It’s that time of year again folks. The time when the worlds of football and gaming collide to bring us our yearly helping of the only two names in football gaming; PES (Pro Evolution Soccer) and FIFA (corrupt governing body). Much internet blood will be shed and there’s sure to be tears before bedtime as the fans of their respective franchises endlessly debate (in the loosest form of the word) ‘which is the best football game?’ Here at Pure PlayStation we don’t really care, we just like good games, and this week our resident football fan Dom O’Leary got the chance to find out if PES 17 is just that. Read on for his verdict; does PES 17 live up to its Champion’s League credentials, or is it more Birmingham on a wet Tuesday night?
Another year, another PES. The annual football franchise from Konami has hit its highs and lows over the years, but efforts at the company seem to have been redoubled with the latest iterations to re-establish the franchise and make it a credible contender for the coveted (and incredibly subjective) ‘best football game’ crown. PES 17 has seen the addition of ‘partner’ clubs, which in turn has allowed a touch of authenticity that has often been found lacking in previous offerings. As you would expect, the most famous clubs of the Champion’s League are well represented in player likenesses and the addition of a little ‘branding’ helps sell the game’s most authentic mode that little bit better.
This doesn’t make the blindest bit of difference to the gameplay though, and this is where PES has always attempted to provide a different experience to its aforementioned rival. This year is no different, and the balance of the gameplay lends itself toward one touch passing and fast paced, end to end action. It’s a more ‘arcade’ feeling rather than an attempt at simulation and it’s arguably more fun for it – the entire game plays like a highlights reel. Unfortunately, the specific actions of attack and defense don’t quite satisfy me this time around. Players feel like they have little physical presence and this means defending and hold up play both feel like a bit of a risk as you wonder whether your player will glide off an opponent or crumble like a leaf under defensive pressure.
This style feeds into the game’s ethos of one touch passing and picking the smart option, you’re far more likely to score by getting a clever through ball in behind the opponent than with a silky run from midfield. It’s not bad, so to speak, it just doesn’t quite fit with what I want out of a football game. It gives a slightly unrealistic flow to matches as every team is forced to play like Barcelona, with a short passing style. I also felt like attacker’s ability to lay a ball in front of them and sprint on to it as they burst past a defense, or even beat a defender for pace at all, has been somewhat reduced when compared with previous games. This makes sense in a way as it again relies on skilled passing and movement to overcome opposition defenses, but can feel unsatisfying when someone like Neymar is caught after the break by a recovering defender.
In fairness though, the above comments relate mostly to playing the game in either the Master League management mode or the Be A Legend player career against AI opponents. When taken online against other people, the gameplay becomes a lot more enjoyable as it leads to some very even contests between players of equivalent skill. It feels like this game was designed with player versus player at the core. That’s not such a bad thing though, if you enjoy online play and the trading card team building of the My Club mode there’s almost infinite satisfaction to be had here. I have to admit, though I’m not particularly a fan of the trading card club building style (in PES or its rival), the chance to play others online and Konami’s fruit machine-like reward loop make this version quite addictive once you get started.
Your options are endless in this mode too, and you could easily waste hours messing with your team, manager, scouts, training regimes, challenges, and gifts. The addition, this year, of an auction house for scouts (which are basically items gained after matches and used to obtain players) adds yet another competitive layer to proceedings. Or, one more reason to go back and play this mode every day whether you really want to or not, depending on how you look at it. The only minor complaint I would level at the online mode is that matchmaking feels a little unreliable. I seemed to get matched against opponents of a higher (or lower, not that there’s many of those!) skill and team rating fairly regularly. This could, however, have just been my particular experience.
Technically the game performs well, I had almost no issues whatsoever, other than a single instance of a player animation freezing for a couple of frames in a dead-ball situation. Graphically too, things are looking good, there’s a lot of detail on character models, grounds look great, crowds look fairly detailed and can be customised according to your teams colours and logo in combination with the franchise’s robust team editing suite; which makes a welcome return for those of us who have a compulsive need to accurately recreate their beloved lower league clubs (no Yorkshire Whites for me).
Personally, I felt the music and commentary in the game felt a little lacking in this edition. I long ago got used to the fact that I will hate 90% of the songs on any football game soundtrack, but there are so few tracks present here that it becomes repetitive after less than an hour. You can turn off songs you don’t like, as usual, but then you’re basically listening to the same five songs on repeat. I preferred to turn the music off all together and put an album on. The commentary, too, gets old fast. It’s attempts at reading the game are hit and miss, as you might expect, but it recycles stock phrases too much even when getting things right. Having said that, so do real-life commentators, so maybe it’s deliberate?
There’s not much else that’s legitimately new to tell you about here; if you’re a PES veteran you’re going to get pretty much what you’d expect, with some tweaks you may or may not entirely approve of, wrapped up in the most authentic and good-looking package of the series to date. If you’re a newcomer, there really isn’t a better starting point in the series for almost exactly the same reason. Though if you are new, don’t expect to get any meaningful help from the game on how to play – it’ll teach you the basics, but the rest will be down to practice. There are adequate practice modes available for you to do so though, in fairness.
As you might expect, there is a ridiculous wealth of modes and content available; almost to the point where the game feels slightly bloated. The Champions League, Europa League, and the ASL – representing Asia’s biggest footballing contest, are the most authentic they have yet been. The manager mode is not much different from before, but it offers a good option for anyone who likes to set the tactics and sim the games – it doesn’t offer the depth of something like football manager, of course, but it’s much better to watch. Be a Legend mode is missing the option to play as the full team to break up the occasionally frustrating experience of being inactive for large parts of some games as a lone player, in my opinion. Add to this: My Club, custom leagues, custom competitions, and one-off matches – all of which can be played against AI or online, and you can see what I mean.
Overall, PES 17 is an enjoyable game; a representation of football the way we sometimes wish it to be, and a good time with a friend (or stranger). It’s not a revelation for the series though, nor is it a huge advance on its predecessor. The niggles mentioned above stop this game being ‘great’ in my opinion, but many of these are subjective points and your experience with the game could easily differ dependent on how much or little you agree. At the very least, the game proves it can go shoulder to shoulder with its closest rival; offering a satisfyingly different gameplay experience.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 is available now on PS4, Xbox One and PC, as well as PS3 and Xbox 360 from all good retailers, bad retailers, and internets. The standard edition for PS4 is currently going for £35.99 on Amazon UK , or you can pick up the ‘FC Barcelona’ Edition, which comes with a Steelbook and My Club boosters there for £49.99.
If you didn’t get it from the review; Pure Playstation’s Dom O’Leary is a Leeds fan, feel free to ridicule him for that and chant your own team’s name in the comments below. Or tell us what you think of the latest incarnation of PES with our user review button.
Review Disclaimer: This review was conducted using a physical copy of the game provided by the publisher. This has no effect on the content of the review or the score. For more information, please read our Review Policy.