By this stage everybody has said everything humanly possible about the PES2016 demo that appeared everywhere over the past couple of days.
First of all – it’s a good game.
‘Only’ an incremental improvement on PES2015, maybe, but incremental increase has always been the PES way. When, in PES history, was there ever this ‘huge leap’ that seems to be anticipated every year lately? Where does the perception that that’s going to happen even come from?
Also: I liked PES2015, and I believe I will like PES2016 too.
And it is only a demo. When fine-tuning a slice of a football game for demo release, certain things are accentuated, and other things muffled.
I won’t do one of those Pros and Cons, + and – lists that you see at this time of year.
Passing and shooting – good. Graphics – excellent. (I’m genuinely baffled why the graphical leap isn’t immediacy obvious to all. Graphics have gone from PS3.5 to true next-gen PS4 levels.)
Fouls are the big question. The serious question.
In 10 matches at the time of writing, played on a variety of settings and with most of the teams on offer, I have not been fouled once by the AI.
I’ve had no free kicks in open play in ten matches. ZERO.
I don’t remember the AI even getting caught offside.
The absence of fouls is not a bug. It’s a deliberate policy decision. There can be no serious doubt about this. We can hope that it’s a demo-only feature – you know, designed to showcase the flow of gameplay to the max – but I think that’s a vain hope.
I spent most of one match dribbling slowly around the AI players trying desperately to pick up a foul. That was always the way to get free kicks on PES2015. Unfortunately, somebody on the development team has had the bright idea to equip players with the ability to auto-evade many tackles. Every time the CPU player lunged in, my players would perform a little skip-shuffle that evaded the foul…
This is the new reality of football games. Online multiplayer is now the principal mode from the perspective of the developers.
Us single-players have been able to see this time coming for years. It’s now well and truly here.
Take a look at this horror show – here I’m playing as Bayern against Juventus. I try to stop the ball and turn back, a favourite tactic, anticipating a flying lunge from Pogba. This clear foul was NOT whistled as a foul (or given advantage – I checked):
Every match has numerous instances like that. This is the worst I’ve seen, but there are others
Twenty years of football gaming. How did we get to this stage? How did we get to the point where a basic element of the game is just ignored?
We got to this stage because the driving force in gaming nowadays is the online marketplace.
The online players will be happy with this – they’re already happy, because PES2016’s default 0-speed, the online standard, is fast and frenetic, and that’s what they want.
Who can begrudge somebody having something that they enjoy? Not me.
But would it kill PES’s developers to make a two-tier fouling system for online and offline? Without something like that, we’re stuck with a system designed to facilitate continuous online play, and that’s not the kind of football gaming that inspires me.
I do feel rather inspired by the rest of PES2016. The game feels different, as it darn well should. The handling is different. In the game of family resemblance that we all play, I think it’s most like PES6, I really do.
My first goal in the demo also featured my first sighting of the new (new to me anyway) dinked through-ball. Yes, the CPU defender should have got to it first by running at it instead of alongside it, but hey. It’s only a game…
Okay, and you can criticise the keeper, but we all know that playing any football game is a matter of making allowances. Of surviving the faults. Of seeking out the ghost in the machine.
My PES2016 demo experience has been much like my PES2015 demo experience. Encouraged and dismayed in almost equal measure, but satisfied there’s a game coming that I’ll be happy to bust open on Day 1 and spend some time getting to know. Hopefully lots of time getting to know.
The fouls thing won’t be ‘fixed’. Nobody’s going to fix something they don’t see as being broken. Any noises we hear to the contrary will be, I’m pretty sure, just diplomatic PR-speak.
They know us single-players aren’t happy with the direction they’ve taken. But they also know that they can afford to ignore us, and we’ll still get on and play it.
But will we always be here?
Very few football game demos have any long-term replay value for me, and I already know that PES2016’s demo won’t be one of them. It’s likely that I’ve already played the majority of my games on the PES2016 demo.
Maybe Tuesday I’ll do a wrap-up type post about it all, after digesting it further.
But the weeks between now and full release are likely to be dominated by other things. Who knows? FIFA15, PES2013, PES5? Actua Soccer? I really don’t know yet. God I love the silly season…