Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 (PS4) - ReviewJoseph Trotter , posted on 11 November 2014 / 5,975 Views
These days Fathers and Mothers, the youth of gaming days past, sit children on their knees and regale them with tales of their prowess on ISS Pro Evolution 2; the inexplicable power of Edgar Davids, the finesse of Gabriel Batistuta, the trickery of Marc Overmars. It was a beautiful moment in a beautiful series that shed its International Superstar Soccer arcade-style childhood for the more refined Pro Evolution Soccer, and things only got better; PES 4, pound for pound, may be the best football game of any era.
But then complacency set in and its bitter rival, FIFA, holder of the golden chalice of licenses and clear second best started to progress rapidly and PES started to run out of ideas. By 2010 FIFA's ascendency was assured and PES has been playing catch-up (and sub-standard football) ever since. After several poor efforts, Konami have gone back to the drawing board to emphasise what the series had been doing well while utilising the good work of its rival. They have, in effect, performed the self-analysis that EA did with their series in 2009 to such fine effect. Has it been enough?
After the turgid PES 2014, it would not have been difficult to improve the series only slightly, but Konami have done well to improve the fundamental aspects of the gameplay and build a solid foundation for future instalments. Finally, after what seems an age, the gameplay has a sense of identity, nuance, and purpose. Every limb of a player is important in PES 2015; games are physical tussles, with dribbling limited to the very best. In many ways this makes it the anti-FIFA, but this is no bad thing.
Tackling is a precise affair, with sliding tackles brutally effective but very much a last resort; a slight lack of timing can result in a spectacular tumble and early bath. At first you will be frustrated, but one look at the replay and your mistake is clear; you clipped their ankle. A more subtle flick of the control stick and the ball is yours fairly. L2's (on the Dualshock 4) manual passes were ineffective in previous titles, but can result in beautifully crafted goals here. Although it is a technique more prone to simple mistakes, the accuracy of potential through balls and raking crosses means that it is one worth mastering quickly.
Shooting is unfortunately less impressive, with finishing at times resembling hit and hope. What makes goals satisfying is their sheer difficulty to perform at times; the physical, well organised nature of matches makes opponents hard to break down, with chances few and far between. The best organised team is the one that will likely win, hence the better players will make good use of Pro Evo's impressively extensive tactical potential for a football simulator. Tactics are as deep or as shallow as the player wishes, but the slightest tweak can have a huge effect on potential match outcomes.
The presentation has been thankfully dragged kicking and screaming into the new decade, finally. A solid licensed soundtrack gives the game a more professional, less cheesy element, while the menu screen and many of the options have clearly been influenced by the highly polished EA Sports stable. Players are a mixture of the sublime and grotesque, although most still resemble a shambolic assortment of The Walking Dead extras having a between-take kick around. The model of Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world's most recognisable player, is more akin to the New York Dolls than Real Madrid (one for the kids).
Stadiums are expansive but soulless, offering little in terms of visual appeal. The physics model, as hinted at earlier, is better, with many players moving as you would expect in real life; the aforementioned Ronaldo like a gazelle, Messi like a whippet on heat. Team names (particularly in Europe) are hampered by the licenses available, with brilliant results, but the inclusion of second-tier teams still means that East Midlands (Leicester City) can smash Notts Reds (Nottingham Forest) or take on the feared West Midlands Village (Aston Villa, hilariously).
Online options were unfortunately unavailable to the reviewer, so it would be unfair to comment on them, but they appear expansive, particular myClub, the Master League Online. For the offline players there is plenty of value to be had. Master League is back and greatly expanded, with more detailed player negotiations, a greater emphasis on tactical decisions, and the need to scout for value. Although more arcade in tone than many other modes of its type, it is still tremendous fun, and when your team of cheap journeymen steal a victory it is all the more satisfying.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is a vast improvement on the last few instalments and offers a genuine building block for the series in the future. Hampered by the lack of licenses but aided by a sleeker, more refined edge, PES 2015 does its talking on the pitch. Combative, deep gameplay coupled with a variety of tactical options offers a genuine alternative to the FIFA bandwagon that goes some way to bridging the gap between the two series. Has it regained its crown? No, FIFA is still some way ahead. Is PES 2015 a very good football simulator in its own right? Definitely.
This review is based on a retail copy of Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 for the PS4, provided by the publisher.
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