Following a much lauded showing last season, Konami aims to raise the bar further this year by addressing last year’s key shortcomings and adding some innovative features. The fans spoke, the PES team crafted. We examined the early results…
We find ourselves here again, yet something is different this time around. The competitive landscape has clearly shifted. After a full console generation of playing second best to EA SPORTS’ FIFA franchise, the former undisputed champion has finally had some time in the sunshine. “Control Reality” is the marketing spiel this year, with improvements reported across the board; yet extra focus given to gameplay. The early code we had the opportunity to sample allowed us to play with a selection of four licensed teams, including Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, France and Germany.
This is evident from the onset with the pace of the game feeling more representative of the real sport. During different phases of the match, the pace of the on field action fluctuates but the user always maintains the control. This is linked directly to the new Precise Passing, which sounds like a generic feature from a Mega Drive era soccer game yet offers more crisp and varied passing than PES has seen in almost a decade. Passes have more weight to them, with timing and accuracy being far more influential on outcomes. So far so good.
The shooting has also seen some tweaks this season, potentially as a consequence of attention being given to the ball physics as a whole. Thankfully, gone are those Captain Tsubasa/Roy of the Rovers laser-guided shots that plagued PES 2014 – 2016. Shooting is now clearly more influenced by user input, even with the default assisted controls. Timing and accuracy again take centre stage here, providing a wider range of shooting outcomes compared to the previous year. The positioning of the shooter appears to be a more integral component now, with the accuracy of efforts depending on the shooter’s stance and balance. Although it still remains challenging, we found ourselves using the finesse shot more often and when timed and positioned well, it produces some rather satisfying moments. I’d still like to see more accurate ball trajectories factoring Magnus and drag effects, but this will do for now. Its satisfying knowing, I won’t be conceding long range efforts at an unrealistic rate as both the shooting and keepers have clearly been improved.
Keepers have seen a much welcomed enhancement, with a wider range of animations and that urgency they always lacked now starting to appear. Keepers pull off some spectacular saves and deal with the simple things well. They also appear to have more intelligence when dealing with one-on-one situations. Neuer was up to his usual tricks bearing down on strikers once they broke through the last line of defence.
This year sees the introduction of Total Team Control and Corner Kick Strategies and I am pleased to say they do not appear to be back of the box features! In our limited time with the code we managed to utilise the corner kick strategies to our advantage in order to have more dangerous efforts on goal. The total team control offers the ability to change your tactics on the fly and at particular instances within a match, with far more variety than PES or FIFA have ever offered. Adding a layer of strategic depth, this allows those tactically minded players to really gain an advantage through real-time tactical manipulations. It remains unclear what the long term implications of such a system will be on underlying formation structures and AI behaviours but it looks promising in our time with the game.
Another gameplay related feature that has seen much promotion is the Adaptive AI. Unfortunately given our intention to try a variety of players, teams, tactics and play against fellow gaming journalists we were unable to truly experience what Konami considers a key new feature. It could potentially be one that appears with repeated exposure or requires more engaged game modes such as Master League. However, we did notice the CPU AI become more defensively prepared for crosses in a match where we kept firing the crosses to Fernando Torres. The defensive AI almost pre-empted that crosses were going to be fired in if central penetration was unsuccessful, providing an indicator that this system may actually be doing its thing in the background.
Last but not least the graphics in PES 2017 have seen a significant improvement and we are not just talking players faces. In both the close-up replays and the default gameplay cameras the visuals look more sharp with greater attention to detail. Player faces, kits and the surrounding environment all look great. It’s nice to see that the PES team are still squeezing more out of the FOX Engine. There are also a host of new animations providing more variety to the majority of player actions, giving you more of those “that looked great moments”. We still believe that PES could really benefit from a bespoke physics/collision engine that would further enhance the game’s visuals.
As always PES has continued to shine when it comes to giving players their own unique in-game persona, call it Player ID if you must. Griezmann was a joy to play with, as was Pogba. We look forward to sampling a wider pool of players in future playtests. Particularly with the increasingly impressive likenesses that Konami keep delivering.
Although PES 2017 does not appear to have changed significantly compared to its older brother, the improvements deliver a more satisfying and representative sports game. By directly addressing the community feedback and providing some additional innovation, PES 2017 provides a far better footballing experience than its predecessor. We hope that this opinion is only enhanced in future playtests closer to launch.
Over to you PES team, show us what else you’re cooking.
A big thank you to Konami for inviting us down for the PES 2017 playtest.