Over the years, gaming has seen some strong rivalries as developers go head-to-head in an attempt to dominate the market; Call of Duty vs. Battlefield, Forza vs. Gran Turismo, Guitar Hero vs. Rock Band… the list goes on. However, very few rivalries have provided as many thrills and spills as FIFA vs. PES (Pro Evolution Soccer).

Whereas the competition has swayed in EA’s favour in recent times, with FIFA continuing to assert its dominance in the UK Video Games Chart, Konami are slowly levelling the playing field. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is a return to former glory for the series. Pro Evolution Soccer is back!

PES 2015 retains the typical gameplay we have come accustom to, while also providing a realistic football simulation. The pacing and flow of the action is incredibly life-like: passes require pin-point accuracy and precision; there’s a real sense of urgency when on the break and there’s also a large focus on team play. While the likes of Ronaldo and Messi are able to tear defences to shreds, PES 2015 encourages players to utilise space, as the AI fill the gaps amongst the opposing back four.

This is largely down to a new implementation for the series known as “Fluid Formations”. The new feature allows players to set three different formations (or variations within the same formations) that your team automatically adopts within three situations: at kick-off, when you are in possession and when you lose possession. The feature works flawlessly during gameplay and it adds a much-needed tactical depth to the title.

Shooting is as unpredictable as ever, as the lack of hotspots means you won’t be knocking the same effort in countless times. Whether it’s a 40-yard volley, a chipped shot from the edge of a box or an attempt at a bicycle kick, there’s every chance that it could hit the back of the net. On the other end of the shots are the goalkeepers, who are now far more decisive and less error-prone. The men between the sticks feel more human as they pull off a wide range of saves, such as punching a ball clear from a corner, jumping onto a loose ball or parrying a thunderous effort.

However, there are some minor issues with the gameplay. Through balls are over-effective, especially in the final third of the pitch, as the vast majority lead to goal-scoring chances. More frustratingly, tackles are particularly difficult to execute, as lunges for the ball regularly result in a foul and an accompanying booking.

Despite all its successes in the gameplay, it’s off the pitch where PES 2015’s main problems persist, as the title’s game modes struggle to make a major impact. The Master League returns although, despite its improved transfer system, the game mode feels incredibly outdated and basic in comparison to FIFA 15’s Manager Mode. It’s a similar case with Be A Legend and the multiplayer game modes, which could also do with a major overhaul.

The similarities to FIFA’s game modes continue with MyClub – Konami’s interpretation of Ultimate Team – in which players build up a squad of star players. All the similarities are there, all the way down to the team “spirit” (i.e. chemistry). The major difference is the way in which players are signed. Rather than opening packs or through trading, new additions are made through agents at random, with higher level agents bringing in bigger names.

While MyClub is PES 2015’s strongest game mode and it certainly has the basis for a promising concept, it doesn’t have the same appeal and likeability as FIFA’s Ultimate Team. This is largely down to the lack of big stars within the game – a problem that exists due to the lack of licenses.

EA’s stranglehold on the licenses means that all the English teams (with the exception of Manchester United) are represented with the usual mock names (North London, Man Blue, Yorkshire Orange, etc.) and it’s a similar case with the other big leagues. While Konami has secured the licensing rights for both the Champions League and Europa League, the lack of authenticity on the whole comes as a disappointment, especially for die-hard football fans.

In terms of presentation, PES 2015 fails to live up to the glitz and glamour of its rival. The bland menus, dull TV overlays and a lack of atmosphere in the stadiums are all incredibly disappointing, especially for a next-gen title. However, while a few players closely resemble a knock off Madame Tussauds waxwork, the vast majority look brilliant and are instantly recognisable from their real life counterparts. There’s an incredible attention to detail in the player modelling; it’s just a shame Konami didn’t put the same time and effort in elsewhere.

There’s also room for improvement in terms of the audio. Both Jon Champion and Jim Beglin return as the commentary pairing in PES 2015, although the combination of a weak script and poor delivery make for incredibly difficult listening. As for the soundtrack, PES 2015 features 11 tracks in total, including hits from the likes of Avicii, Bastille and Calvin Harris. While the songs have been well selected to cater for the game’s audience, the sheer lack of tracks comes as a slight disappointment.

Whereas Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is the series’ best outing in years, it still has a way to go before it provides a real challenge for FIFA. Despite being one of the most realistic football simulations on the market, the outdated game modes and the poor presentation are major downfalls. With some minor improvements, this could have been a real title challenger.

David Wriglesworth

David Wriglesworth is a Northern lad with a passion for gaming, who graduated from the University of Lincoln with a BA (Hons) Journalism degree. If you can drag him away from the consoles, you can probably find him Tweeting or watching Coronation Street.

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