FIFA 17 vs Pro Evolution Soccer 2017

Two footballing titans go head-to-head as we reveal which soccer sim is this year's title winner

Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. Celtic. vs. Rangers. Boca Juniors vs. River Plate. Football is filled with fearsome rivalries that stretch back decades, with each explosive clash adding a new chapter to the never-ending story that is the beautiful game.

One of the sport's younger derbies is a digital tussle, and until recently had become something of a one-sided affair. I am, of course, referring to the perpetual tug-of-war between annual soccer sims FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer.

The global skirmish sees developers EA Sports and Konami battle for the game industry's proverbial title and the affections of players around the world. So, which should you spend your hard-earned cash on, and which should you be sending out on loan after a disappointing pre-season?

Having now reviewed both games, we've got the answer.


Just like last time, we'll be judging both games in three key areas. The first being authenticity. There's no denying that this year they both look the part, with Pro Evo's Fox Engine and FIFA 17's Frostbite Engine serving up rich, high-fidelity visuals that ripple with atmospheric dynamism.

Stadiums, kits, and the players themselves look more real than ever before, and fans of both series will be pleased with how polished each title has turned out. But while there's a lot to love on both sides of the pitch, for me, FIFA is the clear winner for one simple reason. Licenses.

I know. I know. In PES you can edit or install the kits and team names yourself, but that's not the point. We're judging both games on what's in the box, and despite the fact that they both look beautiful, it's hard to deny that FIFA is streets ahead when it comes to real-world authenticity.

EA Sports' offering packs in more teams, more leagues, more stadiums, and better commentary. There isn't a fake strip or laughably bad name in sight, and EA has also managed to chuck in the likenesses of all 20 (current) Premier League managers. Though we'd surprised if that line-up is still accurate by the end of next month, let alone the end of the season.

Admittedly, PES has the Champions League and Europa League licenses, but when Konami can't even fill out those competitions with the right squads, it almost becomes a bad joke. First blood to FIFA 17.

Authenticity winner: FIFA 17


What about authenticity on the pitch? It's a tough question, because in gameplay terms the franchises are worlds apart. This year, PES is slower and more purposeful. Passing feels more measured and more precise, and the game's star players feel uncannily lifelike thanks to Konami's 'Player ID' and 'Real Touch' systems.

That, combined with the game's much improved goalkeepers and defenders, means it's harder to score goals, and makes this year's edition more about the build-up than the end product. That's no bad thing, but it does risk irking fans who've become accustomed to PES being the home of whirlwind goalfests and free-scoring players.

If the game's revamped gameplay is an acquired taste, PES 2017's sloppy mechanics are a veritable slap in the face. Player switching, pass assist systems, and shot and pass sensitivity are all over the place - even on manual settings - and end up souring the experience in all areas of the pitch.

Players will be pulled out of position, moves will break down, and passes will veer out of play all too often. It might only happen once or twice a match, but during those close-run games it'll leave you seething.

On the other side of the coin, there's FIFA. EA's latest is less restrained than its predecessor, which much like this year's PES focused on the technical side of the game. FIFA 17 is an entirely different beast, and seems more concerned with helping players get the ball in the back of the net than much else.

Gone is the measured, tippy-tippy passing of FIFA 16 and back are the fleet-footed wingers, more akin to supercars than actual human beings. Indeed, this year FIFA is all about pace, power, and picturesque goals.

EA Sports has placed a clear emphasis on their digital goalscorers, and the game's spirited attacking players - particularly those based on the world's biggest stars - lead the line effortlessly. The interplay between wingers and those spearheading the attack is magnificent to behold, but it also highlights the hit taken by FIFA 17's under-utilised midfielders.

As I noted in my review, play in the middle of the park breaks down too easily. Players are clumsy, and will give the ball away through wayward passing far too often. Your teammates don't make runs as often as they should either, and when they do will sometimes stop dead in their tracks, just as you were about to play the perfect through-ball.

Defensively, things look solid, but an overabundance of shielding makes tackling the opposition a chore. In hindsight, then, it's a good thing they give the ball away so often.

All-in-all, it's clear EA wanted to deliver an attack-minded game, and they've succeeded in that regard. Unfortunately, they've sacrificed flexibility to achieve that goal, and as FIFA 17 pulls players in one direction, it's going to make more than a few enemies. Namely those of you who love nothing more than building a stylish, slow-building team that's perfected the art of tiki-taka.

In many ways, FIFA and PES have taken a step back from last year. Both of them deliver very different experiences, that, while enjoyable, feel too one-dimensional and clunky.

Gameplay winner: Draw


Last but not least, we need to take a look at the various gameplay modes both titles put forward. FIFA's Career Mode is much improved, and features more depth than last year's by-the-books affair. This year managers are asked to get more involved with the club, and have to juggle increasingly demanding board expectations with the financial realities of building a title-winning team — or simply staving off relegation.

A slightly tweaked Ultimate Team also makes a return, and will be the main attraction for many FIFA veterans. The biggest addition by far, however, is The Journey: a new story mode that quickly establishes itself as the jewel in FIFA's crown. Placing players in the shoes of Premier League wannabe Alex Hunter, The Journey is a cinematic, captivating, and slightly clichéd tale that well and truly steals the show. As we said in our review, we can't wait to see how the concept develops in the years ahead.

PES can't quite match FIFA's rousing display, but there's not to say you aren't getting plenty of bang for your buck. Master League is still a wonderfully addictive time-sink, and outshines FIFA's Career Mode in terms of narrative presentation and manager customisation — although the UI is still the stuff of nightmares.

The chance to play officially branded Champions League and Europa League matches is another big plus point. That said, I stand by my earlier comments that Konami needs to start licensing all of its European competitors.

As you'd expect, MyClub is also back, and offers a compelling alternative to Ultimate Team, though a lack of depth - as a result of those licensing issues - means Konami still has a lot of ground to make up before it becomes the champion in that regard.

Overall, this is another win for FIFA - the combination of The Journey and Ultimate Team is just too hard to resist.

Longevity winner: FIFA 17

And the winner is…

It's a close one, but EA has managed to retain its footballing crown as FIFA beats PES for another year. It wasn't exactly a walk in the park this time, though.

In fact, this year feels like one of transition for the digital duo, with mechanical niggles and narrow-minded gameplay own-goals at both ends of the pitch. Here's hoping we'll see each side pick up the pace next season. For now, FIFA fans can celebrate their victory. Enjoy the champers.

Overall winner: FIFA 17

Buy FIFA 17 from Amazon

Buy PES 2017 from Amazon