What you won’t like
Features that need more attention
Konami obviously spent a painstaking amount of time making PES play the way it does. But, I don’t see that same attention to detail in the different game modes. The available selection is pretty standard, including exhibition matches and the aforementioned club competitions.
You can also jump into training drills, which are similar to the ones you’ll find in FIFA. The activities here are more limited, though. I had fun playing through the different scenarios, but the FIFA variations give you more to do.
The same can be said for the career modes. You can play through the standard manager and player tracks, where you start from the bottom and get to the top. But FIFA feels more fleshed out and intuitive in these areas. In particular, I prefer how the EA product handles training, giving me a more hands-on involvement in the development of my players.
PES also has myClub, which is a take on FIFA’s wildly popular Ultimate Team experience. In myClub, you build a custom squad using a random set of players. Your goal is to optimize your team spirit (chemistry) by tweaking your lineup. As you play, you’ll earn points that you can use to acquire new stars. Like in Ultimate Team, you can also purchase another type of currency to immediately use for upgrades, instead of grinding through multiple matches.
As with the other modes, myClub just feels more stripped down than what you’ll find in FIFA. Ultimate Team gives you more ways to build and boost your lineup. And I also prefer buying card packs that feature multiple players and upgrades versus myClub’s system of buying athletes one by one.
Sloppy moments on and off the field
While PES does play beautifully, I couldn’t help but notice some issues during my time with the game. In many cases, my computer-controlled defenders would sit back instead of run toward loose balls, giving my opponent a chance to recover possession. Also, the action can feel excessively loose at times. Playing recklessly yields fewer consequences, and slide tackles are too easy to execute.
The commentary and presentation still lag way behind FIFA. I heard the same phrases repeated multiple times, and many were in the wrong context. During a blowout, the announcer shouted out how one player had scored his third goal even though he had scored more. In that same game, I heard how I was disappearing out of sight, and later on, I was suddenly in danger of disappearing out of sight after scoring another goal.
I’ve also heard the commentators talking over each other as their sound bytes played at the same time. While FIFA’s play-by-play is in dire need of an overhaul, it’s still the benchmark by a significant margin.
PES’s menus are a lot better than they used to be, but they’re still unnecessarily cumbersome. The main menu has the tile-based layout that FIFA adopted a while ago, but that doesn’t extend to other screens. The team-management page remains archaic, down to the cursor that makes selecting positions a chore.
Konami has made the years-long derby with EA interesting again, posing a stunning comeback with its latest effort.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is not only the best PES I’ve played in years — it’s also the best soccer game I played this year.
It might not be the most fully featured game or the most polished. And the list of things to fix for 2017 is pretty obvious. But, PES 2016 feels right. And for me, fun beats features every single time.
We have ourselves a game, everybody.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is out now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and the PC. The publisher provided GamesBeat with a PlayStation 4 code of the game for purpose of this review.