It’s not often that someone behind a video game will publicly come out and denounce its competitor in such obvious fashion, but that’s exactly what Pro Evolution Soccer 2015‘s brand manager did not long ago. At the time, neither his game or its competitor, FIFA 15, were in stores with final versions available for purchase, but that didn’t stop him from saying that he wasn’t worried about the other team’s game. Those were fighting words, indeed, and there’s no denying that they put that extra bit of pressure on Konami to deliver with its first ‘next-gen’ soccer title. Thankfully, it did so in spades.
After sitting out of last year’s launch parties in favour of sticking with last-gen tech, Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 (or PES 2015 as the cool kids call it) has officially taken the pitch, two months later than originally expected. After all, the battle for interactive soccer supremacy usually takes place in September, when the children go back to school and the weather begins to get a bit cooler. FIFA launched its latest iteration then, but those behind the PES franchise decided to wait a bit longer.
The most notable thing about Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 continues to be the FOX Engine behind it. Yes, this is a soccer series that is powered by Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid engine, of all things, and it works very well. In fact, this may be the best soccer game that I’ve ever played. It’s that good.
Being that this is a sports game, there’s no story to really speak of. The game isn’t about narratives, outside of those that its players create using some of world’s best footballers. It’s all in the hands of the one holding the DualShock 4 or Xbox One pad, and that’s how it should be. Konami still does its best to accentuate things, though, by including a wealth of modes, including not only the basics like Exhibition, Be a Legend and online tournaments, but also a rich Master League mode and a new experience called myClub. Furthermore, a new league cup has been added into the mix, taking its place beside the UEFA and Copa Libertadores tourneys.
myClub can easily be described as PES‘ answer to FIFA‘s card-based Ultimate Team mode. However, it’s devoid of trading cards, and focuses instead on real-life players and fictional agents. You’re still collecting athletes, though, in an attempt to build the best team that you can. To do so, you can take the long route and work your ass off, earning points for every positive thing that you do in the game. Or, if you don’t have patience, you can go the microtransaction route, but that’s something that I don’t recommend.
Without a doubt, a lot of work has gone into making Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 a more expansive and immersive experience, and it shows. There’s a ton to do and it’s all a lot of fun. Hell, even the training games are much improved, especially in comparison to the Skill Games found in EA’s titles. Now, the drills evolve with you, so if you’re doing well then you’ll have to up your game and face a higher challenge. By this, I mean that passing angles will become more complex, defenders will begin to oppose you, etc. It’s fun and rewarding stuff (when you do well).
Of course, gameplay is always key, and that’s especially true of sports games. There’s nothing to worry about here, though, because the on-field action is a blast. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 expertly blends simulation soccer with the perfect amount of arcade flair, with impressively challenging AI to boot. Whereas last year’s iteration felt like a stepping stone, this one is the real deal.
You don’t really appreciate the physics that are on display until you score a goal or look at a replay. Then your jaw drops. The physics in this game are great, and it’s a treat to watch the players twist, turn, juke and deke around each other, especially in slow motion. Normally, I wouldn’t even bother much with replays, but there’s just something about these. Of course, it helps that the game shoves them down your throat, with upwards of three per goal, including one that is user-controlled.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 isn’t a perfect outing, though. There are still ways for it to improve both on and off the field, although the first category would only require tweaks as opposed to any sort of overhaul. The game’s presentation, on the other hand, could use some work, though its visuals are both fine and realistic. For starters, the announcers’ rich voice work is a bit tinny, and the crowd’s applause tends to sound more like a rainy sound effect than clapping. Those are things that can be fixed, though, and the same is true of my other problem with Konami’s footie series: its menus. Sure, PES 2015 has improved its menus over those of its predecessors, but I wish they’d spruce things up with better fonts and prompt boxes that are actually interesting to read. What’s in use here is dated and boring to look at.
Overall, Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is a treat to play and watch. It’s fluid, immersive and thoroughly entertaining, with gameplay that outdoes its competition for the first time in years. Whereas FIFA 15 sat on its laurels this year and played it safe, Konami did the opposite, and the result speaks for itself.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
Konami has claimed the interactive soccer crown with Pro Evolution Soccer 2015. While last year's iteration was an obvious stepping stone, this one is the real deal, and may be the best soccer game ever made.