If there’s one thing about competition, it’s that it brings out the best in each competitor. Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), long in rivalry with EA’s FIFA series, has been improved with each subsequent entry, pushing the boundaries of what they can do with the game of soccer. Now that the demo is out for the latest entry in the series, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, does it show that this might be the best entry yet?
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
Developed by PES Productions / Published by Konami
Coming to the PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Previewed on the PS4.
The demo, which released August 13 on PSN and Xbox Live, let’s players play as one of seven teams – Juventus F.C., A.S. Roma, FC Bayern Müchen, SC Corinthians, Palmeiras, Brazil and France – and play exhibition matches that can last from six to ten minutes each. While there is not much to do in regards to gameplay modes, the demo does a great job at showcasing the game’s new features.
The first thing you’ll notice right of the bat is the improved visuals of the FOX Engine, which really adds to the game’s realism, as players are closer to their real-life likeness than ever before and they animate very nicely. It’s super easy to identify players with a mere glance, though obviously the most detailed players are the most popular, while others are less detailed and occasionally generic. Still, all the players look very good, except for the hair, which still is not as great as I’d like, though this is mostly likely due to the game’s cross-gen development.
They also move around better this time around, as the developers have also improved the animations by adding even more of them to PES 2016. Dribbling, passing, using feints, and shooting in a variety of situations changes visually depending on the situation, so moving the ball through the field and checking out those replays never gets old. Sometimes there’s the odd transition between animations, but overall it’s good stuff.
In regards to the stadium and crowds, they’ve also been touched up as well, with the two playable stadiums, Juventus and Corinthians, looking fantastic and the crowds moving about in their seats and roaring with enthusiasm. Unfortunately though, most of the crowd models and other bystanders – like guards, reporters, etc., still look a bit skimmed over and undetailed.
The ball’s physics, which has been constantly improved in these past few entries, has also been tweaked once again, making more the best looking soccer ball to date. Checking it out in replays really makes you want to appreciate how well it spins, bounces and floats, and while it’s not completely there yet in terms of 1:1 realism, it does look fantastic.
Gameplay has also had some refinements as well, some of which are noticeable immediately while others work behind the scenes. One of the new features is the advanced collision detection, which calculates the result of players colliding and determines how it plays out. Looking at replays of two players crashing into each other, the new animations really do a great job at making them feel natural and realistic, instead of sending them flying in random directions. While there is some clipping here and there between bodies, but most of the time they can be overlooked and are not that big of a deal.
There’s also the perfect defense, which allows players who perfectly time their tackles to shove opponents away from the ball and get possession without having to battle for it, making for easy and swift counterattacks if you can choose your tackles wisely. It works pretty well, though the timing is a bit tricky if you’re trigger happy.
Teammate A.I. has also been improved as well, keeping to their men and actively searching for passes. Goalies have also been touched up as well, as they now have individual’s stats, like Catching and Deflecting, among others, so if you want him to pass rather than punch the ball away, you can set that up as well.
Playing through various matches with the available teams, I felt really comfortable playing the demo. It was instantly familiar and the controls are spot on, and I felt that thanks to the improved animations, physics and features, the game is more fluid and natural this time around. While there’s only so much you can do with the game of Soccer that hasn’t already been done, PES 2016 refines it to a level where it’s smoother than ever and plays fantastically. While it could still use a bit more detail in the visual department, so far it’s a blast. With more features and gameplay modes coming on September 15, I’m genuinely psyched to see what the final product has to offer.