Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 Review

Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 continues its march back towards the pinnacle of digital soccer, but there’s still some way to go.
I am, apparently, a supporter of Merseyside Red.
I’ve got to say apparently there, partly because this was decided within minutes of me starting at a school in London in the late eighties, where not having a football team to support was simply unthinkable, and therefore I was “given” a team that I “had” to support, but also because Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 suffers, as Pro Evo games have for some time now, with not having a whole lot of official licenses to play with.
As such, Liverpool, who I follow in the sense that I was told to a long time ago and if asked I say they’re “my” team because I’m still somewhat terrified by some of the guys I went to school with, are in fact, Merseyside Red. It’s notably annoying because Konami, producers of Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 do have a few licences to play with. You can play as Manchester United, for example, or a little closer to home, the Central Coast Mariners. But not everybody, and coverage is therefore quite patchy and ultimately unsatisfying unless you’re in the “lucky” group able to appear in both Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 and FIFA 15. I should note that while I’ve been playing the Xbox One version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2015, I’m yet to even kick off a match of FIFA 15.
The issue with licenses might seem like a small one, and in some ways it is, but it highlights that the biggest problems that Konami’s had with its soccer franchise have been smaller issues. Last year’s title switched over to the “Fox” engine that also runs Metal Gear Solid games, and in its next-generation outing it’s a mostly magnificent creature, with seamless animations, player facial expressions and moves that give the proper acrobatic oomph to players without appearing farcical.

Except when it doesn’t. Some players have a slightly strange, almost sausage-meat look to their faces that reminds you that you’re playing a video game. You’re not likely to spot this while playing, because a long distance shot still remains the best way to play any football game for strategic reasons, but every once in a while during a replay, or if you opt to watch the pre-game animations, you’ll hit something that reminds you rather solidly that you’re playing in the uncanny valley, not the real world.
Then there’s the menu system, which Konami has clearly borrowed from a spreadsheet application sometime in 1988 and never really bothered to update. Yes, it’s functional, but it’s also slow and kludgy and ugly as well. This isn’t what we want to get hyped up for a match, Konami, and it should be the easiest single thing to fix in Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. It should have been fixed this time around, frankly.
Commentary is likewise decent but predictably repetitive after only a short period of time, especially if you play a lot of drawn games. Given the slower more tactical pace of Pro Evolution Soccer 2015, that’s going to be most of them unless your opposition is incredibly inept.
At this point you might be wondering why a non-sports obsessive who follows a team because he’s got wholly redundant bullying issues relating to the late 1980s is so particularly passionate about what Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 does wrong. The reason is that once you get past all those small issues, there’s still a cracking game to play here, especially against human opponents.

When the small issues are the ones that stand out, you're probably looking at a very good game.
When the small issues are the ones that stand out, you’re probably looking at a very good game.

The AI is pretty good, and it does a great job when you’re playing of sensibly running for the ball, creating opportunities and pressing in the attack, but even moreso on defence where you really have to work to break through for that all important score. There’s complexity in the game controls that takes time and learning in order to become truly fluent with ball control, but the inbuilt tutorials gently take you through all of those to the point where they become second nature. There’s enough game modes, online and off to keep the most rabid soccer fanatics happy for another year until the inevitable Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 rolls around.
So is it worth buying? I’m not a fanatic, but I can still see how EA’s stranglehold on the FIFA licence and its many teams creates a juggernaut for Konami to bounce successive Pro Evolution Soccer titles against. Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 is a great title, and it’s a solid improvement over last year’s game as well, but it’s still got a few rough spots to iron out before it becomes the must-have soccer title — even if you’re not a soccer tragic.

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