We’ve been delving into the universe that is Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 since its release in mid-September. Here is our review of the now twenty-first incarnation of the much-loved video game on the Sony PlayStation 4 console.
Licenses and Option Files
The lack of official team and league licenses is something Pro Evolution Soccer fans have become used to given Konami’s inability to splurge the big bucks that EA Sports does to get the rights to the biggest football club and league rights. Upon booting up the game in its delivered form you’ll notice that only the French Ligue 1 and 2, Dutch Eredivisie and Campeonato Brasileiro are the licensed league in the game. Italy’s Serie A, the Argentine Primera and the Chilean Primera are also present with actual teams included. Every other league requires editing to make their names and most of their team names accurate. There are a spattering of actual clubs among them including Arsenal in the “English League” and SL Benfica in the “Portuguese League”.
On the international club competition front Pro Evolution Soccer’s flagship offering of the UEFA Champions League is back along with the UEFA Europa League. The AFC Champions League is also back. Unfortunately, the Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana are now gone as is UEFA EURO 2016 (and add-on to PES 2016). Given the use of fictitious teams in PES 2017, gamers will have to be wary of such outfits popping up in the UCL and UEL. They can be replaced readily before in tournament mode but not if you’re playing in either contest within the Master League.
There are more national teams than ever before in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017. Notable sides such as France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Netherlands and Brazil are licensed. Most of the bigger teams have accurate player names. Outside of that squads are hit or miss. A good example is EURO 2016 semi-finalist Wales with a squad made up of alternatively named versions of this summer’s heroes.
Our quick fix for the annual hodpodge of intentionally mislabeled teams and player was to grab a community-created option file from one of the big PES forums. The process included copying the file to a flash drive and importing it into Pro Evolution Soccer 2017. There is now a feature for doing so included in the game. The import process was seamless until we got a message informing us that the game could not accommodate more kit graphic files. We solved this issue by deleted a series of Italian Serie B kits and continuing the import process.
We won’t be surprise if Konami is furnishing kit imagery to option file developers or even creating the option files themselves and distributing them under aliases. The details in the kits are amazing. Player names are assigned correctly along with club names, stadium names and commentary names. This will now be a regular exercise for us to avoid the frustration of entering a title missing what we view as essential elements to a true football simulation.
FC Barcelona, Liverpool FC, Borussia Dortmund and Other Big Club Partnerships
Konami has signed a number of significant partnerships with some of the world’s biggest clubs for Pro Evolution Soccer 2017. They are with FC Barcelona, Liverpool FC, Borussia Dortmund, River Plate, Flamengo and Corinthians. The result is a series of remarkably detailed experiences with each club that includes unprecedented views of their stadia, player head scans and very accurate reflections of their styles of play. In each case the level of detail and club specifics surpasses what’s on offer with the FIFA 17 versions of the teams. Apart from Barca, Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund’s team entry scenes and crowd support (including songs such as “You’ll Never Walk Alone”) are spine tingling experiences.
Given their status as one of the world’s biggest and most successful clubs it is of little surprise that FC Barcelona is ingrained throughout Pro Evolution Soccer 2017. You’ll find them on the PES 2017 main splash screen, preview video, My Club splash screen and every loading screen. The legendary side’s Tiki-Taka style of play is now even an option that you can select when setting up you team’s style of play. Classic Barca kits and players are also available with a slew of the latter appearing in My Club. They can be signed via select “Special Agents” and a show up in the prime of their careers (for example Ronaldo before his injuries and infamous weight gain).
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 see the introduction of a new, more user friendly menu system. It’s not a flashy as last year’s but maintains a modern mosaic feel that is spread across several screens.
The menu’s biggest change is a three column home screen that shows the last three modes of the game you played in. Each tile has a picture at its top with a description of the mode below it. The text is probably catered towards newer players of the title in an effort to avoid confusion.
The other menu screens have more tiles on them and include one for quick matches (online and offline) and online leagues. Another popular screen is one containing access to the UEFA and AFC Champions League along with the various domestic league and cup and national team cup competitions on offer. Lastly, the screen that contains Game Settings, player records and data file updates is no longer a nebulous menu hidden in the nether regions of PES. It is mosaic-based and simple to use.
The in-game graphics of Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 are improved over the 2016 edition of the title and may be actually be pushing the limits of the current generation of gaming consoles.
Well-known players (including just about all of them from bigger European clubs) have been given spot on likenesses in terms of facial appearance, builds and even body motion. These renderings are even better for the partner clubs in PES 2017 with the players such as FC Barcelona’s stars looking almost exactly like they do in real like. The player details are so thorough that Neymar’s torso tattoos are present if you have him take off his shirt to celebrate a goals. The tattoos on Borussia Dortmund’s Marco Reus have also been given a similar treatment (ironic given his stature as the face of EA Sports FIFA 17).
While close-up graphics used for pre- and post-game events and in-match highlights continue to look good, the gameplay graphics is much better than it was in PES 2016. Last time out there was a blur around players at times during night time matches. This is now gone with players appearing crisper than ever before during match play regardless of camera angle used. Overall the in-match graphics in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 are sharp, detailed and quite realistic. They’re not exactly like those in FIFA (a nice differentiation factor between the titles) but stand out in their own right and are the best we’ve seen in a PES game.
Another nice graphical effect is the on-purpose use of a speed blur during goal highlights. This result is a visually appealing effect that makes you feel like you’re actually on the field with the likes of Messi and Neymar or in premium seating at a stadium such as Nou Camp.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 has a soundtrack featuring several of 2016’s big worldwide hits. Twelve tracks in length at the time that this review was written, it can’t compete with FIFA 17’s extended playlist but does include well-known tunes such as Justin Bieber’s “Where are U now”, Ellie Golding’s “On my mind” and 21 Pilots “Ride”.
Peter Drury and Jim Beglin are back to provide English language color commentary for Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 for the second year in a row.
The subject of much frustration through the years, the commentary of PES 2017 isn’t perfect but may be in its best shape ever thanks to updated technology. Repetition is now reduced (moreso for Drury and a few new phrases have been added to the gantry repertoire. There is also now more relevance in the game commentary with winless streaks at home, away or overall referenced before matches along with player debuts, transfers and form. After playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 and FIFA 17 we feel confident in saying that they may finally be equivalent in terms of in-game commentary.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 has its usual assortment of cup and league contests highlighted by its exclusive offering of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and AFC Champions League. There are also equivalents to the World Cup, Copa America, the Africa Cup of Nations, the Asian Cup and European Championship that can be made legit via community created, importable option files.
The beloved Master League continues to thrive allowing you to build a team from scratch or take over a club and lead it to domestic and international glory. The mode looks quite a bit like FIFA’s Manager mode now with an improved scouting system that lets you dispatch footballing road warriors around the world in search of new talent for your squad. The player transfer system is also updated and allows managers to re-negotiate in hopes of securing lower prices, loan deals and trades. The results can be surprising at times with player values changing based on their performances and their salary demands. There is now a Transfer Deadline Day countdown timer that adds to the pressure and excitement of the all-important date on the world football calendar.
Pro Evolution Soccer’s answer to FIFA’s Ultimate Team, myClub, is now in its third incarnation and has been vastly improved. It is still classic PES in feel but with an improved interface that makes it easier to navigate. The key addition to the myClub mode is that you scouts who work similarly to those in the Master League to find players for you. The shadowy “Special Agents” are also back to sign players for you in exchange for GPs or coins. We recommend waiting until you have had the game for at least a month to start using the agents. This is because Konami awards you hefty quantities of GPs for signing on the first 10 times along with bonus GPs during holidays and as rewards for enduring online maintenance periods. Thanks to these awards we were able to begin myClub play with a roster that included Gerard Pique, Javi Mascherano, Mesut Ozil and Brazilian Ronaldo. Once you’ve conquered you preferred league and cup and Master League, myClub is a game within PES 2017 that will keep you entertained until Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 drops.
There are six difficulty levels in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 – Beginner, Amateur, Regular, Professional, Top Player and Superstar.
Beginner and Amateur are for new players and offer little challenge if you’ve played PES for at least two editions of the game. At best, they are useful for trying out new skills move or tactics for Pro Evolution veterans.
Regular level is a great place to start if you’re familiar with PES.and will ensure that you are well-contested in any game you play against at least a three star rated COM team. A few examples of our experience playing on Regular level are below:
- Losing 2-0 away to Real Madrid as FC Barcelona in the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League. We were to win 2-0 at home in the return legs and force a penalty shootout. We beat Atletico de Madrid 2-1 in the UCL Final.
- Struggling as Chelsea FC in the Master League and hovering outside the Premier League top ten because of every match in the league being relatively difficult. We’ve managed an amazing ten draws from twenty matches played.
- The same Chelsea team that has disappointed in the Premier League finished with a perfect record in the group stage of the UEFA Europa League against Vitesse, Belenenses and a fictitious Pro Evo team.
Needless to say difficulty gradually increases beyond regular level. You can get a result against weaker teams (e.g. many of the Asian countries or Serie B teams) on Superstar level if you play as a big club. It does take quite a bit of work, carefully planned tactics and all round Pro Evolution Soccer skill to succeed however. The top three levels of PES 2017 are certainly not for the faint of heart.
Pro Evolution Soccer’s renowned gameplay has helped the title maintain an internet-powered cult following for over twenty years now. Konami has had a few forgettable versions of the game as they tweaked PES over the past ten years in an attempt to compete with FIFA. They got things right with Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 and have been fine tuning PES’ gameplay since. Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 sees further refinement of gameplay to result in the best match experience it the franchise’s history.
Success in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 doesn’t come from talking a highly rated team for a runout. Tactics are a key part of the game and are set up as usual in the Game Plan option before each match. There’s for depth to doing so than ever before in PES 2017 with the addition of “Advanced Instructions” that lets you adjust your gameplay based on match scenarios. “Total Team Control” is the in-match way of changing tactics on the fly to favor either attacking, balanced or defensive play. Both are incredibly useful in the more difficult levels of Pro Evolution Soccer 2017. Entering matches using PES’ default game plans often result in limited support for forwards with midfielders holding back too much. There’s no way you can win against tough competition like this in Regular level or above.
The gameplay in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 is best described as utterly lifelike and realistic. It is at least on par with FIFA 17’s gameplay and does indeed exceed it with an “umph” factor in front of goal when players score acrobatic goals that make you replay them multiple times while asking yourself how in the world you did that.
Ball physics continue to be realistic and dependent on field conditions and the weather. For example, there will be more unpredictable bounces on worn out fields during wintery or wet weather.
The biggest gameplay improvement that we’ve seen in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 is increased defensive intelligence. Konami has given this the somewhat intimidating title of “Adaptive AI”. The net effect of the update is smarter defenders who are more apt to intercept your passes, block your shots or strip the ball from you. They work well with their fellow defenders to pressure you into mistakes and quickly launch counter attacks. We’ve been victims of this many a time from less opposition in our disappointing Master League run as Chelsea.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 also adjust to your tactics and will mark your target men (particularly if they score a goal) and look to shut down your favored attacking lanes. Hence the need to be able to multidimensional in your offense.
Goalkeeping has also been improved in PES 2017. It wasn’t much of a factor of concern last time out but now you can see different abilities among goalies (particular the star goalkeepers of world football such as Manuel Neuer, Thibaut Courtois and Gigi Buffon). They’re now more reactive to shots and deflections and more apt to attempt fingertip saves to keep the ball out of the net. The result is extremely lifelike goalkeeping that adds a new element of excitement (or frustration if you’re the attacking team) to Pro Evolution Soccer 2017.
Dribbling via the left joystick is now a true and very responsive 360 degree experience that lets you maneuver players with reckless abandon in offense and defense. This may be because an improvement that Konami calls “Real Touch” that provides the most lifelike ball reaction that we’ve ever seen in a soccer simulation. However, players’ abilities to trap, control or dribble the ball is dependent on their attributes, field and weather conditions and the quality of the ball delivery.
Pro Evolution Soccer has always had a tradition of precision passing with the through pass always being a staple of the title. Accurate passing has been taken to another level in PES 2017 with player skills rating becoming an important factor in both executing and receiving passes. The direction that they are facing and the angle of their runs also come into play to make pass execution more in the control of the player and less computer-driven. It does take some practice to master but is extremely rewarding and satisfying once you build expertise with it.
The final significant gameplay addition to Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 that we’d like to point out is the new “Corner Kick Control” option. A feature of EA Sports FIFA for some time now, PES now lets you select options when for attacking and defending during corner kicks. Some of the electives include delivering the ball to the 6 yard line, player dashes and man to mark marking. Corner Kick Control takes some practice to get used to but can make the difference between winning and losing from Regular level and up. It’s certainly worth the time investment to learn it in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017’s multi-faceted Training section.
There are enough game modes in Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 to keep you gaming with it until PES 2018 drops in the autumn. Thanks to brilliant gameplay it is totally compelling and addictive. There is a plethora of option files available online that can now be easily imported to augment the game further. Just about any league you want can be had with one along with the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations and FIFA Confederations Cup.
Currently on a winning streak, Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 is the best incarnation of the game that we’ve seen. Its gameplay is absolutely splendid! The integration of the UEFA Champions League into the game makes it a must have while the addition of all things FC Barcelona to the title takes it to another level in the soccer simulation universe.
Gameplay: 9.5 /10
Graphics: 9.5 /10
User Interface: 9 / 10
Realism: 8 / 10
Longevity: 10 / 10