Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 – Review
I don’t understand soccer. That isn’t meant as a smarmy statement in which I diminish the sport and it’s fans as a whole prior to a list that somehow proves my opinion about said sport is infallible – I literally don’t understand soccer. I don’t watch soccer, I haven’t played it since early primary school and I couldn’t name a single Socceroo apart from Tim Cahill. The meaning of offside eludes me much in the same way talent eludes the Kardashian family. Probably not the opening paragraph you expected for a soccer review, right?
Rather than have a dedicated soccer game fanatic tackle this one and wax lyrical about year to year adjustments, our editor thought it might be interesting to take an alternate approach: Can Konami’s Pro Evo Soccer 2016 take a hopeless case like myself and turn them into a capable player? After all, every sports game is someone’s first and if a series isn’t welcoming to new players, it should be a concern to the developers and license holders.
After booting up PES 2016, I was initially overwhelmed by the options given to me from the starting menus. Tucked away in the Extras panel was the Training option, which I was thankful for considering the last sports game I’d spent much time with, EA’s NHL 15, only offered a free skate mode with no explanation of controls as the ‘training’ mode. PES 2016 offers everything from Basic to Expert level tutorials that I found invaluable not only to grasp the control scheme but also the fundamentals of the game itself. However, while these simple drills work in the context of the training mode, getting it all to gel together in a match isn’t as simple. For quite a while, my team did better when I was on the bench rather than on the field. In the end, I tossed ego aside and scaled back the difficulty so that I could begin working on control memorisation and some of the more advanced techniques the tutorials suggested which began to pay off as the score gap widened between myself and the opposing AI, signalling that it was time to bump the difficulty level up a notch.
During play, there is a great sense of momentum on the pitch, with players feeling weighty. Stopping and turning on a dime is impossible when sprinting and controlled shooting and passing is essential. This was an adjustment for me as a newbie, requiring a level of finesse and timing that only comes through extended play. Obviously this was made more difficult by pressure from the AI. I would literally getting nervous trying to drive the ball towards the goal, looking for gaps in the defence and often overpowering shots which went very wide of the mark. As my hours played increased, gaps became more noticeable which compounded my confidence, in turn enticing me to play more.
Due to licensing issues, PES 2016 appears lacking in terms of the leagues and teams available when compared to FIFA 16, its biggest competitor. On the same token however, customisation options in PES combined with community support mean that these can be loaded in to the game with a minimal amount of work, at least on the PS4 and PC. These licensing issues also affect the soundtrack, with only 13 tracks present. The commentary by Jim Beglin and Peter Drury is serviceable but doesn’t really stand out in any noticeable way. In fact, sometimes it’s downright vague and won’t always accurately reflect the events on screen. As with most sports titles, repetition of both music and commentary can become a distraction – I recommend swapping out the latter for another language occasionally for a bit of fun. The sound effects have a big impact on play, especially when the crowd noise swells to accompany the action on screen. It’s a great feeling to have the crowd roaring thunderously as you make your way towards the goal, their disappointment audible if your scoring attempt is thwarted.
One of my first thoughts on firing up PES 2016 was how fantastic the grass looks, however further time with the game showed that graphically, PES 2016 is a mixed bag depending on the distance between the camera and the objects on screen. It uses Konami’s Fox Engine, so detail-wise I found the player models comparable to soldiers in MGSV with a decent amount of customisation for your own character in terms of hairstyles and facial features. I don’t know what any of the players look like in real life, but a more knowledgeable friend came over for a few rounds and assured me that the bigger names at least are recognisable. Animations are smooth with only occasional hitches and players sometimes sliding surreptitiously into their required position. I did have one hilarious instance of a player floating above the ball, arms outstretched towards the sky that was more amusing than frustrating.
At the end of my time with PES 2016, I felt much more confident in my virtual soccer abilities, which were non-existent prior. By making use of the training modes and the range of difficulty levels on offer, there’s no reason why anybody who has felt intimidated by sports games in the past can’t work their way up – however, it must be said that the first few hours will definitely feel like work. Persistence is the key, just as it is for real world athletes. I can’t say that I’m any more interested in following the sport now, but at the very least I won’t get so solidly drubbed the next time a friend challenges me to a virtual match.
Stephen del Prado