Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2015
Konami’s latest installment arrives but can the once majestic series take the title again, or is it having a right mare?
The first thing to say about PES 2015 is that the presentation has been improved significantly which has been a gripe of mine in the past. For example the menu screens and the accompanying music have been given a welcome tweak. Out goes awful Europop and in comes listenable, if not-that-current indie/electro. Helpfully menu layout is more logical and welcoming to newcomers than Fifa’s, apart from the unwieldy Master League interface (more on that later).
In terms of in-game presentation the player animation is solid, if uninspired. However you will certainly feel the difference when playing as a Robben or Bale, and the tricks on offer are useful, even if the manner of their execution is somewhat convoluted. The commentary and crowd atmosphere are also spot-on, helping to engage you in the experience, and the stadium design is most competent. The only downer is the lack of licensed teams and tournaments. Some leagues it’s all there, like the Spanish but in the English Premier League just Manchester United have the correct look. It’s only window dressing after all but as ever the decision to purchase should be made on modes and gameplay, not if the game is chock full of logos.
Speaking of modes, the Master League makes a welcome return. Managing your team requires a mix of cunning and strategy as you strive to get the most out of a bunch of no-hopers. You can choose to manage a club with its original line up, but where would the fun be in that? You’ll have to pick carefully in the transfer market as your club has a meager budget. You will only have a certain number of players that you can approach during the window, so you’d best make sure your transfer targets are realistic! No approaching Messi or Ronaldo here.
You can also set the training regime of the team, which will influence how your players improve. Players in Master League mode peak and decline, so it’s up to you whether you decide to buy an old pro and get a few years out of him on the cheap, or whether you pay top whack for someone at the peak of his powers.
The game allows for great flexibility in team tactics, with the option of having different formations for kick-off, defending and attacking situations. It’s an absorbing mode and once you get used to scrolling through various menus (trying to find out a players individual stats is a bit of a hassle) , you could lose hours to the Master League’s intricacies. Add to this the My Club mode, the PES’s answer to the Ultimate Team, plus the various tournaments and online modes and PES 2015 can be said to provider a depth and variety of experience to cater to most footie fans.
On the pitch, the game forces you to hunt for the ball as a team. Holding down the CPU pressure button became a mainstay of my approach. You’ll also need to adjust to the pace of the game. The ball zips about like a motorised pinball, it’s a game of reactions first and foremost. But there is scope for strategy. The manual passing system and the though ball options help carve open defences when they are used correctly. Goals feel earned and the result of solid teamplay. PES 2015 is a game that favours the concept of a well disciplined team instead of the star player. This does mean, however, that going on mazy runs is not something you will be able to enjoy very often.
PES still has more than a toe dipped in its arcadey roots. The game plays fast and the on-screen charge up power-bars for shots and passes remain in place. The game has taken significant strides towards realism but the players still feel less animated and alive than those in certain other rival games. It takes a while before PES ‘clicks’ but once it does, you’ll appreciate the experience as a unique take on football. Whilst not quite in the big leagues yet, PES 2015 does enough right to make it a contender.
Version reviewed: PlayStation 4
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC.