AFTER languishing in the lower leagues, Konami’s esteemed football game is once again jockeying for the championship title
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015
Platform: Playstation 4 (reviewed) / Xbox One / Playstation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC
FEW series can call upon a fanbase as devoted as Pro Evo, Konami’s flagship football game. From its earliest coin-op style guise as International Superstar Soccer to its halcyon days of the mid 2000s, it straddled both arcade and simulation styles. There were a few missteps along the way, but the highlights - PES 5 being our pick of the punch - demonstrated how the essence of the beautiful game could be purified and translated to home consoles, as if by some remarkable alchemy known only to the Japanese.
In recent years, such sorcery has been the preserve of the Canadians; specifically, the team responsible for developing the FIFA games. While EA’s competing title came on leaps and bounds, gradually refining its passing game down the years and adding pomp and circumstance to its presentation, Pro Evo descended into a slow and ignominious decline, its mechanics no longer naturalistic but stilted, its physics loose rather than tight. The franchise seemed like a lost cause. But no longer.
Pro Evo 2015 is the best game in the series since its Playstation 2 days
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is the best iteration since its PS2 heyday, delivering a game of football that is exhilarating yet conservative, uncomplicated and nuanced at the same time. Indeed, being able to accommodate such contradictions is what makes this PES great. Its astutely judged pace makes for a faster game than FIFA but the importance of formations and tactics ensures that careful planning is required to prevent a capitulation.
While the game has the look of a more arcade-style offering - perhaps due to the Fox Engine from Metal Gear Solid V, which makes for smooth, fluid animation - there is a fierce intelligence at play, with off the ball movements as important as possession play. Refreshingly, it also strikes a more forgiving balance with dribbling than has been common in recent years. Use a quick burst of pace or a subtle jink and it is entirely possible to get past defenders in a one on one situation. Make sure you shoot or pass soon after, though, as they will invariably make amends for their error.
As with every PES game, the presentation is dated and unwieldy
As is now standard for Pro Evo, the game has a noticeable lack of licences, with Manchester United the only official English team in the game and a disappointing absence of any Scottish sides. The presentation, too, feels more suited to the early 1990s, with unwieldy menus, curiously worded prompts and - in true series tradition - commentary that veers from the plodding to the absurd. These are annual fixtures not without their own quaint charm, but it is about time Konami embarked on a cosmetic overhaul.
For a certain generation, picking up the controller will be like taking a trip back into the near distant future. It is no exercise in nostalgia, however; play any of the PS2 games and you will appreciate just how far Konami have come. Their latest offering is flawed, for certain, but it gets all the important things right and they all take place on the pitch. It is a delight to see one of gaming’s most celebrated series back in a rich vein of form and it is to be hoped that Konami and EA now go on to push each other harder in the pursuit of football perfection.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
1) The trick system in revolves around the right thumbstick and it is well worth learning some shuffles and stepovers, given the way dribbling is encouraged.
2) The unreliable goalkeepers in previous Pro Evo games demanded a deep defensive line in case the No 1 made a howler, but the men between the sticks are considerably more intelligent and capable in the 2015 edition, so press higher.
3) Mastering set pieces is a great way of nicking goals against the run of play. Hit square just as your player is about the strike a free kick and the ball will bobble and sway, occasionally fooling the keeper.