The greatest football game ever made?
Game: PES 2017
(Review copy provided by publisher)
If one thing is certain, I absolutely love my football. Birmingham City are my team and whilst we had relative success in the past, the last few years have been nothing but painful to endure as a fan. You could probably use the last sentence regarding PES. The PS2 days are by a lot of people considered the pinnacle of the series, with the PS3 games, well, we won’t talk about them! The move to the Fox Engine has been a very successful one for PES however, and for me, PES 2016 was a hell of an enjoyable experience, despite its flaws. A year on and we have PES 2017. There have been numerous press and community impressions over the past few months suggesting that PES 2017 is rather special this year. I wanted to believe it, I urged to believe it but wanted to prove those theories to myself. After extensive hands-on with PES 2017, those impressions were right. PES 2017 is simply phenomenal and simply put, the greatest football game ever made.
Fluid, responsive and realistic. These are the three words that completely justify what I just said in my last statement. I’ve read about people claiming it as PES 2016.5 etc but in my honest opinion, this plays out completely different to last year. Whilst it may look similar, the moment you get your hands on the controller and kick off a match, you will soon realise that this is a different beast to last year. One of the first things you will notice in PES 2017 is the overall pace of the game. PES 2016, whilst good, was probably too fast (I spent the majority of my time playing on -1) and didn’t truly represent a game of football. Arcadey would be the word I’d use to describe it. PES 2017 simply eradicates any use of the word ‘Arcade’, with the pace (even at the standard 0 setting) matching that of what you see in a real game of football today.
Passing is another one of the key gameplay elements that has had a lot of attention paid to it since PES 2016. There is a lot more weight to passing, with a much more realistic feeling to it. Even at the default Passing Assistance level (1), there is a lot more error to it than last year. Long balls are now a delight to play, especially if you use the manual modifier, which can be activated by L2. I was using Mertesacker and sprayed a long diagonal pass out to the wing to Alexis Sanchez who ran on to the pass perfectly, controlling it with such precision you would come to expect from Sanchez. That brings us on to the game’s new ‘real touch’ system. One of my favourite new additions to PES this year, the real touch system lets better players bring the ball down or control an incoming pass just like you would see in real life. Some of the stuff that the likes of Pogba, Iniesta and Ozil can pull off is outstanding, mainly because of the real touch system and of course, down the fantastic Player ID system that PES is know for.
I have to applaud Konami because they keep surprising me at how detailed they are prepared to go when covering Player ID. Every, and I mean every single player feels unique to control, with the star players a complete treat. One of my favourite players to control on the game is Paul Pogba. The Manchester United ace is a joy to control, making you feel such at ease when controlling, no, dominating with him in Midfield. With physicality such a big part of PES 2017, you really feel the advantage of having him in the center of the park, spraying balls across the field with such ease, elegance and precision. No, that’s not because the Pass Support is so high, it’s because Pogba is known for his passing ability in his DNA, perfectly replicated in his virtual self on PES 2017. If it’s pace you’re after, you are definitely going to want to be controlling the likes of Griezmann or Sanchez, who not only are fast, but have such good dribbling ability.
One of my gripes from last year, and in fact in many previous PES titles, is the Goalkeepers. You’ve not had that feeling that you can rely on them since the PS2 days. Last year, you could hit the ball in the bottom corner and almost guarantee that the Goalkeeper would not save it. I am happy to report that Konami have completely rebuilt the goalkeepers from the ground up and are now excellent! Don’t get me wrong, they tend to make mistakes but that happens in real life. In the most part however, you can now completely rely on your goalkeeper as a pivotal part of your team. I’ve had so many instances where I have gone to celebrate a goal and then to see the goalkeeper tip it round the post, leaving me in disbelief whilst feeling so happy that they are at this stage now. It’s took too long but finally, we have some decent goalkeepers. Of course, in order to beat the goalkeepers, you also need to have one hell of a good shot and I am happy to say that shooting on the whole is better. It’s not perfect, there are still some instances where it could be better, such as more weight to the ball, but on the whole, there is a lot more variety to shooting this year. The R2 finesse shot has also seemed to be toned down, in the point that not every curled effort will go into the corner this year. A little thing, but one that really makes the difference in longevity and enjoying it overall.
Tactics are a BIG part of how you play this year, thanks to the introduction of Advanced Instructions. With this, you can set up to four different instructions (2 attacking, 2 defensive) as you start your match, with also the ability to turn them off/on as you alter your tactics in the game with the directional buttons. Want to have the Jurgen Klopp Gegenpressing tactic? You now can, with the tactic available for you to use. Activate this and you’ll see your team instantly continue to press the way that Liverpool do in real life. However, I did find that stamina went down a lot quicker using it, so make sure you use it when it is appropriate. One of my favourite attacking instructions is ‘Hug the Touchline’. This is very, very effective when having wide players, as they will stay as wide as possible, letting you exploit teams who are playing compact. Of course, the computer will also use these Advanced Instructions. This is where the game-changing Adaptive AI comes in. Hug the Touchline too much and you’ll see the AI ‘learn’ this and put 2 players on to mark your wingers. The AI is a lot better and challenging this year thanks to the Adaptive AI. The way I would describe it is like playing a game of chess. You both have to figure each other’s moves in order to get the upper hand in the game. Last year, I found it quite boring to play against the AI, but the Adaptive AI thankfully keeps me interested, especially when playing modes such as Master League and Become a Legend.
I wasn’t at all a Master League player last year due to the fact that the AI was too repetitive. However, with the AI providing a hard challenge this year, Master League will be my focus. Early impressions of Master League already shows much promise. One of the things that I really like about Master League is that you now have a separate Transfer Budget and a Salary Budget. This really helps keep a track on what you’re spending. Playing as Man Utd (pre-transfer roster update, which is coming on day one), it was also good to see that I just couldn’t go out and sign the Superstars of the footballing world. Paul Pogba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic turned me down flat, whilst I did manage to sign Aubameyang, which then left me having to sell some of my fringe players to get more in my salary budget to make more signings. I shall be starting my proper Master League save once the roster update is implemented, but I can already see myself playing season after season. Become a Legend looks, unfortunately, more of the same to the past few years. The AI seemed better in my few matches that I tried, but I really hope Konami pick up the ball with this one and make some fundamental changes to the mode for PES 2018.
Visually, the game looks fantastic, much thanks to the continued understanding of the Fox Engine that Konami are getting each year. Player faces especially look absolutely spot on, the best faces I have seen in any football game. I’d like to see more detail in the actual gameplay camera, as well as the pitch having a bit more colour to it; it currently seems a bit light. Overall lighting is vastly improved however, with the annoying shadows of last year now a thing of the past. Sound wise, the commentary has improved quite a bit. Whilst still not at the FIFA levels, having the commentators record in the same room definitely helps with the overall flow of the commentating. In Master League especially, it is good to see Beglin comment on the recent signings you make as well as your overall form.
Konami have produced not only the best PES ever, but for me, the best football game I have ever played. They have completely nailed the gameplay side of things, with only minor tweaks needed in future titles. Konami now have to fully focus their attention on to their modes, especially the likes of Become a Legend, which needs a lot of attention going forward. It is going to be an interesting race to see which football game comes out on top by the end of September, but right now, PES 2017 has all the quality to be the benchmark for future football games. Well done Konami!