We’ve recently returned from playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 at a special capture event in NYC. Here are some of my impressions of the gameplay, which has taken strides towards delivering the simulation feel. Don’t forget to check out my YouTube channel for more exclusive gameplay content.

Attacking

The passing intricacies in the final third is where attacking play really shines. This is where it feels like a match simulation, and is sure not to disappoint.

Shooting ability relied as much on your skill as the player’s. In a 1v1 setting against the goalkeepers I was able to finish with solid efficiency, even on higher difficulties. It’s worth noting that in those 1v1 situations it’s important to make the correct choice and stay poised. Sometimes the keeper covered the near post and other times they looked to take away the angle across the body. It’s up to you as an attacker to read the goalie if you want to put the ball in the net.

The trajectory of Finess shots was spot on, as it took into account the player’s body position and angle.

Finally, the ability to control players off the ball might be a double-edge sword after the introduction of tournaments and online play. It’s a really interesting feature, but seems ripe for abuse by higher level players.

Midfield

Again, passing is a true strength in PES 2017. In fact the whole rhythm of the build up play just works. Players whose ability is defined by deft touches and intelligent passing, such as Iniesta, Kroos or Fabregas, can often find their abilities translate poorly to video games. Thankfully, the gameplay in PES 2017 allows their skill to thrive, and they truly impact games. Playing Barcelona’s tiki taka style worked brilliantly.

I’m far from an expert when it comes to skill moves, but I’m confident with the basics, such as fake shots and stepovers. Unfortunately the execution of skills in PES 2017 feels a bit clunky, and defending players always seem to have the edge against a dribbling attacker. You won’t be able to sprint past an entire defense, however a deft turn or a quick skill will remain vital to opening up a passing lane, or making space to shoot.

One of PES’s long standing strengths is the individuality of each player, and PES 2017 is no exception. Pogba felt like Pogba, Neymar felt Neymar, and Griezman felt like the blue-eyed heart-throb he is. Each squad played like a team, with the individuality shining through, however – only having played as Barcelona, Atletico, Germany and France – I’m not sure if the individuality of player will trickle down to lower-tier clubs and nations.

Defending

Slide tackles cover a lot of ground and are highly effective at breaking up play. Unfortunately you will end up receiving a lot of cards from the ensuing collisions, so a toning down of slide tackling would not go astray. Also, teams will pack the box if they decide to, so watch out for that.

Defending shape and switching the pitch both seemed to flow correctly, however, it’s difficult to get a good sense of how well defending will balance without significantly more time with the game. Defending against other teams, and especially online, will really test how well it’s going to work this year.

Goalkeepers

The goalkeepers can be a ‘Damned if you Do, Damned if you Don’t’ type of position. In my opinion, no matter how developers shift GKs each year, consumers will argue this position. That being said, the animations resembled real life outcomes, but with GK reactions being quite late on power shots, expect fans of PES to quickly complain about them.

Tactics

There’s plenty of changes to the tactics this year. One of the stand out improvements is the advanced instruction system, which gives you on the fly adjustments both offensively and defensively, such as tiki taka or hug the touchline. Hopefully Konami go even more in depth in future instalments.

There is also a man marking system, which allows you to nullify your opponent’s most dangerous players, and a feature called ‘fluid formations.’ It basically allows you to set a different formation for kickoff, attack and defense. This is a great addition, because it is something real-life teams use and allows you to choose who tracks back, or take advantage of a box-to-box midfielder like Vidal and give him important jobs in both offense an defense.

Checkout more gameplay above and be sure to check back daily to SGO for more PES 2017 news and exclusive gameplay!