The traditional PES v Fifa rivalry is back – and Konami has produced its best football simulation since the glory days of PlayStation 2
Since the mid-2000s, Pro Evolution Soccer (now formally abbreviated to PES) has resembled one of those once-great footballing names now reduced to scraping an existence in the lower divisions – a Leeds United or Sheffield Wednesday, say. In the early 2000s, though, PES’s annual tussle with EA Sports’ Fifa was one of the games industry’s great rivalries. PES was the option for the purists, its stimulating fast-paced and highly tactical gameplay providing a thrilling simulation of the beautiful game. But Fifa had the flashy presentation and its expensive official licence, and from 2008 onwards a much-improved on-pitch experience, allowing it build a seemingly unassailable lead. As a result, Fifa became one of the UK’s best-selling games, PES stagnated.
However, last year’s PES 2016 represented an impressive comeback, thanks mainly to vastly improved graphics and physics brought by a switch to the Fox game engine, which also powered Metal Gear Solid V. Happily, PES 2017 builds considerably on that sudden improvement, addressing many (though not all) of the criticisms that still dogged its predecessor. Compared to the commercial might of Fifa 2017, it’s still an underdog of Leicester City proportions, but in some fundamental areas it outshines its brash, flashy rival.