Its been a while since I played PES, the last being PES 2012 when Ronaldo was on the cover. I was a big fan of PES in the PS2 days and it was objectively the better football game back then. Now the race between it and FIFA is a lot closer (with Fifa being a clear winner in terms of official licensed teams and leagues) but I am pretty impressed with PES 2016 as a package.
PES has a number of great attributes. First it has a wonderful passing game. From the moment you play it around your back four, to working the gaps in the midfield to playing a thru ball to your striker, everything feels natural, instinctive and tactical. There’s also a lovely range of passing, from short passes, lobs, one-twos, thru balls, long balls and diagonal balls, all of it works well given the situation at hand.
On the pitch, the player has a variety of tactics and strategy, though the best strategy will always depend on the type of players you have at your disposal. You can play a fast counter attacking game, or a possession game, or a wide or narrow game and all of those will feel very similar to what you watch on TV. The opponent is always there for you to exploit. PES 2016 also has a nice balance of teams using different strategies, and teams will play differently depending on who they are.
One of PES finer features are players attributes, where every attribute matters. You want to play the thru ball with your team’s best passer. You want to shoot with your best finisher. All of the stats matter in the way you set up your team, how it affects the tactics and how you play the actual game. Most of these are subtle differences, but they are definitely there. You can see why your striker with an 87 finishing rate hits the target more often than someone with a 77 finishing rate. Then you realise the same thing happens with tackling, defending awareness, heading, running, ball control and you find yourself setting up the team to accommodate to your team’s strengths. In a way its no different to suiting up your character in an RPG with the best weapons and armor.
The master league is still the best single player mode still, so I put plenty of time into that. The mode is mostly boiled down to buying and selling players and playing the actual match. Which is fine, but it really hasn’t evolved much since its inception back in the PS2 days. What would be nice would be some business aspects to make more money. It’s an area that Football Manager hasn’t really touched on either, but Premier Legaue Manager (back in the 90s) used to do it upgrading the stadium, selling jerseys and all that.
The main online mode myClub is similar to Fifa’s Ultimate team, in that you buy ‘randomised’ players like trading cards and hope you get good players to put on the pitch. If you win enough matches each season, you get to move to an upper division. It’s ok, but I’m not really an online player.
If there’s anything awful its the goalkeepers. Either they should be rated 20 points lower than their actual rating or there’s something wrong with the AI. They let in far too many.
The other and more unforgivable decision is that the PC version is basically the PS3 version. While Konami says there are PS4 improvements in the PC version with the PS3 graphic assets, you know the saying, if it looks like and walks and talks like a duck… its probably a duck. The graphics are not terrible and it looks clean enough on 1440p, but this should absolutely have been the PS4 version (minimum) on PC in 2016.
I hope Konami put some effort into revising the Master League in future installments AND put out a better PC version, but aside from that, this is a pretty good football game.
Score: 8.5 out of 10