Pro Evolution Soccer 16 has been a joy to play. This year marks one for the books in the series as gameplay and presentation have taken major steps forward. Not to say everything is perfect because some of the additions still lack that certain sparkle to be completely polished. But new upgrades have definitely helped illustrate the serious push Konami is making to give competing brands a run for their money, though they will be moving away from console gaming altogether.
It hasn’t been just about all of the game modes or in-game interactions that defines PES as a franchise, so much as the small subtleties; the attention to detail. Like past editions, simplicity rings true to the action, but unlike past editions, there’s more of a complete presentation and a better overall experience. The “feeling” of the game hasn’t been this refreshing in years. Heading into matches, you will presented with real-life cut-scenes along with pre-game player preparation routines. It’s all about making you feel like you’re a part of it all and to get you hyped for what’s to come.
Jumping right into the action on the pitch, controls are smooth and reactive. The control layouts make it possible to quickly learn all of the fancy tricks without making you feel like you are just randomly pushing and holding buttons. From button push to player movement, most mechanics are fluid with a touch of realism. Like real players, players in-game have different attributes and will react to each other, as well as to the pitch in such a manner. Fighting for balls, jockeying for position, and using your mass to block out defenders all help create fast-paced and intense football. Some tackle and slide techniques do lack some fine qualities, though, in their consistency of success; referee calls can be shaky too. At times you are able to barrel into a dribbler, completely taking him out and the ref won't even bat an eye, and other times you may lightly side bump an opponent and be immediately given a yellow yard.
The importance of strategy, the need to form tactics for different matchups, is ever more relevant. It is all simple in form, but intricate in design when selecting tactic options. You are able to customize or select the default build of up to three strategy lines and implement them into your current game. By using the D-pad, you can change to and from each one quickly, while still attacking or defending.
And with the advancement in the A.I., not to mention fellow online opponents, finding your style of play couldn’t be more important. The great part is that it’s a solid simulation for everyone, from seasoned vets down to the newcomers. You will quickly find out what works for you and, in no time, you'll be ready to face the array of game modes.
Those familiar with the PES franchise will certainly remember a few modes that continue to make an appearance: UEFA Champions League, Copa Libertadores, and Europa League, just to name a few. Also making waves in the game mode fields are the reworked Masters League as well as the Myclub, both giving more insight to what happens behind the scenes in the world of football. With the revamping of Masters League, one of the bigger additions has to be the new transfer system. Things like this will help hone managerial skills and make it easier to better construct the best teams.
With all of the customization options—specifically crafting players, kits, teams, etc.—gives your entire experience that touch of personality. To take that a step further, some exclusive, authentic licensing has been acquired to give an in-depth option to gameplay. This addition is fantastic and proves to be very important when it comes to strengthening the franchise in order to compete with other football sims. Big names like Messi, Neymar, and Ronaldo bring that look and feel of professional play. Without their presence, PES would play like an arcade game down at your local movie theater.
Touch-ups could still be made to commentating and stadium crowds. Jim Beglin and Peter Drury offer less-than-stellar insight to the game and remind me of all of those Madden years we would cringe at Jim Nantz and Phil Simms’ horribly placed quips and repeating puns. And though the crowds at first glance look layered and full of emotion, the crowd seems to be chanting random words and other times you forget they are even there. Giving them a more significant role in the game would illustrate their real-life importance in a match.
Fortunately, the series is growing and it appears it won't be going anywhere anytime soon. For Pro Evolution Soccer, its 20th anniversary brings in 2016 with a bang. The improvements and expanded gameplay comes as a bit of a surprise. Konami is showing that their push to the top of football greatness is fully in effect. It is safe to say PES 2016 is one of the best sports releases to the genre in recent years.