The Pro Evolution Soccer or “PES” franchise has a rich history that dates all the way back into the late 90’s. Oftentimes PES offered football aficionados an alternative experience to the widely popular FIFA franchise released by EA annually. Undoubtedly each franchise has had its low points as well as highs throughout the years but the era of gaming we live in now, seems to be one of the best for both Football franchises.
2015 marked the first year for Konami’s football franchise to hit next gen consoles and it was widely considered a success. Although still lacking some of the licensing enjoyed by its competitor, gamers largely agreed that PES 2015 actually was a more balanced, technical and accurate representation of the sport. PES 2015 scored very high on all the top review sites and actually also had a higher metacritic score than FIFA did which brings us to this year.

PES2016_weather_01[1]
Player models are improved and collision physics bring the game of football to life.
At this years E3 in Los Angeles, I got to spend some quality time with an early build of PES 2016 in the Konami booth and this article will highlight some of the first impressions I took away from it.
First off, let’s talk about the PES booth itself. Built like a pub with wood paneling all around, Winning Eleven posters and cover art on display all throughout, it was a welcome retreat from all the hustle and bustle that is the show floor at E3. I promptly sat down at the bar which had controllers sprouting out of it and was greeted with a beer by a Konami employee. The mood was set and I was extremely eager to get my hands on PES 2016. The first game I played was against a Gentleman who also had a lot of experience with both FIFA and PES. We decided to play an international friendly between my home team Germany and his team of choice, France.

PES2016_Neymar_01[1]
Brazilian star Neymar replaces World Cup hero Mario Goetze in PES 2016

Loading was swift and the game dropped us into the player tunnel with both sides waiting to take the field. At first glance, the player models looked sharp and improved over last year. There was not much else in the form of presentation at the beginning of the game and we found ourselves in the kick off circle fairly quick. My first impressions once on the field were that the pitch itself looked a lot better than last years. I had just played PES 2015 the night before, to refresh my memory and the field definitely looked more detailed and realistic. The stadium also looked a little crisper and the fans in it looked lively. Some of that could be attributed to some lighting improvements but it’s hard to tell unless comparing both side by side. Overall it definitely “popped” more than last years title from what I could tell.

Mechanically players behaved similar to last year and the game felt surprisingly polished already, which is a great sign. Movements seemed realistic and proportionate to the player’s position, size and skill set. Slide tackles however, even when timed and positioned perfectly seemed a bit tough to pull off and oftentimes resulted in a yellow card. That is definitely something Konami has plenty of time to tune from now until the games release on September 15th. On the animation side of things, this game really impressed me. It is much slower paced than it’s EA Sports counterpart and therefore resembles more of a real life football match, which again to me, is a positive. Passes were contested and always felt like there was a chance my opponent could gain possession, especially when trying to complete a long distance pass. The collision physics were good and I even noticed the occasional missed pass that got misplayed and went 30 feet off its intended target. Some may ask: How could you like a misplayed ball that you had no control over?
And my response would be: Because it’s football! It’s life! No matter how much control you are in, you can never control every single outcome of every single situation. And for that, I applaud Pro Evolution Soccer. They bring the human element to life, I have only previously seen in a game like MLB The Show.

PES2016_weather_02[1]
Dynamic weather will affect the look and feel of the pitch in this years rendition.
I ended up scoring towards the end of the half on a beautiful header by Marco Reus (who looks amazing) which was set up by a nice lob into the box by Mario Götze (last years cover athlete). It was followed by a flurry of attacks from my opponent and one save in particular stood out to me. It was a strike from just inside the penalty box and Manuel Neuer had to dive to get to the ball. Because it was a well struck ball and Neuer was a little late on the save, he actually landed on top of the ball and the sheer momentum kept the ball rolling out from underneath Neuer’s rib cage. This is another example of how PES really tries to emulate a true sim football experience. My opponent did eventually score on an interception, caused by a poor, lazy pass from Neuer which was definitely a deserved outcome.

Although our game ended in a 1-1 tie, it was a very satisfying football experience that left both of us wanting more. One last feature I would like to point out is the new “Human Motion Feature” which I already touched on earlier in the article. The feature is aimed to bring more life and realism to the game in many different aspects. Players now will complain to referees after a foul they didn’t feel they deserved or interact with teammates after a missed pass or shot on goal. Additionally gamers can now control celebrations after scoring a goal with a pop up menu that appears right after the score. This adds another element of customization and I personally feel that it will be a hit among gamers.

All in all, PES 2016 is a refined, better looking version of an already outstanding football sim. The fact that there are still roughly 3 months left to tweak and tune this already polished game, make it a no-brainer for me personally. I am extremely excited to play PES 2016 this fall and from all early indications, this may be the best Pro Evolution Soccer/Winning Eleven title we have ever seen.

If you guys enjoyed this exclusive early hands on article on Pro Evolution Soccer 2016, please be sure to follow us on twitter @SportsGamersOn and check back for our comprehensive PES 2016 Preview and Review articles coming this fall! Also, please leave a comment below and tell us how we are doing. We are always open to new ideas and content to bring to our readers. You guys are important to us and we wouldn’t be here without you. You can also follow me on twitter @danielbaesel and shoot me a line with any suggestions or engage in our forums. We look forward to hearing from you and are always interested in feedback from the community.