Here we go again, it's that time of the year when the new iteration of an ongoing series wheels out it's newest version. It's a constant in the video game industry that will not end any day soon, whether it be the annual NHL or NBA games, the same can be said for the annual football title.
Now I have already admitted here some time ago, that I am not what you may call a football, or if you insist, soccer fan at all. In real life, as soon as I hear Match of the Day's theme come out of my telly box speakers, I look for something else to watch.
But I was given the task of reviewing last years title in this series and well, that took me by surprise, so the question just has to be, has it done it again?
It's the beautiful game....
That's what they call it for whatever reason, but I would say that as with every iteration of an ongoing series, there have been little tweaks here and there to the presentation.
The games character customization options are as detailed as last years, but the skin textures have been sharpened, not to L.A Noire standards but they are not that shabby either.
Some of the representations of the real life superstars of the football arena leave something to be desired, whilst others are really rather good. But do not forget this is not the 'officially' sanctioned football title. Here teams are not named directly, but are kind of regionalized, i.e instead of a team from Staffordshire being called Stafford Town or whatever, they are just called the Potters. It's EA's FIFA that has the honor of using official team names for whatever reason.
Does that mean that PES then is the poorer cousin? I don't know, alas we did not get sent any FIFA titles this year (or last year for that matter) so I cannot comment. But the presentation of EA's sports titles are noted for their design, presentation etc but PES can again hold it's head up high.
The tweaks to animations are noticeable over last years version, (and I am not even referring yet to the Playstation 4 version, no amigo's that's going to get it's own review here later). Lighting and shadows are better defined, and the crowd don't look as flat and as lifeless as last season's version.
It's smoother than last year as well, the frame rate seems sharper, and everything flows with real flow and pace.
The more things change, the more things stay the same....
The above statement is not a criticism, no sir. It means that a novice or a real veteran of the game series can jump in and get to grips with it nice and easily, and a long time player can relax knowing that they don't have to 'go back to school' and learn the basics of the game from scratch.
We have John and Jim back at the helm for commentary and analysis, but this is where perhaps we could have had a change, not in the presentation team but the script or dialogue used. They have clearly decided not to bother with changing the script, and I suspect that they just recycled last years, rather then get the two of them into a sound booth to record a new commentary soundtrack. They are not the only publishers guilty of that, far from it. EA does as does the ongoing WWE series. I just wish occasionally that they would mix it up but hey it's not a major issue.
Like last year there are plenty of options here, from one on one single games to the career mode guiding a created star through his footballing life, or as a manager taking care of things from the sidelines as well as playing the team (if you want to) on the field.
There are league titles to aim for, play the regular season and yes, your team and your player may just make it to the EUEFA cup, or you can just jump on in and play the tournament by itself.
There are online competitions too, with a ten match series that can be quite tricky to get through, depending on the skills of your rivals that the server has picked. They should be around the same level of skill as yourself, but if they have been playing for longer then they can (and in my case will) run circles around you!
The game difficulty levels are noticeably different. You know the game is too easy perhaps when you can hammer a team 10-0! Notch it up though beginner to the next level and you will notice it's easy yes, but not QUITE as easy as before. Want a real challenge then crank things up to one of the top two difficulty levels and unless you are really quite good at this type of things, you may well want to take the difficulty down again! (Think of FORZA with all the aids at one end of the scale, and then think of what FORZA is like with all aids off, with simulation of damage etc etc enabled; I think you get the picture)
There are plenty of tournaments to go for so dip in and out at random if you want, all competitions and career modes take their up their own save slot, so mix it up however you want.
I'll take a quick look at the soundtrack here. Gone is the operatic and classical music from last year. (What? No One Quanta Meyer this year?) This year we get Cold War Kids (Yeah I said who? as well!) and Linkin' Park and that catchy Best Days of my Life song (sorry cannot recall the act who performs it). A decent and better soundtrack from last years in my opinion.
OK so controls come under the spotlight. Last year I said they were responsive and perhaps were a little too responsive at times. This issue has been resolved to SOME extent, it's still a little too easy to commit a foul however if you press B a little too hard.
But the switching of players and passing seems sharper and easier this year. Some times though things are just left to the A.I to aid you.
Place yourself in the right place to shoot at goal and pray that the guy charging down the wing is going to pass too you and not be a glory hound...here he comes....yell pass it too me at the TV....will he? Will he heck...darn.
Sometimes though they will but every team seems to have the odd one or two that insist on going it alone, so serve them a dose of their own medicine and do the same back!
They won't complain, after all they cannot yell back at you! (Unless it's an online team mate perhaps!)
There are various little combos that you can perform that look to me as tricky as some of the combos performed in beat them ups, but you don't have to be able to perform these skills to play. Indeed select what areas you want to train your footballer to excel in. Be patient young man, it will happen, it will happen.
So in the final breakdown in some ways we have more of the same BUT we do have improvements as well, perhaps not in every aspect we would have liked, but like WWE 2K15, it's on the right path.
Can it compete with and even beat FIFA anytime soon? Well without FIFA to directly compare it too, I cannot say. But if someone like me who is NOT a football fan can load this title up and actually enjoy playing it like I did last year, and do the same AGAIN this year, it's got to be doing something right!
I cannot guarantee that I wouldn't trade it in eventually but I still have last years in my library after reviewing it some time ago. That's got to put an extra tick in the win column surely?