Every year the two big football games come out, and every year FIFA is the one that the mainstream media ends up talking about. Consistent gameplay combined with all of the licences you could ever wish for usually make FIFA the more attractive proposition, but this year PES 2017 is putting up one hell of a fight, and when on the pitch there is no other game that can even come close to its quality.
With last year’s outing, PES was so close to perfection on the field. The passing was crisp, the AI intelligent, and the on pitch variation interesting, but there were a few serious issues. Referees didn’t seem to know that they had yellow or red cards at their disposal, and the less said about the skill of the keepers the better. This year with PES 2017 those issues have been ironed out and even more improvements have been made.
Weirdly, there isn’t one big change that has revolutionised PES this year; instead there are many small tweaks. More animations have been added, all of which look incredibly realistic. A player may slip and hold themselves up by placing a hand on the ground when changing direction at pace, or when a player goes for an acrobatic overhead kick they will position themselves in the best place to score, instead of locking into one of about three animations for that situation.
Players also seem to move in a more natural way. Rapid changes of pace aren't really possible, and positioning is more important than ever. Opening up your body with your first touch can be the difference between skipping past the oncoming defender and losing the ball in a dangerous location.
On a similar note, player stats seem to have more of an important role this year, so while the likes of Messi can probably pull off a first time over the top through ball on the volley, a lesser player will most likely fail miserably. This plays a role in all areas of the pitch: experienced players will be less likely to have a honking first touch, while the younger cohort will most likely have the pace to catch up with any balls that go astray. When in the deep game modes such as Master League, this becomes even more important and means you really have to learn your players’ skills.
This all adds up to the on pitch action feeling fantastic. The pace is near perfect, the ball moves incredibly naturally, and the AI actually moves into good positions. While this isn’t a perfect simulation of football, PES 2017 takes the best bits and makes them pop up often enough to keep things entertaining. While a boring 0-0 will happen from time to time, as you would expect, most games will feature at least a couple of big talking points, whether that be a dubious penalty decision or the finest goal you have ever seen. Not every game is going to be a seven goal thriller, and that is okay, because each match has its own story, and chances are you will remember a lot of them for some time.
Off the pitch the PES 2017 modes remain largely the same, with the standard exhibition and online play options being easy go to choices to start with. Once you have the hang of things graduating to the excellent Master League will allow you to take managerial control of one of the teams while also still playing every match. The depth that you expect from this mode is ever present but not all that much has changed. MyClub is also back to give you the Ultimate Team style game mode, but even fewer changes make it almost a moot point. There is more than enough to keep you entertained across the year, but a few new big ideas would have been nice.
There are a few issues in PES 2017, although fortunately almost all of them are off the pitch. Load times are a little longer than what you would hope for and the menus, while somewhat improved, are still a bit of a chore to navigate. There is also one frustrating bug that has popped up a couple of times where, after running after a ball that has gone out of play, a player gets stuck behind the advertising boards and is unable to return to take a throw in,. Seemingly the only way to stop his never ending on the spot sprint is to make a substitution or else restart the match..
These are just minor issues with what is easily the best PES ever. The on pitch gameplay is so close to perfect that it is a struggle to imagine how they can beat it next year, while Master League and the online offerings will give you enough gameplay variation to keep you occupied for the next twelve months. If on pitch action is what you value over everything else, then you can’t go wrong with PES 2017, which I would say is the best football game ever made.