Back for its twentieth year, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 has been making the rounds in the soccer gaming community since this past fall under the mantra “The Pitch is Ours.” After countless hours playing the latest installment of the popular series on the Sony PlayStation 4 we can now bring you our annual review of the well supported title.
Konami has kept the menu of PES 2016 more or less the same as that of PES 2016. After experimenting with an iOS earlier in the decade, the touch-ready mosaic-based interface is now a fixture in the title. We’re big fans of its intuitive nature and the fact that it shows the last game mode that you played in (for example the UEFA Champions League) in its top area upon starting the game up. The use of real world pictures for each mosaic makes the menu even more eye-catching and easy to use.
There are two sets of in-game menus playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. The first is the menu that you use for setting up your tactics. It is title-based and gets you into your management screens. This interface has not changed much at all since PES’ PS3 days but does take some getting used to if you are new to the game. If you’re a Pro Evo veteran you can still spend a long time tweaking your lineup and playing style. Do it well (we really like the Fluid Formation option) and you can see results on the field.
Once in a match, the menu is the time-test text-based setup that has been around since PES’ PS2 glory years. It’s not the prettiest thing around but will get you to where you need to be if you want to change your game strategy, camera or otherwise.
The graphics of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 are about average for a PS4 title. The superstars of world football (think Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo) look very much like their real world selves in PES 2016. The less famous are hit or miss. A good example is Denmark international Nicklas Bendtner (who showed up on our Master League Real Madrid roster). The Pro Evo version of the now Wolfsburg man bears little resemblance to the real deal.
Detailed gameplay animations in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 remain one of the strongpoints of the title and are definitely better than those to be had in EA Sports FIFA 16. It’s little surprise than a multitude of replays from different camera angles always follow goals in PES. They’re as lifelike as they come in soccer video games.
After their inexplicable disappearances in PES 2015, pre-match lineups and festivities are back in stunning detail in Pro Evo 2016. Substitution animations (though much FIFA’s detailed exits and cameos) are also back and now include multiple players. They do not appear for every roster change that you make but are lovely to have for the sake of realism.
Graphics when you’re actually playing the game (we prefer the Long view) differ a bit depending of if you’re playing a day or night game. Players appear clearer in daylight while they seem somewhat blurred and stockier for night matches. The latter look much more like PS3 matches than what one would expect from a PS4 game.
Day or night matches aside, we do think that EA Sports FIFA 16 does have a slight advantage in terms of actual gameplay animation than PES 2016. Things are just a tad crisper and more lifelike from afar in the FIFA 16.
With the soundtracks to FIFA titles now quite popular among gamers and music enthusiasts alike (the FIFA 16 content even has its own Spotify playlist), Konami has had to delve into the world of popular music for Pro Evolution Soccer’s in-game music. PES 2015 was a good attempt but peppered with hits that were seriously played out such as Avicii’s “Wake Me Up”. Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 does better by using catchy tunes from up and coming artists with major label contracts. The classic “We Will Rock You” by Queen is added to the twelve track collection for a good mix that will keep you entertained while perusing the game’s features or setting up you gameplay style.
The subject of much disfavor over the years, the commentary in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is much improved! New lead commentator Peter Drury is supported by Jim Beglin and whole slew of new lines and content that is directly related to what is happening in the game. These include player and team form, transfers and recent results. The high level of repetition that plagued previous iterations of PES is greatly reduced except for Beglin’s seemingly favorite sentence of “Their profligacy may backfire on them” which he is bound to say after a few missed shots on goal.
Teams and Leagues
Long a pain point amongst gamers, the PES series does not have all of the league licenses that the bigger budget EA Sports FIFA franchise does. However, the game does once again have gaming exclusivity for every regional international club competition of great significance – the UEFA Champions League, the UEFA Europa League, the Copa Libertadores, the Copa Sudamericana (the 2014 and 2015 competitions are in the game) and the AFC Champions League. That’s enough to keep just about anyone busy for a couple of months.
The only domestic leagues fully licensed in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 are the Spanish La Liga, the Spanish Liga Adelante, the French Ligue 1, the French Ligue 2 and the Dutch Eredivisie. While Italy’s Serie A is not licensed, 19 of its 20 teams are. The Campeonato Brasileiro Série A isn’t licensed either but all of the club’s in South America’s best-supported league are. This includes giants Corinthian in an exclusive agreement with Konami.
Manchester United is the only English Premier League team licensed but all of the competition’s teams are there along with real player names and likenesses. It’s easy to figure out who is who in the world’s most popular league and edit accordingly. It’s even easier to download an option file from the likes of PES World and update just about every unlicensed club in the title.
Of the eighty one international teams in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, Brazil, England, France, Holland, Italy are licensed. Many others (such as FIFA number one ranked Belgium) need no other work than kit updates. There is now a slew of sides in which players now have realistic names instead the seemingly randomly generated surnames of past PES versions. For some reason they are overwhelmingly British in nature so you’ve the likes of B. Cartwright and W. Cowell playing for Albania. Maybe the UK is the new Brazil?
The standard fare of game modes are back for another runout in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. Along with the leagues mentioned above and a few others, you can delve into international competition in the form of the equivalents of the World Cup, Copa America, the Africa Cup of Nations, the Asian Cup and European Championships. Because of Konami’s licensing deal with UEFA, EURO 2016 will be included in PES 2016 as a free, downloadable add-on next year. We can’t wait for this one!
The always addictive Master League is back as well and updated to make it possibly its best incarnation ever. Highly graphical player and team reports are now in the mix along with a transfer and scouting system that rivals that of FIFA. Changes in team form and smarter, always adjusting opposition kept us going at it for hours on end in the world of virtual football management.
myClub is back for a second year as well. It is still what is essentially a poor man’s version of FIFA’s Ultimate Team that lets you spend your earned in-game point and coins to build a club from scratch. It’s a nice diversion from the many other facets of Pro Evo 2016. Like FIFA’s FUT, we could live with or without it.
Lack of licenses and real player names aside, the reason that soccer gamers return to Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is for its gameplay. It has had its ups and downs but has returned to form over the last two years with last year marking what we thought was the best gameplay in the franchise since its PS2 days. This year Konami has taken things up a notch for an even better match experience.
In order to truly get the feel of all that the gameplay of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 has to offer you must play the game in Regular level or above. Amateur level is good for a bit of practice but if you are a seasoned PES player you will find yourself beating any opponent by at least 3-0.
The gameplay in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is best described as extremely realistic and unpredictable. It rivals FIFA 16 in the former and is better in some cases. The unpredictability comes from the fact that factors ranging from team and player form to field conditions to the weather have a clearly discernable impact on the how a match flows. Two in-form teams playing on in dry conditions can result in a swashbuckling, high-paced affair. An away meeting with a struggling team in rainy conditions can turn out to be a tepid slugfest settled by a bad bounce of the ball.
Player abilities are spot on in most cases. For example, Real Madrid’s Gareth Bale possesses blistering pace down the wing and can hit some spectacular goals from outside the box. The team’s Sergio Ramos on the other hand is a rock in the back four with excellent aerial abilities. Superstars such as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are a bit more restrained than in previous versions of PES and in FIFA 16 however. They are closely marked by the CPU but can be worked into the game with the help of the many skills that Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 offers.
Regardless of what mode you play Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 in, you will find a sense of satisfaction if you are able to put the game down. It is not a pick up and play game but a very immersive experience that gets your heart racing. More so than in FIFA we found ourselves pounding our fists and cursing upon missing clear cut chances or being struck by an inferior opponent on a counter attack.
A few Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 gameplay highlights and lowlights are below:
Lenient Refereeing – Referees are extremely lenient in international matches. You can just about slide tackle to your heart’s content with little fear of fouls being called.
Adjustment in Style – The opposition adjusts their playing style better than ever in PES 2016. Outgunned? Expect them to rely on the long ball and counter attack to start the match. This will change into a more physical and possession-based approach if they go down.
In-Match Weather Changes – Brilliant and quite welcome! Rain or snow can stop or start during a match for the first time in either Pro Evolution Soccer or FIFA. Ball physics and player footing change as a result and can impact the flow of a match.
Player Collisions – Konami have outdone EA Sports in this area with a seemingly infinite series of player collisions whose outcomes match what goes into them. They look and feel realistic courtesy of Pro Evolution Soccer’s animation.
Aerial Action – Much improved this time out particularly on defense. The likes of Gerard Pique and Jerome Boateng can be used to outmuscle other players for aerial domination with the left stick. As in the real life game, time your defensive headers correctly and your opposition cannot penetrate your defense from the air.
Defense – The overall defensive capabilities in Pro Evolution Soccer are improved. There is definitely greater anticipation among midfielders for the opponent’s next play. The result is cut off passes and attack disruptions. This is better than ever with PES 2016 but still not as good as the level defensive anticipation that is one of best features of FIFA 2016. Konami is a year or two behind EA Sports here.
Even without the upcoming UEFA EURO 2016 add-on, there is enough in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 to keep us playing it until the 2017 version of the game is released. We suggest grabbing some PES community-created option files to take care of missing licenses and delving into the competition of your choice. A season of Master League alone will have you tied to the game for at least a month.
Back in form and storming up the league table for another year, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 continues where PES 2015 left off splendidly. It is as immersive and addictive as any PES game of the last twenty years and definitely an alternative to FIFA 16. We are big fans of both this time round.