PES 2015: Review

There’s something a little bolted together about PES 2015. Its confluence of polished next-gen gameplay with decade-old trappings can be a little jarring, but there’s definitely still something there. Some of that old PES magic we’ve been waiting to see again for so many years is definitely present, but so is the sense that PES is still playing catch-up ona generation of advancements in football gaming.

The passing and movement, though, is crisp. That’s hopefully the first thing you’ll notice as you pick up a pad and start pushing the ball around. PES Productions has been promising that we would be using every inch of the field as we move the ball and that’s exactly what has been delivered. The frenetic end-to-end combat of FIFA 15 is a lot of fun, but the more considered, intricate tactical battle you get to engage with in PES 2015 is very satisfying. So much so, time seems to move differently when playing PES.

You see a typical game of FIFA is probably around five or six minutes a half and while on occasion you may find yourself cursing the minutes ticking down, that’s usually plenty of time to get away 15 shots and score three goals each. In PES, though, five-minute halves whizz by and chances will be limited.

The ball just moves around the pitch slower, but don’t confuse that with it plodding or getting bogged down. Rather, you just have more time on the ball, more movement ahead and behind you and more options across the pitch. It’s actually a refreshing change from the chaos of a FIFA match, but then both approaches have their merits. The downside is that nil-nil draws are likely to be common as you build your confidence with the game. Patience is essential.
THERE’S NOTHING SWEETER THAT SPLITTING A DEFENCE WITH A MODRIC THROUGH BALL
The sensitivity of the power behind longer passes and crosses is a little much, making it hard to be as pinpoint accurate at a distance, but then again, that’s simply realistic rather than a shortcoming of the interface. When the quick one-touch passing starts going though you can really zip around the field and unlock a defence. It's a very satisfying experience as you find an opening and take on the keeper.

Which brings us to penalty area and getting yours shots away. Goal scoring and shooting have been imbalanced areas in the last couple of years, with FIFA and PES both failing to really get things right. They’ve been too stringent or too easy. Too controlled and assisted or nowhere near assisted enough. PES feels about right for the most part. So long as you don’t attempt to punt it, the ball will move in exactly the direction you point it in. That may sound like a basic level, obvious gameplay mechanic, but anyone who has been playing football games in recent years knows it hasn't always been the case. Adding a little finesse to the shot is also incredibly satisfying with top-level players and the curl you can achieve is beautiful to watch.

Actually there's and oddly satisfying beauty to the arc and spin of the ball in PES that we can only liken to watching some of the great passers of the ball like Pirlo in real life. While midfield playmakers can sometimes feel a little overpowered in PES, there’s nothing sweeter that splitting a defence with a Modric through ball. It’s also kind of fun to find that one-twos are something that works again. Pulling and pushing a defence around just feels right in PES this year.

But eventually we have to look beyond the moment-to-moment and those areas of polish and accept there’s still much to improve. Sticking with the action on the pitch for the moment, defensive AI remains hit and miss at times and what some of these goalkeepers are thinking is beyond us.

Crosses, headers and volleys in particular seem to flummox them. When defending a through ball, PES has an awkward habit of locking you to the least helpful defender in your pack. You can hit L1/LB as much as you please, but you’ll never get the right back who is clearly ina better position to shut out the danger under your command.

And while there’s much of PES 2015 that looks superb (character models for Xavi Alonso and Pirlo in particular are amazing), it doesn't always looks as sharp as it could. Quite apart from the lesser players looking pretty ropey next to the big names, the lighting doesn't complement them. It's an area that has clearly seen improvement in terms of casting shadows and creating more realistic visuals, but it’s not up to FIFA levels yet.

There’s a similar distance in terms of overall presentation and match-day atmosphere. The menus and interface of PES are pretty clunky and impenetrable. The old observation that FIFA wasa game for football fans and PES is a game for gamers perhaps still holds in this respect. Only a player fairly familiar with the idiosyncrasies of video game menu design is likely to work out exactly how to switch controller layout and make sure it sticks.

And then there’s the commentary, which is rarely something anyone could praise in any videogame, but PES 2015’s is particularly poor. Phrases are too often repeated, lines are broken as team names are wedged into different recordings; it’s a mess. It’s not exactly a game-breaking flaw, but it speaks to a game still evolving rather than being fully formed.

PES is stronger than it's ever been, but it still has a way to go.

PLAYING AROUND
There are some areas of PES that feel a little underbaked or perhaps just not brought up to speed with its more forward looking elements, but that doesn't mean PES Productions has avoided innovating or coming up with odd little idea. Of particular interest is the Role Control gameplay that has three players look after defence, midfield and attack respectively, almost like Foosball. Similarly, we found the training program to be interesting and a great way of picking up on the controls and advancements in the series.

8/10

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