Does Konami’s latest entry in their long-running Pro Evolution Soccer series offer players a viable footballing alternative to EA’s FIFA series?
I can’t think of a more soul-destroying game development job than working on a PES game. The knowledge that no matter what you do, no matter how good your game is, it’s never going to beat EA’s latest FIFA entry when it comes to exposure or sales.
It’s impossible to view Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 without the inevitable comparisons with EA’s FIFA 15. I apologise now for all the references to Konami’s competitor in my review, below.
Let’s give the biggest problem with PES 2015 out of the way right now. As with previous Pro Evolution games, PES 2015 lacks most of the major official team and competition licences.
For those of us in English-speaking countries the absence of the English Premiership, the A-League and MLS is a bit of a turn off straight away. At least the English clubs are kind of represented using fake names. The A-League, however, doesn’t even get a faux presence in the game.In saying that, I’m not interest in playing as “North London”, when I actually want to play as Arsenal.
Manchester United fans, on the other hand are OK as their team is properly licenced with the correct strip, logos, and player names.
As well as Man Utd, the game does have a number of official licences from around the world. The UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, Copa Libertadores, Copa Subamerica and the AFC Champions League are all in the game with the proper teams, players and strips.
If you must play as your favourite English club, as before, PES 2015 comes with an editor allowing players to swap out the fake clubs for the real ones. User-generated, pre-edited files are available for download on the internet that’ll do most of the work for you. You’ll still need a bit of patience, but it is doable.
In previous years I’ve always found the PES user interface to be a bit clunky and unrefined. They seem to have made a bit of effort this year, but the presentation is still a long way from FIFA’s slick interface.
The game uses the Fox Engine developed for the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V game. Whilst good, the visuals are not great, and in my opinion certainly not up to the standard set by the new-gen FIFA games. With FIFA now concentrated their efforts of crowd dynamics and stadium ambiance, the cloned supporters and their robotic animations in PES 2015 look a bit embarrassing by comparison.
PES 2015 comes with a smorgasbord of game options that is without a doubt on per with EA’s FIFA 15. As you’d expect, you can just jump in with an exhibition game playable against the CPU, another player online or offline. There’s also an online division mode, allowing you take a club through a season of matches against real opponents.
Those gamers wanting a more career-focused experience will find themselves well accommodated. Master League puts you in the role of the club’s manager, running the club as well as playing the matches. Become a Legend, on the other hand, allows you to focus on the career of a single player.
Like FIFA’s Ultimate Team, myClub potentially offers the most depth in the game allowing players to create their own fantasy football team. You earn points for in-match achievement which can, in turn, be used to purchase new players. The game also supports the dreaded microtransactions, with new players also able to be purchased using myClub coins which cost US$1 for 100.
On the pitch, PES 2015 is quite a different animal to that of FIFA 15. Whilst I could use the same controller layout as I do in EA’s game, the way the players interacted with the ball was very different. The ball doesn’t seem quite so stuck to the players’ feet for starters, also the pace of the game seems slower and as a result more realistic than in FIFA. The downside is the way that the game’s AI behaves.
Whilst dribbling about, I managed to get the opposing team’s defender practically dancing to La Cucaracha rather that tackle me. It could have been a down to the difficultly level, but even on amateur FIFA players are rarely that predictable or timid.
Despite appearances, PES 2015 is so much more than a poor man’s FIFA, although the lack of licenced English club teams will be too much of a turn-off for most. It’s a shame because on the pitch PES is very much its own man offering a decent game of football independent of EA’s effort.
Personally, I can’t honestly recommend PES 2015 over FIFA 15, but I having given it a good go I can’t simply dismiss it either. Konami are offering football fans a viable alternative to EA Sport’s mammoth franchise. With more realistic ball-control many gamers may even find PES 2015 a better representation of the sport. If anything, Konami are at least providing EA with a bit of competition.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is out now on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PS3 and Windows PC.