When it comes to soccer, there are a number of elements which make it one of the greatest sports in the world. The passion, the culture, the individuality of clubs and their fans. The unique styles of play from various teams and leagues around the world. The rivalries, the derbies and history which has been built over many years of play. More or less, personality, is what makes soccer great. Unfortunately, PES 17 doesn’t have any of this. As its presentation, gameplay and modes leave plenty to be desired, and create what is a hollow experience and poor simulation of the beautiful world game, soccer.
The first main issue, one which plagues the game throughout its entirety, is simple the lack of variety in teams and leagues. This is due to the fact PES simply doesn’t have the licenses, for the majority of leagues and clubs in the world. Except for a small collection of high profile teams, including Barcelona and Liverpool FC. Meaning you’ll often be playing against teams such as Man Red (Manchester United), or West London (Chelsea). Although these teams do often have the actual players. It just doesn’t have much immersion when you are in the Champions League final, against MD White (Real Madrid)
This has hindered the PES series for a long time, and is a significant problem for players such as myself. Who love starting a career with a team in a random league around the world, such as Turkey, Japan, or Sweden, and learning about different leagues and having different experiences. While PES doesn’t bother offering leagues, where they can’t get the license for at least one team. Which is fair, albeit it does mean there is far less variety, compared to its competitor FIFA.
Throughout my time with PES 17, I struggled to become immersed at any point. Although the gameplay itself has come a long way for the PES series, with realistic tackling, more natural animations and generally solid gameplay, I continuously found myself being dragged out. Whether it was because of frustrations with clunky set pieces and having little control over passing and shot power, incredibly monotonous and generic commentary (often relating to their lack of rights for teams and leagues), which would often be vastly behind the play, or players clipping in and out of each other. It was honestly hard to have much fun or be immersed because of these frustrations, or because I was laughing at how poor the commentary could be.
Visually, PES does the world game some justice, with some beautiful stadiums which just pop in the lighting and are a joy to play in, and the animations of the players can be very intricate and life like at times. Overall though, the presentation and graphics in general, are rather bland and uninspiring. This is most obvious when playing the ‘Become a Legend’ Mode, where you see the play from a closer perspective, and it becomes apparent, how little detail there is in the pitch, or the players.Presentation in PES 17 as a whole, feels generic and lacks personality. In game and out. The menus are dull and at times unintuitive. While this may seem like nit-picking, when you are going to be spending hours and hours in these menus, you really need them to be a joy to look at and use. This is definitely not the case with PES.
The soundtrack, although reasonably good, is rather small. For simulators, and for soccer games in particular, you’ll be spending hour upon hour in menus, customising teams and making transfers. Meaning a small soundtrack can get old. Real quick. And in my short time with PES reviewing it, I was already well and truly sick of the soundtrack. More annoyingly, when you play certain modes, such as the AFC Champions League, or Europa League, the soundtrack is replaced by a single generic short tune. Which repeats.
In regards to modes, it is quantity over quality with PES. As there is a plethora of them available, but not many offer much joy or variety.The modes Cup, and League allow for players to simply focus on playing games, without any of the manager nitty gritty features. However, a feature which I found rather amusing and bewildering, is the coach mode, which allows you to watch each game, rather than play them. Now, I don’t know about you, but watching the AI play is not particularly interesting. The developers seem to understand this, to an EXTENT. Allowing you to fast forward games, because there is nothing better than watching AI play, than watching the AI play really, really fast. However, it does not offer a skip game feature once in. Why, why on earth would you offer a fast forward option, and not a skip game feature? In fact, not only is it in this coach mode that you cannot skip/forfeit games, but not even when actually playing them yourself.
This extends to the Become a Legend mode. Where you create and play as your own player and move up through the football world of huge clubs (all three of them). As when I was red carded for some truly horrible tackles on my behalf, I had to sit out the rest of the game and couldn’t skip to the end or play as my team, only fast forward. Which was the real punishment.
My Club, which is PES’s version of Fifa’s Ultimate team, offers a lot of depth to transfers, squad management and options for playing with your club. However, because of the recurring problem of lack of licensing, the players on offer, and particularly the kits and extra cosmetics for personalising your team, are extremely limited. Due to trouble finding any games online, the best and most highlighted part of this mode, the ability to play your own team against others, is not available.
The best mode on offer, is the Master League. Which offers similar depth to My Club, with deep negotiations and transfer possibilities. Plus, the ability to view the game plans, squads and manager details of clubs in the same league as you and others, is a nice feature for preparing before matches (and actually available in every other mode)
Looking towards the online play, it is almost non-existent. Not for the lack of modes, but just people to play with. Trying to get a match was impossible, and when trying to find players in the player match lobby mode. After multiple attempts and trying at different times of the day, I was never able to find a match in any of the online modes. Which renders a large amount of the modes and features useless. If anything, I feel bad for the developers who created these modes and set up the network infrastructure. As it will never be used.
Until PES gains the much needed licensing for more teams and leagues, has better, more immersive gameplay and presentation, and doesn’t simply aim to replicate the standard features and expected modes of a soccer simulation, it will continue to be a subpar, unimmersive experience. Which is just that, a simulation. Not a true recreation of one of the most passionate and characteristic sports in the world.
The Xbox One version was primarily tested for the purpose of this review.