Pro Evolution Soccer 2017
In another league?
A new year, a new football season can only mean a new PES title from Konami. Fresh from last year's shift to Kojima-san's legacy in Fox Engine that I covered in-depth last year what have the team done with this latest release and more time with the engine?
As expected and mentioned from my last PES review the team needed more time to get to grips with the engine and they have used that time very well. Still a full 1080P here from my PS4 review copy the Xbox One Demo up on the store shows an identical visual package between the 2 other than the same drop of resolution we saw from its last outing. This means the same 60Hz rate is targeted from the in-game option but instead of this flat base as per last time we now adopt the same 60/30 split that FIFA has across game play and real-time cinemtic's, far from a bad deal. The doubling of the frame budget now enables the team to ramp up the Post effects to a much higher level, high sampled Motion blur, soft Depth of Field across both fore and background aligned with the motion captured animations and havok Physics system delivers the most fluid and natural animations yet right up and maybe even better than FIFA at points, all the while enhanced in these new and improved replay modes.
From the human touches of players arguing, thumping the floor like a spoilt teenager to through balls, lobs, step overs and more all look totally authentic. The speed of the game can still be an issue for some, not me of course, and as such the dribbling can be a little fast visually but passing, turning, control is all of the highest caliber. And this includes the performance which of course is vital for such a game.
Both consoles deliver a locked 60 in game from my tests bar 1 small dip to 30 from its likely Double Buffered frame rendering I would put down to early bugs than any performance issue, a symptom of the new split render rates that blend between live action and replay with the same high quality TV style fades, again the dips here all intentionally (whilst helping the logic reset) done to mimic the TV presentation.
Materials are now of a much higher quality than we saw last time, stadiums now have more natural and ambient light, faces look and animate much better, clipping has been greatly improved when post goal celebrations come out. Detail is higher on the grass, players and stadiums as the pixel construction of the advert boards stand out in the replays. Normal maps are still used with animated meshes for players shirts, shorts etc and no longer look so obvious within the blends. Decals appear on your clothes, as you come in for a heavy slide or sweat builds on players skin. Visually this is a step above the last game and now can stand much closer if not neck and neck with the mighty FIFA.
Sound is again functional but not groundbreaking, commentary has a few new pieces but quickly you will hear the same lines again and again and most likely turn off. Crowd chants, cheers and general rumble is authentic enough and does it job of solidifying the experience of playing the big game amongst the thousands of hard core fans.
The strongest aspect of the game has always been its game play and yet again this is more refined than ever. The amount of control you have over you players is the biggest strength allowing long balls, team run, feints, bicycle kicks can all be carried out with ultimate precision giving way to some delightful moments that can be enjoyed again in the post match highlights. Collision and fouls is better but not perfect, offside can still be very picky or blind depending on the linesman it seems. And combined with the improve animations and blended sets we have very few robotic moments now. Tackling can still be frustrating with clear ball first moments being yelled out even before the replay shows the same but this is true of the real game also so cannot dwell too much on this.
Player AI and goalkeepers are again the best in the business with other CPU controlled teams passing you to death with combined play, tactics and runs keeping you ever vigilant of the risks. Goals never come as easy or as often as FIFA but they can feel even more satisfying when they do and by god you always feel like you sweat blood and tears to earn them.
With such a satisfying game to play it only strengthens the package when it is rammed to the rafters with a myriad of play modes. From straight exhibition, build your own club from scratch with your own agents, players making everything feel that more personal and triumphant. But it has much more to offer over and above this bread and butter football mode signing managers, players and going for glory. Extended with the Master League and become a legend mode giving you the choice of 1 man glory rags to riches or manage the entire team and players on and off the pitch mean that the next title will be releasing long before you have exhausted these packed modes and long season challenges. An absolute must for a football title to stand tall and proud, PES has this covered.
UEFA Champions and Europa League modes joined by the AFC champions league are welcome additions to the game which complement the online mode and is the reason this review is later than planned. As the servers had not gone live last weekend I wanted to wait till I had chance to play some online game and can report that other than the same long load, seek times in the menus just like its rival finding, joining games are fast and easy from my tests with no serious issues over and above rage quits and bad connections from time to time but hosting your own online tournaments is easy and as enjoyable as a local 2 player or CPU fuelled game. This includes online competitions to really test your footballing prowess.
One of the biggest fears many had to get into PES is due to the team licensing issues, this can be solved on PS4 and PC (sadly not possible for XboxOne players sadly). Simply download the file from here or search the internet for PES team kits and then create a folder on a USB stick entitled WEPES and place all the files in here. From then place in your PC or PS4 and browse to the edit function in the extras menu screen. Watch the video for more detailed information.
I cannot recommend the game enough for any football fans, getting closer to the FIFA levels of presentation even with the new shift to Frotbite fuel is a real benefit and helps reduce the reasons to try it. In terms of atmosphere, delivery it is as close as it has ever been and comes down to the tougher more refined PES game play over the simpler and more flamboyant FIFA style. But I assume you if you do take the PES plunge the rewards are welcome and fruitful. It has never looked, played and felt better..back of the net.