Preview: Hands-on with Konami’s PES 2015

Every year, people ask the same question: PES or FIFAAfter playing this year’s magnificent title from EA, I was also able to preview Konami’s PES 2015 at E3.

In recent years, the world’s been waiting for PES to once again reach a competitive level on par with FIFA. This year, Konami promised to revolutionize the game after the disappointment of PES 2014, when, due to the changes in the new Fox graphics engine, they weren’t even able to introduce rain or snow.

The president of the European division of Pro Evolution Soccer, Shinji Hirano, said to MCV in February that “2014 was a year of transition for the franchise, but we know what went wrong, and we’re working on it. The next version will be totally different, so expect great things.”

PES 2015 Stadium

At E3 in Los Angeles, I was able to try out PES 2015 to see if his statement was correct. Walking into the Konami room, I played two games from the new title, set to be released in September. So, how does it compare to previous versions, and more importantly, to FIFA?

Freedom of movement and accuracy

There were two teams in the demo: Juventus and Bayern. Unable to stray my loyalties from my own soccer team from Turin, I challenged a Konami PR guy playing Bayern. It took a few runs and crosses before I was able to get a first impressions of the game, but it became clear during the second half and the second game.

From the beginning, and mindful of the old Pro Evolution Soccer, I immediately noticed greater freedom of movement with fewer rigid movements and less pre-defined, straight line running. To summarize, the classic PES problems of running trajectories, which already seemed to be partially solved in the 2014 version, seem to have finally disappeared.

The players appeared looser, and their movements more natural, keeping with the quality of the players. During a particularly crazy moment in the Juventus half of the field, for example, I ran a one-two between Kroos and Robben to put the Dutch footballer on his own, right in the penalty area.

PES2015 Juventis PogbaJuventus’ Pogba

I dropped back slightly, and typical of a player who prefers to kick with his left foot instead of his right, Robben hit the ball with his outstep. The curve of the pass found Ribery who, just a few steps away from the goalkeeper, hammered the goal home.

The response to commands was accurate and timely, although I didn’t experiment with any crazy tricks with the ball. In this regard, expect major improvements over the previous year’s offering.

My first impression of PES 2015 is more room for the unpredictability that’s typical of football, a feeling that I got after just a few bounces of the ball, which appeared much less predetermined (although they sometimes took somewhat exaggerated trajectories).

Atmosphere, celebrations and replays

If there’s one aspect in which Pro Evolution Soccer has always managed to outpace FIFA, it’s the ability to reproduce the atmosphere of the game on your home screen, whether on PC or console.

In PES 2015, that feeling has improved even more. The team’s entry onto the field and the cheers from the bleachers immediately convey the feeling of the beautiful game, mainly due to better definition of the audience in the stands, and not only during cut-scenes, but during play too.

What impressed me most, however, was the celebration scenes. After putting the ball in the back of the net, Ribery ran towards the camera situated on the sideline, grabbed it with both hands, and started to shout into it directly, just like any soccer player basking in the glory of a goal would.

PES2015 Stadium CameraEven the stadium cameras show crazy detail

The details of the player’s face were faithfully reproduced in a very realistic way as well, a sign that the Fox engine is finally as good as it’s supposed to be. Even the replays in PES 2015 were convincing, with many shots from different angles.

On the right track

The PR guy that I challenged told me that PES 2015 is much more precise and defined than the previous edition, and although I didn’t see the menu that lets you change weather in the demo, he assured me that in the final version, we’ll see rain and snow.

There are still some aspects that need flushing out, like the way the ball bounces, as well as the problem of some trajectories being rather unnatural, although it’s important to point out that the fluidity of the movements of the ball on the field have definitely improved. Likewise, the “bowling ball” effect seems to have disappeared too.

The AI for teammates could also be improved. At times, it felt like I was left completely alone against opponents, since there doesn’t seem to be any space to include them. In this respect, FIFA is definitely ahead.

PES2015 LlorenteJuventus’ Llorente

The PES 2015 I’ve seen and played, however, is not the final game, and it could change considerably before its release, even if it is already at a very advanced stage of development.

Although some aspects could be improved, Konami appears to be on the right track with its new soccer game, thanks to a greater fluidity of gameplay, command response, and the power of the Fox graphics engine.

Faced with few improvements from the gameplay perspective (in comparison with FIFA 15), it’s on a more level playing field with FIFA, even if it’s not quite at the same standard yet.

To really determine who will win between PES 2015 and FIFA 15, all we can do is wait for the release of both games at the end of September.

If you want to see how FIFA 15 stacks up, check out our preview from E3.

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