PES 2016 Review
The definition of evolution, one of the definitions anyhow, is 'the gradual development of something.'
I once heard it described - in a rap song, no less
- as performance, feedback, revision. I've always thought of the yearly iterative sequels so beloved of sports games as following a similar logic: each sequel a performance, the feedback from each informing the next, causing revisions in the next games design choices. Because of budgets, the fans and long development, these changes are small and take place over a long period of time.
Sometimes that evolution brings us something special. When it comes to to the beautiful game, PES 2016 is the apex predator. The best there is at what it does. A simulated 90 minutes of bliss.
It may lack all of the licenses - while teams and leagues are wearing hilarious fake names, all players do fortunately seem to be present and correct - and have some dubious presentation on the menus, but as soon as the whistle blows for kick-off it becomes quickly apparent that this is the real deal. Every football video game should be judged largely on the quality of playing the actual game, and here PES is second to none.
Beyond a short love affair with Fifa 2009
and 2 months taking Dover Athletic to Europe in one of the Football Manager
titles, there's no love lost between me and digital representations of football, so I'm stunned with how quickly it converted me. It's hard to pinpoint one exact feature, one aspect of the game that I can point both hands at and declare the games crowning moment.
A large part of it is the fluid gameplay however, and the credit for that seems to come down to three distinct parts:
Firstly there's Konami's "PlayerID" which makes every player feel unique. My favourite team is East London (not West Ham United, promise) and I quickly learnt to watch for the blue boots of defender Alex Song. Alex Song has a score of 83 when played in his position of choice, defensive midfield.
If this were any other football game, that would be the end of it, but with the PlayerID system I know Song as a decisive defender, easily able to dominate the tempo of a game with rapid sprints. He's not the best midfielder in the game but his unique playstyle means I'm often able to use him to cut through the defensive line of many opponents, both AI and online.
Throughout my time with the game, I've come to appreciate many individual players for their talents. Müller has a ferocious speed which sees him sneaking the ball into the opponent's goal before they've even noticed he's in the box while Andy Carroll moves around the pitch like he's slowly wading through a swamp, inexplicably scoring goals despite his lumbering gait.