PES16 Review: Is it better than FIFA? Part 2

PES seems to have the best chance its had for a long while to claim the title of Best Football Game, but does it have enough to usurp the EA Sport behemoth FIFA16?

Those amongst you who play the games may have been looking forward to reading Part 2…. then again some of my friends saw it and just thought ‘geek’. Either way I don’t care, I’m going to tell you about PES16 and whether at last it can take pride of place at the top of my games pile.

Firstly before I talk about the game at all I think I should address the elephant in the room. Licensing. Pro Evo does not hold all of the licenses for players and teams. It holds some, it bagged the Champions League amongst others, arguably the biggest club competition of them all. This means all the big teams are there, and all the big players. What isn’t there however is a complete living and breathing football world.

Who are ya? Bournemouth by the looks of it.

Back in the day it didn’t matter so much. PES had odd team names, but it was so much better than FIFA there was no option. However I think they underestimate the power of licensing in this day and age. They broke the mould by introducing recognisable players and I think in a modern football game market you have to offer that level of realism. If I’m playing a season in the Premier League I want to be able to scout League Two for players. I want to have a feeling of identity at every ground, and I certainly want to be able to go away to Bournemouth or Brentford in the cup. I do not want to have to play against East Dorsetshire or Hounslow.

I’m afraid this does create something of a problem. I like my authenticity in season mode and I like the proper range of leagues and cups, and I’m afraid PES16 can’t deliver that. I suspect at least 1 in 3 gamers feel exactly the same as me. Therefore if the actual game on FIFA is there or thereabouts then I’d have very little choice but to go with that. PES will have to blow me away in order to just compete.

Moving on from there I’m afraid there are a few other flaws in the game. When you first turn it on its noticeable that the menus are bright and bold. However when you start to try and navigate them you realise that certain things feel clumsy and poorly managed. Picking your team and tactics a nightmare, it seems to take an age just to navigate your squad and choose a formation. Maybe this is a reflection on the fact I’m used to FIFA. The menus are bright and bold but under the surface they get let down by clumsy execution of some basics functions.

It’s on the pitch that PES always won it’s battles, and it doesn’t disappoint this time out either. The ball zips about nicely on the turf and the controls feel almost intuitive. Somehow it feels much simpler, like they’ve stripped away the skill move gimmicks. Playing with a poorer club you notice how you have to adapt your approach. There’s a skill in approaching games different, changing how you set about a team depending on the opponent. The A1 is varied and always seems to alter it’s approach to you too. Even the skill moves are rarely found outside of the top players as they are in real life. You can build attacks nicely, and strikers are keen in the air but not invincible. If you score one way for a couple of times you find the opponents moving defenders into different positions to stop you.

This plays like a proper game should.

Whilst playing the game I found myself trying to actions FIFA skills moves as a force of habit. I wouldn’t recommend this as they have no effect and you just feel a bit silly afterwards.

Halfway into a season with Hounslow I’d signed just two players and I found myself looking at the tactics of my opponents. Would Andre Grays speed work, or did I need a more bullish forward like the veteran Ricky Lambert? It turns out I needed Gray and opted for Lambert, but I changed the course of the game on 60 minutes as the defence began to tire. In the dying seconds I punted a ball forward for Gray to chase, and his fresh legs outstripped the defence. One on one with the on rushing keeper I lobbed him sweetly only to watch the ball bounce of the crossbar.

As the ball skidded across the generic stadiums turf I realised that I’d fallen in love with this game. I was slowly trying to pick the opponents apart, rarely utilising the ‘rush’ button that seems to work in FIFA, instead probing for an opening. Defenders came forward and dropped short as if the defence was a living organism and I was trying to identify it’s weak spot. That’s how good they’ve made this game. It feels like a challenge.

I got promoted at the end of the season and my first top flight game was against North East London. I was a little disappointed that I hadn’t been rewarded with seeing little old Hounslow play at White Hart Lane against Spurs.

So on the pitch it certainly gives FIFA a run for its money. How does it fare with its flagship My Club mode? Well I purchased with Day 1 content again and this time I got some real bang for my buck. I bagged Ronaldo and Ribery for my squad and Neymar on loan. I began to try and build my side using the clumsy menus and decided I needed a tough centre half. I wanted Ryan Shawcross.

How do I know which one is Ryan Shawcross?

Now on FIFA I could go to a micro transaction area and sign Shawcross. I felt like I was building a team I was in full control of. Not on PES, here I get offered scouts who randomly open up a player for my desired position. You get no choice in who, so if you want Shawcross you’ve got somewhere in the region of 1:1000 chance of getting him. Now it doesn’t matter to me how the game plays, I want some sort of specific hand in the first team of a team I play as. The clue is in the title, My Club – I want it to be my players.

The lure of My Club wore off fairly quickly after that. Many have praised it, but FIFA has a superior online mode offering.

There is a comprehensive editing facility on PES with a choice of kit designs and club names. I suppose it’s there to enable you to change some of the content, I always enjoy a kit design facility, and it’d be even better if you had the ability to use your creations in the My Club. However you can’t.

A few of the licensed compeitions

There’s more I could talk about, but in reality I don’t have to. There’s three things that make a football game great, and three things for me FIFA has this time out. You have to have licenses, realistic content to give the modern day gamer the full ‘world’ that all games need to create. FIFA has the lower leagues and real names throughout, PES has a smaller roster of unrecognisable players and clubs. The second thing you need to have is good presentation, easy to use menus and straight forward squad selection. I want to be able to pick my tactics and team in a straight forward manner The third is good game play and a real sense of control over proceedings on the field. There’s no doubt PES16 wins one of those battles, it’s game engine is better than FIFA. If you can get over the accurate FIFA kits and grounds PES delivers a better gaming experience. The AI is spot on and things like collision detection are superb. Scoring a wonder goal gives you a sense of pride, especially those that feel solid when you strike the ball. At times on FIFA it feels like you’re kicking a flat football.

However FIFA wins the other two battles hands down. It’s far slicker graphically and delivers more options for an RPG style experience building teams as a players, manager or even chairman in the Ultimate Team choosing everything from a stadium to your kit. In terms of depth the football world feels huge, and occasionally I want to play as a Bari or Wimbledon.

If you’re losing faith with FIFA by all means give both a try. The purists among us will probably say PES16 is better as a simulation, and up until Christmas I couldn’t disagree. However as the season pushes on I wandered back to FIFA to see if my Jamie Vardy card in Ultimate Team had gone up in value, and to try my hand at keeping Aston Villa in the Premier League. It sadly still has enough to retain its crown as the king of football games. I say sadly because if PES could just dress it’s match engine up in all of EA Sports finery and razzmatazz then I’d wager it would easily be crowned king of football games.

However until those teams and licenses start coming in I’m afraid I’ll always find may way back to FIFA with its slightly inferior but acceptable game engine and it’s masses of depth.


PES 16 RATING: 85%

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