When it comes to the subject of sports, there are few that hold the weight of interest in the way soccer does. Football or, should I say, fùtbol, is unequivocally the sporting world’s common meeting place. Of course from region to region, fan experiences will vary, especially in places like the U.S. whose fan base heavily follow the games of baseball, basketball, and American football.
With the incredible growth, advancements, and popularity of the internet, fùtbol has slowly become more relevant in American sports. And here we are, in the video game realm, able to discuss which fùtbol simulators we enjoy best.
In a quick, simple answer, EA Sports FIFA. But wait… let me finish. First off, this year’s FIFA has yet to be released and there’s little we can go off of in terms of what it will offer. So strictly going off of the past, fans have favored the “more popular” simulator over its competitor, Pro Evolution Soccer. But why? A main reason and possibly the biggest denominating factor has been licensing.
EA holds all the cards when it comes to licensing. Player names, teams, kits, broadcasters—you name it. Not every single one, mind you, but enough that when you want a “simulator,” FIFA will give you the best chance of getting what you want. But year after year PES has developed its friendships and has slowly but continually added all the colorful, shiny things we see on TV. And this year, it has acquired the exclusive rights to the ever so popular FC Barcelona squad and their Camp Nau stadium experience.
Combating the exclusivity rights this franchise is hoping to attain, there are a few other squads and professional tournaments PES can talk up and parade around. So like some say, “What have you done for me lately?” Well, PES has once again given us the UEFA Champions league, among others, which if you haven’t heard, is a fairly major tourney.
Now let’s go beyond the bells and whistles. Sure, it’s cool to play with the Canadian or Korean squads, 'cause we all know those are everyone’s favorites, but getting past the cover, what do we have? We have a pretty damn good game on the field. Using the Fox Engine, the same used on Metal Gear Solid V, player movement and interactions are quite realistic.
Konami wanted to look at and copy as many details of the real game as possible, from player’s weights and heights, to the way the ball moves on wet and dry surfaces, as well as on short or long grass. How the game's physics work with the players and the ball is impressive.
Last year, we saw a huge improvement from the franchise and this year is simply a solidifying statement: Konami is here to play ball, literally and figuratively. There’s a joy in playing through a game and feeling like you have full control of your team. With special handling over first touches, precision passing, and team strategies, finishing critical moments come more naturally. Not everything is perfect, as teammates do occasionally take random dives and won’t mark their correct opponent, but what the AI lacks in intelligence can be made up in player skill
Visually, things on and off the pitch are nice pieces of eye candy and for the most part add to the experience you would get if you were in a real game atmosphere. Once again, the limit Konami faces with licensing holds it back a bit and strains the potential possibilities. However, as servers open up and the PES population grows, sharing custom data such as rosters will no doubt add to what folks are craving.
For those interested in more than just one or two games here and there, modes like ‘Myclub’ and ‘Master League’, will be made available. There have been few sizable changes made to really be excited about but at least there are a number of playable options. It will still be interesting to see how far Pro Evolution Soccer can truly evolve, but this 2017 edition has sure made headway for the future. And for Konami, it's a much-needed recovery.