It’s coming to that tine of year again. The two main football/soccer video games are due to release and battle for sales, credibility and the hearts of casual/ hardcore football fans. The hardcore will say Football Manager is the true fans game, however, these two have been at it for years, swapping ideologies and play style. Let’s look at the landmark titles down the years.
Konami Hyper Soccer – NES – (Featured image)
The first football game from Konami was a delight, the camera angle was not so far removed from their later efforts and the animations were silky for an 8-bit game. With only the world cup type tournament to play the gameplay was the real star. Although it looks primitive now the ability to control multiple players at the same time was quite unique on the NES. The problem on occasion was a number of your players all taking the same command. This could lead to your winger and fullback both making the slide tackle animation at the same time. The huge nets and agile keepers made it a real challenge to score. Unfortunately, this game was released when the casual soccer fan would not have owned a home console.
The First Fifa International Soccer, Fifa 95-97 SEGA Megadrive
The first games released on the SEGA Megadrive were these two Fifa landmarks. The first FIFA had international teams and made up players, but the gameplay and isometric camera angle were so far ahead of their time, that other contenders like Super Kick Off and even the Classic Sensible Soccer, were soon left behind by the flashy newcomer from EA Sports. Along with Madden, PGA Tour and NHL, FIFA, quickly established itself as a serious game. There was a referee on screen, sound effects and celebrations could be added after goals and the camera angle allowed for actual height to become a factor. A long ball or a cross into the box looked close enough to reality, to become a viable option. A bullet header or a free kick over the wall were constant highlights and local multiplayer sessions began to become a staple of EA Sports Games. Later Fifa’s added more and more features, club teams, correct player names, leagues and more, the best being an indoor mode, that descended into chaos. As the 32-bit era began, Fifa was the undisputed king. However, the late emergence of ISS Deluxe on the SNES proved a turning point. A noticeably more spacious pitch, superior player animations and the ability to play a great passing game meant that people, started to notice Konami
Playstation 1 and N64 era
The advent of the 3-d match engine led to a few pretenders to Fifa’s crown, Actua Soccer and Adidas Power Soccer were two noteworthy efforts, that surpassed the first efforts of FIFA. However, the 3-d engine didn’t lend itself to traditional gameplay. It was more akin to wearing an early VR headset as the previous gameplay was forsaken in lieu of individual player dribbles from a near first-person view. It wasn’t until Konami introduced two different versions of the same game, that we truly got a realistic game. International Superstar Soccer Pro on PSONE and ISS on N64, may have been similarly named, but couldn’t have been more different in their own ways. The N64 version could be best described as ‘dream football’. You could really play the beautiful game the way it appeared in your head. Volleys, overheads, direct free kicks and long range strikes were as common as tap-ins. Despite only having international teams the real joy was mastering the difficulty level. Playing Brazil on 5-star difficulty was a real challenge. Over on PS One the stranger looking ISS Pro was making a mark of a different kind. The football was spectacular, a real technical masterpiece, that made you better at actual football. The triangle press that sent a through ball in motion was perfection. For once you actually had to look at the formations and try to pick correct passes. No longer could you hope for the best player on your team to have the ball and run at the opposition. ISS Pro played the game at a technical realistic level that left EA and Fifa far behind as the Playstation 2 was released.
The advent of the PS2 coincided with Pro Evolution Soccer perfectly. While Fifa had the licences and tried to innovate with off the ball control, PES stuck to what would make it the leading choice for the whole generation, the game. Simply put, PES from its debut until the sixth iteration was real football. Anything you could believably do or see done on a football pitch could be replicated in these games and the public loved them. Fifa couldn’t compete and the tagline for PES 2 was the best. ‘If football is your religion, worship at the ultimate altar’. It was true. The social life ending Master league was treated the way people treat Football manager today, real life players were scouted on tv, then transferred into your team. You won money by winning matches, every goal was more money, so even if you were beating a team easily, you drove forward for more and more goals. Playing with your friends was the same, bragging rights, drinking games, custom rules, they were all based around PES. People who weren’t gamers bought PS2’s just so they wouldn’t feel left out. In truth, it was a great time to be a gamer as all your friends were suddenly into your hobby. Unfortunately, this golden age had to end.
Xbox 360 and PS3
When the new systems came out Konami and EA took two different directions. Konami pumped out a port of its existing engine, where EA developed a brand new one based on realistic ball physics and player momentum. While the first game was basic, it was also a revelation. The movement and player collisions allowed realism to reach new levels. By comparison. PES was a broken mess of a port, that played poorly compared to its last generation iteration. As the generation went on, Fifa stretched their lead further and further. No longer was they the choice for the casual gamer who needed the official licences, now they were the choice of the hardcore gamer. As multiplayer moved online, FIFA with the much maligned EA Servers was king. Online ranked matches turned brutal as FIFA became mainstream. Social media was booming and Fifa took full advantage. It actually began to play as well as the old PES games and was the true king. Meanwhile, PES tried to rebuild their image as the king. Unfortunately, despite good efforts, poor goalkeepers and the lack of the official licence was fatal. By late 2013 the new consoles were here and both games had to step up again.
Fifa is still King, Fifa 14 and 15 have built upon solid foundations and the Ultimate team game mode is the evolution of the Master League, albeit with a horrible ability to make you spend real money on players The gameplay and stadiums are photo-realistic, yet it could be argued that this hampers the game. PES is lagging behind in sales but has really improved in recent years. PES 16 garnered great reviews but a few issues remained with referreeing and goalkeeping. Now with PES2017 and Fifa 17 we have parity. It comes down to what you want from your game.