Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 Review

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Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One
Developer: PES Productions
Publisher: Konami
Rating: 3+

The latest Pro Evolution Soccer has stormed onto Windows and consoles, packed with so much good stuff it could well be one of the greatest football games ever made. Grand praise? Maybe, but PES Productions has put their all into building an experience fans will lap up, boasting many improvements, tweaks, and overall polish.

Playing like a Pro

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While FIFA has the stronger licensing and impressive atmosphere, it’s fair to say Pro Evolution 2016 presents the most immersive, game-accurate recreation of football we’ve seen in a while. PES Productions has made the gameplay much more fluid, more responsive, and more authentic than in even last year’s instalment.

This is most evident in the players’ sense of physical presence: competing for possession and position feels strikingly realistic – the skill of the players, their placement, and the ball’s position all affects whether or not your tackle will be a success, rather than the seemingly random results other football games have presented in the past. The collision detection certainly impresses, and players might stumble or lose their balance for a moment before getting back on track.

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Pro Evolution has always been aimed at fans looking for realism, and the mechanics are a prime example of this: while having the facial resemblance and hairstyles of the biggest players adds to the visual & atmospheric quality of a game, having players move like they do on real-world pitches is incredible. Taking control of a player with a slight built and grace feels very different to playing as a bigger guy – you’ll notice that your favourite players (those that are included, anyway) move much more like their real-world counterparts than they might in other games. Depending on the striker you approach the opposition’s goal with, your shot will vary – players with a strong, hard kick will perform as expected, playing to their strengths: you really feel as if you’re in control.

Your teammates also act like they’re supposed to, sticking to formations with impressive precision, rather than lurking where they shouldn’t: this helps to make you feel as if you’re part of a team, rather than the only one putting any work in.

The Most Beautiful Game?

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PSE Productions has improved the graphics and animations, with sharper visuals & smooth player-movements (thanks to the FOX Engine): dynamic weather means a match can be dry at the start, but become wet before the end (and vice versa). You can also choose which celebration your players perform after scoring – this is a small touch, but helps to boost the sense of immersion, and reinforces the realism.

While the facial animations might not be mind-blowing, other areas of the overall presentation are noticeably improved: lighting is better, with less wash-out than before; textures on clothing and the pitch themselves are sharper and more impressive. As good as Pro Evolution 2016 looks, gameplay is the important thing – and it’s some of the best to be found in the genre.

Play it Your Way

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As fans of the series will expect, various gameplay options are present and correct, with multiple modes to explore. Master League (deeper than before, with a tweaked interface) and myClub (which gives you the chance to build your own pro team, starting with a captain of your choice) are the two largest modes on offer, while Become A Legend is sure to swallow hours of many a fan’s time. There’s plenty to see and do – including filling in some of the gaps left by the limited licenses.

While FIFA has the biggest teams and the top names, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 has a few missing teams – but there’s a way around this, thanks to the inclusion of an outstanding player & team editor. Using this neat, comprehensive mode, you can recreate your favourite teams and players to an astonishing degree: even if you can’t officially dive into a league as your preferred club, you can at least build them yourself, even down to choosing hairstyles.

How about multiplayer? As well as competing against the CPU, you can play against other players on- and offline, with exhibition matches, as well as ranked & unranked games, available.

All in all then, this is an improvement over last year’s entry, and should be an essential purchase for fans: the visuals are smoother & crisper, the gameplay is more fluid, and the various modes will