And so we reach the time of year where PES and FIFA have their annual face-off for the title of greatest football game. For many years it has been FIFA that has won the title hands down but this year there was hope that Konami had upped its game considerably and was looking for a last minute winner that would see them snatch the title away from EA Sports.
So when I was asked to review PES 2015 this year it was with anticipation rather than dread as I started the download…
One thing that does stand out straight away is the initial presentation. Navigating the menus is very easy and PES 2015 is packed full of game modes. There’s the usual Master League with the unlicensed teams and random stadiums (I still find this endearing and annoying at the same time) and there’s the Champions League. I just love playing this mode for the presentation and Champions League theme alone. It’s just like sitting down on a Wednesday night watching it on television. Brilliantly done.
There’s also myClub. As soon as you start playing this mode you instantly think of Ultimate Team from FIFA. You control a club and build your dream team using managers and agents, ensuring the chemistry is right among your players. The use of agents is a nice touch, the better the agent you employ then the better the player he will be able to sign for you. Yes, you don’t do the scouting, your agent does. It’s a nice idea but I still prefer FIFA Ultimate Team.
Become A Legend is exactly what you would expect. You control just one player within the club and progress through his career. While playing a game in this mode I did find it annoying that even when I was in a brilliant position and clean through on goal my teammates would either look for a ridiculous pass to someone else or over hit the pass to me. I got subbed a couple of times meaning you have to watch the rest of the match, thankfully there is a fast-forward button. Once I was off the pitch then my team would instantly turn into something akin to Real Madrid and start playing teams off the park. Frustrating to see. Maybe it’s just me…
Along with the UEFA Champions League there is also the Europa League, the Copa Libertadores (South American equivalent to the Champions League), Copa Sudamericana (I guess you could say the South American equivalent to the Europa League), the Asian Champions League and football leagues and cups from all over the world. Like I said. There is a lot to do and take part in.
Obviously online play is there. You can take part in a league or enter a cup competition. The usual fare.
There is also the obligatory training skills section. Improve your shooting, passing, crossing, tackling.
Now on to the nitty-gritty and where it matters, out on the pitch. Before leaving the changing rooms though you need to make sure your team is set up the way you want it to be. Pleasingly, choosing formations and amending your squad is an improvement and is much more easier and flexible to use than its FIFA counterpart. Right, I’ve got my team set up the way I want, there’s no way I can lose this match so let’s get out there.
I don’t know whether we’ve just got used to the polish and finish of FIFA but my heart sank when the players lined up in the tunnel and then out on the pitch. It’s not that the player models don’t look like their real life counterparts, it’s just that they look so flat. Stood there on the pitch you could be forgiven for thinking they were made out of cardboard, and there’s also a halo effect around some of the players as they line up before kick off. It just looks cheap and amateurish compared to what we know can be done. On current generation consoles this is unforgivable.
Kick off. What’s this? So the team I meticulously set up beforehand now lines up in a totally different formation. I set up with three at the back and a holding midfielder sat in front of them but for some reason the holding midfielder has decided to play at left-back and the left-sided centre back has gone to right-back! Very annoying.
I’ve seen some people say that the AI is much improved, and it is. Players do make some decent runs off the ball, and not always too but that’s to be expected as players don’t make the same runs all the time in real life. It can be infuriating when you’re expecting someone to make a certain run and then they stand there but I quite like that.
One aspect that is annoying with the AI is that it’s possible to win a game by just letting the other teams defence have the ball. If you’re set up correctly they will just keep passing it along their back line for what seems like ages, even when they’re supposed to be chasing the game. They don’t even try to attack.
Also half of your team, usually the whole of the midfield and forwards, will also be knackered by about the 60-65 minute mark. All these little niggles may not sound too bad but they soon add up to be just plain annoying and take away some of the enjoyment in playing the game.
The commentary by Jon Champion and Jim Beglin is not too bad but after a few games it does become worryingly predictable. Even if you’ve played like toilet and the game has ended 0-0 with hardly any shots on target, Jim will summarise along the lines of: “That was a great game. I could’ve watched that all night.” Really Jim? Really?
Don’t get me wrong, PES 2015 is not unplayable and when it works it’s a joy to behold. Playing a lovely sweeping move that ends in a glorious diving header is brilliant. When it works it’s superb, it just doesn’t work often enough. Passes go astray for no reason. Once again you will get booked for a perfectly timed tackle, I admit this is a problem on most football games and I doubt it will ever be resolved properly.
Given its problems in the past, PES 2015 is another big step forward for Konami. Maybe next year it will hit a screamer from 25 yards to take to the title away from EA and FIFA.
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