So I didn’t download the demo immediately upon its release. I purposely waited 2 days during which I read the reviews and opinions. In order to compare the demo more accurately to PES 15, I also exposed myself to a healthy dose of PES 15, which I had not played for a while.
Upon downloading the demo, I could not help but notice the similarities with PES 15 as far as menus and overall navigation are concerned. I thought “here we go again”, the same old tired presentation which would inevitably translate in the same old game play. Luckily I was wrong! And how wrong!
Before I give my opinion on the demo, let me get one thing out of the way. People who claim that the demo of PES 16 is just a visual improvement over PES 15 + some tighter controls either have not played PES 15 recently or have not played the demo sufficiently. I agree that upon first view the game looks similar, but only when you spend a little time with the demo do you realise the amazing job Konami have done this year. In years past I would take the offering with that habitual feeling of “yes, it’s got its problems, but it’s PES so small issues are expected and part of the product”. This year, for the first time I cannot honestly see a glaring issue or gamebreaker. Everything feels tight, natural and pretty well balanced. That, in conjunction with the sharper graphics and more realistic player models is just the ticket for a great experience ahead.
Others have commented on the visuals. Indeed, the game looks sharp, the pitch is great, the grass and lighting is fantastic. PES 15 had good lighting in the sun, but as soon as the player stepped in shadow, the colours would look very artificial. I could not see this issue in the demo. Some player faces are scarily accurate. Tevez is eerie – it honestly looks like a photo. 8/10 on visuals.
This is another little change that Konami have implemented that not many have noticed. Player models look less squashed and more “present” on the pitch. Difficult to put this in words, but they just look more realistically proportioned to pitch and camera angle, regardless of each camera you play on. I find that FIFA players look a tad too skinny but I still preferred them to models in PES 15. The demo has the perfect balance IMO. 9/10.
This is hit and miss but mostly hit. Mostly, players would move in a pretty standard way, but you can tell which players Konami have focused on – Pogba has that gazelle type running style as in real life and Pirlo is also perfectly implemented with his quick feet movements. They skills are also accurately recreated. Similarly cover boy Neymar is recreated amazingly well in running / movement style. Others have not received the same level of attention – Alonso, for one does not look great and you would not be able to pick him out by looking at his running style. Equally teams shapes look and feel very different. I played 10 games with Juventus and then switched to Brazil and it was immediately noticeable how different these two teams are positioned and structured. Juventus had the more defensive DNA, whereas Brazil were totally attack oriented. 8/10.
Inertia / momentum
This is where I believe Konami have made the biggest stride. In years past you could tell that the desire to implement momentum was there, but unfortunately the result was very hit and miss. Players would get unrealistic speed bursts and animations would show the ball or legs going through player models, just to support the action. Now, this is all but gone. The animations are fantastic and tightly follow the action without warping physics laws. If you have accelerated past a player, this is because the other player was wrong footed trying to make a tackle or his body was not positioned adequately for him to follow or tackle the ball carrier. Equally, if a defender is positioned well, he can make a successful tackle even if the ball carrier makes a sudden movement. If he misses, the player is away but if he succeeds, the ball carrier loses the ball and is out of position. I love these nuances, which are implemented beautifully. Equally if a player takes a snap shot, the keeper is often unable to respond – just like in real life whereas if the keeper can see the player is about to shoot, he is able to adjust and respond much better to parry the shot. 10/10.
On the subject of keepers – again a fantastic job by Konami. There are so many new animations and so many ways a keeper can either save or let a goal in. While playing the demo I have scored goals and had goals scored on me in a myriad of different ways, none of which feel or look the same. The unpredictability is there in every situations. Yes, keepers would often watch a ball go out of play instead of making an effort to keep it in, but I expect that AI decision making to be pretty tough to implement successfully. And I love the way Neuer comes out of his area to head balls just like in real life. 9/10
The game has a natural flow to it, but I find that it best works with manual controls (no support) and with speed at -1. This is where you can unlock some truly spectacular gameplay – from through passes which split the defense to amazing counter attacks. On the subject of AI, I have noticed how players now overlap, come to “ask for the ball” and generally move logically and you would expect them to I real life. Right backs would also support the attack much more often. Pass and shot speed is great. No issues there. 9/10
Not all is rosy of course. There is a distinct lack of fouls in the game, though I do actually like that form one angle as it keeps the flow of the game. But yes, certain situations which should be certain fouls are not called by the ref.
I have also noticed that the game is easier to play against the COM. Typically I played PES 15 on Professional, but this year I can easily play on Top Player with manual controls. I am guessing Konami made the Demo easier to attract new players. In terms of AI The COM leaves a lot of space and does not press sufficiently. I also noticed that when the COM loses the ball in attack, its strikers would immediately retreat instead of pressing the defenders. That is probably my biggest gripe with the demo.
Overall really really pleased with the demo and frankly quite surprised. I wasn’t expecting such a leap but Konami have delivered big time. The FIFA demo is not out yet, but I can’t see them topping this effort. Yes, they have all the licenses, but the reason why people have persevered with PES over the years has been the realistic gameplay and this year Konami delivers in spades.