I’m personally not a big sports fan, nor do I follow sports games, but I’ve always had an affinity for soccer and basketball. Both sports require quick thinking, fast reflexes, and most importantly, they emphasize teamwork. PES has been my favorite sports series since the Playstation 2 era, and Konami’s latest entry outshines its predecessors in just about every way. From the hyper-realistic player animations to the plethora of rich content, PES 2017 currently stands as the definitive soccer simulation, and may be the most authentic soccer entry to date.
PES and Fifa have always competed neck to neck, and while both franchises have their own strengths and weaknesses, Fifa has matured little in the gameplay department. Even with the inclusion of a new story mode, Fifa’s changes come off as desperate efforts to imbue an old dish with fresh seasoning. Maybe that’s a little too harsh, but as great as the story mode is, it seems to distract from the fact that Fifa hasn’t changed much where it matters most: on the field. On the other hand, Konami’s failure to include women’s teams is truly disappointing.
"From the hyper-realistic player animations to the plethora of rich content, PES 2017 currently stands as the definitive soccer simulation, and may be the most authentic soccer entry to date."
While we’re talking about disappointments, let’s get the negatives out of the way. Visually, PES 2017 is still struggling to reach Fifa’s polish. The Fox Engine may a drastic improvement over previous iterations, but PES 2017 still doesn’t look like a 2016 title. Player models look great, but when their mouths open, they look like morphed waxed statues that have come to life. Framerate also seems to be switching to 30fps during cutscenes, and it’s especially bothersome when trying to view replays. On a positive note, plays animations are superb. Characters behave so realistically, it’s easy to mistake the game in action to the real thing.
Since I don’t follow the sport or its teams, I’m not here to judge the title on its licensing shortcomings. Instead, I want to focus on how PES 2017 plays as a pure soccer simulation. When it comes to dribbling, passing and strategizing on-the-fly, PES 2017 offers unprecedented realism. The AI improvements are substantial, and they became apparent the moment you attempt your first pass.
"But even with its shortcoming, PES 2017 remains the best playing soccer title on the market."
Your teammates behave in a more realistic manner, re-positioning themselves constantly, and making better independent decisions when following through with the offense. It’s no longer enough to simply aim the direction of your teammate and press X. You have to keep an eye on the ball and player behavior, making sure they won’t stumble if you make quick directional shifts. Just like in a real match of soccer, there is a sense of unpredictability that encourages are more technical and strategic approach to playing the game. As someone who knows very little about sports, PES 2017 is the first sports game that genuinely makes me feel like a virtual athlete.
Content wise there’s plenty of modes to keep seasoned fans busy for a really long time. But, it’s also here where Konami could’ve pushed things further. The omission of female teams alienates an entire audience of soccer fans, and thus, makes PES a lesser title when compared to Fifa’s more diverse offering.
But even with its shortcoming, PES 2017 remains the best playing soccer title on the market. Fifa remains more polished and offers more content for veteran soccer fans, but it can’t match Konami’s unrivaled realism.