First time for everything.
Full disclosure – I have never played a soccer game before. Going into Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 was actually a bit of a challenge. Sure, I had seen games on television during the World Cup, and I get a decent grasp of how things work during a game, but actually playing and understanding the world’s most popular sport is something new to me. As I say with all the reviews I do like this, I’ll give anything the old college try. Come to find out, soccer is a pretty tense sport. I’ll never be good at it, but I can see how people really love it.
To start off, I chose the only team I really knew thanks to my friends from the UK, the Norwich City Canaries. Or should I say the Norfolk City Canaries? PES doesn’t really have the licenses to all these teams so they have to make do with what they have. After that, I joined up with a prestigious league called the UEFA Champions League to see how my skills held up. Going into this without trying out a tutorial at all was very humbling. I lost my first game 6-0. I then erased that save and went to the tutorials.
Platforms: XB1, PS4, PC
Price I’d pay: $59.99
Teach me the ways of the football.
What I liked about the tutorials is that while deep and complex with its mechanics, it would have me do the exercise to a certain point where I had it down. While I may not be able to remember everything I learned, I was able to go back and see how to actually pull off different types of passes and shots. I knew it was going to be complex, but I was still overwhelmed. One issue I did have with the tutorial was actually showing me all the ball handling moves. The game just gave me a time limit and a few moves I could pull off using the right analog stick. It also became to one thing I needed to learn the most with my experience with the game.
After spending time familiarizing myself with the controls, I took a different route and decided to craft my own team using scouts and a handful of players from existing teams in the MyClub mode. This was a much easier introduction to the game for me. Using my head coach as well as recruited players, finding the correct synergy and working together, actually helped out my team significantly. On top of all that, the mode allowed me to try out my team in a relatively easy game to see just how skilled they were, and how skilled I was as a player. Building my team up even though I knew nothing of the players I was recruiting was still a fun, almost RPG-type way to play the game.
The feels. They are good.
Gameplay-wise, matches are fast, strategic, and really fun to play. Using the FOX engine from Metal Gear Solid V, PES looks pretty nice and the lighting is superb. Passing and shooting feel great, and any time I missed a shot or had the ball stolen from me, it was due to either me not paying attention or not planning appropriately. I quickly found out that I have to pay attention to not only my opponents but where my teammates are on the field. Knowing when to pass and even more importantly what kind of pass was very important.
Collision detection is really well done, and while animation priority is here it all felt and looked realistic. As in, of course, that’s how it would look if I really did run into another player. Players adjust to situations realistically and it is handled very well.
One of the great aspects of the game is how well my teammates interacted with the player I was controlling. I could have a teammate help with putting pressure on the ball carrier while defending or have my teammate appropriately charge the goal when moving in for a well timed pass. It was all very fluid.
Doesn’t have the ball? Tackle him anyway.
As I said before, I don’t know all the rules to soccer as a sport and multiple times that bit me pretty hard. Offsides got me every time, but even I know I shouldn’t be able to cut out the legs of a ball carrier with a slide without actually hitting the ball, but I did multiple times and was never called out on it. So the refs may be spotty when it comes to actual penalties.
I decided to get brave and tried out an online match. While the online was smooth and played as well as the single player, I got ultimately destroyed by my opponent, which I knew was going to happen. I then ended up in the last few minutes of the game slide tackling his players and getting multiple players booted from the game. There are also online leagues for those who are willing to put in the time.
While not for everyone, PES 2016 is actually a very well done game. I learned a good amount, but am by no means an expert. I was able to get a good feel for the game and was able handle some matches on the easier difficulty. This is still very much a soccer fan’s game, and while it has the tutorials, the game is not very beginner-friendly. At the same time, what it does, it does very well and looks great while doing it. Any fan of the sport should definitely check it out.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.