We all remember the glory of the Playstation 2 era, with Pro Evolution Soccer as one of its most beloved flagships. Its gameplay, graphics and overall fun factor were unrivalled as far as console gaming went, and we couldn´t wait for what the future would hold for the promising franchise. Alas, a few bad decisions later, what was once the go-to sports game turned into a last resort, a disc that lay on the bottom of the drawer only to see the light of day on rare occasions. So, you ask, what happened to PES? What went wrong along the way? Did it drop the ball?
You will have none of those questions once you put PES 2015 in your console. It´s not perfect, but it´s a much-needed step forward for a franchise that seemed doomed.
The one aspect that never changed about PES was its graphics: they always remained vibrant with color and detail, boasting recognizable faces and movements. They are not absolutely incredible here, since they can sometimes look a bit muddled and, quite frankly, some players have a weird quality to them that I can´t quite place. Nevertheless, seeing the game in motion is an absolute joy and will keep you amazed for months to come.
Graphics aside, what PES 2015 gets right is the real-life feel of the game. The disc contains a tremendous amount of licenses, including the UEFA Champions League, the Europa League, the Copa Libertadores (which is like the South-American UEFA) and even the Copa Sudamericana, a nice little touch which I wasn´t expecting. It´s not just the names that are the same, as these competitions are presented as if you are watching a real match between two teams. The logo shows up accordingly and even the music is spot-on, creating a look and feel which I simply did not find in other sports games this year.
What brings down the enjoyment of the game a bit is the commentary. While it is perfectly serviceable, it is quite spread out for the duration of the match, meaning there will be moments when all you will hear is the cheering of the fans. I know this doesn´t sound very problematic, but it becomes a nuisance when it happens repeatedly. Besides, the secondary commentator has a dull and boring tone of voice, making me flinch every time he opens his mouth.
This year, Konami has decided to revamp the gameplay element of the franchise, allowing for a more dynamic approach that keeps the game flowing at a swift pace and allows for different amusing situations, meaning no two matches will ever be the same.
The ball rotates at a life-like pace and player movements have been tuned to perfection, ensuring the most accurate football possible. Don´t worry, scoring is still as satisfying as ever.
Apart from the competitions mentioned above, the true meat of the game is its Master League feature, a mode where you take control of a team, including its finances and management, and try to lead it to the top of worldwide football. It´s an extremely engaging mode which will keep you coming back to use different teams, and it never gets old.
Also returning is Become a Legend, where you create your own player (or use an existing player for all the lazy ones out there) and control him exclusively for the duration of the match, trying to perform adequately so you will get noticed by other clubs. This feature is also surprisingly deep, including all the game´s leagues and international teams, delivering an experience tailored for every gamer.
Finally, MyClub is pretty much PES´s answer to FIFA´s Ultimate Team, where you build a team of “cards” which represent players and buy and sell them to create the best possible squad. It´s a nice little addition, but I spent most of my time playing the other far superior modes.
Rounding off the title are the skill mini games. I felt like these were packed in just for the sake of it, although they do provide some distraction while you choose which mode to delve into. You get awarded medals based on your score and can keep coming back to improve, although I did not see much incentive other than some trophies.
As far as the online experience is concerned, PES 2015 also excels, providing a different variety of modes to keep you engaged. While newcomers will find plenty to get excited about in the more traditional modes, like quick and ranked match, veterans can jump to an 11 vs 11 match where you control just one player and have to work with your teammates to overcome the opponent. It´s a fun little deviation of the original formula that works wonderfully. The game also comes packed with a levelling system much like the FIFA games, where you perform challenges and unlock equipment.
Nevertheless, the constant Internet issues must be addressed. The connection frequently fails and you are booted back to the main menu that is if you are even able to sign into the online portion, which more often than not can prove to be a chore. The game riddles you with error messages which can even prove to be game-breaking, although when you do connect you can have a great time.
// THE VERDICT
PES 2015 came as a huge surprise to players worldwide, as a much needed improvement to previous versions. The game makes up for its various quirks by offering a huge amount of content which will keep you entertained way past the release date of next year´s installment. Konami hasn´t crafted the definitive PES experience yet, but is certainly on the right track and, if they keep to it, next year the answer to football fans worldwide will definitely be their title, which is more than I can say for past years´ games.