Ahh football, soccer, kicksphere or whatever you want to call it, it’s had a bit of a strange year. Leicester defying the odds and making numerous people richer than I’ll ever comprehend, Arsenal continuing to sneak above Tottenham and Rangers once again reigniting that fierce rivalry and beating Celtic in extra time in Scotland.
Football eh? It’s definitely one of the more dependable things in the world of gaming. Now into it’s 21st year, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer has it’s fair few shaky iterations over the last decade as it struggled to transition from generation to generation but after last year’s solid entry it seems pretty safe to say that it’s once again in a safe place after being the highest rated sports game of this generation.
Konami invited us down to get a little hands on with an extremely early build of PES17 before they shoot off to the glitzy Hollywood lights of E3. The build had four playable teams - Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, France & Germany, one stadium with both day & night available and that’s really was about it, as I said, extremely early look at this year’s title. A quick summary before moving on to this year’s changes - PES17 fixes everything that bugged or bothered you with last year’s release but the new additions and changes will take some time to get used to. It plays considerably slower than last year and noticeably so but it’s early days yet and a lot can change over the few months.
So, what’s going on this year? The main focus was to change the player to ball relationship and the PES team have achieved this through a few new gameplay additions:
The biggest change this year is the focus on a more tactical, completely reworked one touch style of football. Player position, attributes are all factored in to the new system and as you’d expect in real life, each player controls the ball that little bit differently, Alexis Sanchez dribbles as you’d expect, passing skillfully with the outside of the foot. It all looks and feels more natural than previous entries, that being said, it also changes the way the game flows. The overall game pace is slower than PES16.
Timing your pass right is important in PES17. Using the new real touch system mentioned above along with the ball physics, the new system will really dictate the flow and what you do next. A solid first touch means you’ll have more time and space to utilise the ball as you please, screw up your first touch and more often than not you’ll find your player stretching for the ball, under pressure and you’ll affect the accuracy of your pass.
There’s a whole host of new player animations. Konami were keen to stress that the development team have brought in a entire new library of animations that all mean something to the game adding a new sense of flow.
Konami told us that perhaps the greatest amount of PES16 feedback all pointed towards the fans being unhappy with the goalkeepers. Keepers have had a significant lift in quality through an increase of player animations, motion and more to make PES17 the “most balanced PES yet” - That’s something you’ll have to take their word for, personally I found the goalies significantly more challenging.
In fact, going into a bit more detail, goalkeepers have had a complete reworking. For example, animations, mentality, the AI, how they react to shots and how they save have all had a complete overhaul. You’ll be able to see clear differences in the playstyles of certain keepers like the offensive sweeping of Neuer or the wonderful leg saves of David De Gea.
TOTAL TEAM CONTROLS
If you’ve played FIFA at all in the last few years, you’ll feel right at home with this and it’s actually a feature the PES team have brought back from the PS2 era of the series. A few simple button commands in-game can set the mentality of the team’s AI to be attacking or more defensive. Going for an all out guns blazing attack will see your keeper head up the park into nosebleed territory in search of that last chance winner from a set piece and if you’re defending that sort of attack, you can always park the bus.
While PES titles have always had those behind the scenes tactics that players love to spend minutes and hour setting up, PES17 actually brings well known team playstyles to the game and gameplay like Klopp’s Gegenpressing (For those that don’t know, yes, that’s a real thing) or the Tika Taka that saw Barcelona dominate for many years. These are easily activatable in game and can be stacked with other tactics. Neat.
Pressing the directional pad during a corner now brings up a new list of options changing what your players do while shuffling into position. Obviously these options change on wether you’re attacking or defending the corner. If you’re defending, you can quickly change between man marking and zonal defending on the fly. Attacking? You can attempt to confuse your opponent with a bunching up before breaking off into space or flooding the 6-yard box and generally causing havoc for the keeper. In reality, it’s something that can be easily overlooked during the corner gameplay, though that’s down to years of corners being played out in the same way.
Drum roll please! This is what Konami think will define the game when it hits shelves later this year. Adaptive artificial intelligence is finally ready for its first outing after numerous years in development. The AI will actually learn how you play and adapt its tactics accordingly. If you always pass to your favourite player, the AI will learn this over time and actually double up the defence around that player. Consistently switch play to the wingers? The AI will learn. Find yourself always crossing the ball? The AI will learn and you’ll find more opposing players in the box ready to hamper your inswinging balls. Get the picture? Konami really feel Adaptive AI will revolutionise the way that single-player PES is played, truly making each game feel different and unique.
Finally, PES17 will be receiving weekly updates for both online and offline as well as an exhaustive day one roster update and that’s about it so far. Konami will be revealing more at E3 and gamescom this year.
PES17 is coming out this Autumn on PS4, Xbox One and Steam. You can pre-order today at ShopTo.