Back in the day, in the long forgotten times of the original Playstation, I got a small little game called International Superstar Soccer ’98 (ISS Pro 98). From that day a long relationship with Konami football games blossomed which lasted for about twelve years. Then, one fateful day in 2010, there was a messy break up which led to me swapping to FIFA. I can’t remember exactly what caused the switch, it was likely a combination of dip in form from Konami, EA raising its game and the peer pressure of my then flatmate who pestered me for months, convinced the latter was better.
As much as I hate to admit it, he was right. Once I settled with FIFA 10, I didn’t look back. As a geek who grew up playing various trading card games, I loved the addictive nature of FIFA Ultimate team. I loved having all the licenses at my disposal and being a fan of a lower league team I appreciated how well represented minor leagues from around the world were.
But then, after a few years, something changed. The advent of the current generation of consoles came along and naturally EA released FIFA 14 as a launch title for the both the Xbox One and Playstation 4. Interestingly enough Konami decided against releasing Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2014 for the new consoles, apparently due to a concern that uptake would be slow. In hindsight, this looks to be the best decision the company could have made, but we will come to that later.
FIFA meanwhile, may have benefited sales wise from the being the only ‘new-gen’ football game in the first year of the new consoles but the product undoubtedly suffered as a result. Sure, the game looked slightly better, but no real improvements were made from a gameplay standpoint. This was compounded by the fact that a number of modes that had been in the game for years, such as the ability to create custom leagues and cups, were sacrificed.
FIFA 15 was undoubtedly a better game all around and one I will admit I had a great deal of fun with. The career mode was refined, Ultimate Team was still addictive and the modes mentioned above were added back in. Then came this year’s FIFA 16, and with it my love affair with the franchise waned.
Now, I want to state for the record that it is not a bad game by any means, it is just in my opinion the ‘fun’ is not there anymore. There are very few new features apart from the new draft mode for Ultimate Team. And the gameplay just feels slow. The players feel like they are running in treacle, which causes dribbling to be frustrating. Shots, even from the worlds best players, feel about as threatening as a wet fart and the passing feels inconsistent. This is all compounded by the frankly ridiculous difficulty settings. On professional I can win every game 4-0, but any higher than this and the game feels unfair. Case in point, I was playing a league cup game as Blackburn Rovers, against a league two team on world class difficulty. They won 3-0, had 78% possession and I managed one shot in the match. I wish I could say that this was an isolated incident but sadly it wasn’t. I know most of you are probably thinking this is just the rambling of someone who is rubbish at the game. To give this context, on FIFA 15 I played on legendary difficulty and won the majority of my games. The difference with FIFA 16 is that when I lose it feels unfair, it feels like the game decided before kick off I was going to lose regardless of my input, whereas FIFA 15 when I lost, it simply felt like I was outplayed.
All of this compounded and despite trying to overcome my issues with the game, I felt no choice but to cut ties. About three weeks ago I traded in my copy of FIFA 16 and picked up PES 2016 and I have not had any regrets since. Master League is still as addictive as I remember it being all those years ago, the new MyClub mode, despite being a quite obvious copy of FIFA’s Ultimate Team, is very fun and feels fairer in terms of being able to build a good quality team without being hamstrung into ploughing all your hard earned money into micro-transactions. Sure FIFA still have the majority of the licenses, but at least the PS4 version of the game includes a powerful editor which allows you to recreate emblems, kits and even import manager pictures into the game.
All of this would matter not though if the football on the pitch let it down. Thankfully this area, above all others, feels where PES has pulled ahead the most. The decision to skip the first year of new gen consoles allowed the team to really double down on making the gameplay as fluid as possible and this has certainly paid dividends. Short passing moves are the key to breaking down congested midfields, but a tricky winger being controlled by a skillful player can cause havoc as well. Ultimately, it boils down to playing to the strengths of the team you are controlling. World class players feel like they have a much greater influence on proceedings than they do in FIFA and when playing against a Messi or Ronaldo you will really need to be on top form and double up on them when defending. Stamina also has a bigger impact on matches as they reach their closing stages and a well timed substitution can prove the difference between a draw and win.
To use a current football metaphor I would say that PES 2016 is the equivalent of Arsenal and FIFA 16 is more like Manchester United. EA and FIFA may have more money, more connections and a greater world presence, but ultimately it plays a boring, stale brand of football. PES 2016 on the other hand may lack the funds and resources, but it plays a much more exciting version of the beautiful game. That, in the end, is the difference between a top of the table team and one fighting for a place in the Champions League.
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Michael is a Harrogate based, predominantly console gamer on both Playstation 4 and Xbox One that has been writing for Zero1Gaming since 2012. Purveyor and lover of all things indie, when he is not playing the latest downloadable titles you will usually find him immersed in a myriad of other genres from RPG’s to FPS’s and other three letter abbreviations. Feel free to add him Xbox at Dowgle or Playstation at Juxta-Dowgle or search Michael Dalgleish on Facebook or LinkedIn.