We are in for a treat this year. Both big football games are out and they are both glorious in their own ways. Instead of one is better than the other, let’s look at the difference in feel between the two. It’s very much like the difference between the Premier league and La Liga. Power and money versus skill and formality.
The Feel of the game
We will start with this year’s PES. This is special, for years it has had to lurk in the shadows while FIFA just got better and better. For some unknown reason, this year’s PES just clicks. It has went back to being the beautiful game. From the first time you zip a pass to the first time you go on a run with a player, it feels so natural. The slightest touch of your analogue stick is translated into a perfectly animated movement by the player. If you play as Barcelona and have Neymar, Messi and Suarez up top, you can do some dazzling interchange between the three. Most importantly, if you think you can do something, the game lets you do it. Run into a channel and your team mate comes in behind you to support. Do you ease off the sprint before passing the ball, making the pass easier to control but losing momentum, or do you keep sprinting and hold the pass button back to do a backheel? The answer is, you do what you need to do. Sometimes the slower method will give you another option on the pass, yet the faster method will stop the computer getting defenders back to break up the attack. The impressive thing is, most times you will be unaware of the decision you have made, it flows so naturally, that you will only appreciate what you actually did on a replay. If you have ever played football at any level, you will soon be pulling off intricate triangles and moves without knowing.
FIFA by contrast, is the Premier League to PES’ La Liga. Matches are not always beautiful affairs. There is the ability to do it, but in contrast to PES things are a much more frustrating affair. On higher levels AI often make strange decisions, that don’t seem realistic. For example an opponent is on the edge of the area looking to cross the ball in, you stretch to cut it out but fail leaving their opponent with a simple chance, despite this a heroic effort sees you get close enough to slide and block the shot. At this point FIFA should allow the block to happen, however the AI seem more concerned with frustrating you than actually scoring, so they beat you again and maybe pass the ball about. This can lead to frustrating dances around the box as the computer plays like an even more impotent Arsenal. Unfortunately this can also happen when the AI have the ball anywhere. It leads to the horrible feeling that you know when the computer is going to score. A prolonged period of possession in and around your box can lead to this. It doesn’t feel organic at all, but it is very challenging.
This is where FIFA can come into its own. PES as before is football like you imagine it in your head. You charge at players and ghost past them before unleashing an unstoppable shot past the keeper. The problem arises, when this becomes too commonplace. The keepers in PES are realistic, however that is their problem. If you unleash a thunderbolt at the top corner, chances are it is going to go in. Coupled with the amazing ability to cut through defences mentioned earlier, what can happen is high scoring games. If you take the lead against the AI, they do a formation change and go for the equaliser, this usually makes them easier to pick off. All very realistic of course. FIFA is a lot harder and because of this can bring a sense of satisfaction when you score. Players are more likely to miss-control a pass, defenders are harder to fool and the keepers can seem more like NHL16 than FIFA 16. When it all comes together and you score a screamer, the joy is palpable. PES will give you more moments of joy, however FIFA may give the rarer and as a result, more memorable ones.
This year’s FIFA comes with a multitude of perceived problems. On anything above Professional difficulty, the game is crushingly unfair. The new driven pass is a nice addition, but it seems to be the domain of the AI team. They zip the ball into their front men, who hold it up and zip another wide giving you little chance to intercept. When you try to do it, the pass can zip out of play, you front man can miscontrol or worse still you kick it at the wrong man. In theory it is a grat idea, in practice simply holding down the normal pass button was fine. This has also effected the normal pass. It now is almost always underpowered and intercepted, to the point where it is useless going forward. If you are looking to send the ball forward, you can only effectively use the new power pass or the through ball. Because of the risks they come with, it is easier to try to dribble, here we reach another new feature or problem. The forward slipping at the vital moment. On a number of occasions when sprinting you change direction and try a shot, because the ball is beyond their foot, they do a wild swing and fall over. Imagine your rage when you sprint past a defender, then have to wait for the ball to be in range of the players foot before striking it. How natural is that? Realistic yes, fun?No. FIFA also introduces a new dribble technique called the no-touch dribble. Like the power pass, the AI use this all the time, they let the ball run past them, yet suddenly gain control of it on the other side of you. In play, this means a ball looks to be heading straight for your keeper, defender etc, only for an animation to kick in and leave you exposed.
PES has it’s own share of issues. Goalkeepers are useless when dealing with long range shots. If FIFA’s are like brick walls, then PES’s are non-existant, get a decently powered shot on target and the further away you are, the more likely it seems to go in. This negates the need for the wonderful build-up play that is so thrilling about PES. The other issue is the lack of support from Konami. It is simply criminal for this game not to ship with up-to-date rosters. A patch has been promised but not until October 29th, over a month away, this means that some are reluctant to start the months long Master League until things are fixed. FIFA by contrast is the licensed dream. All leagues, players, kits and atmosphere are picture perfect. PES has a wonderfully easy edit system, yet some people won’t spend the 45 mins a league, to import the correct images to make the kits.
It is down to personal preference and what you want your game to be. PES is controlling some of the best players in the world against other teams. FIFA is playing against the best players in the world as yourself. Do you go for the dream football that PES offers or do you go for the long hard slog of playing against superior and sometimes unfair players? La Liga and the beautiful football or the crushing reality of the money-driven Premier league. The choice is yours.