Game review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
Platform: Playstation 4 (reviewed) / Xbox One / Playstation 3 / Xbox 360 / PC
AFTER years in the wilderness, Pro Evo, once the undisputed champion of football games, has been gradually reclaiming its competitive edge. Last year’s edition won back some old fans from its Playstation 2 halcyon era, but the critical consensus had it that FIFA remained the title to beat. In 2015, has Pro Evo improved to the extent that it can now be regarded as the definitive football simulation? On the evidence presented by Konami, the answer is yes.
The new version, which coincides with the 20th anniversary of the series, combines a perfectly judged pace and flow along with an overhauled physics system which allows the beautiful game to be played in a variety of ways. Whereas offensive sorties in previous next gen iterations of Pro Evo were hampered by the sense that your players were on rails, able to move only in preset directions, the 2015 offering has a wonderful fluidity that invites and cajoles you into becoming a better player.
The finesse of the control system constitutes a great leap forward
The finesse of the control system and the AI represents arguably the biggest leap either series has made in years. Dribbling past defenders is not for the brave, but practice the array of flicks and feints at your disposal and you will find it is a legitimate, exciting option. Passing, meanwhile, eliminates the input quibbles of last year, allowing you to play quick, one touch football or, should you wish, play a long ball game.
The best improvement, however, comes in one on one situations, where the collision system transforms inconsequential centre circle tussles into mini battles. The physicality of the players informs each encounter and an incident as trivial as leaping to win a header from a goal kick feels genuinely exciting. Jostling and angling for position is now just as vital as what you do when you are in possession.
AI teammates no longer wait for you to dictate play, but initiate moves
This is helped immeasurably by your computer controlled teammates who no longer wait for you to dictate play. Occasionally an astute midfielder will initiate a one two pass, or a defender will look to the plug the gap left by your forward run. The result is a game that feels naturalistic and constantly shifting and it is best experienced in the Master League mode, a satisfyingly in-depth career simulation that allows you to get to know - and tweak - your team over successive seasons.
Presentation-wise, Konami’s somewhat overwhelming menu system still takes a little getting used to and there are a few little indiscrepancies that will need to be ironed out over the coming weeks - for instance, referees never seem to issue bookings or red cards once they play advantage after a foul, even if the challenge is reckless - but all in, this is the best Pro Evo in years and a welcome return to blistering form.
TIPS AND TRICKS:
Double tap the sprint trigger when you receive possession in a tight spot for a quick burst of acceleration, allowing you break away from opposing players.
Make use of the ability to have three preset formations. This is especially useful for setting up your team to defend a precious lead.
Compared to previous games, the AI is less likely to lunge in and try to dispossess you, so don’t opt for the early pass by default.