to PES now running on the Fox engine there are a huge amount of features which make the action on the pitch better than ever. Players really do act and behave like their real life counterparts and the animations both on the pitch and on the sidelines make for some fantastic viewing.
The main advancement though is in just how much fun PES is to play. The action just feels so fast and free flowing. Shooting feels much better balanced, with player reactions seemingly faster than ever. The same can be said for the defending, as the game leaves which players to close down, and when, up to you. AI players also feel improved, always running into space, looking for an opportunity, while goalkeepers feel more realistic than ever, pulling off saves from the standard to the spectacular. Even taking corners now feels much better as you guide the direction you'd like the ball. All of these changes make for fantastic action, giving it that "just one more game" pull too it.
Of course there are many more changes that I've not even mentioned such as new leagues, a fantastic licensed soundtrack, new licensed stadia, an unprecedented edit mode which allows you to edit everything from players, managers, stadiums and more. There's even the option to manage matches instead of playing yourself and in this respect Konami has added plenty of tools for you to tinker with your team for management perfection.
Those who opt for PES this year will certainly not be selling themselves short.
If there is one issue I still think Konami needs to address then it's the menus. While EA offers a seamless and wonderfully designed menu system, I still feel that PES is a little behind in this areas. Some menu options feel like they belong more in a JRPG than a football game such is their look. Maybe I've been a little spoiled in terms of FIFA's modern look, but I'd like Konami to address this area, because if it does, then I feel it could appeal more to the consumer as a whole.
While licensing has been an issue for Konami in the past, I do feel that this gap is closing by the year. With Konami licensing plenty of leagues and more importantly, the Champions League and UEFA Europa League, as well as Copa Libertadores, AFC Champions League and more, most of the larger teams are including within the game. So licensing is certainly no longer an issue.
Most people will already know whether they prefer PES or FIFA and some, like me, will probably buy both. Having spent time with both titles this year, in my opinion, there's only one winner when it comes to gameplay and that's PES 2015. Konami's football title has been a sleeping giant for so long, so it's great to see that it's finally living up to its potential.
Words by Joe Anderson.
Twitter: @_wotta | PSN/Xbox LIVE: wotta
(Version Tested: PS4)
*The servers where not live for our review, so we have been unable to test some areas of the game fully.
+ Excellent gameplay
+ Lots of game modes to choose from
+ Fantastic player likeness
+ Wonderful atmosphere to whole game
+ Decent soundtrack
- The menus still need some work