I recently got a chance to sit and play the demo versions of both FIFA 16 and Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2016 on the PS3. My thoughts probably won’t be very popular.

Games Are About Gameplay.


To start this comparison off, let me say that I’m a huge FIFA fan. I’ve played every single EA FIFA release since FIFA ’98, and it’s definitely my choice franchise when it comes to footy simulation. That being said, I only dabbled with PES/Winning Eleven on a few occasions, and I could never really get into it. Whether it was clunky control, the daft licensing issues or the comical character models, I just never like Pro Evo. FIFA was always a better-made game, and way more fun to play.

But that may be changing.

While we all know the current generation of video game consoles pump out much, much better graphics and can do more, manufacturers of sports franchises are making sure to stick the core mechanics of their new releases in the older versions for last generation consoles. This means the gameplay on PS3 is the same as the gameplay on PS4. This is where the new PES shines oh-so-brightly – and outdoes FIFA.

It’s A Whole New Game.

While PES undoubtedly looks miles better than FIFA (it has for years now), it has always suffered from lethargic gameplay that can frustrate the life out of you. Now, however, what is different is the physicality added into the 2016 edition, and the introduction of a crisp control and passing system that truly allows for skilled players to flourish. Tired of FIFA’s sometimes ridiculously on-rails gameplay? PES is a free-flowing, realistic football sim, where FIFA is much more arcadey, albeit being much more satisfying than the achingly annoying FIFA 15. But FIFA will always win out because it’s a football sim.

Licensing Is Everything.

EA understand what it means to make a sports game. It isn’t enough for it to be a good game – it needs authenticity. Konami’s licensing woes with PES mean that you’ll have to get your head around playing as “Merseyside Red”, and that never bodes well for a sport that people want to feel like they’re watching on TV. PES has always had bad presentation and I don’t see anything changing. FIFA has, on the other hand, continued to refine its commentary, match presentation and connection with real world Football, making it much more like the real thing when playing.

In Konami’s defence, they have done so well to secure the South American market by licensing leagues there, and further securing the UEFA Champions League, Europa League and Euro 2016. FIFA 16 has none of these (huge) competitions, and the presentation by Konami is slick (in the demo). There is no commentary in the PES 2016 demo, so we can’t tell how the game will sound finally, and the ambience is a little dead and slow to react to random pitch events. Again, FIFA wins out at making the game feel like I’m watching a match.

The Autopilot Curse

EA runs the football game market. This is in no doubt, and unfortunately, I believe it’s having a negative effect on the products we get every year. FIFA 16’s new features – passing with purpose, the new ball and shooting physics, the resurrection of midfield play –  are all things that should have been done way back, but without competition from PES, FIFA has been on a creative hiatus since the FIFA 14. They’ve gotten rather boring in pursuit of revenue through the micro-transaction monster that is Ultimate Team, and the rest of the game suffers badly for it. Claims from EA are that Career Mode and others have been significantly improved, as have the incredibly lop-sided Seasons encounters where EVERY SINGLE GAME led to us going against Real Madrid or Barcelona, and seeing Bale/Ronaldo/Messi/Neymar speeding down the wing, trying with all our might to keep up (and failing), leading to an inevitable low cross and goal. It’s just gotten so boring. So much so that I’ve stopped playing 15 altogether, and I didn’t particularly enjoy playing the 16 demo.

We’ll All Buy FIFA, But I Might Get PES As Well.

For the first time, FIFA will feature women's national teams. Should be exciting.

For the first time, FIFA will feature women’s national teams. Should be exciting.

FIFA is a monster. Like NBA 2k15, it’s a game we all play. It doesn’t have to be good for us to buy it. If you’re a Football fan, you’ll buy FIFA not because of it’s arcade gameplay, annoyingly mechanical approach to the way to play, lack of tactical and technical freedom in passing, dribbling (no-touch dribbling is great, though), and team management, but because it’s authentic. All the stadiums, chants, teams, the presentation, the celebrations and more that FIFA 16 brings to the table are what sway its dominance to yet another year.

But make no mistake, PES 2016 is the better game. By a mile, too. Better passing, better freedom to pass and much more fluid management and play style options mean you’ll never get stuck in a rut with this game. It’s satisfying to engage the manual passing button (R2 with the second scheme) and play that impossible through ball that devastates the defence. Even more satisfying are the impossibly good character models. They’re let down by somewhat drab stadium and grass textures, but a Champions League match in PES is truly something to behold, and something that FIFA just can’t match (Frostbite, EA’s best game engine that FIFA doesn’t yet use, doesn’t measure up to Konami’s own FOX Engine where graphics are concerned).

We will all buy FIFA, but 2015 marks the year when I definitely am considering picking up PES for the first time. It’s such a good game.