Another year, another PES release. Those who were around to witness the “golden years” of the Pro Evolution Soccer (otherwise known as Winning Eleven) series will tell you that it was the best soccer game on the market at the time, masterfully capturing the spirit of the beautiful game.
It’s now 10 years later, and those same fans still use those Winning Eleven classics as a measuring stick for Konami’s yearly releases. Last year’s effort was a marked improvement over PES 2015, which itself had done an excellent job putting down the foundation for the future of the series with the incorporation of the Fox Engine.
The PES 2017 demo has already given us an indication that this year’s game will prove to be yet another impressive upgrade from an on-the-pitch perspective. It’s an area where PES has traditionally excelled during its peak years, and for those who prioritize gameplay above all else, it will have encouraged many of them to pre-order.
There are a handful of potential concerns for those who aren’t so sure of a purchase just yet. The game’s looking better from a presentation standpoint, but a lack of immersion is still evident — unless we’re getting more in the final product. Fans will also be hoping that last year’s roster update blunder won’t make a reappearance this year, which sucked the intense momentum out of the game’s initial release period.
We’re also waiting to see how this year’s improvements to the ever-popular Master League and MyClub modes will fare. On paper, they’re sounding impressive, but we’ll have to wait a little longer before we get our hands on them.
Ultimately, PES 2017 represents the third game in a revitalized era for the Pro Evolution Soccer series. Each game has been better than the last, and if we’re judging by the demo alone, PES 2017 looks all set to follow the trend once more.
Gameplay is the bread and butter of the PES series, and early returns suggest that this is the best playing PES since the Winning Eleven 5/6 days. To start, referee logic — a huge issue in PES 2015 and PES 2016 — has been improved. Fouls are actually called now, and you must adjust your defensive mentality accordingly. Passing has also been tweaked, with passes having better physics, trajectory and weight. Gone are the “bowling ball on ice” days from past PES games.
The default “passing assistance” on level one is about the only complaint I have in regards to passing. It feels very assisted, akin to FIFA’s full assistance, where balls roll perfectly to feet and through passes into space have just the right amount of zip and pace. Where this hurts the game is that the new first-touch dynamic is slightly negated, where as on no assistance the first-touch feature really shines as players adjust to passes that are slightly misplayed and/or off target.
Shooting in PES 2017 is slightly better as the variety stemming from new animations produces different results. All’s not perfect with shooting as shots seem to be a little too accurate when it comes to being on target, and occasionally you will see sliding as players shift while getting their shot off. Thankfully, the perfectly placed shots by the CPU into the bottom corner have been addressed.
Keepers, a perennial weakness in the game, have been dramatically improved. Gone are the slow-motion dives that have plagued them for years. Keepers now parry shots and quickly get back on their feet to perform double and even triple saves. If there’s one area to nitpick when it comes to keepers, it’s that they seem to parry shots back into danger instead of pushing them wide out of the reach of attackers looking to poach a goal.
The flow of the game has been slowed down from the end-to-end action that plagued PES 2016. More build-up, through some of the newer tactics (tiki-taka for example) as well as better positioning by defenders makes those PES-like moments stand out even more. Now that fouls are evident, the pace feels right and can go from standstill to fast in a matter of seconds. Tactically, Konami has strangely locked several settings, perhaps to keep the demo at a reasonable size, but it’s still a little disappointing that defensive tactics like the “gegenpress” cannot be selected after hearing so much about it during Gamescom. Stamina depletion also occurs at a more realistic rates, meaning you don’t have to make substitutions solely for the sake of tired legs.
The graphics and lighting seem to be improved. The faces look great up close, and apart from Messi’s blond hair omission and blocky shorts there really are no complaints on the PS4 version. The Xbox One version still seems to suffer from inferior graphics as the game seems to have a slight haze over it. Replays also seem better with more TV-like angles, although the motion blur is a bit excessive.
The control scheme hasn’t changed but player responsiveness is better than ever. The weight and inertia that excelled in PES 2016 are back creating a different feel between players like Neymar and Per Mertesacker. Ball physics, player reaction times, and CPU teammates that help instead of hinder also help create realistic passing percentages.
The demo also offers a good variety of teams with different styles, a major PES strength. Barca’s “tiki-taka” is represented very well, even down to the infamous passing triangles and high defensive line. France’s skill and flair on the ball with the likes of Payet, Pogba and Griezmann feel sublime while Germany has their organized system down to a science. Just to offer something different, the fast-paced and hard-tacking action of Argentinian powerhouses’ Boca Juniors and River Plate are included in the demo. I have personally found myself enjoying playing with Carlos Tevez and will definitely keep an eye on him for a future Master League transfer once the full game drops.
Overall, the PES 2017 demo is very promising and if you’re a footy fan, casual or die hard, this should be on your radar come early September. As we near that September 13 US release date, more information on the edit mode, licenses, and Master League should be slowly coming out. When you combine this news with the demo and the start of the European soccer season, there’s more than enough footy to keep us all satisfied.
After playing the PES 2017 demo, will you be picking up the full game when it releases, or will you take a “wait and see” approach?