Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 Review (XONE)

Pro Evo 2016 screen
Pro Evo 2016 screen. Konami

For the last few years Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer has been creeping up on EA's FIFA series and now, with the 2016 version, it has finally surpassed it.  To put it bluntly, Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is better than FIFA 16.  At least out on the pitch.  It still leaves a bit to be desired in the licenses and presentation departments, but you'll be having so much genuine fun actually playing it that you'll forget all about that.

  This is the best playing soccer game in years and no sports fan should pass it up.  Our full Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 review has all of the details.

Game Details

  • Publisher:  Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • ESRB Rating: “E" for Everyone
  • Genre: Soccer
  • Pros:  Amazing gameplay; Master League; Become a Legend; great animation; smart difficulty levels
  • Cons:  Lack of licenses; okay presentation; inconsistent refs

Features

The biggest stumbling block in Pro Evo 2016, as has been the case for years and years now, is that it doesn't have the depth of licenses that FIFA has.  It has some leagues and clubs and international teams, sure, but not a ton that USA fans will really care about unless you're just a crazy die-hard footie fan.  It does have the UEFA Champions League license as well as other major teams and leagues from elsewhere around the world, as well as a few national teams, but none from the USA.

  It's a definite bummer (obviously, if you're a fan outside the USA you can ignore this rant...).   You can use the extensive Edit mode to customize teams and players and even stadiums and make your own tournaments, but it is all a lot of work you don't have to do in FIFA. 

What Pro Evo 2016 lacks in licenses, it makes up for it in the sheer volume of modes you can play in.

  There are a number of fully licensed leagues you can play through to win championships in.  You can also go deep into full team creation and management in the Master League or play PES's version of Ultimate Team with the My Team mode.  Become a Legend follows your player through their career.  There are also online leagues to play with your friends, exhibition matches, and on and on and on.  There's plenty to do here in traditional modes and new concepts both online and off. 

Gameplay

The real reason why Pro Evo 2016 is so good, though, is that the gameplay out on the pitch is just phenomenal.  "Feel" is a terrible way to describe videogames (and I'm guilty of it too often probably), but Pro Evo 2016 feels really darn good to play.  The controls are really smooth and fluid and you don't feel stiffly locked into animations the way other games are.  When you make a cross or a through pass or take a shot, it feels less random where the ball ends up and more like things are ending up exactly like you planned.  This is largely because the A.I. is incredibly smart this year.  Your teammates make smart runs and actually get into the proper positions that you expect them to, which can result in some truly gorgeous scoring chances.

 

Soccer is called the "beautiful game", and I don't remember a game in recent memory that exemplifies that as well as Pro Evo 2016 does.  From the very first game I played this year, I was connecting crosses into the box and hitting long through passes to create runs up the sidelines with absolute ease, which led to some great looking and very satisfying goals.  I have scored on some crazy headers and even bicycle kicks and amazing rebounds and redirections that just didn't feel possible before because the gameplay was too stiff to keep up, but are commonplace now.  The game is a joy to watch and, despite the incredible happening surprisingly often, it never gets old.

 

That isn't to say the game is too easy - far from it - but Pro Evo 2016 has difficulty levels that actually represent different skill levels.  On the lowest level, you'll score at will.  On the next, you'll still hold possession and score a lot, but less so than on beginner.  As you move up, the defense tightens up, the goalkeeping really tightens up, and the CPU starts actually playing offense.  Having actual difficulty levels players can work through and see their improvements is important, and is something I don't feel other sports games do as well as Pro Evo.  You can play and be competitive and have fun regardless of skill level here, which is nice.

A couple of other comments.  Playing defense doesn't suck in Pro Evo 2016.  In fact, slide tackles are probably a little overpowered here, actually.  You can easily challenge offensive players and win the ball, unlike a certain other soccer game this year.  You have to be careful, though, because the referees are incredibly inconsistent and seem to call fouls on you far more often than on the CPU regardless of how vicious a tackle may have been.  As far as the calls on you go, it actually is pretty realistic in what gets called and by playing carefully and timing your tackles and challenges properly, you shouldn't get called too often.  It would be nice if the CPU was under the same scrutiny, but you get used to it. 

Graphics & Sound

The presentation is at the same time a strong point, but also a bit of a letdown.  Player models look great and feature some of the absolute best animation of any sports game yet (which is why everything flows together so well and the goals are so pretty) but player faces are only so-so.  You recognize the stars, of course, but they only look sort of halfway right and other players are kind of potato-faced.  The stadiums look great, though, and the crowds are less cardboard and more mannequin, which is an improvement.  Lighting and weather also look great.  The game still isn't real 1080p on Xbox One (it's a weird hybrid resolution at a little under 900p), but it is a definite improvement over the 720p of last year's release.  It looks great, at any rate, and the framerate is rock solid.

The sound is well done with a good selection of world music for the menu soundtrack.  Commentary is actually really good, too, and among the best you'll hear in any sports game this year.  The announcers don't repeat too often and also do a good job of keeping up with the action. 

Bottom Line

In the end, the important bits come together in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 to form a really great playing game of soccer.  The A.I. is so good and the controls are so solid that everything flows together amazingly well.  Defense is fun.  Offense is absolutely beautiful.  I've gone back and forth playing a game or two of FIFA and then a game or two of Pro Evo, and Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 is absolutely more fun.  Period.  I do wish the licenses and presentation were on par between the two games, but if you value the gameplay on the field more than the names on the back of the jerseys, Pro Evo 2016 is definitely the way to go.  This is the best PES game in a long time, and stands as the best soccer title on the market right now.  No true soccer fan should pass up Pro Evolution Soccer 2016.