PES 2016 Social Media
GAME REVIEW – PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER 2016
by Tom Lees - 11th December 2015
Now before I start my Pro Evolution Soccer review, I want to make myself clear, I am a PES fan, have been for many years. This means that my review has the risk of being overly critical in places because of the passion I have for the series. However, me being a fan does not mean I cannot find entertainment in other football titles, a lot of people will only play PES or FIFA without giving credence to the other. For the last two years I have thoroughly enjoyed the FIFA games, FIFA 14 was a joy to play, a real step forward, whereas FIFA 15 despite its flaws, had kept me entertained right up until the release of PES 2016. So I won’t hang my hat in one corner, I come from an era where there many football (soccer) titles to choose from across many platforms, so although I have a passion for PES, I wouldn’t put myself into the ‘fanboy’ category.
Now because of my feelings for this game, this series, what I want and what we are currently receiving, I will have to break up this review into sections. I’m a rambler more than a writer, and this piece has the potential to be my biggest ramble of all time. So here we go, I’ve been building myself up to this for a while now, it’s time to review Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, based on my Day One PS4 edition which I purchased at release.
LICENCES AND GAME MODES
Konami have retained their league licenses from PES 2015, adding the unlicensed Chilean league to the fold also. Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke have been replaced by Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach in representing licensed Germany sides. A few National licences have been lost however and only Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain are now fully licensed in PES 2016.
Also retained are the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, UEFA Super Cup, Copa Libertadores, Copa Sudamericana and AFC Champions League licences. These are great coups for Konami but it does feel like more can be done with each to make them feel more special in-game.
New to PES 2016, will be the highly anticipated EURO 2016 licence, full details of the mode have not yet been given but it is coming as a free DLC which is a nice gesture from the PES team. Remains to be seen whether this is just a basic mode containing official logos, or whether or not it contains full licenced teams and stadia, but it is a great licence for Konami to have.
The usual game modes also return to PES 2016, Exhibition, League, Cup, Master League, Become A Legend, My Club and general Online modes.
PES 2016 immediately looks very similar to last year’s edition, keeping the tiled menu screens as before, this isn’t a bad thing, last year’s menu overhaul was much needed and although it could still look cleaner, it serves a purpose. However, the pop up text boxes and some in-mode menus still need a lot of work, at times it has the look of a PS2 era game. Hopefully this is something that is rectified going forward, with some menus looking clean and modern, whereas others don’t, the lack of consistency gives the feel that certain parts have quickly been cobbled together.
The pre match game plan screen has seen an upgrade, it’s now easier to move your players into position using the ‘drag’ feature, tactics and formation choices could still be improved and expanded but this has been a decent step up from PES 2015’s sometimes torturous game plan. There are still a few moments of coming in and going out of various tactic options, but nowhere near as repetitive as last year’s edition.
Player faces have always been a PES speciality, some look extraordinary, the details are lifelike and it’s a feature the PES team can be rightly proud of, however the ‘faceless’ players are as basic and generic as can be, many featuring the same default model, some players even have incorrect skin and hair colours which is unacceptable to say the least. Going back to the detailed faces of the games top players, it’s a shame that they aren’t really noticeable apart from cut scenes and replays, personally I would sacrifice a little of that detail for more work on the look from the game play camera. Also on a side note, kits could also be more realistic, as an Espanyol fan I noticed mistakes with their ‘licensed’ kit, and it has been noted that kit creators in the PES community are providing better quality kits than Konami themselves.
During gameplay the look could use a real boost, it doesn’t look bad, but it’s hardly mind blowing, you’re left with the thought that it could look a whole lot better. Lighting during night games gives off a cartoony vibe, whereas daytime matches can throw up some horrendous shadows which look nice enough, but can really hurt the eyes when the ball and players are travelling through it. I still think the crowd could be hugely improved, although getting better each year, they do not convey an atmosphere and that lack of excitement in the stands can transfer through to the player.
So overall, the game looks better than it did, some of the work with faces in particular is fantastic, however there is still a lot of room for improvement. There is a lack of consistency in quality, great licensed faces against terrible default ones, clean tiled menus against out of date PS2 era screens. I remain optimistic though because things are gradually getting better.
In the English version, this year saw a change in one half of the commentary with Peter Drury replacing John Champion, Jim Beglin retained his place as co-commentator. This was a much needed and well received change, the commentary between Champion and Beglin was hugely criticised for being boring, unrelated to gameplay, repetitive and dated. However, although better now, it is still far from perfect. Drury and Beglin were not able to record their lines together and that is obvious during gameplay, with commentary unbalanced. The same problems exist as before, with lines being said that bare no relation to what is actually going on during the match, also Peter Drurys ‘shouting’ of players names as they shoot wore thin after only a few minutes. What the commentary needs is a brand new script, and work on what triggers lines and when. FIFA has raised the standard in what commentary should offer with football games, it will take a lot of work from the PES team to match it but it’s something that they need to do.
Another sound criticism I have is the match day atmosphere, rarely do I feel the crowd is involved in the event, not helped by the visuals attached. The crowd has the potential to turn an average game into a great game, no disrespect to Crystal Palace but their home crowd make all their games twice as exciting as they deserve to be, this doesn’t happen in PES, the crowd is just there, a few token chants, whistles here and there and a cheer when there’s a goal. Could and should be much better, I now tend to play the game muted which isn’t really a good sign.
Soundtrack wise comes down to personal taste of music, we haven’t been blessed with a large amount of tracks but the ones there are good enough. Everyone is different though, while I might pine for a little bit of folk rock, others may want death metal (is that still a thing), so it comes down to preference.
The sound is one of the big issues that Konami need to work on going forward, clearly they know that to, as shown with the change in commentary this year. Hopefully next year that is improved and game atmosphere is given some more attention, of course sound isn’t a game breaker, but as far as a players’ emersion, it is vital this is addressed.
The Pitch Is Ours, Gameplay is Key, these are the lines that have been coming from the PES team in recent years. On the pitch it is clear this is where the main focus has been, and even a harsh critic will admit there are signs of brilliance in this area.
The game, at times, can be a real joy to play, especially shining in offline multiplayer. It is easy to pick up, play and enjoy, it gives you a sense of control that I really didn’t feel with PES 2015. There are still issues in this gameplay, but these are more prevalent in games against the AI, which can still be fun but can also be deeply frustrating at times. Playing online is a completely different story, personally I find the connection through PES servers so bad that playing a proper game of online football is impossible, I may live in ‘the sticks’ but other online PS4 games work fine
So what are the good things? Passing and shooting is sharp and fluid, the game flows nicely and you genuinely feel that you can achieve anything on the pitch, that’s a great feeling to have and harks back to the great days of PES’s past. There is more physicality on the pitch, although a little rough around the edges you can see that once perfected it will play a major part of PES games in the future. 2016 has also seen a number of new player animations introduced, a feature you can never have too much of, it’s always exciting to the PES fan when they see a player move differently to how they could in previous years, let’s have more of that, lots more. But what of the bad things, well like I said before this review, I am a PES series fan, so my critique here may come across as a little strong.
The AI of your team mates has to improve, it's still a frustration when you play a pass and you watch your team mate stand still waiting for the ball, while your opponent has all the time in the World to make the interception. The AI players on your team do not seem to act in the same manner as the CPU AI at times, is this down to momentum, or scripting? Either way it can be really frustrating for the player. Speaking of AI team mates, I often find if I have a midfielder breaking through the opposition to get a shot away, my AI controlled striker will for some reason run straight in front of my line to goal, blocking the shot as though he was an extra defender, a minor gripe but still, it shouldn’t really happen as often as it does.
The attacking style of the CPU AI is one of the biggest concerns among the PES community, the majority of teams seem to play the same way, it feels as though player and team ID is not having the affect that it should be. Does this mean that player stats are not being utilised properly, there seem to be more stats than ever before but PES games in previous years felt like player and team ID had more impact than they do now. Also the AI attack is ruthless, very often it’s a case of 1 shot, 1 goal, always low and always into the corner. Variety is a huge issue here, I have no problem conceding a 20-yard goal in the top corner, or a beautifully worked move to knock it past the keeper, but it always seems the same, ball into striker, defence doesn’t react, low shot into the corner, goal. It has the player shaking his head in frustration at the game, which brings me onto another frustration.
Referees, well I’ll be blunt about this, referees in PES 2016 are awful. I can only assume it’s down to the new physical system introduced into PES, but fouls against the AI are a rarity, obviously it’s still easy to foul as a human player, but it’s often the case the AI will barge your player off the ball, trip you as you’re through on goal and nothing is given. Player versus player in all modes does bring fouls, but it seems to take something truly horrific to earn a red card, therefore games can degenerate into chop fests, injuring your best players without real consequence. Kind of reminds me a game called Red Card that was released in 2002, actually not a bad game at all, just not many fouls. Konami must be aware of the reaction to referees in the community this year, so we have to assume that this will be rectified in future iterations.
The general gameplay itself, although a lot of fun, does feel a little too quick. Of course you can slow the game down via the settings, but then player animations also slow down and it just doesn’t look right. Speaking of slow animations, the skill moves (using the right analogue stick) seem to be a lot slower than the gameplay around them, making them not just difficult to action successfully, but almost pointless at times. Another criticism is that the game seems a little too easy at times, players can dribble with the ball effortlessly, gliding up field, even if they are a hulking centre back, and getting a shot away that hits the target. Again this comes down to player ID, the ability to carry the ball at pace shouldn’t be applicable to all players, Kurt Zouma isn’t a player that can travel 50 yards, beating players with ease, but in PES this is easy to pull off.
Shooting suffers the same way as dribbling, and this isn’t just a criticism of PES, this is a problem that all football games seem to carry, it is far too easy to hit the target with shots, even from distance. Taking a shot from 30 yards should result in the majority of efforts flying high, wide and not particularly handsome. Even World class players like Cristiano Ronaldo won’t hit the target from distance over and over again, in football video games, they not only hit the target, they also direct shots towards the top corners. Maybe this is a personal preference of mine, but if I score from 30 yards, I want it to be a rare and beautiful thing, a goal to make me jump off the couch, especially if that goal is scored from an unlikely source. As it currently stands, I’ll shoot from distance then be disappointed if the keeper saves it, if it goes in then it just feels like another goal. Also the penalty system remains a real problem, there is no ‘event’ to it, the ball doesn’t seem to generate any real force, the direction and height can, on occasion, go against where you aimed, it all feels truly unfulfilling. It shouldn’t be a problem, but has been for a number of years and it’s not as if the community hasn’t been vocal about it. On the flip side, free kicks are far too easy to score, which again makes you say “meh” rather than “wow", when you find the top corner.
Passing is too easy on the default setting, meaning games can resemble ‘ping pong’ style football at times, especially online. There is the option to turn the assisted setting to full manual, but I feel there is too big a gap between level support 1 and level support off, there are times the level support will change the direction you are passing on level 1 and this really shouldn’t happen. At times PES feels like an arcade game, a really fun one, but I’m not sure arcade is the future that the fans, and hopefully the developers would want to go to.
One of my biggest issues with PES 2015 was the feeling that games and results were too scripted, the player emotions and team momentum being a little overpowered, on too many occasions I didn’t feel like I was in control of what was happening. Thankfully this has been toned down in PES 2016, it is still there in places, Online and any mode featuring ‘Team Spirit (TS)’, which in my opinion is again overpowered, do present scripted moments, but even offline the occasional frustration appears. For some reason it is far easier to score in the last minute of a half, particularly if you are losing at the time. Player switching can suddenly become a chore as you frantically try and select a centre back only to witness them run in a different direction, but compared to last year this has really been toned down.
Now I’d like to talk about goalkeepers for a bit, a topic that has split the community as to how good or bad they really are. For me goalkeepers, are for the most part, excellent, with a number of new animations they can pull off some ridiculous and fantastic saves. However, and this is a big however, I believe they are let down by the AI positioning of the goalkeeper. A keeper should have command of his entire area, be able to play sweeper when necessary and possess the footwork required to close down angles and make the goal as small as possible. This doesn’t happen in PES 2016, once the ball travels over the halfway line, the keeper automatically retreats to his goal line, I assume this is to prevent against the long shot (which, like I mentioned earlier, is far too easy to test the keeper with). Now because the keeper has his starting position on the goal line during attacks, he will be out of position for through balls, thus making it harder to save, what should be, simple shots. A lot of low shots result in goals, which again is down to positioning, it is difficult to get down to low shots in reality, unless you are prepared for them. So as excellent as the goalkeepers shot stopping may now be, especially compared to previous years, the AI positioning results in soft goals that look like goalkeeping errors.
There is still a lack of natural injuries during a match, whereas FIFA will have players pull up from muscle injuries or land heavily, PES doesn’t offer this. Instead if a player is fouled enough you may get a small notice in the top left of the screen indicating an injury, it really isn’t clear or obvious enough and you can often continue playing for lengths before you realise somebody is missing. Injuries should be a part of the football game, at present this isn’t good enough in PES and really needs rectifying.
Weather now affects gameplay, a long overdue feature, playing in the rain presents new challenges with the ball skidding off the surface and control being slightly harder. I do have a slight issue though, far too often players slip over, understandable if it is a human controlled player and you are turning while holding the sprint button, but even AI team mates are seen slipping all over the pitch. This is supposed to represent professional footballers, these players have expensive football boots and rarely fall over. It comes across as comical and unrealistic, yes it could happen, but not as often as it does during rainy games. In a way it has reminded me of an old football game I used to play along the arcades in the early 90’s, called ‘Football Champ’. That game didn’t have real names, had a mechanic that allowed last minute goals, included comedy falling over, an incompetent ref but was a whole lot of fun.
So in general, despite all my criticisms, gameplay is where PES 2016 really does shine. It can be a lot of fun, yes there are improvements that I’d like to see made, it is far from perfect but it does keep you coming back for more.
MASTER LEAGUE / BECOME A LEGEND
When PES 2016 was announced by Konami, Master League was given a lot of focus by the press team, promising to bring a new, improved, revamped mode to players and fans. So did they deliver? Well yes and no, the look of the mode has drastically changed for the better, with gleaming new menus and cut scenes, however the old problems still persist.
The transfer system is still pretty basic, you have no real input into the details of transfers, although at least now you can stop at specific days during the calendar to conduct business. Gone are the smiley faces to represent the chance of signing a player, now we have a probability bar, although this still doesn’t seem satisfying. Also Master League still has the issue that you can sign players who your club really wouldn’t be able to attract in reality. It needs to change, when I think back, the last Football Manager title I played was in 2008, I know it’s a different style of game, but that had a perfectly usable transfer system, that was nearly 8 years ago, is it not possible for Konami to incorporate a system that resembles that of an 8-year-old title?
We are now introduced to Team Spirit (TS), which shows how well your players play within the formation and tactics you are using, gaining TS with every appearance. A really nice feature but seriously overpowered, once your team hits a TS in the 90’s they are almost unbeatable and it really doesn’t take long enough to achieve this. Also new this year is the Team Role of some of your star players, where players can become stars in your team and with the fans, enhancing your TS and bringing in greater revenue from merchandise, a nice little feature that brings an extra side to the mode.
There seems to be a problem with the timing of matches during Master League, with the vast majority of games being played at night, there doesn’t seem to be any reasoning behind this but it does take away from any realism the player is looking to find from the mode. Criticism aside though, a lot of nice changes have been made to Master League, but the majority do seem more cosmetic than a ‘revamp’ as claimed by Konami.
Become A Legend suffers from exactly the same issues as Master League, sharing many of the same menu screens. However, the mode is starting to feel generally dated, in past years BAL was my main use of PES but I don’t feel the same passion for it anymore. Whether it is the nonsensical selection of your player, that comes across as random more than anything or the lack of quality from the AI during games you compete in, it just feels like it needs a change, despite the new fancy menus.
All in all though, it’s nice to have a new look and new features for these modes, but they really do require a full and complete overhaul going forward if they are even going to come close to competing with FIFA’s excellent and engrossing career modes. There is no real depth to either mode, and in this day and age you cannot get by with gameplay alone, there has to be something deeper.
MyClub is Pro Evolutions Soccer’s equivalent of the money spinning FIFA Ultimate Team, enabling you to build a squad and test it out online against other players, or against the CPU. It is a mode that enables micro transactions, and is another that splits the PES community in its popularity. A large number of hard-core PES fans hate MyClub, labelling it an Ultimate Team rip off, whereas others love the online competition and ‘roulette wheel’ style of building your squad randomly.
I can fully see the merits in the mode, it may not be my cup of tea, I find online gameplay via Konami servers quite painful, but I can see why people will enjoy the thrill of building a squad and it is a real money maker for PES. That last statement should be the caveat for PES fans, the more money made will hopefully mean more improvements to the product going forward, so a win win situation.
I do have issues with the roulette wheel selection of players however, just how random is it? I put together a fairly awful team, then went and visited a friend who had a lot of the same players in his side. These are not the fake players provided during the modes tutorial, but actual players received ‘randomly’. I have also picked up players I had already released weeks before, it’s either a huge coincidence or it’s not quite as random as we’re led to believe.
Many people are asking for a transfer system, like in FIFA, to build a squad how they see fit, it’s understandable that you want your favourite players but having ‘random’ players really brings something different to the mode which is a real plus point. What I would like incorporated instead though, is position specific scout/agents, at present we have four. Goalkeeper, Defender, Midfielder, Attacker, but this doesn’t help if you desperately require a right back. I had to spin the defence agent 6 times before I pulled a player who could even cover that position, that was an annoyance that could be fixed without spoiling the randomness of the mode.
There have been other grievances aired over MyClub, goalkeepers were set to a really low level on release and took an age to be fixed, Team Spirit like as in Master League is overpowered and results in ‘scripting’ and players who are rated poorly playing as though they are Zinedine Zidane, just because of their high TS. Also the loading screens are a problem, the eternal spinning disc of ‘establishing communications’ can be infuriating at times.
Recently Konami released a ‘free to play’ MyClub mode for PES 2016, showing that this is the mode the company is really getting behind. Hopefully offline modes are not neglected because of it, but MyClub is clearly here to stay.
Edit mode is PES, pure and simple, editing and the great community behind it are the reason PES survived during all the poorly received games of the PS3 era. Edit mode enables the players to get around the lack of licences and make their copy of PES their own, I think it’s this and the core gameplay that really represent how Pro Evolution Soccer becomes a part of the player like no other sports title.
PES 2015 on PS4 saw the first edition in years without a real edit mode, apart from basic tools, Xbox One also suffered, both because of hardware limitations, and this really damaged the experience of that year’s title. However, for PS4 users at least, image importing has returned in PES 2016, fantastic news for us, but as always there is a bitter aftertaste with it. The PES kit creating community have put together some marvellous work, free of charge I might add, for the user to import into his/her PES game, but for whatever reason, Konami have limited the number of kit import slots to just over 300. This covers around a quarter of what is needed to cover unlicensed kits in the game, so players are forced to ration what kits they can and cannot import. Then to make matters worse Konami allow the player to import over 3000 manager and team badge images, far more than necessary to fill each team. It leaves the loyal consumer scratching their head, it is a thing of beauty having imported kits back in the game, but we are yet again left wanting more.
Unlike kit editing, player editing has taken a few steps backwards, with seemingly fewer options available especially with regards to hairstyles, it is noticeable that the community face makers are not able to put together the quality they are capable of. This is an area of editing that has been deeply neglected over the years and requires collaboration with the community to find a way of making it easier and more lifelike. This is nothing however on what has become of stadium editor, barely worthy of the word editor, like last year you are only allowed to change a few design features on a limited number of stadiums. Gone are the days where you could create custom stadia out of random fake stadium parts, including your own sponsor hoardings, this was removed due to ‘licensing’, not sure how as fake stadia cannot be licenced but either way it’s gone.
The PES team should be focussing on Edit Mode almost as much as they do gameplay, it’s the mode that sets the game apart from its rival. If gameplay isn’t up to scratch, it’ll be edit mode yet again that could save the game. It’s almost PES’s safety net for the loyal fan base, don’t take care of it properly and it could come back to haunt Konami.
This is something that needs addressing, the PES community is right now a toxic one, visit any PES related forum and you will see fighting, accusations and a general distrust of the PES team. Why is this? PES 2016 is an award winning sports title after all.
It’s because PES fans feel like they aren’t being listened to, they want the best for the game that they kept going during the bad times and at the moment they feel like they being taken for granted. Let me describe the situation, in a Christmas story kind of way, it is that time of year after all. Pro Evolution Soccer is the Tiny Tim of the football video game World, it fights against the odds, despite obvious flaws and people loved the game despite it, every year PES fans would turn up for dinner with Tiny Tim and he’d say “God bless us, everyone” and we’d all smile and have fun. That’s how it was with PES, every year we’d buy the game, enjoy it despite the problems and come back the following year. Yet right now, PES fans feel like they are turning up for dinner only to find Tiny Tim has had too much to drink, is waving an award in the air and telling them all to leave.
The general PR from the PES team to the Community has been severely lacking in recent years, the respect has gone, legitimate questions are being ignored and only praise is listened to. Instead we have announcements, for announcements for announcements. This is a dangerous time for PES despite the awards and accolades, if you lose your loyal community you are only one poor title away from losing it all. You need the fans who kept you going, fine you may not care for their opinion, after all there is no pleasing everyone, but you have to make sure they know they are appreciated.
Also silly mistakes have to stop being made so regularly, whether it be spelling errors in online notifications, players disappearing after game updates (for example Francesco Totti and Gabigol), or the transfers not being properly updated to include the end of the transfer window. This harms the game, and leaves the impression that checks aren’t being made. Another issue is the names of fake players and unlicensed teams in this year’s game, with the Argentinian league sporting such team names as SF Red Black and MN Yellow Orange. Those coupled with Albanian players sporting English names such as Nicholson, it seems like these should have been place markers rather than the finished article. It comes across as half arsed, if you pardon the expression, large chunks of the game give off that feeling, as if “that’ll do” was the key expression used. There seems an over reliance on the hard working, unpaid, PES community to fill in the gaps of the game, every year it seems the game is released in an increasingly unfinished state, this shouldn’t happen. Pride in the product is lacking, you cannot rely on your consumer to fill in the blanks, you should put out a game that still looks polished to a customer without the need to edit.
I am sure that there are some truly exceptional people working on PES games, there must be as brilliance can be seen throughout, and it must be incredibly frustrating to see their hard work undermined by corner cutting and silly mistakes made throughout the game. There should be more checks, this is not an Indie title, and I think that is the main reason for the discontent amongst the community. There is something brilliant there, something to be really proud of, but it’s the mistakes that leave a sour taste, mistakes that shouldn’t happen and take the shine off of what could be a gleaming product.
PES 2016 is a fine football game, I know I’ve gone on in length about the issues I have with it, but that’s because PES gets under your skin and you learn to love and hate it both at the same time. I don’t feel like it’s their greatest title, I actually found myself enjoying PES 2013 more (after a patch) but it is still a good game in itself. Although it does suffer from a lack of depth in game modes, on the pitch PES shines, off the pitch there is still a lot left for the PES team to work on. The pitch is indeed theirs, but you can’t neglect the whole package, consumers expect a lot more these days.
Currently scoring an impressive 87% on Metacritic, PES took home a number of high 9 and 10 ratings from reviewers on release. I’m not sure how that was quite possible, a 9 or 10 for me would represent a perfect, or near perfect game, which PES 2016 clearly isn’t. It doesn’t have the depth, it doesn't have quality checks throughout, the sound and visuals need improving but it is still a fine football game. I feel the ratings were based against the competitor rather than as an actual game title which is fair enough, I am not in the industry so who am I to judge.
In conclusion, if you are looking for an in depth football game experience with longevity then PES 2016 may not really be the title you are looking for, however if you want a fun pick up and play game then this is must have purchase. My score for this title is a strong 7/10, and leaves me excited as to what next year’s edition will bring.
FanFormation Score: 7 / 10