PES 2015 proves that it’s king on the pitch, but is that enough?
The battle of the football game may have ended several years back, with PES bowing down to the might of the licensing behemoth that is EA Sports’ FIFA series. PES was never really out of the picture, but with gameplay tweaks that appeared to be more reactive to FIFA than proactive year on year, PES did lose its way. However, if the games of the last couple of years are anything to go by, the focus is back. This year, the game does what it’s always managed to do very well, with responsive controls, attention to detail and dynamic gameplay, where every goal feels different and every moment is unique. PES 2015 shines on the pitch—but not so much anywhere else. I suppose you could argue that the pitch is all that matters, and while that’s true to a certain degree, it’s probably not enough for most.
For the football game purist, however, PES 2015 is likely to be his or her title of choice this year. Players move and tussle realistically, player and ball physics seem as close to real life as possible, and the action feels unscripted and natural. While balancing issues persist (controlled shots, defensive pressing feel a little overpowered), at no point does the game feel like its littered with exploits, or that your opponent (be it AI or human) ‘cheated’ their way to victory. But most of all, it’s that indescribable element of PES 2015 ‘feeling’ just right—whether it’s Arjen Robben breaking into his trademark run-and-cut-in followed by a curler to the left corner of the goal or Carlos Tevez terrier-like battling for the ball against the last man, defensive and offensive player intelligence, to every goal I’ve scored in-game being completely different. There’s an organic feel to PES this year, unlike the scripted AI that is occasionally apparent in EA’s Ignite engine. You could probably watch the game’s slo-mo highlights for hours as well.
Next up: licenses. While there’s a limited pool of teams to choose from, there is variety thanks to UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores, AFC Champions League licensing as well as some European and South American leagues. Teams from the German Bundesliga (with the exception of Bayern Munich, Schalke and Bayer Leverkusen) and English Premier League (except Manchester United), however, are conspicuous by their absence. Most national teams sport real player names, but kits aren’t a cent-percent accurate. In short, you’re probably going to run out of teams to play with unless you’re a one-team player and are fortunate enough to have your team in the game. The biggest problem with this is the limited variety in opposition you face while playing online (after logging several hours in the game’s online modes, I only ever faced two teams: Bayern and PSG).
It’s also unfortunate that PES 2015’ user interface is, simply put, quite poor. Be it the attempt at recreating FIFA’s ‘tile’ based design, the confusing-as-hell Game Plan UI or the terrible interface for online play, PES 2015’s UI has a learning curve that’s steeper than the game itself. It also takes the FIFA inspiration a little too far and fails with myClub, a rip-off of FIFA Ultimate Team that was never going to be any good without licensing and a sound business model. While Master League is the shining light that redeems PES 2015 game modes, the FIFA-inspired gameplay types are quite the letdown. Adding to PES 2015’s woes are repetitive commentary and occasional stuttering (online play, however, is surprisingly lag-free)—the latter can prove to be quite annoying.
In the end, it comes down to the type of game you want to play. If you’re not a stickler for licenses, presentation, then all that matters is the way the game plays on the pitch and PES 2015 is the game for you. In fact, this is the PES game I would recommend over any others to FIFA fans—it’s familiar, more responsive and does a good job of not alienating FIFA players.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is available on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One and PC.
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