It felt like a lifetime since I played Pro Evolution Soccer and felt absolutely enthralled by passion of the craft.
Those are some defining words of declaration I give to Konami’s premier ‘football’ game, a series that is widely known for technical accuracy over boisterous presentation, as well as a dedicated audience with international tastes. PES 2016 will amaze or at the very least bring much-needed relevancy to an embattled legacy.
I’ve been playing since the PlayStation 2 days, but, with some admission there’s a gap as my love waned as the series felt lost and my interests fleeted elsewhere. Fortunately, the formula has gradually evolved this season and also quite elaborate in how everything comes together, by way of a dynamically new collision system. As a matter of fact, this is essentially the critical backbone of the game in which nothing is predictable, guaranteeing that matches are no longer based on canned responses as players engage each other with minute fluidity.
It’s unusually difficult to describe how well the AI and physics come together but there’s a greater separation in style and attitude. Bulky defenders are more relentless the longer the hesitation with the ball, and will force you into sloppy maneuvers or simply choking the life out of weaker offensives. This type of dogging is consistent even when the difficulty is set at lower levels and a constant mindgame on how to approach every attack.
The flipside is that challenging the opposition can be equally dramatic as skirmishes aren’t necessarily one-sided anymore. Claiming possession of the ball by aerial play or deliberate sliding tackles is typically an initiation rather than an automatic process, as any disruption can, and often will have the ball rolling out in the open waiting to be picked clean by opportunistic forwards. This physical freedom brings an important sense urgency and ferocity for conceivable realism, making delayed responses and outwardly erratic pitches more tactical than begrudging compromises.
Running across the field is particularly effective as a unit for direct plays, but the actual thrill is coming from behind and setting up advanced sharp passes. Chaining button combos in tandem with teammate AI movements comes with potential reward, as there’s an extra level of fluid control to accompany the core passing mechanics; scoring can be an impressive feat if you’re willing to use some forethought in order to pull it off. Other changes certainly make the game smarter as well, specifically mastering long passes and how holding down buttons will alternate techniques depending on field placement.
Everything from the technical sophistication, reworked Masters League, to the even more extensive MyClub mode which has you coaching your own dream team and experience the inner workings of the pro football world is still top notch here. However, the presentation has traditionally played second fiddle to EA’s ‘FIFA’ franchise — but this game excels with only minor nitpicks poking through, despite incorporating Kojima Productions’ proprietary Fox Engine. Character models are meticulously animated and exceptionally detailed as the facial expressions seen on Neymar Jr., Blaise Matuidi, and Álvaro Arbeloa look nearly exact. Environmental effects on the other hand is adequate as weather changes are proficient solely for the sake of gameplay, and the atmosphere of stadium crowds often lack liveliness; of course, the commentary heard is appreciated but equally static in staging.
But how does Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 ultimately portray itself? In truth, this might be the best iteration yet, not just for the series but as a whole. By heart, Konami has officially outdone themselves as deep gameplay goes further, tighter, and more organic in execution, and that’s saying a lot considering the series has been the preferred choice for substance over style. Only now, all doubt should be eliminated for true football fans.