Depending on your age, how you look at Pro Evolution Soccer will differ somewhat. For younger audiences it is a pathetic old man that can no longer contain his bladder while talking to anyone who will listen about his supposed glory days. For the rest of us, we look at the same old man with pity and a hint of sadness. Because we were there for his glory days, he was a champion who beat anyone who challenged him, but now he is an old washed up ghost of himself.
In recent years the Pro Evo series has shown signs of life, that it can produce a good football game again. 2013 was deeply flawed but had promise, but 2014 whilst technically doing all the right things behind the scenes lacked any kind of excitement.
This meant that once again FIFA was the top dog, it had little to no competition and sales were (are) pretty much guaranteed, because these days it is either FIFA or PES. Gone are the days where there were a ton of other options such as This Is Football, Three Lions, Adidas Power Soccer, Viva Football and more. So no competition means no innovation.
So listen, FIFA 15 is an awful game, but based on the last few years and petty much an entire generation of let downs from Konami, we as gamers flock to EA’s effort because it is the only real viable option…Until Now!
The King has risen! The King is back to rule his land!! All hail the King!!!
Let us take the PS3/360 era out of the equation for a moment. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 feels like the true successor to Pro Evolution Soccer 5 on the PS2 it is as though we have been in a NINE YEAR Nightmare, but it wasn’t real and we have woken in a cold sweat to look across and see the comforting image of the next Pro Evo sitting there as majestic as ever. It comes over to cradle your shaking body, stroking your head and telling you it was all a bad dream, as you look back at it with love and a sense of comfort in your eyes. It really is going to be all ok.
But why? What has happened to turn this game from the mess it has been for nine years, to the glorious return to form you see before you? Well simply put the team behind PES 2015 have gone back to the drawing board, looked at what was loved by fans and made sure that was the basis for this latest version.
What made Pro Evo such a great series of games (as with the ISS series before it), is that it knew it wasn’t trying to replicate a full 90 minute game of football, it didn’t want you as a gamer to have to deal with the 10-15 minute period of giving the ball away and midfield battles, niggly fouls and the like. The team knew that digital football was the Match Of The Day highlights package, the best moments from the game. The good moves, the wonderful tackles, the big fouls and the goals.
Because that is what video game football is. Unlike other games such as NBA 2K, NHL, Madden, football games do not seem to work when played in real time. Playing a 90 minute game of football in real time 90 minutes just doesn’t translate to videogame form like the above mentioned titles. So when games like FIFA and Pro Evo tried to bring in the ultra realism, they lost a bit of that magic and whilst EA seemed to manage this well to a degree, Konami simply couldn’t handle it.
Before getting into what is so good about the game this year, let us have a quick look at the various modes. You get the usual leagues, cups, exhibitions, licensed tournaments and Master League, as well as the various online options. (**NOTE – At the time of writing EU servers were not up and running, but reports from US suggest the online games are rock solid).
The latest addition to the roster is the MyClub mode, which is essentially Pro Evo’s version of FIFA’s Ultimate Team. It has all the basic functions you’d expect from a mode like this, but does try to do things a little differently. The mode seems to be based more around building squads that can fit together, based on the manager you hire and the players that will work best under him. So things like player relationship stats matter more than whether or not they are from the right league, country or team in the real world. Whether this stops the mode being another pay to win option remains to be seen, but it is an interesting angle.
So onto the pitch. This is the bread and butter of a football game, because it doesn’t matter how much content you pack in, how many licenses you have, or how wonderful the visuals are, if the gameplay is poor, then there is no point in playing. This Pro Evo has nailed it for so many different reasons.
First, anyone who loved the PS2 era games will pick this up and feel instantly at home, because the simple things are handled so well. Player movement feels natural and less tied to animations, but doesn’t seem to suffer from the same physics quirks that haunt the latest FIFA games, the passing feels just right, with mistake seemingly well balanced, the player AI is tweaked to be just right and shooting feels just wonderful.
Pro Evo is all about working the best openings to get shots away and seems to play a game of percentages when it comes to shooting. Sprinting at top speed with a bouncing ball? Then your shot is less likely to be on target, slow it down and under control? You’ll be precise but maybe lack power. Get a shot away under pressure and it will possibly be deflected. There are so many variants as to what the result of a shot may be, it never feels like you are just scoring the same goal over and over.
Also what is great to see back and please let EA take note…You can score some absolute world class goals, it is as though the game wants moments of wonder to happen and almost invites you at times to curl one from 35 yards, or rifle a volley from the edge of the box. Once again unlike FIFA’s latest offering, it doesn’t then feel like there is a go to option for scoring, as the AI is very clever here.
It is the little things that make this a special game. Each team replicates its real life counterparts almost perfectly. Liverpool pass the ball around and try to keep possession, Manchester United are entertaining going forward, but weak at the back. Barcelona will just dominate with possession and Real Madrid use their stars to tear teams apart.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Get a player booked early in a game and the opposition will adjust to keep attacking that player, knowing he cannot take chances, o they may get him sent off. You can defend well and manage to frustrate your opponents, but you will physically see them change up how they play, trying to find new weaknesses. Liverpool for example will use the wings and pace of a Sterling if against a slow defender to try and get in behind and put pressure on. If Lambert is playing they will try more high balls into the box, but if it is Sturridge it is balls to feet.
These subtleties are all over the game and we could go on forever about this little things that have been noticed, such as players doing that jump but turn thing they do when another player tries to play a high ball near them. Or knowing that a player is tired and can be exploited. How the current score and time of the match really does affect a teams approach. It is fantastic watching a team losing 1-0 go from trying to build up from the back, to launching the ball into the box in the final few minutes, or how a younger player can become nervous during bigger games, or at crunch moments of a game.
The pacing of the game is really well done also and at first it can feel strange when players stamina bars are in the red after 75 minutes, but then the game wants you to use subs, both as a tactical thing and also to show the effects, running around with sprint held down can have. Everything just works so well.
Skill moves aren’t over the top, nor are they stupidly hard to pull off. The pace of the game feels perfect, to the point you can put your foot on the ball in midfield and have time to survey the pitch. Not just have 3-4 players just jump in instantly. Again because the AI recognises how dangerous a situation may be and whether it is worth them putting on extra pressure at this point. But once again, this depends on the current situation. At 0-0 and 20 minutes into the first half, you can hold a ball and knock it about, but if you are 1-0 up in the 85th minute, then you can be sure someone will be putting you under pressure to try and force a mistake or nick the ball away.
There is so much more that can be said about this latest Pro Evo, but you just need to discover it for yourself. Also, remember the days you played this on a couch with your mates? Remember how good that felt…Well get them round and relive those days, because Pro Evo is once again a wonderful experience when played with a friend on a sofa.
The pretender has had its time in the sun, its 15 minutes of fame, but the King is back, long live the King! Pro Evolution Soccer is once again the Daddy of virtual football!