PES 2015: Fascinating this year - Games Weekly

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Friday, November 28, 2014

PES 2015: Fascinating this year

You know what’s great about football ? There are always upsets. Giant killers in the cup, last minute goals, and referee decisions that can decide the fate of a club’s season. It’s exciting, it's unpredictable, but more than anything it's fun. That's PES 2015 in a nutshell. In the league of football videogames, PES is the underdog and FIFA has sat comfortably at the head of the table for the last few years, and while PES has played well, it simply couldn't produce the kind of quality that was required to win the league. But enough of these mixed metaphors, let’s talk about this year’s game.

First off, there are plenty of improvements over PES 2014. AI, skilled dribbling, defending and tactics have all seen updates for the better, and we were really impressed with the player likenesses. It’s not just big names you'll be recognising a lot more than Ronaldo and Messi from these facial likenesses. Aside from this, the graphics haven't seen a huge update from last year’s PES 2014. On the 360 version we played, crowds still moved in unison and the pitch still looks like a green carpet. It does detract from the realism slightly, but for those coming from PES 2014 or FIFA 14 on the 360,PS3 you won’t be too disappointed.

There have been improvements to how these graphics are used, though. Konami’s Fox Engine has been put to good use again there are still slightly jerky moments, but overall the whole game feels slicker and more refined. Player animations are mostly natural, and the ball physics seem to feel just right. In fact, as we were putting together some lovely passing moves in our second game, it hit us PES 2015 is really, genuinely fun.

As we stroked the ball around the pitch we rarely found ourselves shouting ‘NO, DON’T PASS IT TO HIM, YOU PLEB!’ The game seemed to know what we were intending to do, and it was doing a very good job of helping us do it. This is, in part, thanks to a new AI. Teammates will make runs and move into space off the ball, while opposition AI will make it harder to play that killer through pass or track player runs. The result felt more like a real game of football, as we found ourselves holding the ball at the back and looking for space to move forward. One thing we did notice was that the through ball option feels a little too effective. As we held the Y button to pass, defenders were too slow to follow our advancing striker, or simply paused for a split second. Perhaps we’re just really good at the game, but it’s much more likely that it’s simply a little unbalanced.

You’ll find all the standard game modes you’ve come to expect from modern games, including a training area, major cups from around the world and exhibition matches. The menu system still feels outdated and clunky (something we complained about last year), which makes everything that little bit more frustrating. Master League is still the main focus, putting you in the manager’s seat and challenging you to take your team to the top, or switch clubs to further your own career. It’s incredibly deep, and it takes time to get your head around all of the options, but it’s compelling and will last you for hours. That is, of course, as long as you can get over the lack of licensed teams. It’s nothing new PES has had unlicensed teams and leagues for years, but it’s hard to feel the same excitement about an essential league tie when you’re facing off against the mighty… West Midlands Village? Thankfully, editing options return, so while the kits might look a bit strange, you can adjust the names.

PES 2015 also brings microtransactions. Don't worry, they’re completely optional, and serve only those with too much spare money and not enough time to properly enjoy the game. We don’t see them unbalancing online matches and they aren't required to unlock anything. They’re in the game, you can use them or ignore them, and that’s it.

We found it a little odd that the transition to  PES after a few months of playing FIFA was so easy; within a few games we were pushing the difficulty setting up a notch. Don't worry PES hasn't become a FIFA clone, but it's easier than we remember to make the jump. Controls are familiar, and while there are obvious differences in gameplay, it's not hard to move between the two. Most pleasing, though, was the way PES 2015 captured the beautiful game. There might be a few small niggles that hold some people back, but this year’s PES gets the most important thing right making the football matches themselves great fun.

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