FIFA or PES? It’s the eternal struggle. The one question on the lips of football fans and gamers every September.
For the past couple of years, there’s only really been one answer, with EA’s long-running franchise stealing the show at every turn.
This year though, something has changed. There have been some rumblings of discontent from the FIFA faithful, while PES fans are proudly declaring that the series is back to its best.
The truth lies somewhere in-between, and, after playing both games, we feel that we’re finally able to declare a winner.
Of course, we’re not going to tell you who it is just yet. That’d ruin the surprise. First we need to explain the method behind our madness. So, let’s break this down by analysing the areas that matter most.
It’ll come as no surprise when I say that FIFA 16 wipes the floor with Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 in terms of authenticity. There’s really no competition here: it’s like watching Barcelona play Barnet. No offence intended, Barnet fans.
For all of its other strengths, and the fact that it boasts a handful of licensed cup competitions, the Champions League being the pick of the bunch, PES simply can’t compete with FIFA when it comes to realism.
In Pro Evo, the Premier League – though, obviously, it isn’t actually called that – only features one licensed team, while there are a whole host of leagues that don’t feature any. Worse still, some competitions, for instance the German Bundesliga, haven’t been included at all. Yes, that’s the Bundesliga, home to some of the biggest teams and best players in the world. OK, so Bayern, Wolfsburg and Borussia Mönchengladbach are included, but that’s your lot.
Making things more jarring is the fact that PES‘ commentary team rarely describes anything happening on the pitch. At least FIFA‘s talkie bits, while repetitive, are accurate. It’s hardly something that’ll matter much to longtime Pro Evo fans, who’ll be used to this particular shortcoming by now, but for newcomers it’s definitely going to throw a spanner in the works, and may even convince them to pick up FIFA instead.
When it comes to the players themselves, both games do a tremendous job of bringing the sport’s biggest stars to life. Ronaldo, Messi, Robben, Neymar, Bale and more have all been fully realised, and it’s always impressive to see players not only look, but behave as they would in real life.
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This is where things really start to get interesting. In truth, it’s difficult to compare the gameplay offerings in this year’s efforts, because both have a fundamentally different idea of what football should be.
PES is an all-guns-blazing affair, full of crisp, acute, razor-sharp passing and outrageous goals. Goalkeepers and defenders are often found wanting, which, while frustrating at first, only helps add to the footballing spectacle unfolding on-screen.
There’s something to be said for actively discouraging goal droughts, and this year Konami has ensured that when it rains, it damn well pours.
On the other side of the fence, there’s FIFA. A more conservative effort than PES, the EA Sports team have placed an emphasis on measured, controlled passing, slow-burning attacks that occasionally burst into life, and defences that are tough to break down.
It might sound like a negative analysis, but let me assure you, it isn’t. It’s just means that FIFA 16 is challenging in other ways. Instead of attempting to outscore your opponent by shooting on sight, à la PES, you’ll need to take tactics into account. Oh, and don’t think you can just rely on the pace of that star signing – this isn’t FIFA 15.
No, this time around planning, patience, and persistence are key – especially if you want to beat FIFA 16‘s hardy keepers – but that just means that when you do finally break the deadlock, or score a one-in-a-million wonder goal, it’ll feel all the more special.
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Some of you will undoubtedly be content to spend your days guiding your favourite team to European glory on Manger Mode or Master League – both of which are as addictive as ever, by the way. But many of us pick up football games for one thing, and one thing only: to get one over on some 12-year-old in Luxembourg and feel like Pep Guardiola for that brief period until we are in turn thrashed by a 15-year-old in Portugal. Playing as SC Braga.
Enjoying more of the former moments and fewer of the latter is dependent on two things: your own skill, and solid online matchmaking.
During our time with PES we never had any problem finding a game, even when searching for someone playing with manual controls. Lag was never an issue either, and, as mentioned in our full Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 review, although our connection did drop off once, it was hardly a recurring problem.
Our experience with FIFA was more frustrating. We could usually find a game with ease, except when we decided to search for someone using our favoured manual control scheme. It should be said that the connection was good whenever we did find an opponent, but that doesn’t make waiting eons for the game to pair us with another manual player any less infuriating.
Outside of those regular online modes, FIFA comes out on top. The allure of Ultimate Team will still be the deciding factor in a lot of purchases, and even though PES‘ myClub is another step in the right direction for Konami’s franchise, it still lacks the overall polish and depth of its competitor.
And the winner is…
So, here we are. It’s time to deliver our verdict. In footballing terms, it’s been an end-to-end thriller that saw one side steal the three points with an injury-time goal. The victorious team? FIFA 16.
I know, I can see you rolling your eyes already, but, honestly? Even though FIFA has managed to retain its title, this has been a good year for PES. Hell, it’s been a great year. Konami has ensured its franchise isn’t the underdog anymore and if FIFA wants to stay on top again next year, it’s going to have to up its game once again.
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