Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 – PS4 Review

November 17, 2014

I’ve always found it ironic that Konami’s flagship football title would be released as Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) in European countries, and Winning Eleven in the Americas once upon a time. That and it was really disappointing when I had found out that the Americas title was referring to football and not cricket… In any case, the PES series had been going through a slow downward spiral of malaise and an inability to keep with EA’s FIFA series, which took the ball and ran with it for most of the last generation. Despite a two month delay behind the licensed juggernaut, PES2015 shows that it won’t be left behind this year and that the motto ‘The Pitch is Ours’ is no exaggeration.

Getting the elephant in the room out of the way, licensing and presentation has always been a sore point with the series, and for the aficionado, it will be again here. It’s a fun game-within-a-game playing ‘spot the real player’ or ‘spot the creative spelling’. Still, there is the inclusion of the UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores, which are fun, but I actually really enjoyed the inclusion of the AFC Asian Champions League. On the back of the recent victory by the Western Sydney Wanderers, I really enjoyed taking them through the tournament, while Ce  ntral Coast Mariners and Melbourne Victory fans are serviced as well. Thankfully for us, the Australian national team is licensed as well. Sometimes the tactics menus and walls help text can be off-putting. However, they are an improvement over previous years and the first release on the eight generation of consoles is suitably zippy.

You have the typically enjoyable Master League, along with the usual roster of cup and league options at your disposal. The other career options such as Become a Legend and Football Life are there as well, where you take your player from fledgling to global superstar. These options though, feel like they could use some revising and revisiting. Konami has pitched myClub this year as a competitor to Ultimate Team, complete with fully loaded online capabilities and in-game and real world currency use! As opposed to something with features more revolutionary than its FIFA counterpart, it gives the stauncher PES fans less reason to feel disadvantaged.

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As this stage you know what you’re getting with either footballing competitor.  With FIFA you’re getting fluster, bluster and flair, but with PES you’re getting something much more understated, technical and ‘paced’ (code for slower). What counts the most though is how each one plays on the pitch. And this is where PES2015 truly steps up to meet the challenge, as the most accomplished game of footy that Konami has released in many years.

There is no one reason for this – the changes, additions and improvements have all been subtle.  However, it’s the way that all of these factors come together to create a product that most successfully recreates the magic of the sport. Those who don’t understand sport will often complain that you’re watching or doing the ‘same’ thing…  But what PES2015 manages to successfully recreate is what all sporting fans will understand – that no two matches are ever the same.

Previously whenever I had played a football game, FIFA or PES, I had a couple of tried and true strategies that I had stuck to and used those for my pillars of success. Older players probably remember the times when you could get away with reckless tactics such as sprinting down the middle past sleepy defenders… For the first time in a football game, I have been forced to think much more about how I should attack, how I should approach the defence, how I should exploit the rich tactical options available and more. I found myself passing back to help my pushes forward, and was compelled to do so without getting bored…


The profound thought at the bottom of my beer had me realising that this was down to the improvement of the in-game AI. My defenders and midfielders would rush back whenever I had lost the ball forward, and passing the ball back had allowed more of my players to get into attacking positions. Smart play allowed for my players to position themselves much better than I had noticed before, either to take advantage of a hole in the defence or to have numbers in the box as one of the wingers burst along the sideline.

The noticeable changes in tactics and momentum throughout a match were also very welcome. Teams would sometimes burst out of the blocks with all-out attack and other times with more circumspection. Later on, teams would noticeably tire and become more defensive, particularly if they were sitting on a lead. But even in this context, nothing was predictable… One team that I was leading three to zero at half time actually came out and increased their defensive prowess against my waning attackers.

Another tangible element that affected how matches played out came in the form of home team advantage. I found it harder to play away from home, as the players from the home side seemed to lift in the face of the parochial and boisterous support generated by the most lively crowd that Konami has ever created. Star players such as Ronaldo, Messi or Robben make a difference to your team and the development team have done a great job of recreating their skill sets. However, never at any stage did I feel like they would overpower the team dynamic; their usefulness depended on how well you utilised them in the team context, as opposed to having that one player rule the roost and do everything.


Aside from the naturally erroneous nature of having the ‘automatic’ options turned on and some overzealous refereeing, most of the time I found that if I messed up, it was my own fault or that I had been simply outplayed. Probably the biggest compliment that you can give to the gameplay, and this seems to be a common theme throughout the coverage that you’ll read on the game, is that it has never been so satisfying to ‘fail’. Even missing a shot on goal, or having your expertly crafted play halted by an errant deflection, the game still felt good. And even in loss, I felt like I had to get back up and prove myself, rather than feel sorry or complain about how hard it was.

PES2015 does not look out of place in the newest generation of consoles, and a lot of the little details have been done well to make sure it’s not too far behind its opulent rival. As mentioned, crowds are particularly special, most animations are fluid and give weight to players and it easily has the best likeness from Konami so far. In the end, it’s only elements of the presentation that could still do with some more work. I would have liked to see a more diverse range of goal celebrations, including players running to get the ball when scoring late and needing one more goal to equalise. The homogenous nature of the celebrations took me out of the context of the match when everything else tried to keep me there. Commentary got old quickly, particularly as the commentators dropped the hint every match that I hadn’t used a substitute.

PES2015 successfully turns around years of poor form from the series and provides the best recreation of actual football for a long time. For what it lacks off the pitch, it makes up for it by nailing the magic of sport and never giving you the same game twice. And the exciting part is that you can still see realistic improvements that can be made along the way. If you’re willing to forgo a few names for gaming prowess in return, PES2015 will show you that their motto is no overstatement – the pitch really is theirs this year.


Most astute recreation of the finest nuances that make sport fun and entertaining in a long time | No two matches are the same | Modern feature additions such as myClub and immersive crowd | AFC Asian Champions League license


The usual - lack of licenses and presentational nouse | One-note commentary and goal celebrations take you out of the immersion

Overall Score: