There was a time when Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer was the supreme football game, eclipsing the offerings made by EA’s FIFA. However, over the course of the last generation, the balance of power shifted and FIFA gained dominance. While Konami struggled to attract fans back to PES with average games, EA was exploring new ways to make football titles even more enticing. Now though, PES has returned stronger than ever to challenge for the title that FIFA has held for so long.
Of course, the first thing you’ll see as you boot up each game are the menus, and FIFA 16 has a much smoother and cleaner looking user interface compared to PES 16. The menus are more clearly presented in EA’s game with simple to navigate tabs, while PES 16 feels a bit more jumbled, and while it looks good the UI just isn’t as friendly. The real difference though is noticeable in the team management screen, with the squad formation screen much better organised in FIFA 16 than PES 16. In FIFA you can clearly differentiate between who is on the sub bench, and who is in the reserves, but PES makes that difficult to figure out, and you have to double check selections just to make sure you haven’t left your star striker on the bench.
FIFA again has the advantage when it comes to content, while PES looks a touch bare-bones. Most of this is down to the fact that Konami simply can’t compete with EA’s hold on licenses, and its vast array of real clubs and accurate squads. Sure, PES can try to compete with the UEFA Champions League, but without updated transfers in the game or real club names for the majority of teams it is a situation that is hard to beat.
PES 16 also tries to compete with MyClub, an alternative to FIFA’s Ultimate Team, but in comparison there just isn’t enough of a draw. In MyClub you don’t open packs or scour the transfer market for players. Instead you use in-game points to acquire a scout and then send them off to search. This search consists of going to a screen where different coloured footballs rotate, and you press a button for the rotation to slow to a halt. The ball then bursts to reveal the player your club has acquired, who you can then put into your squad or use as a trainer to improve another player before leaving the squad.
Ultimate Team is simply the better experience, particularly as it boasts a much more active player base and a transfer market where you can snap up a bargain should you play your cards right. There’s nothing quite like opening a pack and finding that you’ve got a top in-form player lurking inside. While both PES and FIFA have tournaments and leagues within MyClub and Ultimate Team, it is FIFA’s offerings that stand tall here.
FIFA also has the addition of women’s teams for the first time in either series’ history. At the moment that offering is a little lacklustre with just 12 international teams, but it is a start and once again leaves PES 16 on the back foot. The women’s football is well implemented within FIFA with very little difference in terms of gameplay between that and the male side of the game. There’s just as much skill required to beat the top teams that women’s international football has to offer.
The Career modes are remarkably similar though, with both FIFA 16 and PES 16 pretty much identical in how things are presented. Of course there is more depth to FIFA 16’s career mode in terms of how many teams you can select from, and the way training works. Otherwise though transfer negotiations and club objectives don’t differ too much, with each of these being interchangeable. However, FIFA does have extra pre-season competitions to hone your squad with, while PES 16 seems to prefer to throw you straight into the season and onto the pitch.
Regardless of licensing, presentation or modes this rivalry is really settled on the pitch. While Konami and EA have created football games they’ve made them to have their own pros and cons that makes it a lot harder to judge whether PES 16 or FIFA 16 is the best game this year. In fact that really is a subjective now because it all depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for.
FIFA 16 is an incredibly good looking football game, though at the same time very similar to both FIFA 15 and FIFA 14 thanks to the Ignite engine – PES’s Fox Engine is still excellent, but cannot match FIFA’s visuals. Don’t expect a major graphical overhaul between last year’s offering and this one. The gameplay does however feel different, and games are much more challenging too. Goalkeepers are considerably tougher to score against as they catch the long balls, dive at players feet, and parry away shots with much more consistency. While this more intelligent goalkeeping brings a better sense of realism, it does feel like risk has been sacrificed.
It is a lot harder to score spectacular goals in FIFA 16 and this in turn can make proceedings a bit boring at times. In fact, things feel safe and predictable for most of the time, particularly as you can see where the ball is going to be passed or fall every time it’s hit. Additionally, through all the time I’ve played FIFA 16, I don’t think I’ve scored a goal I will remember, with most being pretty simple affairs.
PES 2016, on the other hand, is a much more unpredictable affair on the pitch, because you never know if a shot is going to go in or where the ball will land if it ricochets up into the air. The opposition AI is strongest in defence and will close down your players quickly, making up for the goalkeepers who aren’t as good at stopping shots as their FIFA counterparts. It is easier to score in PES 16 compared to FIFA 16, but you will work for those goals and when the ball hits the net it still feels sweet.
PES 16 also seems to reward risk and has players taking more interesting shots compared to FIFA 16, such as the above wonder goal, as Ibrahimovic popped up to score an incredible volley from a long range free kick. These ‘something from nothing’ chances are more prevalent in PES 16 than FIFA 16. When playing PES 16 the dribbling feels smoother too, but defensive play like tackling seems to be about the same compared to FIFA 16.
PES 16 is also a faster game alongside this, with action that moves from end to end really quickly, whereas FIFA 16 is a more methodical affair that focusses on the battle in midfield and has you probing for weakness of the opposition before bursting through the ranks to try and beat the keeper. In PES 16 it definitely feels like the majority of the action is either in the opposition’s box or yours, allowing for more shots to be taken as the defence tries to close players down. As a result PES 16 is a bit more arcade-like, while FIFA 16 continues to aim for a more realistic and lifelike approach.
Recommending one game over the other is tough and is much more reliant on your personal preference. If you’re looking to play either Ultimate Team or MyClub then FIFA 16 is the clear winner due to its depth, and if you want to play a game that has a myriad array of modes, then again FIFA 16 is the winner. On the pitch though, things are different enough that playing both may be warranted. FIFA has the simulation formula down and if you enjoyed the gameplay of FIFA 15 then you may enjoy EA’s latest, though you’ll have to get used to the much tougher goalkeepers. If you fancy something that is a lot more unpredictable, risk rewarding, and arcade-like then PES 16 is the game for you.
There’s not really an outright winner between FIFA 16 or PES 16, since they both offer a rather different experience. It’s clear that Konami is now back at in peak condition with PES 16, while FIFA 16 changes just enough from FIFA 15 to make it a good upgrade, as EA ride the wave of their recent successes. For me PES 16 is the football game that exudes fun, but FIFA 16 is the game that will hold attention longer simply due to offering more things to do.