It’s that time of year again when the football season is finally back in full swing and the annual release of PES is right around the corner. It’s a great time to be a football fan and a gamer as we head into the business part of the gaming calendar that sees Konami and EA square off against each other to see who can be crowned the champion of football games. Last year, PES 2016 set about restoring the series back to its former glory and to a large extent it succeeded. However, if last year’s game looked to shake up the formula and breathe new life into Konami’s franchise, PES 2017 instead looks to refine and build upon the foundations laid in PES 2016 rather than introducing a range of new features and gameplay mechanics. And that’s certainly not a bad thing. In fact, it may be just what the series needs as it looks to close the gap with FIFA.
PES has always been about the passing game, and this year Konami have taken it to the next level with the introduction of “Real Touch” and “Precise Pass”. With real touch, players now control the ball differently depending on their stats and the context of the situation, meaning that lower skilled players will have a poorer first touch than someone like Iniesta or Messi, and as a result it adds an additional layer of realism to PES 2017. Real touch also ensures that players use the space around them wisely when receiving the ball, allowing you to turn defenders and spin into space with just a flick of the analog stick. As expected, this comes with a number of new animations including players improvising their touches with the ball when shooting and passing, resulting in some spectacular passes, shots, and goals which will have you hitting that replay button in awe.
The other big gameplay addition this year is Precise Pass which aims to make passing more realistic and satisfying. Players’ stats play another key role here as to what kind of passes a player can pull off and whether or not they succeed. This becomes extremely noticeable as you enter the final third as that final killer ball is no longer as easy as pressing Y, or when playing a lofted ball and only players with higher passing stats will be able to execute the perfect through ball more often than those with lower stats. This does turn matches into games of attrition at times as both teams look to break the other down waiting for that pocket of space to open up or a mistake to be made, but it also makes every player more valuable and gives them an identity on the pitch. Players feel like they have their own personality and style, which is something that has been lacking from both FIFA and PES over recent years.
Another area of the game that you’ll notice a considerable change in straight away is dribbling. In PES 2017 dribbling feels a lot tighter than it did before with players being able to keep the ball under better control. Players like Messi and Ronaldo are very skillful dribblers of the ball in real-life, and Konami have recreated their dribbling abilities and styles down to a tee with the pair playing exactly like their real life counterparts thanks to PlayerID. It’s only when facing a virtual Lionel Messi that you get to fully appreciate just how good that guy is and how well Konami have done to recreate him. Of course, they aren’t the only two who have had their styles transported into the virtual world. PES 2017 features more players than ever who look, feel, and play like they would in real life.
Shooting has also undergone a few tweaks and changes in PES 2017 with goals being a lot harder to come by compared to PES 2016. One obvious reason for this is the nerfing of the through ball, although it’s still by no means useless; it has a time and place to be used now. Not only are clear cut chances harder to create, but shooting is also more skill based now. Again, players’ stats play a key role in what kind of shots a player can perform and how effective they will be. The lofted shot has also been nerfed and it is now no longer possible to run parallel with the keeper and chip it into his far corner. There’s nothing major, but these tweaks and changes refine the shooting mechanic for the better, and as a result scoring a goal not only feels a lot more rewarding but it looks a lot more realistic too.
It would be unfair to mention goals being harder to come by without giving goalkeepers their share of the credit for keeping the ball out of the net. Goalkeepers have never been better and are now capable of pulling off fantastic double and even triple saves. It’s great to see how far they have come in just a few years.
When it comes to gameplay, this year is definitely a case of tying up any loose ends from PES 2016 as well as refining the gameplay even further to help deliver a better all around experience. By tightening up the gameplay, Konami have created a footballing experience that exceeds last year’s game and possibly surpasses all previous PES games.
What about game modes, though? Well, PES 2017 doesn’t introduce any new game modes, so in that area it’s the same as last year. However, Konami have made a few additions and tweaks to the game’s most popular modes: Master League and myClub. Master League is where I have spent most of my time with the game so far, and I’m having a blast. The UI is the same as in PES 2016, which is fine as they did a great job at revamping the Master League menus last year. The most notable addition to the mode is transfer deadline day. For the first time ever in PES, you can now sign and sell players on the last day of the transfer window. When you enter August 31st, you’re presented with a countdown timer for when the window slams shut, giving you plenty of time to negotiate last minute deals. Each negotiation knocks down the timer by 2 hours, but there are more than enough turns available to get your business completed in time. Not only that, but 6 month loans have been added as well as the ability to sign a player while he is on loan at your club.
Another new addition is the introduction of transfer and wage budgets which are separate from one another. This means that when you sign players, their wages no longer come out of your transfer fund, meaning you have more money to play with. When you sell players, their wages will be refunded to your wage budget whilst the transfer fee gets added to your transfer budget. It’s a small change but one which is certainly welcome. New team roles have also been added bringing the total number of roles available for players to gain to 22, which helps to give your players some personality and identity. There are a few tweaks and changes to the training system as well such as allowing players to learn new skills. Overall, Master League is a very well-rounded and addicting game mode which is where most people will likely find themselves spending the majority of their time.
As for myClub mode, I haven’t been able to give it a try yet as the servers don’t switch on until the game launches on September 15th in the UK, but it seems to be pretty much the same as last year with the introduction of scouts which help you find and sign players for your club. It sounds like a useful addition, but I haven’t been able to see it in practice. However, the ability to analyse your opponents has been added, allowing you to see their playstyles and tendencies before the game starts.
When it comes to licenses, however, PES 2017 has less league licenses than before, unfortunately. EA has snapped up the Liga BBVA and Liga Adelante licenses from Spain, meaning that both leagues are now completely unlicensed, including the teams. That means that even Real Madrid is no longer licensed with the only licensed teams from Spain being FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid. Serie A as a league is also unlicensed but has all the official teams apart from Juventus and Sassuolo. Serie B, however, is missing all the licenses with no official teams whatsoever. The same can be said for the Portuguese Primeira Liga and the English Premier League and Championship. Only Arsenal and Liverpool are licensed from England. However, Konami have secured the licensing rights for Ligue 1 & 2 as well as the dutch Eredivisie.
It’s important to remember that Konami essentially have their hands tied when it comes to obtaining league licenses due to the deals EA have signed with the leagues for FIFA 17. Konami have responded by signing deals with the likes of FC Barcelona and Atletico Madrid which help to ease the pain a little. So, while it’s hard to blame Konami, it’s unfortunately going to make it a lot harder to convince diehard FIFA fans or anyone looking for an authentic matchday experience to give PES a try.
PES 2017 does come with licenses for the Champions League and Europa League though, which help create a somewhat authentic European experience. Unfortunately, it’s short lived as the lack of team licenses this year takes away from the overall experience as each season you’ll struggle to find enough real teams to compete against in the tournaments and will instead be left facing unlicensed teams.
To address its lack of licenses, Konami has always made the ability to edit players, teams, and leagues one of its most important features. This means that on all platforms you can change the names of teams from Manchester Red to Manchester United or East Dorsetshire to AFC Bournemouth. On Xbox One, however, PES 2017 lacks the editing options that are available on PlayStation 4, meaning that gamers on Microsoft’s platform can’t import images such as badges and kits. On Xbox One, it’s a pure vanilla editing experience. PS4 and PC gamers, however, will be able to import proper badges and kits via USB sticks on the PS4 or through mods for the Steam version of the game. You can check out out guide to real team names in PES 2017 here to help you edit the game correctly.
If you can see past the lack of licensing though and are comfortable with spending a few hours editing team and league names, as well as kits if you’re anything like me, the gameplay in PES 2017 definitely makes the time and effort worthwhile.
FIFA 17 has real competition this year. PES 2017 has come charging out of the blocks and is the best PES game we have seen for some years, if not ever. It’s an easy game to recommend to any football fan, but unfortunately, its lack of licenses again could prove to be a key factor in trying to convince FIFA players to pick it up, which is a real shame as there’s a gem of a game here.
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 15th September 2016