Let’s Be Previewing You – Pro Evolution Soccer 2017
Last year I put forth the point in writing a review for Pro Evolution 2016 (PES2016), whether it really was ‘Return of the King’ for the footballing (‘soccer’ if you’re that way inclined… but wrong) series. A year on from that review, I remain firmly of the belief that PES2016 was the better performing of the two mainline football releases in 2015. However after extended play I did have gripes with the game, knowing these wouldn’t be resolved in the previous iteration, perhaps the new release could eradicate or fine-tune these issues?
Fast forward to August 2016, PES Productions bestows upon us the most kindly of tasters. The demo of PES 2017, based on the E3 build of the game gives PES fans (and naysayers alike) the opportunity to see what has been cooking in the broth of footballing goodness that PES Productions has been finely brewing. What follows is a delectable delight of footballing goodness, and from what I have seen thus far EA should be worried, very worried.
Aye, but how does it play?
First impressions from when you boot up the demo, you can’t help but notice how good everything looks. From the helicopter panning around the stadium, to the cameras dotted around the ground taking in the players from a plethora of camera angles. Everything just looks so goddamn good. Each player in the demo is faithfully represented not only visually, but even their playing styles have been taken into account, Lionel Messi always looks like he is playing the game at a canter, suddenly shifting stance and prancing through the entire opposition defence as though he is slaloming on the training ground… with ease. Neymar has that calm air of arrogance about him as though he is more than willing to embarrass the poor full-back who is coming to closing down (spoiler: he usually does), the whole of the Barcelona team play with the famed “Tiki-taka” approach of short-passing, triangular movement, also utilised by the Spanish national team to great effect over the last decade.
From the first kick, you notice many changes. The game has been slowed down, perhaps in response to comments within the community that PES 2016 was almost “too arcadey” in its approach to game pace. The slowing down allows a more considered approach to the game, encouraging you to roll the ball across the carpet-like surface (weather dependent), feeling every inch the professional. There is nothing more satisfying than completing a 30+ pass sequence that has systematically split and destroyed the opposing defence, leading to a tap-in for Neymar. Heck even Arsenal can play some beautiful and clinical football resulting in wonderful goals… providing you substitute Giroud for Welbeck (Thank Me Later, no Drake).
Playing against the computer is a wonderful experience, if you play as Barcelona and continually attack down the left using the pace of Neymar to go past the full-back, the computer will adapt and change their approach bringing in another player to support the full-back. This new gameplay system is called ‘Adaptive AI’, and completely changes how the computer plays against you dependent on your style of play. You can also allocate tactics to switch to on the fly, ensuring that you also can adapt according to how the game is panning out for you.
Goalkeepers have seen a huge improvement, easily the best they have been ever in this series of games. Satisfaction can be gleaned from those moments when your defence has been breached, Torres is running through odds on to score, only to be denied by the huge frame of Cech who expertly dives to his right flicking the ball around the post. Moments like this bring to the fore the magic of the footballing experience and to be totally honest, I would rather be playing the demo this very moment, than writing this preview.
Referees have also been improved and seem to be far more consistent, even allowing the advantage to be played before awarding a free-kick. These small changes greatly add to the experience as a hole, and only increase my hype for the game.
Licensed to thrill, kill, bill?
If you have followed any of the announcements for PES 2017 you will be aware of the recent partnerships with a number of football teams. Namely, Barcelona, Liverpool, Club Atlético River Plate and Borussia Dortmund. These new partnerships give PES Productions the opportunity to not only facially 3D photo-scan every player from Barcelona (right down to Neymar’s tattoos), but even the “Camp Nou” has been digitally scanned and remains exclusive to PES 2017 (unlucky FIFA). Liverpool F.C. have also been lavished with the same care and attention, the newly revamped “Anfield” will follow in a post-launch patch. Borussia Dortmund will also receive the same treatment as Liverpool, with an accurate representation of “Signal Iduna Park”. Club Atlético River Plate through their deal will also be presented with a fully accurate team kit and their stadium Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti (also known as “El Monumental“), will be showcased in all its iconic glory. Most of these deals were announced late in the day and shall follow in a free post-launch patch.
Other than these newly announced partnerships, PES 2017 will feature a similar amount of leagues as last season for the most part, though there is a conspicuous lack of the Copa Libertadores this time around. But never fear, an intricately detailed ‘Edit Mode’ will be present this time around to allow you to update all the teams to your liking. The PlayStation 4 version will even allow you to download community created Option Files for that authentic experience (Sorry Xbox fans).
First impressions in brief (no Lineker).
It’s clear from the borderline hyperbolic enthusiasm on display that I am enjoying my time with the demo. It is a very good demo, the game feels great to play and I cannot wait to spend more time with the full release. Sure there are some gripes, rare frame-rate drops, that annoying slow-down in the replays, the players glitching through other players and the inability to change team tactics. But it is important to stress, this is only a demo. A teasing insight into what we will have in the finished article. For such an old build, this game has a fantastic base to grow from and I look forward to playing the finished article.
This could be the best playing football game this year, it’s already looking to be the best playing PES game since PES 6 (on PlayStation 2). Will it beat FIFA however? I don’t know… I don’t really care at the moment, competition is good and I really like what I have seen. So, what are you waiting for, you can go and download it on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One right now!
Disclaimer: This preview was written based on the recently released demo on PlayStation 4 and all thoughts and opinions are based on this version alone.