It’s that time of year again! The football season has well and truly kicked off and we’ve got our annual release of the two biggest footballing franchises in one month – PES and FIFA. As per usual, PES 2017 has arrived a little earlier than its counterpart, giving those eager to get some footballing action the chance to take part in the beautiful game immediately.
Whilst I’d never call myself a sports game aficionado, I’ve always been a sucker for football games – admittedly though it’s typically been the FIFA series. Last year sprung a surprise, with PES2016 providing quite a lot of fun. I ended up playing FIFA more in the long run, but still, I spent a lot of time with the game. Things may actually change this year with PES 2017 providing a football experience that felt authentic, looked great and is a hell of a lot of fun to play – it really has the potential to take FIFA’s crown…
As per last year, PES 2017 feels great to play with controls that are fluid and responsive. You’re given a real sense of control of your players, both on and off the ball. There’s also a real simplicity to it all; passes can be strung together with ease, through balls will send your star players into space, crossing sets up some fantastic volleys and headers, whilst shooting is absolutely sublime in and out of the box. It’s incredibly satisfying to string a series of passes together with Barcelona’s superstar ‘MSN’ trio (Messi, Suarez and Neymar) and then blast an inch-perfect shot into the back of the net from outside of the box. It flowed together perfectly, but more importantly was incredibly easy to do.
That being said, after primarily playing FIFA over the last couple of years I did notice that the game didn’t do as much for me automatically. You have a greater sense of control with what you do with the ball, in turn meaning you’ve got to be a bit more accurate with each action you perform. I’m used to simply leaning the left stick in a particular direction and my pass landing there – now I’ve got to carefully aim my pass and apply the right amount of power for it to reach the desired player. I’ve already said the game is accessible and easy to get into, but you still need precision. Thankfully it’s complimented by the game’s accessibility and it won’t take too long before you’re tika-takking your way to victory.
Last year I noticed my goalkeeper would often be… well… a bit useless. Fortunately in PES 2017 goalkeepers have improved – they’re even capable of pulling off saves that would impress the likes of De Gea and Neuer. There’s a real sense of dependability with them that wasn’t present previously. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll still let in howlers and there’s also plenty of fumbles, but that just comes naturally with the sport. Perhaps most importantly is that they’re more defensive minded during set pieces, long distance shots and even one on one situations. They think independently and will react to opponent’s moves intelligently, allowing you to focus more on scoring goals.
Whilst the pace of the game hasn’t changed too much, PES 2017 manages to feel faster thanks to players responding quickly with their first touch of the ball. Smaller, nippier players can dribble and weave runs between opponents almost immediately, with their first touch able to set up a sequence of attacks. The bigger, stronger players haven’t been neglected though; the likes of Ibrahimovic, Fellaini and Toure are able to out-muscle their opponents with ease from the moment the ball is at their feet. Being in possession of the ball simply felt more satisfying, whilst all of the improved dynamics of the game will make you a better player. Whilst your player’s have the strengths to help you succeed, you’ve still got to make sure you can defend well too though.
If there’s one complaint I’ve had with football games over the last few years it’s that defending has started to become a bit too intricate, especially in the FIFA games where defending could actually feel like a chore for those who preferred the simpler, more satisfying days of depending on two button defending. Whilst it isn’t as simple as that, PES 2017’s defending felt satisfying; it was easy to push an opponent off the ball, whilst sliding tackles really looked like they packed a punch (in a defensive manner, of course). Thankfully, the referees have been improved from last year’s edition of the game too – the referee is a bit more strict and isn’t afraid to pull out the cards when you literally buckle a players kneecaps. I think those who played last year’s game will be pleased to see that bad tackles don’t go unpunished this time around.
My only criticism with the defending is that I noticed that my AI controlled defenders crept out of position on occasions. It wasn’t too regular an occurrence, but it did open a few gaps in my defence at times.
From a gameplay perspective, PES 2017 offers one of the most authentic footballing experiences yet. The overall feeling of authenticity is extremely underwhelming though, with the PES series’ typical lack of licences compared to FIFA as evident as ever. I’m a Manchester United fan, so it’s frustrating to see that I’ll be taking ‘Man Red’ to the pitch again (and surprisingly lacking a red kit might I add). On the other hand, there are teams like Barcelona and Liverpoool that are fully licenced and baring a life-like similarity with their counterparts, both in looks and their playing style.
Whilst FIFA seems to have everything, PES 2017 merely has titbits that shows the potential the series might have if it had the power of the countless football licences. It still has the ‘Champions League’ though which is always fun to play through. You can also still edit player and team names, so if you’re willing to make the effort you can add the authenticity to the game manually. Player’s faces look absolutely superb though, whilst Konami have already issued squad updates to make sure teams are up to date.
The series’ trademark single player modes make a return too, with the ‘Master League’ and ultimate team wannabe ‘MyClub’ available to play through. Like last year, MyClub lets you build fantastic teams and take them online to take on other players around the world. It’s pretty fun, though the ugly presentation of the menus makes it feel a little less satisfying and more cumbersome than its FIFA counterpart.
I still lost plenty of hours in MyClub mode though; it’s fun and addictive, whilst building a team is super satisfying. Taking your team online to take on other teams is enjoyable too, though a few issues with the network connectivity could make the whole experience a little bit of a drag.
Online modes don’t function perfectly with it often taking a fair while to even get into a match. When you do get online you’ll often suffer the odd disconnect too, as well as suffering lag. It’s frustrating, especially when online matches are so much fun when the game works properly. Online issues have plagued the series for a while now, so it’s a shame to see they’ve reared their ugly head in the latest edition of the game too, especially when the online mode is so great when it works.
There’s a couple of other issues too, such as, of course, the commentary. The best way to describe it is… well… ‘PES-like’. It lacks personality and authenticity, with the same phrases muttered over and over again. I got sick of hearing ‘ROONEY!’ in the exact same style and tone every time he took a shot in a match. The in-match replays could be a pain too, with them often bringing minor loading screens that could break up the flow of a match. It’s nit picking, sure, but I just wanted to get straight back into the action.
PES 2017 is the finest entry released in Konami’s popular series and could offer a serious threat to FIFA’s crown if EA don’t keep up with the pace. It’s enjoyable to control, improvements have been made to almost all facets of the gameplay, whilst scoring goals has never felt so damn good.
There are still some recurring issues such as the ugly menus and poor online connectivity that stop the game from being perfect, but PES is getting closer and closer to footballing supremacy with each new release. Now excuse me whilst I get back to hitting some stunning long range goals…
Release Date: 14/09/2016
Format(s): Playstation 4 (Reviewed), Xbox One, Playstation 3, Xbox 360, PC