It’s a big year for the PES series, with a number of press and community members speaking positively about PES 2017 earlier in the year, praising it for how it replicated the real sport of football brilliantly. I think it’s safe to say that the game has been getting a lot of attention! After playing a huge amount of the latest code at Gamescom, I can honestly say with all my heart that PES 2017 is shaping up to be an incredible game.
The biggest change this year for me personally in terms of how it effects the game is what Konami are calling ‘Adaptive AI’. Five years ago, buzzwords like ‘Adaptive AI’ wouldn’t mean much in the grand scheme of things and would just be there to splash all over the back of the box, but that’s not the case with PES 2017 and the Adaptive AI working in tandem with the Fox Engine. What this means is that the AI ‘brain’ that helps run PES 2017 adapts to the situations within each game that is being played. For example, I was playing a game against Atletico Madrid (AI) as Barcelona and as the game progressed, you could see the Adaptive AI coming into play. I scored to go 1-0 with 10 minutes left on the clock. Then in a blink of an eye, Atletico knew that they needed a goal and decided to switch their tactics from counter attack to all-out attack to try and get something from the game. I stole the ball from Koke and went on the offensive and because Atletico were sending all of their players forward to grab an equaliser, huge gaps formed in their defensive unit and in turn, led me to break away and score again to make it 2-0. It’s surprisingly clever in its implementation and if it works right in Master League, it will keep the overall feeling fresh and new. Adaptive AI also works in other ways as well, with the system working out how you’re playing and how to try and stop you from exploiting different areas. Play the ball to Messi regularly and the system will adapt and double-up on him. Same with wing play. Keep going down the wings and it will force you to try and break down a team through the middle of the park instead. Clever stuff.
Another new edition to PES 2017 this year is the new ‘Real Touch’. Whilst PES 2016 was fluid and responsive in its own right, it had times when the lack of transition animations really hindered the flow and responsiveness of the game. This year with new added animations and the Real Touch system, it has helped PES 2017’s fluidity massively. Real Touch is used using the left stick and based on where and how you control the player, whilst working in conjunction with the left stick movements to move before receiving the ball. You can also use R1 and the left stick to make space from a player closing in on you. Players like Iniesta and Messi (who have brilliant close dribbling) can use the Real Touch to cause havoc when players rush in to try and steal the ball. It’s a system that feels at home in PES 2017 thanks to the many new animations the game has seen added. The PES series has always been famous for its individuality in its players and with the new Real Touch system, it’s even more prominent in PES 2017. Players like Neymar are nimble, tricky and quick in the turn, whilst someone like Per Mertesacker is slow and cumbersome and has the turning circle of a Chinese cargo ship trying a three-point turn in Portsmouth harbour.
The shooting within PES 2017 is a great example of how better ball physics can help make shooting feel more realistic and natural. Shooting feels ‘snappy’ and powerful when timed right, but also delicate and deliberate if needed to be as well. One criticism of last years game was the shooting not feeling rewarding enough and I can agree with that as it’s something I had a problem with in PES 2016 but this year, the shooting felt very rewarding and satisfying when a screamer hits the back of the net with venom.
Goalkeepers have been a little bit of an achilles heel for the PES series for a very long time and each year, we’ve seen slight improvements in this area, but nothing major of sorts. In PES 2017, this has been rectified in a big way. The keepers have been re-worked from the ground up and act like a goalkeeper should. Some of the saves that I witnessed from the likes of Petr Cech and Manuel Neuer were absolutely outstanding and never would be have been seen anywhere near PES 2016 or anything else released before it. Not only do they pull off some outstanding saves, their positioning has been much improved as well and now they aren’t caught off guard at the near post or use a wrong hand to save a incoming shot. Some will wonder if they’re too good and the short answer is, they aren’t. Yes, they do make some incredible saves, but they still have an error (very rarely) in them and I’m fine with that as no goalkeeper in world football is ‘error-free’. If you want goalkeepers that save everything and have the reflexes of a pride of lions, then FIFA has you covered in that regard.
Other improvements for PES 2017 come from its passing in the form of ‘Precise Pass’. In conjunction with the Real Touch system and improved ball physics, passing now has become more of a skill than it has done in previous incarnations in the series. Passes made in the best situation (ball speed and the trajectory of the ball) and the best timing will result in more accurate outcomes. Try turning off-balance and using your weaker foot will result in a pass that has more chance of failing.
New tactic options have been added including advanced instructions like using tiki-taka, a false no 9 set-up or Jurgen Klopp’s famous ‘Gegenpressing’. PES 2017 also sees new corner kick tactics with you now having the ability to change defensive strategies during set pieces like man marking and also altering attacking options as well that include a ‘train’ which sees all your players attacking a corner together in a line.
One big talking point this year for the series is the visual aspect in PES 2017. The visuals have seen massive improvements in PES 2017 with player faces for example looking incredible. Teams like Barcelona (who have had their faces 3D scanned) look so lifelike its scary and up close, they look almost real! All the players faces I’ve seen so far look great and you can see just how much love and attention has been put in to make them look as close to their real-life counterparts as possible. The same must be said about the stadium interiors like we’ve seen with the Camp Nou, which looks incredible. The only slight downside is that because this is a partnership with FC Barcelona, not all stadiums will get the same treatment unfortunately. The biggest issue I have with the main gameplay visual side of things is the lighting which I fed back to Konami. While the night-time lighting looks fantastic, the day-time lightning still doesn’t look quite as good as it could. It’s a mixture between the grass of the pitch looking too pale and a lack of detail and in turn, effecting the overall colour palette of the overall look. The pitch texture for the most part looks too flat and it causes a ‘washed out’ look.
Another slight negative regarding the series over the years is its online stability and while it wasn’t possible to test this side of the game out at Gamescom, after speaking with the guys from Konami, it’s safe to say they know that there needs to be an improvement in this department. Fingers crossed we’ll see the improvements that are needed in PES 2017 as the game is so good on the pitch in its offline play. It thoroughly deserves a great online mode to coincide with the majestic play that can be seen in the many exhibition matches that I played during my time in Cologne.
All in all, PES 2017 is shaping up to be a fantastic title and one that we’ve been crying out for. The game is fun and simple in its execution but also has a ton of depth as well thanks to its new gameplay mechanics and tactical strategies for all of us to learn and master (that is without mentioning Master League!). PES 2017 really is a special game that will be hard to beat. While PES 2017 doesn’t have all the glitz and glamour that FIFA 17 has with its abundance of licenses, it doesn’t need to be as the main point of any game is its gameplay and PES 2017 is so good where it matters on the pitch, that everything else seems irrelevant.