Almost two weeks after review, it’s time to bring you the WENB review of PES 2015. Why so late, you ask? Well, I wanted to play the game with the retail servers active, testing out the online and myClub in the process. I also wanted to see if any issues emerged once more people had access to the the final product. Plus, there was a day one update too.
Anyway, here it is, broken down into three distinct sections. Gameplay, presentation and modes, with a summary at the end. You’ll notice there’s no score as I want to let the text do the talking and not put too much emphasis on a number out of 10. Each section has positives and negatives too, but overall I just hope you enjoy reading it. Please free to comment, but be nice. 🙂
Game: PES 2015
(review code provided)
Where it matters, on the pitch, PES 2015 is enjoyable again. Thanks god. The gameplay has come on leaps and bounds since PES 2014. The difference is like comparing Real Madrid to Accrington & Stanley. Really, it’s that much better. Given the years of pain in this area, it’s probably the best to start as with the goalkeepers. Gone are the unreliable shot stoppers of the past and in come keepers that actually mimic their real-life counterparts. They could with a bit more variety in terms of their animations (more on that later), but on the whole they are a world apart from previous iterations of PES. There’s a clear difference between styles too. For instance, Neuer will close down shooting angles by making himself big, whereas de Gea is more likely to make stunning aerial saves. He’s also prone to punching too, something I hate (just catch it damn you), but he does it in real life so it’s a good representation of his style.
In fact, the difference in styles is evident in pretty much all the teams and players in PES 2015. The numbers behind the players actually mean something, impacting the gameplay with stunning effect. Big names such as Ronaldo, Messi, Robben and Neymar play just like their real-life counterparts, with strengths and weaknesses standing out. When you take control these stars of the football world, you’ll instantly know and feel it. That’s not to say it’s a chore play with lesser teams and players, far from it. You’ll just feel the difference, and that’s the beauty of PES 2015. Playing as Stoke City (The Potteries) or another side at that level, you’ll have to play to their players’ strengths. It’s not about free flowing, attacking football or deep tactics with these teams; you’ll have to stick to one game plan and grind out results, especially on the harder difficulties.
This is where the new fluid formation feature comes into play very nicely. It’s utterly brilliant, adding another layer of tactical depth to PES 2015. Accessed via the game plan menu, you can set up different formations at kick off, when in possession and when out of possession. If you know you’re football, and fancy yourself as a mini-Mourinho, be sure to experiment before starting up a match. It’s a great little feature that works seamlessly during gameplay. You’ll literally see your players moving around the pitch fluidly depending on you’ve set things up. Bit of advice though, it’s a feature that works best with teams that have adaptable, higher rated players. For example, when I’m using it with Man United in Master League and it works pretty well, but when I tried it with Stoke City I failed miserably. You see, United have good enough players to switch around, whereas Stoke (no disrespect) don’t. Hence, if you’re playing with a team at slightly lower level, it’s a good idea to stick to how they actually play in real life. Staying with the example of Stoke, I just stuck with one formation and way of playing. You know, keeping it simple.
Going back to the on pitch action, the other reason why players feel great to control is the left stick dribbling. PES 2015 is brilliantly responsive, which in turn makes dribbling an utter joy. Again, the top players stand out that bit more, but you’d expect that. After all, someone like Crouch doesn’t have the technical ability to move the ball around like Sneijder. The effectiveness of the left stick dribbling kind of makes the use of tricks redundant. You’ll, of course, have to spend time mastering it, but when you do you’ll have a quite lethal tool at your disposal. There’s no better feeling in the game than using the left stick to intricately weave past a couple of defenders and smash the ball home.
And that’s where the improvements to core elements such as shooting, passing and defending come into play. Last year, they were all average at best. Shooting felt like kicking around a beach ball. The same sentiment could be applied to the passing as well. Improved ball physics mean both elements are much better, especially the shooting. When you hit a shot in PES 2015, you feel the weight and power as the ball flies towards the goal. Whether you’re playing on default settings or full manual, you also have a bit more control in terms of the direction. Passing is suitably better too, but the physics could still do with some work to make it look and feel natural. It lacks that element of unpredictability, meaning you can kind of guess the trajectory of a pass before it’s completed. That said, the passing is both functional and logical now, a huge improvement compared to PES 2014. It all ties in nicely into the pace of the game where you feel like you can pass the ball around, dribble or shoot without being instantly pressured by the AI. In essence, you’re allowed to play proper football rather than just hold the sprint button and charge around. The midfield matters… No, the entire pitch matters. Not just part of it.
The defensive side of PES 2015 remains largely the same as its predecessor. Applying pressure while holding X works a bit differently though. If you’re close enough to the opposition and initiate the action, your player will go into a tussle and attempt to win the ball. Whether you’re successful or not depends on the player’s defensive ability, borrowing a system from PES games of old. It’s a welcome addition too, as the AI sharp as it’s ever been. Teams attack and defend just like their real-life counterparts. It’s almost scary at times, especially when you’re taking on the likes of Barcelona and Bayern Munich. Concentration is key!
As good as PES 2015’s gameplay is there are a few areas that still require the attention of the development team. While, for the most part, the AI is excellent, it seems to be very reluctant to make tackles on pretty much all the difficulty settings. Personally, I play on superstar and matches usually end in either no fouls or at most 2 when I play against the AI. It’s a strange thing because in the modern game, especially in the top quality leagues, there are usually quite a few tackles and fouls made. Staying with the AI, it also seems to be very reluctant to cross the ball in. I’ve played against pretty much all the tops teams and some lower ones too, and only really seen the South American sides cross the ball in. It’s not a huge issue, but does take a little something away from what is an otherwise quality gameplay experience. Playing against Bayern Munich, especially with Lewandowski up top, you’d expect Robben and Ribery to get the ball into box whenever they get the chance, right? Not really. 90% of the time they’ll look to cut inside or dribble their way into box. Weird.
It’s clear to see the PES team are getting used to the FOX Engine, and the move to the PS4 has helped them apply what they’ve learned after last year’s disaster. The core elements of the gameplay are given room to shine through on the Sony’s latest console, running quite nicely at 1080p and 60fps. The majority of player models and likenesses are astounding. Welbeck, Blind, Ibrahimovic, Honda, Gotze, Totti and Benzema are just a few of the amazing faces I’ve seen. There are some that need work though, even at the top teams, but Konami has a history of continually working on delivering new faces via updates so all is not lost. Elsewhere, thanks to some fantastic lighting, most of the pitches look great as well. It’s just a shame that day matches look quite a bit better than night ones. It’s a problem that’s been present in the last few PES titles and something that should be looked at next year for sure.
The animation count has also gone up quite a bit, but the transition from one to another needs some work. When you’re playing it’s not a huge issue, but delve into the replays and look at the action closely the switch one from movement to another is visibly juddery. It’s not exactly game breaking, but can detract from the overall match experience. As touched upon briefly in the gameplay section, goalkeepers need some variation in their animations. Right now, they only have a few ways they usually save the ball. I mean, they look decent (sometimes spectacular actually), but by the time you’ve spent a good few hours with the game you’d have seen the majority of them. The physical side of the game could look better too, with collisions being more natural, but I suspect Konami would need to introduce a full-on system to govern this before there’s a big change here.
Menus. Ah yes, menus. Gone are the horrid menus present in PES 2014 and in comes a tiled system that is quite similar to what you have in FIFA. It’s not exactly the worst aspect to copy as the menus in EA’s offering are pretty good. You can also set your favourite team when you first load of the game, resulting is one rotating player from your club strutting his stuff in the background. It’s a massive improvement over the clunky menus last year, but the change is only really present in the main area. After that, when you get into the different modes, it’s not a huge change from last year. The menus in Master League are particularly bad, but more on that in a bit. Although it must be said, the licenses that PES 2015 has it presents extremely well. The Champions League, Copa Libertadores, Europa League and others look great from their menus all the way to the trophy presentation should you happen to win. It begs the question, what could Konami do with the Premier League license if EA didn’t have an exclusive. Hmm.
That brings me to the commentary, which is still downright awful. Jon Champion and Jim Beglin have as much chemistry as the current Man United defensive unit. The way they bounce off each other is painful to listen to, making you wonder if it’s them or the script they’ve been given. I have a sneaky suspicion it’s the latter. The trigger points of the comments they make are all over the place and just don’t make sense in relation to what’s happening on the pitch. A last minute goal in a big game deserves memorably commentary, but in PES 2015 you just get “chance taken, with some aplomb.” Yeah, cheers, Jon. His partner in crime isn’t any better either, with Beglin usually saying the exact opposite to Champion. There’s so much useless repetition too. I’ve lost count the amount of times I’ve heard Champion say I haven’t made a substitution around the 70th minute mark. 99% it’s been utterly pointless. It’s an area where FIFA is miles ahead and PES needs to step up quickly. A game that plays so well on the pitch deserves decent commentary as well, but this is just plain bad. Very bad.
There is plenty to get into in PES 2015, with the headline being the addition of myClub. It’s essentially Konami’s take on FIFA’s Ultimate Team, but with a focus on agents to acquire players rather than packs. Simply put, the quality of agent you use directly impacts the level of player you get. You purchase agents via the in-game currency (GP/coins), with the better ones costing around the 10,000 GP or 250 coin mark. Yes, microtransactions are present via a store, so you can buy better agents rather than play matches to earn GP. That’s completely up to you. I’ve kept to earning my GP via matches, and I’ve done pretty well so far. My team currently has the likes of Ozil, Fabregas, Totti, Lima and the hero that is Bolasie. Granted one of those was recruited via the pre-order bonus, but still it’s a decent team without having to spend actual money. What I love is that the way you get players is completely random. Yes, the agent’s quality has an impact, but after that is just down to a button press and the colour of the ball you get. Black or gold balls are the ones you want for the top players, however even then you’re not guaranteed a star. The reason I like this is it will help keep the mode balanced in the long run, something that is no longer present in Ultimate Team. The fact that you can essentially buy who you want has resulted in identical teams, ruining (for me) the fun behind the mode. The more simple system in myClub works in its favour, with consumables being kept to minimum (only stamina is required really).
Everything else has a similar set up to Ultimate Team, with chemistry being called team spirit and so on. I say similar and not exactly because your team’s formation and style is reliant on the manager you have. To change formation you’ll actually have to change your manager which sounds a tad harsh, but again I like it. Unless you have the funds to spend on a new manager you’re forced to learn and work within a system, hoping to get players that fit into it. It keeps the whole mode exciting, fun and challenging. I’ve been playing quite a bit of the mode offline and having a blast. You can play online as well, but I haven’t been too successful there (more on that in a bit). I only hope Konami don’t copy the Ultimate Team model with a transfer market because that will signal the beginning of the end of any balance. I would like to see special weeks or days where you have a higher chance of getting certain players, but that’s as far as they should go with that in terms of incentive to buy. I can see myClub being a key mode in PES for years to come as long as Konami don’t go crazy with it.
The addition of myClub aside, the usual bread and butter modes are present, including Master League. It’s slightly improved; with a flawed transfer system being the only real change. Smiley faces now tell you whether or not you’re good to go when negotiating a deal. Smiley bloody faces. Damn. For a game that, at its core, is about an authentic football experience, Master League needs an much-needed overhaul. The set-up is outdated and illogical, forcing you to miss 10 days at a time without having done any management bits at all. The fantastic gameplay is the saving grace, as the match to match experience is wonderful. Each contest plays out differently depending on the team you’re playing; keeping you going in what is a pretty basic mode. You can view matches in ‘coach mode’ if you want and not play, giving the choice between a Football Manager style view of proceedings. It’s nice, but I’m not sure exactly why you’d want to use it. I mean, apart from trying it a couple of times for review purposes, I didn’t go back to it at all. BAL and 11 v 11 also return, but much like Master League neither mode represents a huge departure compared to last year’s version.
Now to online, a part of PES that has been a shambles since PES 2008. With PES 2015, there’s good and bad news. For those that who can get online and play a match, they’re genuinely enjoying it. The experience is largely smooth and lag free, something you could never say about the last few iterations. However, there are many people (including myself) that are unable to get into an online match or when they do it’s filled with lag. Two contrasting experiences, but something Konami are aware of and has been working around the clock to fix. Hopefully they can sort it out soon as the one match I did have was a smooth experience. Plus, there are plenty of online modes just begging to played. Online divisions (something I really want to get into) and myClub are complimented nicely by the likes of friendly matches/competitions. It’s all there, but until the online works for everyone the jury is still out.
On the gameplay front this is the best PES has been for a good few years now, quite rightly drawing comparisons with the “good old days” on the PS2. This is the PES we know and love, but on the PS4. By that I mean it’s naturally progressed thanks to the FOX Engine and been suitably modernised, something that didn’t happen during the switch from PS2 to PS3. There are issues with its presentation and some of the modes are outdated, but it gives me great pleasure to say that the gameplay is finally at a good, enjoyable level once again. Yes, it’s not perfect, and could with some tweaks/additions in certain areas, yet it’s still utterly addictive. Konami, you were right about PES 2015. This year, the pitch is well and truly yours. Just don’t mess things up with PES 2016. Please.