Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2017

It’s safe to say that for the past few years Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer franchise has played second fiddle to EA’s FIFA within the genre. Year after year the lack of licensing deals that bring official clubs, players and stadiums to the game has made PES feel like the off brand counterpart to its biggest rival. The one area where PES can compete, however, is in pure unadulterated gameplay. While FIFA might have all of the bells and whistles that money can buy, the amount of dedication the developers at PES Productions have put forth into making game of virtual football feel as realistic as they can is what makes PES 2017 a worthwhile endeavor.

The beautiful gameplay in the PES 2017 is something that cannot be overstated enough. Whether you’re building play up from the back or running free flowing attack football, having your team running on all cylinders has never been more rewarding than in this year’s PES. Defenses aren’t made of swiss cheese that holes can be poked through with one or two passes. Attacking play has to be built up, with passes bring strung together precisely and runs being timed just right in order to get a chance on goal. Defensively, there is no need to worry about shoddy A.I. chasing after players who aren’t relevant to the play, instead focusing on marking your man on set pieces is a real challenge in trying too limit your opponents ability to score. From top to bottom, PES Productions has worked to make every single thing about PES 2017’s gameplay feel fluid and on the pitch, there has never been a more true to life representation of the sport. Nevertheless the package that the game is wrapped up in, is not up to sports game’s standards for 2016.

When it comes to modes, the bare minimum is met. There is a season mode, as well as solo mode in which you take your player through a club. Nothing here does anything that couldn’t be done on the PS2 PES games and in a year where FIFA is showcasing their new my player mode complete with a Mass Effect like decision system, PES is really lagging behind the competition. Other things like the Champions League tournament mode (the one real life license that PES has acquired) is neat but doesn’t really hold weight when teams like Bayern Munich are available.

The lack of extremely recognizable teams like Bayern is single handedly the biggest head shaking aspect of PES 2017. Clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea from the Premier League don’t have official licenses but still exist in the form of the knockoff Man Red and London FC respectively. It’s understandable that PES is going to try to recreate these clubs as much as possible, but without the official kits and breasts, it takes away from the over immersion that the gameplay has worked so hard to build. On the PlayStation 4 and PC version of the game you can download real life player names and kits and transfer them in, but it all feels like a big workaround to something the Konami should’ve already figured out.

Despite all of this, whenever players make their way onto the ground for match in PES you can’t help but be blown away. Player models are more realistic and true to life than anything we’ve seen on the current generation of consoles, and reckon back to a day when sports games were a bench mark for how impressive games could look graphically. Animations, from goalkeepers to strikes up and down the field are some of the best that have ever been incorporated in a sports sim. PES has the ability to simultaneously make a game of football feel cinematic while never taking control away from you.

\ The biggest problem you run into while playing a game of PES is the commentary. The duo of Peter Drury and Jim Beglin get incredibly old incredibly quickly as they aren’t loaded up with enough anecdotes to keep you entertained outside of the play-by-play action, which in crucial moment can be a bit lifeless.

As far as online modes go the myClub mode that takes all of the worst microtransaction laden problem inherent to EA’s FIFA Ultimate Team mode, and throws them in a convoluted, over-complicated mess filled with scouting and signing systems that take away more than they add. As much as the microtransactions are a system-killer in FUT the real money investment that is required to succeed in myClub makes the mode something that’s more of a headache than a fun venture. When it comes to the base online head-to-head gameplay matchmaking at times can take a little too long but the servers make the online experience silky smooth.


Closing Comments:

To this date there has never been a football sim that has handled gameplay the way PES 2017 does. The gameplay, however, isn’t enough alone to save PES from feeling a bit outdated at times. If you’re willing to overlook the lack of official licensing and entry level mode diversity, then the act of playing football in PES 2017 can’t be matched. From responsive goalkeepers who each have play-styles tailored to their real life counterparts to the way atmosphere are brought to life by the dense crowds that fill up the Camp Nou, the experience of playing PES 2017 is as perfect as a football can be. It’s sadly everything around that experience that drags PES down.

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Reviewed Item
Pro Evolution Soccer 2017