Extra Time needed?:
‘Pro Evolution Soccer‘ has spent the last few years playing a great game of catch-up with FIFA before arguably overtaking it a year or two ago. Is this the year it takes a significant step ahead?
One area that certainly hasn’t caught up with FIFA is the ‘Be a Pro’ mode which now feels light years behind FIFA’s story mode, with generic text screens, little interaction with other players or managers or feeling of player progression.
This is a story that repeats over and over again. Master League, Divisions, MyClub, Skills Training – they are all identical or nearly identical to the offering last year (when at least some notional improvements were made at least). There has been some progress though, as ‘Random’ mode returns, apparently from the PS2 era, although I never remember playing it back then! This mode allows you to choose a team as a base, then draft in new players and trade against your opponent, potentially blocking their transfers. It’s a neat idea to add a bit of variety, although I expect it will be a novelty mainly used for the odd bit of couch play rather than as a serious rival to the main time sinks of Master League and MyClub.
You kind of have to mention it every year, but the continued lack of licenses gets more and more egregious over time, especially when there seems no progress (apart from the bizarre addition of Fulham in the Championship) after things regressed last year with the loss of La Liga.
This year has been championed as the first year of a major overhaul of many of the systems and strategies that PES players have become used to. So, a gameplay upgrade rather than a feature upgrade? Unfortunately, as a relatively casual player of football games, this is the first time in years that I’m struggling to pick out many of the iterations. In fact, on the lower difficulties, the AI feels like it has taken a regressive step backwards. They’ll almost never slide tackle you or foul. They barely ever hoof the ball forwards, allowing you to press the final third more aggressively. Some world-class players now have individual characteristics, but there’s no indication of who this applies to, so prepare to be surprised by the pace, physicality or ball control of certain players (hint: just play as Barcalona to see this in practice).
Shooting and goalkeeping seem more unpredictable this year, but you can become absolutely free-scoring through the use of talented wingers. It almost feels like your glitching the game as defenders seem completely unable to cope with pin-point crosses which can be latched onto either by your Neymar or Messi style player with a half-volley, or smashed into a corner by a powerful centre-forwards with excellent heading skills.
The same tactics can easily be applied against you, meaning that I was more often churning out a 5-3 victory (even in a 5 minute match) than playing out a 1-1 draw. Obviously whether this is for you is very much down to personal taste, but despite dropping the pace somewhat, the end result feels like the most arcade-like PES in many years.
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