Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 in the test - that kicks!

Author: Tobias Veltin, Johannes Rohe
Date: 2015-09-15 13:29:00
For the twentieth PES birthday, Konami is releasing Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. And that is shown to be meaningfully improved in the test, but it also reveals old weaknesses.

Finally prettier: the champions league

As usual, we have the choice between various individual matches, competitions (such as leagues or tournaments), can build a troop in the master league mode or accompany a kicker on his career in the become a legend mode. It's also nice that the useful training mode is included again, which introduces newbies to the basics of PES kicking.

As is often the case, the improvement is in the details, because Konami did a lot of fine-tuning in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. The master league mode, for example, is finally getting the long overdue major overhaul. The boring tables of recent years are no longer there, instead a clear start menu with scrolling texts, table status and current news.

This not only looks more modern, but also more informative. The improvement in the scouting department is great, and we can now specifically commission it to look for kickers that we are still missing in our squad structure. Appropriate suggestions will then be made a few virtual days later.

We also have to think more about the harmony in the team in PES 2016, because through targeted training, youth players, for example, can grow into the role of shooting stars and theoretically even pull the whole team away. For analysts, the new monthly evaluation of their own playing style is particularly interesting: Here there are attack areas, pass paths and much more clearly broken down.

The presentation has also been tweaked, now there are some new cutscenes, for example when a new player signs a contract. In general, the optimized champions league is a big step in the right direction.

License stagnation

In contrast, PES 2016 stagnated in terms of licenses. Sure, we weren't expecting much, but there might have been a little more surprises for the series' anniversary. There are still some fully licensed leagues (for example from Spain or France), but many others such as the English league are only represented with a mix of real and "fake" teams, and there are also a number of teams from South America and even the Asian champions League, which, with a team rating of two or three stars, fall into the category of "uninteresting".

The Champions League and Europa League licenses, which are exclusive to Konami, continue to be used only unsatisfactorily because a number of teams such as the EL participants Augsburg, Dortmund and Schalke are not represented. The Bundesliga will continue to be found exclusively at EA for years to come, after all, the German teams Bayern Munich, Borussia Mönchengladbach, Vfl Wolfsburg and the German world championship team will be there with real names, logos and jerseys. Even though Konami now has many real teams on board, the gap is still huge.

Gameplay remains the big trump card

In return, Konami is delivering a playful fireworks display on the square with PES 2016, which shows once again why this series rightly continues to have its place. The already very good basic structure of the predecessor has been optimized in several places. What is immediately noticeable: The players can now be controlled more directly, which is extremely satisfying.

The slight delay typical of PES has been almost completely eliminated, which is a great advantage, especially when dribbling in tight spaces. In 1-on-1 situations, we now have even more options to fool opponents with, for example, body deception, but we have to be careful that massive defensive edges do not simply push us away - the duels were also adapted in PES 2016.

We also find it very pleasant that we can position ourselves better before a header duel thanks to the more direct control. And in the best case scenario, after such a duel, the ball lands with our teammates, who are now even more active, especially in the opposing half, and tear gaps.

We could hardly see that a player crosses into the penalty area behind our backs in the predecessor, in PES 2016 that is even more of the pleasant rule.

More freedom, more jubilation

All of this, together with the outstanding ball physics, leads to a very dynamic course of the game, from which beautiful attacks and successful defensive maneuvers result after a short time - especially slides and steep passes to the top can now be timed as wonderfully as seldom before when you hit the opponent in the last The moment you spit the ball off your feet or the fellow serves the striker on a silver platter, you feel like Lionel Messi himself.

After a hit, we can now, as with FIFA, steer our kicker across the field and trigger context-sensitive or predetermined cheers, a nice addition.

The opponents adapt to this good level, shut down the shop especially in front of the penalty area, block up the rooms and attack mercilessly from the level of "top player", even if we can sometimes still walk a little too easily through midfield. On the levels of difficulty below it is a bit too easy to score.

In our opinion, the goalkeepers could hold more balls that are fired diagonally. In addition, every now and then they are a little hesitant when running out, but only rarely repel balls forwards and above all catch a lot of shots.

And the referees? The whistles in PES 2016 are very English, run a lot and hardly ever hand out a card. This is a bit surprising now and then, but fortunately it does not delay the flow of the game.

Enthusiasm for animation and frustration with detail

The fact that PES 2016 feels a bit like real football is mainly due to the fantastic animations. It should be three times more than in PES 2015 and in fact, even after tens of matches, we still discover small movements that inspire us.

The casualness of a pass with the outside of the foot, for example. Or a goalkeeper who dredged a long-range shot over the goal. Our player who stumbles after a tackle but pulls himself up again and keeps walking. Gestures of indignation after an alleged foul. Or, or, or ... Just watching the movements of the kickers is a real delight. What is particularly impressive is how smoothly the individual animations merge into one another.

In the repetitions it still looks a bit awkward, especially since many kickers are strangely leaning forward. Nevertheless, In PES 2016 looks like a live broadcast in most cases in the normal game view.

In the close-up, however, the illusion crumbles. Even the console versions for Playstation 4 and Xbox One do not tear up trees during the presentation. Yes, the running-in sequences look very chic, especially since a number of players can be recognized immediately (also by their movements), but there is nothing more than considerable repetitions and short snapshots after the game.

Additional details are missing on the PC. The players are all a bit coarser, the lawn is more flat than fluffy green and the stands are occupied by an ugly clone army, which every now and then also pixelates terribly. Overall, the picture also looks paler; Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 shines in stronger colors on the consoles.

Particularly annoying for PC players: there is no reasonable menu with graphics options. In the launcher we only set the resolution and choose between low, medium or high graphics settings. We cannot activate image enhancers such as antialiasing.

In terms of play, hardly any differences between the PC and console versions are noticeable. The ball may seem a tad lighter, the animations a touch less fluid. However, these can also be subjective impressions due to the overall weaker presentation.

Competitor FIFA is still miles ahead in terms of presentation, scattering isolated close-ups of the players, allowing substitutes to warm up on the sidelines or the referee using the free-kick spray bottle. Unfortunately, this attention to detail is only found in the animations in PES, so a whole chunk of football fascination potential remains unused. Especially since the soundscape always shows good beginnings with atmospheric fan chants, but then splashes monotonously again.

And we are also disappointed by the newly formed commentator duo Hansi Küpper and Marco Hagemann. The two of them spoke a few new sentences during the sound recordings, but many of the comments are simply irrelevant, sound monotonously read (the names in the team line-up, for example), or do not fit the situation.