Pro Evolution Soccer 2016
Some players rise to the occasion with a great performance just when their teams need it most. That time has come for the Pro Evolution franchise. Pro Evo has spent the last couple of iterations gathering itself while rival FIFA hit the ground running and then some this generation. Now, in what feels like a crucial point in the match, Pro Evo has bagged a striking equalizer.
PES 2016 represents the sport in beautiful fashion. Without the need for the overly complex controls or burdensome, layered-on tactical systems of the past, the ease and fluidity of the controls is in harmony with the actions of your A.I. teammates. The off-the-ball movement to create give-and-gos are generated naturally, players find good spaces in the box and go for runs, and defenders jostle dribblers and cut out passes. I'm using certain controls less this year, but my play is as fluid, imaginative, and fun as ever. From one-on-one encounters to seeing and orchestrating plays three moves in advance, it's all at your fingertips. The buckets of new animations represent the action well, and don't clutter the gameplay like they occasionally did last year.
On the other side of the ball, the A.I. does a better job than last year of passing the ball out of your high press, can be lethal when shooting from the edge of the box, and is quick on the counter by pumping long through balls into the channels. The latter can be offset with quick defensive tactics already mapped to your d-pad. PES 2016 is also a much more physical game, with opposing players nipping at your feet, barging you off the ball, and getting stuck in. Nevertheless, it doesn't needlessly interrupt the flow, produce too many fouls, or feel cheap.
One of my few complaints about the gameplay is that defenders can switch off at times, neglecting to disrupt a close through ball (making through balls over-powered at times) or not making follow-up defensive moves in the box. Also, possession occasionally feels pre-determined, like when you go for a shot in the box and your player does a slide tackle instead because the game has determined that the loose ball is already the defender's.
The Master League career mode contributes to this year's success. Better presentation does wonders, and small additions make big contributions. Your scout recommends players for the transfer windows based on your areas of weakness, back-and-forth negotiations for contract renewals occur throughout the season, and team instructions create chemistry among players. My favorite aspect is the team roles. Certain players have or develop them, and they level up as you play. These roles not only offer bonuses for that player and sometimes teammates, but they can contribute to the club's finances. Curiously, however, the mode restricts your contract options at times, a step back from last year.
MyClub also continues to grow into a destination online mode that's more than an Ultimate Team knockoff. Players get better simply by playing time (although you don't direct how they grow), and those on your roster can become trainers and help the club. Given that you're accruing GP for players, agents, etc. while you play and they're awarded for other activities in the mode, I didn't feel like GP is hard to come by. Also, manager contracts are extended for free if you meet certain objectives, which is nice.
Developer PES Productions has talked the last two years about laying the foundation for the future, and this is the succulent fruit of their labor. PES 2016 is about more than just a few additions for the year. It ushers in a new era for the franchise that needs to be experienced.
This game was reviewed on the PS4 and Xbox One. It also appears on the PS3, Xbox 360, and PC.