PES 2017 – A New Hope?

Football fans live on hope. They thrive on it. It what drives them to matches and to follow their team through thick and thin.I support Aston Villa which, for those who follow football will know, has been a miserable existence for the best part of a decade.

We lurched from one bad season to the next before finally being relegated from The Premier League last May. Yet before every season I’m filled with hope. Will this be the year when everything finally clicks into place, will this be the year when the once mighty Aston Villa begins its rise from the ashes and back to the pinnacle of English and European football (We won the European Cup in ’82, don’t you know) to show the big boys how its done?

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Being a fan of the Pro Evolution Soccer series has been a very similar experience. Every year a new game is released and every year fans hope for a return to the glorious past of the PlayStation 2 years when ‘Pro Evo’ would trounce money-bags EA Sports’ “It’s in the game.” FIFA with consummate ease. But then something happened and FIFA crept up on Pro Evo, now known as PES by the masses, before overtaking it and becoming top of the annual football game league for a decade. Big money, big licenses, snazzy presentation, solid gameplay and the ability to play as almost any club side you could imagine all contributed to FIFA’s dominance. To use a footballing parlance; they bought the title.

So while PES toiled away in mid-table mediocrity trying to rediscover itself FIFA ploughed on and got bigger and better. FIFA now sets the benchmark for presentation across all sports videogames, it’s really that good. PES meanwhile lacks any of the pizzazz of EA’s behemoth and I can’t lie, taking West Midlands Village to the top of the league isn’t exactly the stuff dreams are made of. Praise be for the edit function.

Still, throughout this period, PES fans never lost hope. Each season would come with herald the arrival of a new game and there would always be the anticipation that this would be year. Then, when PES 2016 arrived there was suddenly an excited buzz, the game felt like a step in the right direction. Could this be the year? Not quite, but it was close. The presentation and commentary was as much of a mess as ever but on the pitch there was a certain je ne said quoi about the play, dodgy goalkeepers aside.

That’s why there was an air of cautious optimism surrounding PES 2017 and I’m pleased to say that it delivered. In fact it delivered in spades. There’s been improvement across the board, even in the way the game’s presented. Yes there’s still the most cringe-worthy commentary I’ve ever heard and West Midlands Village are still my club of choice but on the pitch something magical happens. It feels like football.

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Players move as you’d expect, the AI switches and changes tactics appropriately, in short – every team plays as it should. You’ll have games where you’ll grind out a nil-nil draw, matches where you’ll concede a goal against the run of play or heroically score a last gasp winner. What Konami have done is bottle the emotional rollercoaster that comes with being a football fan. It’s brilliant.

They say you only sing when you’re winning. It’s time for Konami to start belting out a tune

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