Before the last gen, that is when PS2 was the King of consoles, there was a debate as old as gaming itself – what’s the better football game, FIFA or Pro Evo? That debate ended in the Xbox 360/PS3 era, as Konami struggled to release a Pro Evo title that even challenged FIFA’s crown, for the last few years there’s been no question that FIFA was the no brainer pick for football fans far and wide. With the current gen systems now receiving their first fix of football Konami had a chance to wipe the slate clean and get back on level terms with its age-old rival, this is an opportunity that Konami has heeded and grasped with both hands.
Let us get to the elephant in the room, licensing is still an issue, if you can’t deal with this then you’ll have to steer clear of Pro Evo straight off the bat – if however, like most people who have drunk from the Pro Evo chalice previously, you can overlook the humorous names for Premier League clubs then this really won’t ruin the enjoyment of the title as a whole.
Sure licensing may be an issue for some, if the names do not bother you the frankly ugly kits of unlicensed sides might, but a good footballing title should be able to push little niggles like that to the wayside via an impressive game engine. Pro Evo 2015 does actually manage this, the game engine itself is incredibly pleasing – it actually tops FIFA’s attempts this year. Short passing and the “tikka takka” approach to football is at home at Pro Evo, so footballing purists might want to consider to making the change to Pro Evo – one touch build up play in this year’s Pro Evo is one of the most rewarding and pleasing console footballing experiences that I’ve come across.
It’s not just build up play and quick passing that trumps FIFA in this iteration of Pro Evo however, Pro Evo does so much to fix the annoying (and often game ruining) issues of FIFA, there’s no slow and unresponsive goalkeepers, there are very few bizarre calls from the referee and it’s not as simple as getting to the byline and delivering a cross to score. These are all problems that have plagued FIFA titles of the past, but you had to grin and bear this as there was no alternative on the last gen, this year Konami have presented that alternative, and has cleaned up the slack that is evident on FIFA titles.
The goalkeeping engine in Pro Evo is better than anything that has been presented before and this compliments an all round exceptional UI system. Team mates controlled by the computer read and react to your moves perfectly, they make the runs you expect them to make, they defend and track opponents as they should, and they do not get caught out when you select them at a crucial moment.
Of all aspects of the gaming engine the only aspect that can be criticised within Pro Evo is defending, it’s still not quite as in-depth and precise as its main rival. Defending is an absolute dream on FIFA since the implementation of tactical defending, Pro Evo does not feel quite as polished just yet, standing players up is difficult when you’re on the back foot – which can lead to conceding frustrating goals. On top of this there’s no option for jostling players when they’re shoulder to shoulder, again this is a minor difference between the two titles that feels like a major loss if you move from FIFA to Pro Evo.
At it’s best Pro Evo was widely accepted as an arcade-type approach to football, that sense during gameplay remains in 2015 but there’s a clear effort to make the game more of a footballing simulation, as opposed to a party game with a footballing twist. It manages to balance the two approaches very well, with some pleasing results. The reason that it has kept its arcade feel is that the graphics haven’t had a huge overhaul in years, the game looks and feels like it always has – which isn’t a bad thing, except for the fact that only the big names have had real attention to detail on their face models, some players look spot on whereas others look like long lost relatives to the footballer they are trying to represent.
Pro Evo’s matured feel of being more of a footballing simulation than its predecessors stems from the games tactics, which blows anything else prior to this out of the water. The strength and depth of the tactics available to a player really is second to none, in fact there are so many strategies and customisable options it actually takes a moment to get your head around everything available to you. Prior to the game you can set a number of formations, a formation for if you have possession, a formation for when you lose the ball and are on the back foot, as well as a number of formations that you can implement by changing your approach – for example if you go ‘offensive’ in a match you will actually be triggering a preset formation. It certainly increases the amount of time it takes to set out a team and start a game but those that have a fondness of the detailed approach of Football Manager will find themselves spoilt for choice with Pro Evo 2015.
The game’s menus have received a much needed revamp, selecting game modes is as aesthetically pleasing as it possibly could be. Some menus do seem to have been left in the dark ages however, with ugly and dated text overlaid on the same style of dialog box that was in place back in Pro Evo 6. Sure this isn’t really a deal breaker but the mismatch of styles and fonts can grind against the continuity of the game, it’s certainly a strange choice from the developers not to roll out a uniform approach to out-of-match visuals.
In terms of game modes there is pretty much everything you could ask for, a manager mode to take your favoured club to glory, a single player mode where you control one player and raise him to be the most successful footballer in the world, and finally a mode titled ‘MyClub’ – a game mode very reminiscent of FIFA’s extremely successful ‘Ultimate Team’. These game modes are all pleasing enough but they all have certain caveats that restrict them from being the most enjoyable experience they could be.
Manager mode for example only allows you to enter into 5 negotiations in a transfer window, so you won’t be able to overhaul a squad from the off. In the ‘become a legend’ mode you are restricted to your solitary player, with no influence over your team, you can’t demand the ball or suggest your team’s moves as you can in ‘Be a Pro’ on FIFA, this can result in you spectating a lot of a game without actually imposing yourself on events. Finally MyClub has a fatal flaw in its design, you collect players that fit your playing style – or that play together in real life – to build team spirit (much like team chemistry in FIFA) but you cannot filter or control the players you receive, which means it’s impossible to build team spirit unless the game gifts you with players that fit the team you are trying to build. On top of this there is no marketplace for players to buy and sell players, which again seems like an omission that hinders the effectiveness of the game mode as a whole.
Aside from the slight oversights on the game modes and the lack of defensive discipline available in matches Konami have published an extremely well polished footballing title, which can produce some cracking games of football. The gaming engine and tactical options alone makes this is the first title that’s truly challenged FIFA in an entire generation. For those who were once fans of franchise, or those looking for a break from the autonomy of FIFA, you will be hard pressed to find anything as pleasing and entertaining as Pro Evo this year. There will be die hard FIFA fans that will take the obvious licensing shots at Pro Evo and if you are happy with your FIFA experience there’s no need to try the different approach, but in many aspects Pro Evo 2015 is the best footballing title available right now, especially if you value gameplay itself over flashy features.
This review was compiled after playing a PlayStation 4 copy of Pro Evolution Soccer 2015.