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    Pro Evolution Soccer 2015: Beautiful Game

    Ask anyone what their football game of choice is and the likely answer will be, “FIFA, but I always used to play PES.” Well guess what? It’s time to hop back over the fence; PES 2015’s on-field action is precise, versatile, and better than FIFA’s.

    ‘The Pitch Is Ours’ is this year’s bold tagline, and the entire game is powered by that sentiment. There are no hollow gimmicks, no vapid boasts about first-touch this or off the ball that PES 2015 is about the football, pure and simple.

    The first thing long-suffering fans of PS3-era PES will notice is the drastic improvement in player responsiveness. They swivel, dip and shimmy with the faintest flick of your thumb, enabling you to play reactively and at the speed of thought. Gone is that arm-gnawingly awful momentum from last year, where players would seemingly brake via six layers of clumsy AI coding before stopping, turning around, and running the other way. Now they just do it and it’s wonderfully liberating.

    That goes for the passing and shooting too, with a fresh immediacy allowing for split second decision making that opens up new gameplay possibilities. One example comes during a tight Master League game, the score at 0-0, the ball pinging around a bunch of desperate limbs inside the opposition penalty area.

    A deflection fizzes by my attacker and I instinctively jab shoot, his foot darting out for a clumsy, hooked attempt on goal. It’s a miss, but there’s a sharp connection between my brain and the on-screen action, and it’s this connection that makes PES 2015 so exciting.

    “Can I put a ball through there?” you might think, knowing that a real footballer could but that PES of yesteryear would probably castrate your move by sending a limp pass in the wrong direction. Not any more. If you can think it up, you can make it happen on the pitch.

    It helps that, mechanically, PES 2015 is the most realistic virtual depiction of the beautiful game I’ve seen. Sometimes it’s fast and fluid, sometimes it’s slow and deliberate, but it’s always like real football. The rhythm of each match depends on who you’re playing as, but more impressively, who you’re playing against.

    Opt for silky Barcelona against iron-clad Atlético Madrid and you’re forced into a metronomic style of patient, probing build-up play, whereas against Levante UD (think West Brom, but Spanish) you’re able to be more expansive, looping passes out to Neymar and Suarez before having them slalom through the defence.

    Even the horrendous goalkeepers a PES trademark so long standing it’s almost become a cult feature are improved. It’s really hard to fault the football here it’s refined, meticulous, and feels play-tested to death and back.

    Where PES 2015 sours slightly is off the pitch. In a desperate and ill-advised bid to claw young FIFA players, PES has a brand new myClub mode, a poor copy of Ultimate Team filled with over complicated menus and sloppy presentation.

    Become A Legend is an unwelcome hangover from an era when football games tried to do things that weren't football, and hooting away in the background is a soundtrack of bouncy pop music scraped together from early 2013. It’s almost as if PES is apologising for not being as trendy as its illustrious rival.

    Thankfully, Master League is as compulsively brilliant as ever, with a few welcome tweaks to the transfer system giving you a clearer idea of how likely a player is to sign and how much money you need to force a move. The inclusion of teams from the English Championship makes the zero-to-hero climb a bit more authentic, although it’s harder to use that term when you find yourself in a relegation scrap with South-East London.

    The lack of licences does make PES look naked against the gleaming swagger of FIFA’s Super Sunday décor, but the quality of the football is high enough to overcome the disadvantage. Because the football here is magic and PES is better than it’s been in ages. It’s time to go crawling back.

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