Originally debuting under the Winning Eleven name in Japan, the Pro Evolution Soccer series has been a near annual Konami staple since the early days of the original PlayStation in 1996. Often overshadowed by EA Sport’s FIFA series, Pro Evolution Soccer has managed to stay relevant over the years by offering an alternative to football fans. Struggling to find its own identity in recent years, Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 not only makes a return to the quality of the earlier entries in the series, but presents itself as one of the most realistic and accessible soccer games to date that helps it to feel like a real competitor with the rival FIFA.
Last year, Konami debuted their much talked about Fox Engine with Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, which returns once again this year. Already smooth and crisp, PES 2015 takes the Fox Engine to a new level, with the limitations of last-gen consoles no longer a problem in the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions. At a locked 1080p and 60 fps, at least on the PlayStation 4 version, these new heights have allowed the physics and collision detection to be at its most effective and impressive state in the series’ history, and perhaps even the football game genre as a whole.
The power of the current generation consoles also allowed the developer to further strengthen the graphical output, which has led to the best looking Pro Evolution Soccer game yet. While the game does have limitations on the players they can use, they have done a fantastic job at trying to make the players look as much like their real life counterparts as possible. Even more remarkable is how beautiful the locales themselves look in the game, especially Wembley Stadium. There is no doubt that PES Productions took advantage of the console upgrade and it really shows in the final product.
One area that the Pro Evolution Soccer series has always struggled is the lack of many exclusive licenses, especially in comparison to its main competitor. The inability to play with Major League Soccer, Team USA, or especially the Premier League can easily be a major problem for many football fans. Sadly, this is still a massive hindrance to the series this year, as not only are many licenses missing, but they also do not have the rights to many of the most famous football players in the world. The game obviously has longtime cover athlete Cristiano Ronaldo, but is missing way too many other faces of the sport from around the globe. However, the development staff does manage to go above and beyond with the somewhat limited licenses that they do have in their possession.
As can be seen directly from the main menu, there are a number of leagues and cups that the game has chosen to exhibit, including the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League, and AFC Champions League. Each of these are not just thrown into the mix for name recognition, but rather Konami shows love to each of them, with unique introductions and a presentation that truly showcases what one would expect from the atmosphere of a game.
Beyond the presentation within these leagues, each one is somewhat lacking in features, as they are meant to be a quick option for players to pick up and play. However, if one is looking for a little more depth in this department, Master League is the much more suitable option. Easily one of the standout features in last year’s iteration, Master League offers players the opportunity to not only play the individual matches, but also run a team in the typical “manager mode” style.
As the head of the player’s team of choice, one has the ability to not only scout players from around the globe, but also to negotiate and sign them to the team. Combining this aspect with the ability to game plan between games, Master League offers the player near complete control of their franchise. Rather than churn out the same game mode with a little polish from last year, Master League has been revamped in a few ways, especially when involving players. The aforementioned negotiations are much more involved, with the ability to scout players and then aim to sign them. The negotiations seem a little easier this time around, but that is not much of a problem. In addition, one can focus on training specific players now, allowing for even more strategy in the long run.
Also returning is Become A Legend mode, where gamers can create a new player or pick from the pool of existing ones already in the game and start a career with that specific player. Create a character is incredibly in-depth, reminiscent of the MLB The Show franchise in scale, by offering an abundance of creation tools, albeit with very few actual face types. Unlike with Master League, PES Productions did not reinvent the wheel with Become A Legend, but it still provides an excellent and addicting game mode for fans of the sport.
In an age where ESPN and YouTube continue to thrive, replays of the top moments are as prevalent as ever. However, one of the biggest faults from Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 returns with the frustrating replay system. Most sports games allow the player to quickly skip a replay almost instantly with the press of a button, but that is not the case once again with this year’s iteration. After a goal has been scored, players will have to wait to see it from a variety of angles, before being prompted to record the replay. This is incredibly redundant, with both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One having share features built into the consoles now, and instead it interrupts the fast-paced action of the game.
PES 2015 takes the Fox Engine to a new level, with the limitations of last-gen consoles no longer a problem
Providing a well designed and easy to navigate main menu is vital in any sports game, due to the frequency that the player will be moving between the number of game modes. Coming off of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014’s abysmal menu layout, the entire menu presentation has been revamped this time around. Taking a cue from EA Sport’s recent outings, not only does this year’s iteration feature a streamlined menu that allows the player to browse and find the various game modes with ease, but PES Productions has also chosen to feature dynamic updates to the “Home” part of the screen, making it even easier for players old and new.
Another much needed feature in this genre is some semblance of a tutorial system, due to the very complex nature of the gameplay. Whether it is a brand new player or someone just wanting a refresher course, Pro Evolution Soccer’s Skills Trainer is superb. Teaching the different move types one by one, with gradually increase in difficulty within each, players can learn how to compete with the best rather quickly. From the simple to the complex, the developer managed to provide a skills training mode that can match up with the best in the industry.
While the majority of the game modes in Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 are simply upgrades upon those found in past iterations, the game also features one major addition, MyClub. Jumping onto the trend found in basically every EA Sports game over the last few years, PES Productions has introduced their equivalent of Ultimate Team. Starting from the bottom, one can build their own team from nearly nothing, including the ability to name the team and design the uniforms. The team is assigned a roster of mostly weak players at the start, with the goal to upgrade by signing stronger players in the future. With daily bonuses, this is a game mode that should easily bring players back again and again, especially with the ability to play games against the computer or online opponents.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 improves on many of the already positive features of the past, while also adding a few. The return of the Fox Engine has provided possibly the most realistic soccer gameplay there has ever been, though the lack of many major licenses in the sport does hurt. While the game may be overshadowed by the now more arcade style FIFA series, Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 stands out as the best simulation soccer game on the market easily and is not one to be missed for true fans of the sport.
- This article was updated on December 17th, 2014