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Pro Evolution Soccer 2015

When I was growing up “Pro Evolution Soccer” was by far the best football game on the market. Before graphics were such a massive deal in mainstream gaming, neither “Pro Evolution” or “Fifa” were evaluated on whether or not the player likenesses were realistic, so even though “Pro Evolution” had player models which didn’t even look remotely human, the gameplay was better and it was a far superior game.

In recent times that’s all changed; “Fifa” definitely has the better graphics, and with the technology available to developers right now that has become a very important feature. Along with the graphics, “Fifa” has also found a formula that appeals to the majority of Western gamers, or at least those who are interested in football, because you’re able to play using a variety of styles and tactics, and the Premier League is the main focus of the game. In contrast, “Pro Evolution Soccer” has recently felt more like an arcade game than a triple A console experience, falling out of favour as a result. “Pro Evolution” doesn’t put all its eggs in one basket, and it certainly doesn’t champion the English game. It also doesn’t waste its time on kit design, skill games, or any other side attraction, meaning that if you don’t enjoy the gameplay you probably won’t like the game.

“Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” is a marked improvement over the last couple of games in the series, and because of my negative experience of “Fifa 15” I’m willing to say that I think this game presents a better value for your money. It isn’t overpriced and although there are plenty of flaws, those flaws don’t leave quite as bitter a taste in my mouth as the issues in “Fifa 15” did. The two games now feel massively different, which I believe benefits “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” greatly, because it’s clearly underpowered in terms of technology. “Pro Evolution” isn’t what I would call a football simulator; it doesn’t thrive on realism and can sometimes be slightly ridiculous, but that’s not a bad thing – games don’t always have to be realistic, sometimes it’s enough that they’re fun, and this one definitely is. “Fifa 15”, on the other hand, isn’t all that fun. It’s a rigid experience that requires you to do A, then B, and hey presto it’s a goal – no skill involved. “Fifa 15” sacrifices enjoyment for authenticity, which I really dislike, because at the end of the day games are about having a good time and nothing else.

From what I’ve said so far it might seem as though I think “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” is an utterly unrealistic game, but that isn’t the case. The player techniques are a more accurate representation of the way in which player’s play the beautiful game than they are in “Fifa 15”, which is really important because this directly affects the gameplay. However, the tackling and the goalkeeping do leave a lot to be desired, and at times the players look quite idiotic, as they will lunge in from an inch away, or dive desperately to save a shot that’s going a good four yards wide.

Other aspects of the game that are aimed at creating authenticity also seem a little unpolished, such as the crowd and the grass, but these features don’t effect the gameplay so frankly I don’t care. All I want is to actually enjoy playing the game, and I do when I play “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015”. This game takes the most important part of football, the actual playing of the game, and tries to improve it each year, whereas “Fifa” brings out a new game every year whilst only improving the superficial features that don’t really change the experience.

“Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” is first and foremost an enjoyable experience, and you don’t feel angry every time you stop playing. You can deal with losing a game without feeling like your time has been wasted, because usually it doesn’t feel like the game has somehow cheated you.

“Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” isn’t stressful, it doesn’t frustrate you every five minutes because it feels like a game and sometimes games do wacky things. I find that incredibly refreshing, because so often I pay £50 for a game, only to find that it isn’t actually fun! Take “Alien : Isolation” as an example; I acknowledge that it’s a well thought out game with good graphics and attention to detail, but I didn’t really enjoy playing the last third of the game. For me that’s a real problem, because the whole point of gaming is to lose yourself in a world that you aren’t a part of, and ultimately I play games as a leisure activity – if they aren’t fun then what’s the point?

Although games are, at least in my opinion, an art form that can be judged in terms of quality of graphics, story, mechanics etc, they should still focus primarily on giving people something cool that makes them happy. After each match on “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” I’m ready to jump into another; it’s strangely addictive, because although you notice that the game is eating away at your day, you feel as though you’re improving so you have that encouragement to carry on and sacrifice other activities you might’ve had planned.

Master League is as enjoyable an experience as always, and it is what I’d call “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015’s” main game mode. It’s the equivalent of “Fifa 15’s” career mode, as you take control of a club side such as Chelsea (my team of choice for this game) and play out your season, attempting to achieve success in the Premier League, Champions League, and the ‘English Cup’. Although this mode isn’t quite as detailed as it could be, given that there’s no emphasis on the scouting system or the youth set-up, it’s still well worth playing and you feel as though you’re really in charge of your team.

There are notable improvements to the mode itself, for example, the transfer system has been modified so that you can now negotiate with a club, deciding on a transfer fee, and the player regarding his wages. This is a welcome change, because before the game would arbitrarily negotiate all of these aspects for you, meaning that there was no way to push a team to accept your offer, thereby getting the best possible deal for yourself. This new feature also allows you to have greater control over your wage budget, which was previously very difficult to manage and often caused your first season to end in bankruptcy. This addition to the game allows you to properly manage your team and bring the best possible players to your club, which in turn vastly improves the mode and your enjoyment of the game.

However, the addition of the ‘My Club’ mode is a cheap rip off of “Fifa’s” Ultimate Team, and it falls extremely flat as a result. In this mode you take charge of a team made up of various players from around the world… eventually. Initially you choose a country from which your players will be selected, and then the team comes together with low-rated players from that country. Over the course of your time with the mode you attempt to win online matches and turn your average team into a footballing force, but it isn’t as satisfying as Ultimate Team, and it really does feel like something that the developers tacked onto their game simply because the mode does well in their main competition’s game.

I personally don’t think that “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” needs to imitate “Fifa” at all, and I don’t think it’s right to capitalise on your competition’s success if you’re going to just copy them and bring nothing new to the table. Frankly, it’s bad business practice and I don’t like it very much at all! Konami didn’t come up with the idea of Ultimate Team, so if they want to have something similar in their game then they should at least try to make it original, but that hasn’t happened with My Club, and you won’t find yourself playing it for a prolonged period of time.

In the My Club mode you can’t actually buy a specific player for your club, nor do you gain enough points to warrant your efforts, so you can put a lot of work in and win many games without feeling sufficiently rewarded. This is one of two massive oversights at the heart of the mode, with the other being that depending on the region you choose to take your squad from, you will end up with the exact same squad as your friends! If you choose to take players from England you will find that you get the same squad to begin with as every other player that chose to get their players from England, something which my brother and I found out straight away as we both started playing the game at the same time. This just seems lazy to me, especially considering the fact that it takes a while to gain the required points to completely alter your squad, and it only reinforces the idea that this was a rushed game mode carelessly thrown into the game to match “Fifa’s” Ultimate Team.

Perhaps the best mode in “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” is Become a Legend. In this mode you take control of your created player and attempt to take him right to the top of the footballing world. I love playing as my own distinctive player in this game, because attempting to make my stats as good as I possibly can is something that I find really rewarding and worthwhile. This again is a mode that is also present in “Fifa 15”, but I feel that it is much more enjoyable in this game, because you can’t just dribble past everyone and your manager isn’t always giving you a new set of unrealistic targets to accomplish. You also aren’t punished so harshly for straying out of position and attempting to take hold of the game by the scruff of the neck, something which “Fifa” ridiculously slaps your hand for. I understand why it does this, because online players do ruin the game by playing wherever they feel like and constantly following the ball, but for good players (like me) it’s incredibly frustrating.

Become a Legend demonstrates the fact that a football game doesn’t necessarily benefit from realism. In the real world football has become quite a technical and tactical game, with each player having a very specific role which they have to perform lest they face omission from the team. Flair is in short demand in football these days, but what we don’t want in a football game is to have to follow a strict set of guidelines telling us how we are to play. Of course a professional footballer can’t completely disregard where he’s supposed to be playing, but if I’m playing a game and I want to roam around the field then I shouldn’t be penalised for doing so. Punish me for the quality of my passing, shooting and dribbling, but not for the fact that I felt like running into defence when the AI was acting up. I might want to have a laugh and mess around without feeling naughty for doing so – is that okay “Fifa”?

Having just brought up the AI in this game mode I should probably offer a warning… it’s bad. It can become exasperating when your the other players on your team seem completely ignorant as to what they should be doing, and it’s incredibly annoying that they have no clue as to where I want the ball played, as I can only ask for the ball by pressing the right trigger. There’s no way to ask for a specific type of pass like there is on “Fifa”; you might get a through ball or you might get a pass into feet, but you really don’t know and you just have to hope for the best. This can sometimes lead me to lose my temper and fly into challenges, lowering my overall rating and frustrating me greatly, which, as previously mentioned, is not why I play games.

I don’t understand why the developers of this game haven’t employed a similar system to “Fifa’s” for this game mode, particularly when they seem more than happy to take other things from that game, and are clearly aware of what the folks at EA are up to.

The biggest flaw in “Pro Evolution Soccer 2015”, and one of the things that I think puts a lot of gamers off buying the title, is that a lot of the teams in England don’t have their correct kits or even the right names. This is a licensing issue and I’m partial to ignoring it, but I can see why some people can’t get past it. The problem can be nullified pretty easily, because you can edit both the team name and the kit in the edit menu, along with other things like player faces and national team selections. However, for a lot of people this is an unwanted hassle, because you don’t want to spend the first couple of hours with a game editing features that should be there for you in the first place.

“Pro Evolution Soccer 2015” is a great experience. It’s not going to win game of the year, and it’s also not going to sway people that want their games to stick as closely to reality as possible. Still, in a world where football has become systematic and rigid, I don’t think that basing your game on reality is going to bring about the most enjoyment for the player. For years “Pro Evolution” has been playing catch-up, trying to regain some of the fans that have jumped ship and started playing “Fifa” instead, and in the process they’ve tinkered with their previously successful formula in strange and ultimately ineffective ways. However, this game shows that the developers understand what made “Pro Evolution” great in the first place, and they’re closer than ever to making a game that could rival “Fifa”. Games are about entertainment, they’re supposed to be fun and help you escape from reality when you need a break from your real world commitments, and this game succeeds with that brief in mind.

7.5/10

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