Also On: Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3, PC
Developer: PES Productions
I'm a huge football fan… but in my regard that is of the NFL football variety or American football. I enjoy soccer games every so often but I don't consider them the type of sports title I need to pick up annually because the rosters just don't make a difference to me. With reviewing a soccer title I'm looking more at how the game plays and what kind of features are offered. Now, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 (or PES 2016) is the first of the two soccer games (FIFA 2016 is the other) released in the states this year. It's also the first of the two soccer games I will be covering.
A little bit more background on myself pertaining to soccer games. I have played FIFA exclusively up until this review. I have heard mixed feelings on the PES franchise as a whole so I was intrigued to start this review. After heading down to the pitch and playing a handful of matches (see I know some soccer terms) you can tell that PES 2016 is a very true simulation of the game of soccer. The controls took me some time to grasp, but once I did, I felt I had remarkable control over my squad. I also feel like I should mention that the A.I. plays extremely well, and when I say that, I mean they play well not only as your opponent but also as your teammates. This is a problem I have periodically in other sports titles (spoilers for my FIFA 2016 review).
Jumping around between league matches and other modes, I stumbled into myClub mode. Which seemed at first to be a direct answer to the Ultimate Team modes that EA Sports features in all of their titles. Upon digging a bit deeper into the mode I began to realize, that while myClub mode was definitely similar or even inspired by Ultimate Team mode, it offers a rather different experience. Rather than dealing with packs of cards that gives you the players and coaches like Ultimate Team, myClub has players acquired through other means. You can pick up free agents and hire agents. Some agents vary in cost, (there is an in game currency that you earn by completing feats throughout the game, but also available through those damn micro transactions) the more high profile agents that will pull in better players obviously cost more.
Another feature of myClub mode that stood out to me, are your team's trainers. Say you have some players that just don't make the field, they aren't up to snuff to take a roster spot. You have the option to convert these players into trainers. Converting players to trainers will benefit the rest of the team by improving other players ratings. There is strategy when converting as well. Converting a better rated player into a trainer will yield better results than a player with a very low rating. So it's a bit of a gamble, would you rather have your high profile players become trainers to help the other players quickly, or will you make some of the team's bench riders become trainers? The choice is yours.
Ultimately, I had a lot of fun with myClub and I hope EA takes some of these features under consideration when they make future improvements to their Ultimate Team mode. I couldn't help but think of how I would utilize these features in Madden. No longer would I get stuck with Mark Sanchez as my backup quarterback. He would instantly become a trainer, but I digress. myClub is also playable online, so you can take your team online and see how you match up with the rest of the world. My squad, "For British Eyes Only," are currently looking for some challengers.
Now I do have some red cards for the game (more subtle soccer terms). The commentary didn't do much for me. I am generally a very strict critic when it comes to commentary in sports titles and I was not impressed. In fairness, I have been very critical of commentary in sports games across the board for years. The NFL 2K series, which is no longer made, had some of the best commentary in my opinion. Their last installment was NFL 2K5, over ten years ago, and I still feel like no one has totally done justice in the commentary department. PES 2016's commentary is serviceable but it didn't immerse me in the game.
Another area that I have heard some complaints about are the team names. Konami didn't get the licenses to use actual team names for a good amount of teams. While this isn't really a problem for me, like I said I'm not a big soccer fan, it does hurt the authenticity of the game. It especially hurts because PES 2016 is just so good at gameplay that it would have really been a complete package with all the proper licenses. Having said that, you can edit the team names and even import images into the PS4 version, but that just seems like a lot of work to have to do after picking up a game at full price.
I'm glad I had a chance to check out PES 2016 as it would have flown completely under my radar during this busy video game time of the year. I can say I will no longer be an exclusive FIFA player and already have recommended some friends to check out Pro Evolution Soccer. Konami may have called it a quits with some of their other franchises (a single tear for Silent Hills) but they have definitely focused on crafting a great soccer experience that is both deep and rewarding.