About two weeks ago, I received an invitation for the #PESDay in Frankfurt. Today is the day, and I start my trip towards Frankfurt at 06.30. I enjoy being on a train again – having commuted to work by train for years – and I’ve got enough time on my hands to prepare for the event, both mentally and with regard to the article.
My last time in Frankfurt dates back to 2011, when I was allowed to try an early version of PES 2012. Back then, the Konami office was at the outmost area of Frankfurt. The new office is on the 14th floor of a tall building near the centre of Frankfurt. You could say that they have a „nice“ view.
Shortly after eleven o’clock, we’re complete and Wolfgang from Konami takes us through a short presentation about the new features of PES 2017. He explains what we can expect from today’s demo. Just after that everyone is handed a controller and here we go!
Last year, Konami introduced a tile based main menu. This concept is now also applied to the pre-match screen, which further enhances the consistency of menus in the game. The kit and stadium selection screens are exactly like last year. The only available stadium is „Neu Sonne stadium“, where you can play during night or day, in summer or in winter, in dry conditions or on a rainy day.
The formation screen received some big changes. Instead of the coloured dots and arrows you now stare at the heads of your players, their rating and form arrows are displayed below their heads. Such a (conceptually) small change with such a huge impact. The most remarkable – I’d even go so far and call it epic – thing is the following feature: as soon as you select a player for substitution or to move him to another position, all suitable players are highlighted (that’s old, I know) and their OVR is instantly adjusted to show their rating when they would play in that player’s position. I love that. You immediately recognise the player best suited for that position. Incredibly well done, this will save me hours! Newcomers to the series will be able to quickly select a suitable formation and get started.
A bit odd and confusing, however, is the new colour set for form arrows and player stats. The lowest form arrow is now red, whilst the top form arrow’s colour is blue. The average form, formerly know as „green arrow“, is now yellow. The colour set for the players’ stats has been changed, too. Low stats are highlighted red and the better they get, the more green they are coloured. Stats above 90 turn into a blueish colour. Maybe this is going to change for release but if it isn’t, I’ve got to readjust.
In the same menu, you can adjust the settings for the new advanced tactics, which you can activate and deactivate during a match at will. There are six different options for both offensive and defensive tactics, from which you can choose two each. You turn them on (and off) in the match by pressing L2 and the particular part of the digipad – or by pressing the analog stick up, down, left or right in case you’re playing with the digipad.
Right, that’s enough for the menus, let’s enter the pitch. One of the aspects that Konami uses as a hook for this year’s instalment is the improved graphics system. And boy, are we not disappointed by that promise. Even at a stage so early in development, the game looks almost better than the fully polished PES 2016. The audience is a bit more detailed (they wear home and away kits), the faces of some of the players are so detailed that they match their real counterparts and you can see – finally! – the condensing breath of the players, not only in cutscenes but also during a match in regular gameplay cam. Not only does it look amazing, it also gives you a sense of the temperatures that are prevailing down on the pitch. Realism: +1.
We were also promised that we’ll see many new animations. And that promise was kept as well! Even now – let me tell you that many more animations will be implemented in the game until its release – there is an abundance of new animations and movements. And I’m not only talking about animations regarding the magic the players perform with the ball, no, several animations and reactions to situations off the ball have been added. If a keeper fails to save a ball, he will stay laying down in disappointment; If a player is exhausted from consecutive long sprints, he will lean forward, trying to get some rest. Yet, especially animations with the ball (hello, Real Touch 😀 ) have been improved, added and extended. New feints, stepovers, passes in dire straits, desperate attempts to get hold of the ball after misplaced passes, they all add up to a new level of realism, more fluid and natural than in PES 2016. Again, realism: +1.
Alright, alright, I know you only want to hear about keepers, right?
The goalies also received an upgrade regarding their set of animations. A quick dive to the side, jumps towards the top corners, reactions to second balls, everything was fine-tuned. However, Konami did not only adjust the visuals of the keepers, they also improved their abilities. Radically. We encountered quite a few situations that would have led to a goal sure as rain in PES 2016. Not so in PES 2017. Low shots into the corners, curled goal attempts à la Robben from the edge of the 20 yard box or second and third chances are parried superbly. Truly the player of the day is Manuel Neuer, who consecutively made five superb saves and quickly got back up from the ground after each parry. The human player became exasperated with him. Please note that we played all of the human vs human matches on superstar. To cross-check their newly learned abilites on lower difficulties, I played two matches on regular against the AI. I’m pleased to say that the keepers are still able to catch a ball and keep a clean sheet. That didn’t really work in last year’s PES. Of course, it remains to be seen if keepers, who’re not even close to the likes of Manuel Neuer or Lloris, will be putting up a good show as well. The fact that both the concept and the behaviour of the keeper has been worked on assures me that Konami will get it right this time. I saw one single mistake from Manuel Neuer when he miscalculated a free kick from Pogba. I think he should have saved it. Apart from that, I often hear sentences like „How the hell did he save that shot??!“ or „What a save!“ (Imagine Adam Bhatti’s voice here.) and I’m heavily impressed by some world class saves.
The so called impartial arbitrators in the game learned something new compared to last year and they happily handed out coloured cardboards. Pretty much every bad-timed sliding tackle is rewarded with a blow of a whistle, albeit mostly also with a card. The referees let the match continue if there is the slightest chance of an attack and punish you after the situation played out. Mowing down defenders like a madman will most likely result in an instant booking, even if the ball lands at the feet of the player fouled’s teammates. I really like that, because that’s realistic. By the way, collecting five red cards will bring the match to an end immediately, and your opponent is rewarded with a 3-0 victory. I tried that for you. 😉 I experienced one situation where my last man „killed“ the opposing striker and was swiftly sent off for it. I don’t know if that was because the game has learned the rule eventually or if that happened by accident.
However, there were some situation where a player, who had received a booking seconds ago and yet had committed another foul, was only scolded by the referee to take a break. Even though it could be implemented more prominently and consistently, I already like it. I disagreed with some of the referees’ decisions, but the total package is already pretty solid. They also brought the spray for freekicks, but they omitted boring and overly long sequences (thank god!). Instead, the spray was already on the ground after the replay of the crime committed and dissolved in the coming minutes. Just a little feature, which, implemented subtly, further increases the realism.
Did I mention that Manuel Neuer is simply amazing? He even strolls around the centre circle from time to time. Right, we already talked about keepers…
The AI of both your team mates and your opponents has been improved in various aspects. Amongst other things, it’s (nearly) impossible to send a striker on his way with a lobbed through ball and score. The defenders positioned themselves more intelligent on the pitch and easily intercepted such dull attempts in the majority of cases. And that’s where the new tactical settings come into effect. Each and every one of the available options has an immediate and what’s more, a clearly noticeable impact on the behaviour of the AI. As soon as you activate „Gegenpressing“, your players block the ways of your opponents and several players apply pressure on the ball carrier. „Swarm the box“ calls all your player into your own box, to render any attempt of a shot on goal useless by mere mass. Your attacking and defensive play is further aided by the return of the offensive/defensive focus, which you can alter by pressing L2 and R1/R2. Already in the first match I realised, how badly I had missed this feature. You need more player in your opponent’s box when taking a free kick? Simply shift the focus on all out attack. You need more players behind the ball to defend an attack? Shift the focus on back to a defensive level and additionaly activate the advanced tactics „deep defensive line“, to head your opponent off. It was fascinating to see all my player react immediately to my orders.
The possibility to use special tactics applies to corners also, for both the defender and the attacker. The attacker can, for example, position his players around the six yard box or move them all to the far post, whilst the defender can choose between man marking or zonal defence (amongst other options). That way, the game is enriched by a bunch of new strategic opportunities, that will ensure a high variation in each match. Here, too, realism: +1
The game’s speed has been further tweaked, the flow of the game seems to be a bit slower than in PES 2016. This is most likely because of the improved and more realistic ball physics as well as the new way of dealing with a pass, Real Touch. You can now try to take the ball with you after a misplaced pass, put the ball in front of you or send the defender into the wrong direction by simply letting the ball pass. That was already working pretty good and looked stunning, but sometimes I got the feeling that it is a bit too slow. A good opportunity for a counter attack came to naught, because the defenders were clever and alert and stole the ball from my feet quickly. But, most likely, I just need a lot more practice with the new system.
Also worth of note:
- Penalty system unchanged compared to PES 2016
- Freekick system changed only slightly
- New goal celebrations
- New camera view in cutscenes, for instance from the view of a camera man who’s walking onto the pitch at half time, filming the players
- New camera view in replay: The camera is in one of the corners of the goal and is shaken as soon as the ball hits.
- Available teams: FC Arsenal, Atletico Madrid, Germany, France
- Managers, substitutes visible (in replays), more staff in the stadium
- The possibility to control the replay (changing cameras, saving replays) is now optional and has to be activated by pressing X
- There will be four different settings for goal nets.
- Player ratings, match stats, etc. can be looked at any time in the menu as soon as you pause the match
I’d like to also tell you about the opinions of other people who attended the event with me. I asked them (and myself) three questions.
What was your first impression, your first thought?
Ben (prorevo): Awesome, player faces in the formation screen.
Gogao: Awesome keepers, with regards to playing pilosophy, the game feels like real football.
PES League: Awesome keepers
Ehemaliger Topspieler: It feels like football again.
PES Monster: Wow.
Timo (PES Galaxy): The keepers are great, very agile, they also save the second, third or fourth ball. The battle for the ball is even more realistic because of the new player stat „physical contact“
What did you like best?
Ben (prorevo): The keepers, the new camera views in replays/cut scenes, the new formation screen.
Gogao: You can now orchestrate your match like a real football match.
PES League: Many new animations, especially for the keepers. Lobbed through balls have been toned down, no more onesided matches.
Ehemaliger Topspieler: The keepers are ace. The new tactical possibilities are very realistic and deliberate and you instantly feel their impact on the match, all the players behave accordingly. You now have a large arsenal to find your perfect setting. This will result in a lot more variation that can lead to success.
PES Monster: Slower game speed, keepers are on a new level, the gameplay is more balanced. Advanced Tactics are very well implemented, which is paramount for me. This is PES.
Timo (PES Galaxy): Realisation of advanced tactics immediatly noticeable.
What would you like to see improved for release?
Ben (prorevo): The attacking play is sometimes a bit slow moving, quick counter attacks are difficult. The penalty system is the same like last year and a bit meh.
Gogao: Offensive players are a bit slower than the defenders. Because of the slower game speed, the movements seem to be a little bit slower as well.
PES League: Reaction times and swiftness of the players when receiving the ball should be improved, acceleration could be a bit crisper. Offensive play in general should be improved a little bit.
Ehemaliger Topspieler: Dribbling dynamics are not perfect yet, the balance between attackers and defenders has to be balanced a bit. The attackers tire too fast, defenders at an advantage.
PES Monster: One Touch is a bit too clumsy.
Timo (PES Galaxy): Presentation needs improvement, the gameplay is already pretty good.
All things considered, we agree that this very early version of PES 2017 (we’ve never player any PES at this early state) is already great fun and that there is enough time left for optimisations. It is still possible to score (we even had one crushing 6-0 defeat), but in general it has become more difficult. We forwarded all our feedback in written form to Konami, and we also talked to Adam Bhatti in England about the game.
Of all the PES games I played, this one has the makings of becoming the best and most realistic football game by far.