PES2015: A Retrospective Look

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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.

PES2015 Season 8 after 32

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.

PES2015 radio gaga

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

9/10

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.

Updated: 10th September 2015 — 11:44

89 Comments

  1. Hmm, I read that asim review and see a load of negative comments; lack of fouls, lack of a transfer layer, no individual training, etc yet he gives it an overall best of breed type mark. He clearly values the ability to dribble and whack players without consequence, the point about pogba, toure, et al wiping players out was at odds with the no foul complaint. Either the collision system is realistic (in which case there should be plenty of fouls) or it is simply a great feature of a completely fantasy style of football. The suggestion that ml has been massively overhauled that was coming out weeks back was just another konami statement with what seems no basis. They should have said ‘the look of ml has been massively overhauled’. As ever I imagine the longevity is in the onfield action, level of scripting and story you create for yourself but I’ve never been less excited for a new pes than this. I look forward to the chronicles to give me a warts n all interpretation.

    Werd – when you inevitably trade MGS I’ll stop you at the metrocentre entrance and give you the cash alternative. You’ll never play it again, time to give it up to the less hassled player…

  2. Hi all.

    I didn’t know the review embargo was today, for some reason I thought it was Thursday! So I’ve just finished watching Asim’s review, as well as reading a couple of others. All-in-all and the no fouls thing aside most things sounds positive, and the games of the demo I have played recently have me more excited than a kid at Christmas! You could tell Asim was literally gushing about certain aspects of the gameplay. I’m hoping this will transfer onto us all and it will make the no fouls situation easier to swallow.

    I will be starting with the ML defaults for sure for my Freebridge United team with a bespoke kit I’ve already made. I also have all the Prem kits plus several others ready to go I took from some forum, although I’ll probably wait for Glen to release his as they’re always top notch. Either way, I’ll only have to wait for the day-one patch before I can start ML, kits can be added as and when. My only ML conundrum at the moment is Top Player or Superstar, and default or -1 game speed. I have been playing demo games using Palmeiras’ second-string trying to replicate the early stages of ML so I can better judge what difficulty to choose from the beginning.

  3. That’s what I found very odd about Asim’s and the Gamespot review as well — all that gushing about the collision model, alongside an almost grudging acknowledgement that there are no consequences for the wrong type of collision! A very strange scale of judgement to bring to bear on a sports game. To me it’s the same as praising the collision system in a shooter, then noticing that there are lots of times when the game ignores headshots, and failing to see the problem in that. Very strange.

  4. Turf – Buy me and Mrs Werd lunch at Wagmama and your on. It even has a map you could sniff 🙂

    Tommy – colour scheme preview?. You going for the full fat 4 strips or just 2?

  5. And a word re. MGS5. When I saw the release schedules earlier this year I thought I’d be done and dusted with it by now. Every other MGS game has been a 15-hour game, so this one would be too, right? Well I passed 15 hours some days ago and am still on less than 10% completed. And now PES2016 looms. This is going to be tricky for me to handle.

  6. It’s a shame. The games of the demo I played had everything. They we’re truly great games of PES, but there were noticeable moments where I longed for a referee’s whistle. I’d have spells of great play on the edge of the box before I’m mercifully scythed down, only for nothing to be given. Heartbreaking.

    At least, I didn’t see any of the skip-over-a-challenge stuff in my games over the past few days, and I did get some fouls against me. But not enough. No where near.

    I’m clinging on to the faint hope that when I come up against lesser opposition (more your Huddersfield Town than your Bayern Munchen) then I’ll see crap defenders making crap challenges, and a free-kick of two may occur.

    Ha! We can dream.

  7. Paul – Have you declared independence, as £18 is the non UK price?

  8. WERD – I posted this last week, but no one mentioned it. Any excuse to post it again! 🙂

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  9. PES 2016 is going to be ‘no rules’ football from my junior school playground.

  10. Tommy – Nice kit. You must REALLY like Subway. If only Konami made footy games the Subway… erm… way. “Can I have have slow gameplay, booming shooting, floppy nets and a sprinkling of free kicks on that please?”

    I played six-a-side down the park yesterday and in over an hour’s play we only had two free kicks. We also had a dog on the pitch, someone having to go home early coz the sole of their footy boot came away and one of the goals fell over when the ball hit the crossbar. 9/10 we gave it.

  11. Sorry werd, I’d spend the whole time contemplating Mrs w’s jubblies rather than concentrating on my noodles. You did say ‘massive’ didn’t you?

    Best I can offer is the entry/kids meal for £5.50 at namco soft play.

    Think I might spend next few days pushing on with 2015. Christmas season two approaches, top of the league, only two defeats.

  12. I spent this afternoon playing a few matches of a certain football game before PES2016’s arrival. I’ll be going cold turkey now so I feel fresh for Thursday. There’ll be a post at 12 noon Tuesday after all – just a short post about this other football game and some thoughts about PES2016’s imminence.

  13. Nice kit Tommy, still working on mine!

  14. 9 points clear with 6 games to go and still undefeated. W23 D9. Into the Cup Final and CL Semis. Just finished the session with a nervy 0-0 against Wolves. Nail-biting stuff.

  15. Tommy – love it. Like a 80’s Sochaux strip. I think for the away kit a reverse in colour but with added pin stripe.

    My strips will be in house as usual but you never know if I find some retro strips on the internet.

    Turf – Wassive is the word i’d use.

    Anyone else thinking about a non english league?

  16. Damn it – the no fouls thing is really starting to worry me now. Luckily i will be playing on PC but no idea if that is fixable as its the first PES i will be playing on that platform. After a year of virtually no PES, it had better be fixable. Otherwise it will be another PESless year for me. FIFA is virtually out as well because even though 15 was VERY good, I dislike the more “jittery” feel of it and the almost endless twisting and turning of the AI to keep the ball. As it is, 16 seems to still suffer from this. I prefer the PES 10 method of the AI pinging it around the back more. Anyhow, pes 2016 is almost upon is. Heres hoping it can at least tide me over until fallout 4.

  17. Werd – Lordy, time to reactivate that spy camera me thinks.

    A few games of 2015 last night, I’m pretty much cruising div 2 on Top player as Keane, Ings and Perez are way too good. With Kane arriving in January it’ll be an embarassment of riches but one I suspect will need entirely replacing for Premier League and Superstar. Lloyd’s team makes me realise a decent 75 striker isn’t going to win me trophies and the international call ups are quite nasty – 9 at the moment. PL title by season five is the aim. Last time I experienced such a stroll though was 2013….the relegation year.

  18. werd – I have a completely serious suggestion: why not keep a spreadsheet with all your ideas for Master League and accompanying/preparatory snacks colour-coded and cross-linked? You could spend half an hour updating it every day 🙂

    #1 – at this point I’m just keen to get my hands on the game and see how it handles. It’s interesting watching the undulations of discussion about the issue on the forums, though. Fascinating to see how mention of the fouls issue is stifled after a time and dismissed. There’s a process of assimilation and compromise underway that, in retrospect, has been underway for a couple of editions now. I’m just as guilty of this after my year on the mostly fouls-free PES2015. If PES2016 is as fouls-free as the early adopters are reporting, it’ll be a challenging escalation of the issue, though.

    Uncle Turf – remember Lloyd’s revelation a while ago that he has an unexpectedly ultra-direct playing style that frequently gives him less than 40% possession. So his experience of the game in the Prem on SS might not automatically map onto yours, in either direction, better or worse.

    There will be a new post up today at 12 after all. Definitely the last football game review of the year…

  19. agreed, #1 – although FIFA is a stern challenge these days, it seems to achieve it through blanket defence and infernal AI wriggling in attack. I did think that there were signs of promise in the FIFA16 demo, but have admittedly only played it twice. PES2014 is a nice reminder of the virtues of decent AI and that it is maybe still better in PES. However like you I’m also unenthusiastic about a game with no fouls and hence no yellow cards, red cards, penalties, revenge tackles, injuries, free kicks in the zone – virtually half the fun taken out!

    Ground on with The Last of Us for another few hours last night, although when my companion died about 20 times in a row I almost lost patience. Grimly determined to finish it but not much fun

    Meanwhile in Coventry not-Greg sets off in search of a small independent games shop….

  20. #1 – an 8 year wait is nearly over as I never rated Fallout Vegas.

    NG – well ahead of ya, I have a database of pasta ready as well 🙂

  21. not-Greg – a Rocket League review!

  22. I really am heading out too into the wilds of Coventry city centre, and will have a wander around. I was toying with the idea of a digital download from the US PSN store, but I’ll try the traditional ‘wander around looking hopelessly’ route first. Which hasn’t actually yielded an early copy of the game for 11 years now, but the genetic memory lives on.

  23. Did some gaming housework last night ready for a new PES year. TV cabinet cleaned out and reorganised with a neat line up of my games (not many now) and mini-Shed’s.

    I also backed up all 2000+ save files on the PS3. Took two hours but worth it for the nice feeling of knowing all that gaming progress is safe – especially mini-Shed’s Lego Star Wars/Marvel data and the Disney Infinity worlds he’s been building with a little help from daddy.

    Now for the last leg of waiting for the new PES. Hopefully Shopto delivers…in a delivers early sense.

  24. Shed – I need to back up my entire PS3 HDD to safeguard my future ability to play all the fully patched and updated PS3 PESes. It’s scary to think that it seems my PS3 is the only place on Earth where all that Konami update data resides! I’ve got plenty of spare hard drives sitting around and should really do that backup… soon (tempting fate I know).

    After my wonderful MGS5 experience with ShopTo, any dispatch notification until 7pm tomorrow should mean a Thursday delivery depending on your local postal service.

  25. i remember for PES 2013 HMV had the boxes on the shelves a good week and half before release with ‘Pre Order Now’ stickers not he cases, i slyly unpeeled the sticker from one box and took the case upstairs to the tills in the vinyl/cd/tshirt section, where i spotted a long haired rocker type guy behind the till, i thought if he knew anything about games then it would only be guitar hero….. and id chance my arm at getting an early copy.

    He rang it up on the till and promptly asked me for my 39.99 ….. get in i thought!!!
    then it all came crashing down as he said ‘oh the systems says this int to be sold until next friday’ ……… almost !!!!

    Can rocket league really be classed as a football game? theres no feet involved, its as much a football game as speedball was back on the Amiga.

  26. Paul – there’s a great article somewhere online (will track it down later) that analyses what a football game boils down to in terms of game mechanics and ‘flow’, and point-by-point declares Rocket League a better football game than either PES or FIFA. All tongue-in-cheek of course, but fairly convincing even so.

    I was reading your HMV story with mounting excitement until the end. If I pull anything similar I will report back.

  27. NG – i did see a forum post listing a few well known independent games stores in London, who are known to shift early copies, if you had an afternoon spare and want bothered about shelling out train fare you could possibly ring and go grab a copy.

    Or just wait until Thursday!

  28. NG – on a Brutalist note. Do you pass by that Cafe thats on a stalk in Coventry city centre? I have a obsession about post modern architecture at the mo. I was reading up on post war city centres(dont mock) and I saw a pic of the city centre with the cafe, just curious.

  29. MGS5 is a major factor this year. This year I’ll be waiting until the pre-ordered game plops through my letterbox without any difficulty at all, and just enjoying the excitement of the week.

  30. werd – that cafe is a major Coventry landmark and a key location in the childhood of everybody who grew up in Coventry in the 70s and 80s. It seems everyone was taken there at some point for a knickerbocker glory. That’s not local slang for a fiendish kind of sexual abuse. The entire area was bulldozed and rebuilt several times, but the building has Listed status. Here it is after construction in the 60s, in its guise as a Wimpy.

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    It’s still called ‘the round Wimpy’ by everyone over 30 in Coventry. It’s a generic sort of coffee shop now and looks just like this – my Quest for PES will see me walk back and forth along here several times this afternoon as I complete various figure-eights and loop-the-loops around town.

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  31. NG – not the pic I saw but nice anyway. I had visions of you walking through a Ballardian dystopian landscape, collar turned up to the biting wind shot on some grainy film.

    That looks all modern and swish.

  32. Indeed it looks like any portion of any city centre in Western Europe, yes, especially with the glass-and-girders roof over it. Today is typical PES-hunting weather – cool and grey with the possibility of drizzle and disappointment.

    You’ve reminded me that Vol 1 of Ballard’s short stories is one of the books literally at my bedside. Not kidding – there it is, about 5-6 from the bottom. Untouched since I impulse-bought it and Vol 2 on Amazon months ago.

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    MGS and soon PES have disrupted my nightly reading habit. I must fix that. Without at least an hour of reading every day I start to unravel.

  33. Couple of years back I walked from the train station to the Ricoh. I’m sure there are interesting parts of Coventry but that few miles was most certainly not them. Point about Lloyd noted, although it is rare for me to get close to 60% I usually have the majority share. Do you have them running up sand dunes as well Lloyd?

    Werd – you can’t go wrong with the Victor Passmore pavillion in glorious Peterlee. I fell in the fountain near it when I was a kid.

  34. Attack, attack attack.

  35. NG – yep typical PES weather. I’m half tempted to mooch out myself but Sunderland has only really Grainger/HMV or GAME. I think it would be fruitless, unless I employ Pauls sticker removal ploy. If you dont hear from me for a while its cos I was arrested being expunged from HMV shouting “the man with Ocelot pants made me do it”

    Turf – I have the honour of working in Basil Spences Civic Centre. In the Autumn/Winter the walk to work feels like a gritty late 70’s film. Soon quashed when I actually start work.

  36. Lloyd – you’re not going to approve of my playing style as seen in a video going up at 12 then…

    Uncle Turf – Coventry is cheerfully more or less what its byword-for-grim status would have you believe (like Slough, or Dudley, or similar places with less than romantic connotations), but a single trek on a miserable grey day doesn’t represent anywhere. You’d have barely seen a tree on your likely route from the train station to the Ricoh.

  37. Tommy – how did you go about applying your textures for each part of the kit over that template??

  38. Paul – Don’t know much about the textures. Maybe something I have to sacrifice for a custom kit. I can always make it again when I know more.

  39. Tommy – I meant did you use a blank kit layout template then design the stripes and markings and everything on top of the template, or is that kit you posted just one you grabbed off the web?

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