Short Version: PES 2017 is a great football “game”. It is not a simulation of the real thing, but it does succeed in delivering the same euphoria that watching the real sport offers, and really isn’t that all that matters? Graphically it doesn’t look nearly as good as it’s competitor, and mechanically it doesn’t perform quite as well. Players don’t perform like individuals on a pitch, but more like cogs in a carefully constructed system. What this means is that you won’t often see players making runs or decisive decisions on their own. Sometimes they may be in an ideal position to get the advantage on the opposition and they just won’t capitalize on it. Package that with a wonky shooting system, some non-impressive modes and you have a game that should on paper suck, but thanks to the addictive Master League, a lot of personality, and improved commentary the game redeems itself for those hoping to play an alternative to EA’s FIFA.
Long Version: It’s been awhile since the last time I played a PES game, due to me playing it’s main competition religiously for the past couple years, and this year was supposed to be no different, supposed to be. The certainty of which footy game I’ll be playing for the rest of this, and next year is all up in the air at this point, and all because of one mode, Master League!
When we got our review copies for PES 2017 I proceeded to play this mode, because it was the mode I was the most familiar with, and it is the base for this review. Yes, the game has numerous other modes including your standard Player vs Ai, PVP, Online, My Club, and team Online, however I didn’t find myself playing any of those other modes more than once, just to say that I did. The game does try to mix things up with the champions league, Europa League, and AFC Champions League tournaments, but they don’t really attest to much if you can’t find your team, I’d much rather take one of the random named clubs in the game, rename them, change their kit and build my own dream team in the Master league then challenge these tournaments over the course of a season, rather than play the tournament modes.
To put it mildly, PES 2017 is Master League!
I’m sure there are those that play My Club, but I just see it as a less impressive FUT, and almost all the other modes are pretty much the same thing just with different transitions during the matches. None have any kind of stay power except the Master League, which is a mode similar to manager mode from FIFA, but better. What makes PES better are the little bits of added personality, like your manager walking into a press conference to give updates on the team, or shaking hands with new big signings. This personality extends to each and every player. Some may like playing a certain position, and have traits that make them better leaders, while others may be better at growing as individuals who gain stats easily. It’s also a mode that rewards those that like to develop their players then sell them or keep them in their first team.
Modes aside, PES 2017 has some good looking graphics when looking at players close up stills, but in motion players still clip into each other and things like hair seem to be covered in the toughest starch ever, because they don’t react to movement in the slightest. The PS4 version of the game does have bit better texture and contrast that the XBOX One, but not by much, so if looks matter to you, then you should be satisfied with either versions.
How does PES 2017 Play?
When I first started playing I expected that there’d be a learning curve, It being such a long time since last I’d played a PES game, and I was right. I’ve been playing the game for about a week and I’m not sure I’ve gotten much better at it. Sometimes I feel like I’m getting better after a couple wins in a row, then I start losing in the most unexpected of ways.
To be quite frank, I assume that scoring in PES is luck based. You can get everything right, and still somehow your player will miss the easiest point blank tap in, and I’m not just talking about playing with second division players, top players also seem to be luck based in their ability to score, and don’t get me started on heading or vollies. I still don’t know the trick to scoring those. When there is a ball swung into the box, I just tap the B button (I’m using alternative controls) and cross my fingers, which makes scoring feel random.
These are not things that should feel random.
I can understand if I just really suck at the game (Which I probably do), but when I can go into training mode, and replicate the same cross numerous times, but get different results from the tap ins, then there’s obviously some kind of randomizing system in play and I don’t like it. Finesse shots are the only shots that seem to be effective in the this game, and in some ways they seem overpowered, but if you want to win, you’re going to have to get in the box and hug your fingers around that RB/R1 button and hope for the best (remember alternative controls).
As for the way the game operates in motion. Well it’s all right. I found it was easy to master the defending because all you have to do is hold the A button to watch your player run to the opponent like a cruise missile, then tap A again to watch the most clunky looking tackle animation ever, and proceed. Don’t worry about the angle of the tackle or if the opponent falls over. The ref won’t blow or give you a card for almost any standing tackle, and don’t expect your opponent to get any either if they give you a bad looking challenge. Slide tackles are a bit more technical, but no worries, the ref is pretty lenient just as long as you approach from the front, and most of the time from the side. I got a few yellows in my time with the game, but never any reds, even if I’m the last man challenging a player clear on goal.
Now here’s the thing, I don’t actually dislike the refs all too much, because we see spotty decisions all the time when watching EPL matches every weekend. Just imagine PES refs are from the EPL who don’t blow unless your opponent brings a tank on the field, and FIFA’s are from La Liga who blow for the slightest poke, and move along.
The passing in the game is pretty tight. One, Two passes are satisfying when you pull them off, and lobbed passes are pretty good once you get accustomed to the controls. Through balls are a bit overpowered, but given that this game seems to act scripted in the way the scenarios, and animations work I kind of expected some mechanic to be a bit op.
E.g.: during my time with the game most of my goals were a result of through balls that I one, two passed into the box, then finessed to the side of the keeper. Sometimes in these scenarios the defender was in a better position than my player, but somehow they just froze in position and let me through. One could chalk their behavior up to the AI being on professional, but I’m struggling as it is on that difficulty so I’m not willing to endure the tougher ones.
PES 2017 for Xbox One and PS4 is a great game if you’re primarily interested in the Master league, which is probably the most addictive mode I’ve played in a football game to date. It’s challenging and frustrating at the same time, but somehow I keep returning for more punishment day after day, just like watching the real sport on tele each weekend.
Disclaimer: Do not buy this game for PC, that version looks horrible compared to the console variations, and it’s really just a cash in by the developer to get some extra purchases on the platform. Graphically it looks like a PS2/ early ps3 title, with low textures and no anti-aliasing or other effects that make modern games look so good.
This has been the same every year with PES on PC and based on the community reaction, I’d recommend getting any version of FIFA instead if you are a PC gamer hoping to get some footy action.
Copies of PES 2017 for PS4 and XBOX One were provided by Konami for this review.