Platforms: PlayStation 4, PlayStation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, PC
We Used: PlayStation 4
Once in a while the underdog comes out on top. Other times, the established and most popular dog retains the crown. Then, in some rare cases, both dogs are able to make strong cases for themselves. Then you’re left with two great options that differ in a few minor ways. That’s the case between FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2016. You can read my review of FIFA 16 right here, but if you’re just reading to find out which is better, I unfortunately don’t have a simple answer to that question.
The basic synopsis is that both games are great. It just depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re an established FIFA veteran, then you might want to stick with that. But if you’re interested in shifting gears a bit, or if the moment-to-moment mechanics of the sport are what matter the most to you, then PES might be a better choice overall.
What makes PES 16 such a satisfying game to play is how it feels when you sit down with the controller in your hand and start up a game. The way that the animations subtly represent all of the different moment-to-moment intricacies is satisfying to behold. In most soccer games, you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate between the various players on the field based solely on how they feel when you play with them. Besides the names, numbers, and physical appearance, all the players are more or less the same most of the time—even in previous PES games.
But this year, PES puts considerable effort into making players actually feel differently when you play as them. Their momentum shifts in different ways based on their weight and height or play style. It’s a small touch on paper, but goes a long way toward improving the game as a whole. Visually it’s as impressive as ever. You can easily convince family members that pass by that you’re watching soccer on TV rather than playing a video game.
There is no women’s league and the options of games modes in general are noticeably less diverse than FIFA’s, but PES has got pretty much everything else you might want from a soccer game. The MyClub mode, for example, does a great job of giving you a sense of real progress while you develop your athlete.
At this point in an annual sports game’s lifespan, you usually have a pretty good idea of what you’re going to get just based on its legacy alone. But when a franchise like PES has been making small adjustments and improvements so consistently, it eventually gets to a point where the game itself begins to surpass the baseline expectations. While you would be hard-pressed to justifiably say that PES is an objectively better game than FIFA, it’s a notable proclamation to say that the reverse of that statement is also true. PES is, at worst, a comparable game to FIFA. That’s something worth commending.