The Average Gamer

PES 2015 Review (Xbox 360)

The football season is now well under way, which means the inevitable FIFA v PES football sim war is imminent. I say war, for the last 4-5 years it’s more like PES is a less fortunate relative of its rich, arrogant and aggressive FIFA cousin. And with FIFA getting an almost 2-month head start already, is it another annual case of ‘holier than thou’ for the PES series?

The simple answer? Yes… and no. Back in the days of PlayStation 2, there was only one definitive football series: Pro Evolution Soccer. To this day, I still consider PS2’s Pro Evolution Soccer 6 as the best football sim of all time. That was 8 years ago. Spin to 2014 (in fact from 2009 onwards), and EA’s FIFA series has taken over almost completely, with Konami unfortunately now playing catch-up.

That is PES 2015’s overall problem. A first glance at the interface shows an Xbox dashboard-esque menu system that looks modelled on FIFA 15’s. The training modes offer bronze, silver or gold awards depending on performance, just like FIFA’s, but with far less depth. The creation of myClub, disappointingly unavailable for review at this time, is PES’s attempt at FIFA’s Ultimate Team; create your own side to face against other AI or online opponents, with microtransactions aplenty to assist speeding up the process (and of course, make profit). So it really is pretty much down to one element – the football – to decide which one is king.

Compared with last year’s effort, the football in PES 2015 is very much improved. Where last year’s players felt like they were running through treacle, this time there is much more freedom of movement, thankfully ending the all too common ‘running into a brick wall’ syndrome of PES 2014 players. Passing flows much better also, so if that’s your game (as is mine) then you can string together a range of passing that the Brazil side of 1970 would envy. Ok, maybe not but you get the picture.

One of the biggest improvements is the shooting. Finally, the ball appears to have the freedom it had back from the PS2 days, leaving you free to aim freely with or without, add after-spin, control the height of the shot, etc. Too many shots from distance on PES 2014 were sky high for no reason, even with the likes of Messi and Ronaldo. Now it is down to you, as it should be.

There is also a great sense of balance to the CPU matches of PES 2015, which reflects who you’re playing, where you are playing (home/away), and what’s at stake at the time. Unlike FIFA, whose possession-frenzy approach can prove frustrating and one dimensional, PES reacts to the way you are playing, and attempts to plug holes in defence that you may be exploiting. Poised at 0-0 with Lazio myself, my attempt to pass through the middle, drawing out the opposition then using the flanks was sucker-punched by the A.I doubling up both in the middle and wide, then launching a  quick counter-attack, exploiting gaps left in the middle. I lost 0-2, but was actually left admired having been bested, not frustrated and aggrieved. It was a welcome reminder of the PES of yesteryear, where single player was as much fun as multiplayer, which is rare in a sports game.

PES2015_FFF_02Coupled with the improvements above, with use of the Kojima Productions-built Fox Engine, most players have been re-created to replicate their real-life counterpart, and the results are fantastic. The likenesses on offer are far superior to that of FIFA’s latest effort, and should you score with Cristiano Ronaldo, the celebrations are recreated to perfection. But it doesn’t stop there; the players and teams they play for are acutely tuned to behave exactly how they would in reality, whether it’s attacking-minded, a specialist in wing play, and so on. Overall team tactics are the same, but of course you can tinker with these should you wish, to play your style. Adding to the already seamless animations, they really look the genuine article.

But then comes the usual issue – particularly in the UK – licenses. FIFA of course has the luxury of most football teams licensed kits and various leagues around the world. This year’s cover star Mario Gozte, scorer of the World Cup 2014 winning goal, is the focus, and his team Bayern Munich are one of the licensed teams, yet there is no Bundesliga in the game. Although this has been the picture of PES and its licenses for years now, it’s fortunate that it’s expected of current PES fans. Only having one English Premier League club licensed – Manchester United – could even put some fans off, particularly the younger generation, as they cannot play fully as their favourite team.

In comparison, Konami have simply grabbed what they can, but done a damn good job of them.  The Champions League and Europa League competitions are available once again, and the leagues that Konami have, have their own dedicated league modes to conquer. All are presented as they would be on television, even with accompanying eventually-irritating theme music. Master League is back once again, and is always a PES game’s best feature. Choose a team, then play/buy/sell as you see fit. After all, if it isn’t broken, why fix it?

Minor license issues aside, PES 2015 is a significantly marked improvement not only on PES 2014, but the entire Xbox 360 PES series, and serves as a wonderful swansong now that the series has transcended on the next generation. And with myClub yet to come, along with online play, PES 2015 is an excellent alternative to FIFA 15, and although it borrows some of FIFA’s elements, PES would be the football connoisseurs’ choice. Marvellous stuff.

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