Despite another solid outing from its competition, Konami came out very strong last year and released what was arguably the best soccer game of all-time in Pro Evolution Soccer 2015. Re-tooled, noticeably improved and polished all around, it surpassed a somewhat complacent FIFA 15, which rested on its laurels more than it should’ve and lost its crown as a result.
Now, a year after its strongest showing in quite some time, the venerable PES franchise is celebrating its twentieth anniversary with the debut of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. Adorned with nostalgic imagery and joyous in nature, it’s predominantly an improvement over last year’s outing and once again offers fantastic footie action.
Harnessing the power of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain‘s FOX Engine once again, PES 2016 changes things up by introducing a brand new physics system. The result is a much improved collision system, which creates a more lifelike look and feel. This is further complemented by improved AI which makes you think before you act and does a noticeably better job of defending against attacks. Even on the game’s lower difficulties — which I tend to frequent because I’ve never been that great at soccer games — it can be difficult to abuse the competition like in years passed, especially if you’re someone who got a thrill out of blazing past defenders on every rush.
Granted, while it brings a lot of good to the table, this new system isn’t perfect as of yet and still needs some fine-tuning. As a first effort, though, it’s pretty solid, with its only major problem pertaining to fouls, which are called less often than they should be. It’s as if the refs are missing things, but the truth of the matter is that the new physics are likely to blame.
Even with this unfortunate issue, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is winner on the pitch. It’s fast but methodical, in-depth but accessible and undoubtedly well-made. The polish shows, and last year’s great feel remains. That can also be said about the ball physics, which are second to none and really show in the game’s great replays. Then again, that’s been a series strong point for a few years now, as has the best replay system in sports gaming.
Konami really deserves credit for nailing an addictive, rewarding and authentic feel, as it’s one that does a great job of mixing accessibility and simulation together into something impressive. It welcomes newcomers while presenting the intricate layers of detail that devoted armchair footballers want in a soccer game.
Alongside its advertised physics improvements, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 also features a revamped Master League mode with better transfer mechanics, dynamic weather and an improved MyClub mode that will sink its teeth into you. Those fall in alongside a myriad of leagues to compete in, smooth online matches and tournaments, and an RPG light Be a Legend career, to name a few. Needless to say, there’s no shortage of options to be found within this robust package.
Out of the above, what impressed me most was the retooled MyClub mode. It feels right, and the changes that were made certainly factor in prominently. I especially loved how its signing and transfer system brought to mind collecting hockey or baseball cards, with its random draw and colour-based rarity system, and found it very rewarding to see my players level up after strong performances. Being able to specifically choose a manager based on his tactics, formation and unique methods was also appreciated, and Konami even went so far as to create a system in which players who gel with the manager’s tactics perform better on the field. Hell, you can even turn unused players into trainers who can better your team through physical regimentation.
Of course, if you just want to play and have fun without needing to worry about transfer windows, ratings, money and the like, it’s easy to just jump into things. The UEFA, Copa Libertadores and other leagues are a great way to just enjoy the game, but customizable exhibition and online quick-matches are also good options. Make sure to tool around with different weather and grass length settings, too, because you’ll really notice a difference between things like short and long grass and dry and wet weather. Those variations now feel more lifelike than ever before.
As far as presentation is concerned, this year’s PES impresses and takes another step forward, despite a couple of downsides. It looks good, runs extremely well and, as mentioned above, features realistic animations and ball physics, the latter of which are a treat to watch during slow motion replays. There’s also solid but repetitive commentary, an upbeat licensed soundtrack which, for some reason, plays the same couple of songs ad nauseam, and even Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” which is used to pump you up during certain modes’ introduction cinematics.
During close-ups, the more recognizable players tend to look pretty great, while some of the supporting cast members can suffer from lifeless looking faces. It’s not a huge detraction, but it’s worth pointing out. Then again, PES has always been more about gameplay than graphics – at least, to me. Don’t take that as me saying that this is a bad looking game in any way, shape or form; it just doesn’t have the best player faces I’ve ever seen in a sports title.
Although it has a couple of minor shortcomings and isn’t able to identify fouls as well as it used to, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is a definite win for armchair footballers. It’s kept from perfection yet still delivers a fantastic and infinitely replayable soccer experience that demands attention.
This review is based on the PS4 version of the game, which we were provided with.
A new physics system allows Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 to feel and play more like its real-life counterpart. Although this change results in a lack of foul calls, it complements a fantastic game that delivers a great-feeling version of interactive soccer and builds upon what was the best soccer title ever made.