Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 - Review

Much like the relationship between NBA2K and NBA Live, FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) have always been known to be trapped in a constant game of catch and rivalry. Yet especially in the last few years PES has signficantly been behind EA Sports' leading soccer sports game FIFA.
With PES 2015, Konami promises big changes that are built on entirely reworking PES' foundation and mechanics for next gen.
Does PES 2015 make the franchise a strong competitor again for the crown of the best soccer franchise?


Updated Core Mechanics - "Improvement Over Innovation"

Drawing parallels between PES 2015 and FIFA 15 is quite easy when looking at how PES 2015 mainly functions in its core mechanics. Taking quite some of the established and successful main elements of the FIFA series to heart and therefore implementing them into PES 2015's own mechanics is not quite stealing or mimicing here as it rather feels like the game simply doesn't want to reinvent what has been established as very well functioning already. With that said, PES' mechanics like shooting via the shot-meter that factors in speed and strength of your shot or the sheer button-layout of the several player moves definitely feel like they've been lifted right out of FIFA with only a few minor exceptions. FIFA lovers will therefore have absolutely zero problems of jumping right in into PES 2015.

But what actual innovation does PES 2015 hold in store to actually compete with his FIFA rival? The answer for this question does not center around actual innovation but rather very significant and noticable improvements.
The biggest by far that truely comes into play right when playing your very first match in PES is the game's general A.I. - both, the one of your teammates as well as your opponents.
Playing against opponent teams feels that much more of a challenge in PES than in FIFA thanks to the fact that teams seem much more tactic focussed than in EA's soccer itteration. Witnessing how an opponent team actively tries to strategically outsmart you on the field while you struggle to hold or even get to the ball is quite a tense feel that somewhat isn't that frequently present in FIFA games as it is in PES 2015. Especially moments in which an enemy player outsmarts you through clever dribbling techniques or in which the opposing team works its way through your defense through precise passes gives individual A.I. controlled players on the field a quite rare very organic feel as if you would be actually playing against real humans.
Yet this doesn't mean that only opponents have gotten smarter but teammates as well. Teammates notably react better and more intuitively to your passes to make sure that many of your very own tactics run down as smooth as intended.

Damn you, highly sophisticated A.I.!
What only further drives PES 2015 authentic and organic player feel forward is a specific feature called "PES ID". Thanks to this new feature, specific teams as well as individual players behave, move and play according to their real life counterparts. Though it's hard to always sort an entire team to a specific playstyle, agressive and fast strategies are often rightfully found when fighting against teams like Argentina. Yet it's especially the single details on individual famous players when PES ID seems to show it's most impressive effects. Players like Germany's team captain Philipp Lahm performing his famous knee-bent back-away movement while defending definitely makes PES 2015 sense for realism stand out.

In that sense, while basic core mechanics are basically taken over from FIFA's layed out fundamentals, PES takes it a step further by taking those mechanics actually to better use. Even though at times some player moves can feel a bit jaggy when directed too frantically or zig-zaggy, the very realistic and most importantly challenging new A.I. more than makes up for that and is easily hands-down the entire game's biggest strength and main selling point. PES 2015 well pulled off A.I. related sense for realism in that sense definitely "outsmarts" FIFA 15's good yet more straightforward and artificial feeling teammates.

Messi and Ronaldo duking it out.

Modes - "Keeping Things Slow and Steady"

Modewise, PES 2015 isn't stretching out too far with overly creative modes and instead is rather focussing on a respective lineup of strong yet fairly standard modes.
Usual league- and cup modes are definitely (and expectedly) on the forefront in PES 2015. Seeing as it functions basically just like any other league mode in which you play your way up the ranks to get the ultimate trophy, there's really not much too special to note here.

A mode that catches much more attention from gamers though is definitely MyClub which in many ways feels like Konami's answer to EA Sports' Ultimate Team mode which has been implemented in each and every one of its sports games this year.
Yet MyClub, thinks and works in quite a bigger scale in comparison. There, your goal is to set-up a team of amateurs to eventually work your way up to become strong competitors in the league. What further sets MyClub apart from Ultimate Team is not only that you have to actually manage your entire teams strengths and think in larger tactical dimensions but also that you have to choose the right manager. Having a good manager therefore drastically raises your chances of getting a specific dream player to further strengthen your team and eventually have a team of players with specific advantages in certain positions on the field. And well planned teams really deliver a feel of change and accomplishment in matches.
To further increase your chances of getting a specific player you can complete certain objectives during matches. Other factors to make your rise up to the pros easier is to spend your time on daily-bonuses to gain so called MyClub points, which of course also are purchasable with real life money.

MyClub mostly feels like a much more tactical version of Ultimate Team.

Nevertheless, with all its components of tactics, managing, and play mixed together, they make MyClub feel like a clever blend of both a sports managing game as well as a sports game itself. Sure, the thrill of directly stepping into the shoes of one specific player to work his way up is still rather a strength of Ultimate Team, but MyClub just much more delivers the feel of direct control.

The only real downside in MyClub is that it seems to have a hard time to give insightful enough tutorials in how to perform some specific and even quite basic managing actions like adding a new squad member to your team.
With that said, it's generally noticable that PES 2015 sadly is a bit too wrapped in just too many unnecessary menu screens and windows most of the time, that often make you feel like they want to help you but instead just hinder your way to actually just play the game. Sure, let alone from the main menu it becomes obvious that PES 2015 aims to mimic the EA Sports menu setup quite a bit, yet it simply overdoes it to an annoying degree.

This is only the top of a big menu labyrinth.


It's said and experienced that Konami struggled quite a lot with PES' online component for quite some time. Yet, playing the different modes from PES respectable roster worked quite well for the most part. Even though some jaggy player movements occured here and there, it's mostly due to the game not completely nailing drastically shifting directions when controlling players even despite the nice and fluid mo-cap animations.
Other than that, there's not much more to mention about PES 2015's straightforward online component other than it for the most part just satisfyingly delivers what you expect it to.


Whereas FIFA worked its way to the top of the soccer video game genre over the years and now has the time to focus on polishing its visual details (seeing that it already established its admittedly great controls), PES 2015's graphics on the other hand are notable lacking in comparison. Though famous players are easily identified by their faces, it's especially the lacking detailed enough textures and nuances on the player models that make especially skin on characters feel bland and pastey.
And even though stadiums actually look impressively filled with many fans, each of them looks incredibly copy-and-paste though making it all too often seem like the audience consists out of a sea of badly textured low-res extras.
Sure, managing a large amount of very detailed character models on screen at once is taking up quite some processing power from the platform's hardware, but seeing how largely PES 2015 sacrifices the needed visual detail to support its otherwise realistic game feel is quite sad actually.

What is a big positive aspect about the graphics though are the several great camera angles during matches that really set the mood and just catch a great goal or other important moment on the field very well.


Commentary is another aspect that is very lacking in PES 2015's presentation. There just barely is any commentary. And if there is, it's not very engaging. The game tries to balance this issue out by incorporating many licensed music tracks featured during the last World Cup into their menues. Sadly though, it of course doesn't do the trick. Convincing commentary just remains a very important part of a good presentation in sports games. It's absolutely essential for a successful immersion into a sports game. It's sad that the sound design is ending up rather lackluster in PES 2015.

Welcome back to the game PES.

The Verdict

Winning-World-Cup-goal-striker Mario Götze on the cover of PES 2015 comes off as a nicely fitting symbol to the latest entry of Konami's soccer franchise that managed to work its way out of mediocrity to new glory with PES 2015.
Thanks to a tight focus on further improving the mechanics that its rival FIFA takes for granted now, PES 2015's highly convincing, challenging and just very "organic" feeling teammate and opponent A.I. is clearly the standout-factor in PES 2015 easily topping FIFA 15's. Further held up through the very detailed PES ID feature, that has each of the world's famous individual players and teams perform and act according to their real-life counterparts, PES 2015 is very strong in its gameplay alone yet often seems to put gameplay over visuals this time around.
Nevertheless, PES 2015 on the other hand also plays many things safe. It doesn't want to overshoot things and therefore at least for now mainly only offers rather basic yet robust game modes while its MyClub mode, mixing tactical team managing with own actual play, still majorly and positively sticks out as a true competitor to EA's Ultimate Team mode.
Sure, especially when looking at PES 2015's big problems regarding its general presentation design, both in terms of menues as well as general graphics and sound, there are still quite some things that PES has to polish in order to reach the top. Yet, those are minor gripes when considering how PES managed to even further improve its rival's almost untoppable seeming gameplay.
While the FIFA franchise seems to spend more time on resting on its old mechanics and instead focusses on polishing its visuals, PES 2015 feels more like a game that wants to really change something, evolve and get better. It's undeniably a good game, yet not perfect...yet. But that could change very soon when given enough time. FIFA should look out.
 Final Verdict: 7 out of 10 

Status: Good

Big thanks goes out to Konami and Neu:Kom for providing us with a review copy of the game.

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