Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 On PC
In video games, there are countless ongoing rivalries. Console versus PC, PlayStation versus Xbox, and, of course, Pro Evolution Soccer versus FIFA. Although FIFA has about 8 more years of releases on Konami’s Soccer alternative, there are die-hard fans on both sides of the fence, and sometimes they meet or even beat their competitor. PES 2016 was a seriously great game, and a lot of long-term FIFA fans could be seen jumping the fence due to a lack of innovation on EA’s side. So has Konami finally capitalized on their growing momentum, or have they just hit the crossbar? Let’s dive into it.
First off, it’d be useful to make note of the fact that I’m playing this on PC. This is very important, because the experience is completely different on this platform. Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (and 2016, for that matter) have essentially been last-gen console ports. Konami refuses to update the game to the next-gen. This is startling, and really drives an essential wedge through the success of the Pro Evolution series. Players are deep into the uncanny valley, managers are not relevant to the team you play as, the crowd looks pitiful, and the bollards beside the goal posts are essentially painted on textures that wouldn’t look out of place in the PS2 era.
PES 2017 on PC is a mess, especially when comparing it to the PS4/Xbox One version. You can see the drastic changes in this video. There’s a new lighting engine, and there is so much detail on show you can see the sweat dripping from Neymar’s face on console. Yet, on PC, they have not changed a thing since 2015. They haven’t updated the lighting or models, and it doesn’t even support 21×9 aspect ratio. Surely it should be a priority to Konami, and when players buy a game that is already heavily criticized for being the same every year, this is a gut punch to those fans. This is even more alarming when you consider that FIFA 17 is bringing with it a whole new engine, which is coming to the PC release. This marks a gulf in graphical quality between the two soccer titans.
Now that’s out of the way, let’s get into the real meat of it. If you can deal with this graphical injustice, you probably want the gameplay to be better than its predecessor. I’m here to tell you that it’s the best gameplay in soccer game history, but is unfortunately let down by a few, hopefully PC specific bugs. The good thing is that this aspect is definitely not just the same as last year. Goalkeepers are more responsive, and tend to do a much better job. Passing, controlling the ball, and defending are incredibly dynamic, and make for exciting games every time you touch the pitch. Free Kicks, Corners, and Penalties are harder to execute, but allow for even more precision. Because of this, expect a challenge even on regular difficulty to beat a lesser team. This is fun but also sometimes frustrating because of the referee A.I.
Offside calls are either insanely meticulous or completely off the mark, and though you clearly got the ball in a risky tackle, the referee may think differently. You could say this is me being anecdotal, but there was at least one of these bizarre decisions every game, enough that it needs to be mentioned. Playing with a friend, he had the same complaints towards the referee, and even when they were in my favor, I realized that some of them were strangely unjust.
Dribbling with skill-laden players is an absolute delight, and the variety of crosses at your disposal create some truly memorable goals. The skill moves leave much to the imagination, though. It’s so satisfying to weave through a stalwart defense, but I want to be able to show off, too. This is probably done to ramp up difficulty, but it’s not a case of just fiddling the right stick, and more like trying to execute a fatality in Mortal Kombat. Skill moves are supposed to be fluid enough that you can perform them under pressure, as those moments create the magic in soccer games. PES 2017 locks them away unless you’re a seasoned professional. Though this doesn’t entirely take away from the fun attacking gameplay, I long for the ease of FIFA’s skill system.
I was using an Xbox One pad with all the latest drivers, and although passing and controlling the ball felt better than ever, if I held down shoot for more than half a second, the ball would fly into the crowd like a homerun. Further, corner kicks and free kicks require you to angle the ball into the box, but the dead zone and sensitivity are so off that this feels like threading a needle. This is done to make sure they’re even more precise, but when I turned to the training ground to practice, I couldn’t even pass with a bronze. I feel like I’ve played enough soccer games to realize that this really shouldn’t be happening. These games are supposed to be overtly accessible to people of any ability, so I hope this is just a fixable fault.
In regards to game modes, they’re back and better than ever. My Club, which is Pro Evolution’s answer to the insanely popular Ultimate Team, is a lot of fun, if you can make it through a full game without experiencing some awkward connection issues. I like the team roles players can have, which expand on their value in-game, and the training and special agents are a fun twist on the medium. Master League returns in 2017, which is basically Career mode for you FIFA fans. It is greatly improved, with greater options in the transfer market bringing it up to speed with its rival. Become a legend also does what it says on the tin, and the character customization is rather expansive.
However, this brings me onto my final, most latent complaint, and that is personality. This game lacks it. Already with the graphical problems, this is a tough sell, but it isn’t helped at all by the uninspired commentators (though I did like the outburst of “JAMIE VARDY’S HAVING A PARTY” when he scored).
With FIFA 17 doubling down on managers, you expect PES to also put up a fight, but the graphical let-down persists, ensuring they’re just placeholder models. Even in Master League, where you spend the time to make him look good in the expansive customisation options, he doesn’t appear anywhere on the pitch. This is only made worse by the licensing issues that have plagued this series for years. Manchester United are Man Red, Newcastle United are Tyneside, and Real Madrid are MD White. The Premier League, the world’s most famous soccer league, has two licensed teams to play with. Though they have secured a lucrative sponsorship with FC Barcelona, unless you fancy playing them every game in the exclusive Nou Camp, then you’re stuck with the Konami stadium for the most part. There shouldn’t be a focus on a particular famous club but many, to make sure fans across the globe get to have fun with their local team.
All of this works to take the heart out of this game, and make it feel like a slap-dash effort on PC. The gameplay is truly eclectic, but the ridiculous graphics fiasco and the lackluster set dressing bring it way down. It may well be the best gameplay this series has seen since the PS2 era, but it doesn’t look the part.
Score: 2.5/5 – Poor