FIFA vs Pro Evolution Soccer. One of the major points of contention of the modern era. It is a war that has been going on for years and sees the great developers, EA and Konami, battle it out to be the kings of football gaming.
It has become one of the great rivalries, a gaming version of the War of the Roses, or Coke vs Pepsi. Like all serious conflicts, the pendulum tends to swing in favour of one side or the other as the search for supremacy continues.
With Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) widely considered to have been wearing the crown through much of the 2000s, FIFA, the more commercially successful game of the two over the years, bounced back and has been way ahead of its rival for the last six years. But now it looks as though the gap may be beginning to shrink and the tides could well be turning once again. FIFA 16 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 are back with a bang. There is no doubt that the most recent offerings from both developers are their best games to date, but which one comes up trumps in this particular battle? Let's put the latest releases head to head and see who will be the victor.
Throughout the history of the games, fans have been able to agree that PES is the game for gamers and FIFA is the game for the football fans. But by and large since the turn of the decade, PES hadn't quite caught up with FIFA in terms of gameplay on the new generation consoles. That was until last year when Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 had made significant changes and focused on its unique gameplay. It was a step in the right direction but still came up short against FIFA 15. This year, though, PES may well have the upper hand with some serious improvements in the gameplay engine that could see it regain its title as the game for the gamers. Where FIFA has made minor changes to improve the flow of the game, PES has made huge adjustments that make for a very exciting gaming experience.
Some of these changes may seem small and insignificant to non-gamers, but what Konami have managed to achieve this year is a big step forward in the world of football games. Some of the changes made include an enhanced collision system that takes into account the exact paths of the players when going in for tackles, and offers a plethora of different outcomes.
The improved aerial duels give players more control over how to go for a header in 50/50 situations, meaning that there is a lot more skill involved rather than luck. In the past when going for aerial balls in set-piece situations, such as corners, it always seemed very much like the computer decided whether you would score or not. This was an infuriating aspect of the games.
The upgraded artificial intelligence means that different players react differently in the same situations. This is especially true with goalkeepers and the feature makes it more advantageous to have an experienced shot-stopper between the sticks. There are also now better ball psychics where the ball reacts differently to the pitch and the power of the shot, along with other factors such as the weather.
The gameplay is good on FIFA 16, but the developers have not made as many drastic changes. They did however take into account fans' grievances about the AI defending on FIFA 15 that often left huge pockets of space which meant teams were exposed at the back. In the new game the defenders that aren't being controlled by the player know to track back and anticipate runs off the ball and also try to intercept more passes and through balls. This makes the game more realistic but also means it is a lot harder to score goals. On FIFA, scoring a goal takes a lot of patient build up play and hard work, but when you do score it feels like you have earned the goal.
It comes down to a matter of what you are looking for in terms of which game has the better gameplay. FIFA favours the players who prefer more tactical, slow, progressive passing which results in fairly low scoring games when opponents are evenly matched. PES is more free flowing and chaotic in a way, with goalscoring opportunities coming from anywhere and everywhere. So if you want to score a lot of incredible goals, it may be better to choose PES. But if you prefer the euphoria of bagging a well-worked goal, go for FIFA.
Graphics and Realism
Where PES was labelled the "gamers' game" for its exciting gameplay, FIFA has always been the football fan's game. This is because it is just so realistic and goes to great lengths to make the game seem like a real match day. FIFA has all the licences for all the leagues, all the correct team names, logos and player names. This is an area that has put some players off PES in the past. Some gamers just can't cope with playing as "London FC". That's the name of Chelsea on PES, if you didn't know, and it's little factors like this that can sway first-time buyers towards FIFA. On PES 2016, though, gamers are able to download quite a few official kits and proper team names for the commentators to say, which is an improvement on games of the past.
FIFA also wins hands down in the excellent commentary from Martin Tyler and Alan Smith, which is improved upon each year to such an extent that sometimes it is now easy to forget you are playing a game. One qualm that many people have about PES is that the commentary is often totally unrelated to what's actually happening on the pitch. On FIFA 16, the commentators go into even more detail than before. They now describe the team formations and talk about key players in the match. When playing online some of the commentary is geared to the individual gamer as well, when they are talking about how the team is doing in the online leagues.
In terms of graphics, on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, there isn't that much to separate the two games. Konami have put the new Fox engine that was used for Metal Gear Solid V to good use and EA have once again shown the prowess of their Ignite engine. PES has incorporated some new visual effects such as dynamic weather features, where the pitch will become more waterlogged as the match progresses, causing players to splash water around them and also affecting the gameplay.
Overall, in terms of realism, it has to be FIFA that wins on this count because of the vast amount of licences available to them. Visually, though, it's fairly even.
Both games have always had great solo career modes but the extra features on PES 2016 in the Master League give it the edge over FIFA this time. There are cut scenes for when key things happen in your career, such as press conferences for when a new player signs and award ceremonies for the player of the year. The scouting system, training and tactical pages are highly detailed and allow you to develop your squad in your own mould. For players who like to play against the computer and build a team up in their own time, this is a highly engaging game mode.
FIFA 16 has also introduced a couple of new features that are highly innovative. The FIFA Ultimate Team Draft (see below) is an excellent addition to an already popular concept. In the draft mode players pick a formation, and then click on each position to choose one of five players to play there. You may want to choose the best possible players and make a super team, but the key to getting a team that plays well together is to try and build up a team with good chemistry. That means trying to choose players that play in the same league or for the same country. It is a real challenge trying to get a team together with 100% chemistry. Once you have picked your team you can take them online or play against the computer in four matches. The more matches you win, the better the prizes.
Another feature of FIFA 16 is the ability to select and play as women's teams in friendly matches or in a tournament. This is the first time this has ever been done in a football game and the slight differences in gameplay when playing as women's teams make it a fresh and fun way of playing.
After assessing all the key aspects of both games, it is very hard to choose a winner from the two. They both have their strengths. PES is better for gameplay and FIFA is better for realism. If you don't want to buy both games then choose based on this. If you want to play more multiplayer games against friends and have crazy, wide open matches with plenty of goals, choose Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. If you prefer playing online and working hard to fashion out wins through patient build-up play, choose FIFA 16.