PES2015 isn’t the greatest football game that’s ever been made, but it’s the reason this blog is back up and running.
I followed an up-and-down trajectory with the game. At first I sort-of liked it. Then I loved it. Then I went back to ‘just’ liking it. Then I loved it again…
And now? Approaching the end of this 2014-15 football game year, what’s the final verdict, the final feeling?
PES2015 was difficult to like at first, never mind love. The graphics were chalky and drab, nothing like what the PS4 is capable of. In a depressingly familiar story, on release the game was hideously flawed in many aspects. It took a few patches for things to start feeling proper.
It also took the adjustment of certain expectations. Expectations always get out of hand in recent years, as we peek over the aisle and see what’s happening in FIFA, particularly in Career Mode.
PES2015’s gameplay was refreshingly basic – somewhat in the cheerful spirit of PES2010, I found – and this is what saved the game for me. One thing we’ve learned from 20 years of PES, or whatever it’s been, is that a winning formula doesn’t get changed. If it does get changed, it’s at great risk. (PES2014. Enough said.)
PES2015 is a close cousin to PES6 on the Xbox360. That latter game was a stopgap in the history of PES. PES2015 will prove to be much the same. We await PES2016 and its successors to see just where ’15 eventually ends up in the pantheon.
By Christmas, my stop-start Master League was a growing seedling. By February I was neck-deep in that old familiar Master League feeling – and starting to miss the days when I blogged about how special this feeling truly was.
That special Master League feeling is the feeling you’re involved in something. Playing Master League bring into life a whole other world, with its own life and its own narrative, running parallel to your real life. A world you can go and hang out/hide out in whenever you want.
PES is Master League. And Master League is pipe and slippers and hot cocoa and a comfort blanket all rolled into one.
Peter Crouch! Arjen Robben! Georghe Hagi (homebrew, but he counted)!
Okay, so the players weren’t individual enough. This was a huge demerit for the game.
The game seemed to have a mechanic whereby a great individual performance was followed by several matches of bewildering anonymity. I’ve been playing football games long enough to recognise a nerf-attack when I see one, and this was a nerf-attack. Not a great decision by the Master League designers, as consistency of individuality is one of PES’s great hallmarks. Nothing should be allowed to dilute that. I’m tempted to mark the game down for this alone.
But the game: overall. Great passing, satisfying shooting. Adequate goalkeepers – better than adequate, in most respects.
After worrying initially about long-range goals (notoriously missing from PES2014 on that game’s launch) I ended up scoring enough PES2015 piledrivers from 40 yards to keep me happy.
High points? So many that I could go on about them for a long time. There was that goal by Peter Crouch, which made me literally shout out loud one midnight:
I’ll remember that goal 20 years from now. That’s what only PES can do.
Below is a goals compilation I made back in April.
I still feel excited and inspired watching this now. These goals were never intended to showcase a technically flawless football game. They were only intended to show what I’d decided to record to my PS4’s HD. That was the only selection bias at work.
The game had big problems. Fouls, for one. This one is almost unforgivable. For a football game to be almost devoid of free kicks is a like a driving game in which there is little or no possibility of crashing. To play over 600 matches in Master league and have approximately 4 free kicks in shooting range just cannot be forgiven or forgotten. (I’ll be assessing PES2016’s performance in this regard. If the demo is any guide, the no-fouls problem has been made worse.)
It also has to be acknowledged that Master League itself might be in trouble. Okay, it definitely is in trouble.
We’ve seen the Master League patient ailing for a number of years. PES2010-PES2011 was the mode’s peak. It’s been steadily downhill from there, with features removed and not replaced.
Global player development isn’t right. After 8 seasons in my main Master League world, there were only about 10 players rated over 90 OVR. Half of them were mine.
Career Mode in FIFA has mysteriously acquired almost everything ‘extra’ that Master League used to have. The training. The transfer tension. The sheer enjoyable grind.
Master League is suffering from neglect, and I know what’s responsible. The demands of the online multiplayer market are becoming truly obnoxious.
But it is still hanging on. Just.
And so is Pro Evolution Soccer, a franchise whose last rites are chanted every single year, but which keeps on coming back like a not-really-dead-yet supervillain at the end of a movie.
And that’s what’s great about PES. Despite all the frankly ludicrous faults, it still works. There’s still greatness in the dark, forbidding depths.
I played 14 seasons in Master League, FOURTEEN long, long seasons. There aren’t many editions of PES that have ever hit double figures in Master League seasons. For the record, the ones that got to double-digits are: PES3, PES5, PES2010, PES2011, PES2012, and now PES2015. All the others have been single-figure ML campaigns.
And so my year-end score for PES2015 is a mighty and fully deserved
Yes, the same score I gave FIFA15 – a game I played for less than half the total time compared to PES2015.
I’m not a journalist or a reviewer. I’m barely even a blogger. My use of review-style scores is symbolic.
9/10 is justified for the time spent on it: 14 seasons of Master League. If that’s not a 9/10 football game, what is?
For release week my posting schedule will undergo a temporary change.
There will be no new post on Tuesday 15th September. I’ll post on Thursday 17th instead, hopefully early in the afternoon to say ‘I’ve got the game!’
Then I’ll post again later that evening, around 7pm, with brief First Impressions. The following day’s regular post, Friday 18th, will be delayed until the early evening.
Regular 12 noon Tues/Friday posting will resume the following week.
The above plan depends on me getting the game Thursday, which is likely but by no means guaranteed.
Should delivery be delayed until release day proper, the 18th, I’ll do all of the above on the Friday, and then follow up with a special post over the weekend.