The other day I was spouting off about the irritating lack of communication from Konami about what, exactly, the PC version of PES 2016 would be like. Besides word in June that it would be another ‘hybrid’, there was basically no other information out there. Nothing on the official site, and a suspicious feature-and-images cut and paste job from the PS4 version on the Steam store page.
We were informed that PC review code wouldn’t be available until Monday (four days after release), so PC Invasion’s Paul Younger just bought a copy and gave it to me. Thanks Paul!
I’ve since spent a little over three hours in PES 2016‘s company, so it’s time to REVEAL ALL (or as much as possible, anyway) about this PC release.
Let’s begin with something that becomes immediately apparent when you load up a match for the first time. The images and video shown on the Steam store page are partly from the PS4 and partly from an in-game ‘attract mode’ (based on PS4 footage); neither are at all accurate to the version being sold. While the PC release does share some visual similarities with the PS4 (player face models look fairly similar, but textures are worse), it has noticeably poorer lighting (resulting in a ‘washed out’ look), and hilarious low-res clone crowds.
From looking at various online videos (this one from Candyland gives a decent comparative overview), the PC version seems to have PS4-ish players, PS3-ish crowds, and a FOX Engine lighting set up that’s somewhere between the two in quality (but closer to PS3).
Post-processing utilities like SweetFX can mitigate this to some extent (and more extensive graphics mods will surely be on the way, thanks to the flexible nature of the PC). But things like the vanilla pitch textures are not really acceptable, especially when we know how well the FOX Engine can look and perform on PC (hello, Metal Gear Solid V).
The most obvious conclusion to draw here is that Konami took a ruthless financial approach to development on PC and assigned resources according to expected audience share. Treating the port in such a dismissive way, however, is a great way to ensure that the PC audience for PES remains small. It’s all rather self-fulfilling.
Before we get to the all important parts about how it plays, and whether the PC version has all the modes present on ‘next gen’ consoles, here’s what the settings look like.
Low, medium OR high? Konami, you’re spoiling us!
All images shown in this article are from PES 2016 being set to ‘high’ (yes, even that earlier shot of the crowd) and running at 1920×1080. Frame-rate appears to be capped at 60 (that’s the case on my 60hz monitor, anyway). I ran into some slight stutter during single player games every now and again, maybe two or three times per match, which I’d probably attribute to whatever vsync method is being employed here.
You can’t turn that off through the settings, so you may end up having to use external Nvidia/Catalyst controls if you want to apply your own vsync, use triple-buffering or make various other tweaks to find that absolutely smooth 60.
If you’re one of those dedicated souls who wants to play PES 2016 on keys, you can do so (I understand, I used to play FIFA 2000 on a keyboard like a big weirdo). You can even re-map the functions, like so.
And while we’re showing off the meager settings, here’s the audio set-up, the ‘Online’ tab (port options, basically), and a screen that I’m only including because it’s probably the one and only time a game in 2015 will call my i3-2100 / 8GB / 2GB 7870 machine ‘Good’ in all categories.
Here’s where things get slightly more subjective. To the best of my comparative abilities, I think the PC version of PES 2016 plays like the PS4 one. I’m comparing full PC release to PS4 demo here (because those are what’s available to me), but if there are substantive, non-graphical differences between the two, I couldn’t notice them after a few hours play. That’s not official confirmation or anything (and the way Konami never communicates about the PC version, there’ll probably never be official confirmation), but animations, collision physics and the like seem very similar.
Thing is, the PC version is running on DirectX 9. That suggests this version is using an older build of the FOX Engine than the PS4 and Xbox One releases. If that is the case, the gameplay is unlikely to be identical. Close (maybe so close that most can’t tell much difference), but not exactly the same. It’s extraordinarily difficult to confirm either way. Anybody claiming to know for sure needs to show their evidence, because I’d be very interested to see it.
All modes of play present in the PS4 version (Master League, myClub, TeamPlay, Online Divisions and so on) appear to be available on PC, at least. Whether the ‘dynamic weather’ is present in the PC release seems to be a point of contention. I’ve not yet seen it myself, but I have read other owners of the game (on PC) swear it’s in there. [Edit] It’s there, I’ve seen it start raining a couple of times during Master League matches now.
I’m not ready to commit to an opinion about the gameplay after such a brief dip (that’ll be in the full review once I’ve played a bunch more), but I do broadly like what I’ve seen so far. Being able to play proper possession football (not something you see much of in FIFA), sprinting not being the answer to every problem, and the actual importance of formations (plus the ability to set different line-ups for being with and without the ball) are all points in favour.
On the down side, the goalkeepers seem a little … inattentive, even when highly rated. I switched out from ‘basic’ shooting to ‘advanced’ thinking that might help, but although that made my shooting worse for a bit, it didn’t seem to do much for the ‘keepers. The commentary is also pretty awful (not that I tend to leave it on in FIFA after the first day either), with Peter Drury yelling the names of strikers at every possible opportunity and Jim Beglin uttering the most inane sentences known to man. So … pretty authentic, I guess. Just much more repetitive.
In addition, PES 2016 won’t run in offline mode through Steam. Even single player requires an internet connection.
I’d have liked to offer a few thoughts on online play (as I know this was pretty dreadful on PC for PES 2015), but my efforts so far all ended in failed matchmaking. That, in itself, may end up being a comment on PES 2016‘s online play, though it may also indicate a problem with my own connection. Since there was also a message about server maintenance floating about when I tried (scheduled for an hour later, mind you), I’ll give the game the benefit of the doubt for now.
In traditional PES style, many of the unlicensed teams have eclectic names like “Yorkshire Whites” (congratulations on making Leeds sound like a far-right paramilitary group, Konami) and equally outlandish badges. The squads are also bizarrely out of date across the board, with examples like Gerrard still hanging around Liverpool. An update to move the players around to their current clubs is supposedly coming next week, but that’s a bit of a poor effort for release day.
Not that club names, badges, kits and squad lists will be much of an issue once the PC file-replacement squad get busy with their own updates.
PES 2016, then, is an unfortunate case. It’s a neglected version on PC, with demonstrably poorer graphics in almost all areas. That the extent of these visual differences were concealed from the public (and continue to be so) through use of PS4 images on the Steam store page is a disgrace, and I’d quite understand anybody who opts not to buy the game on that basis alone.
Everything else, though, seems to be the same or pretty damn close. I’m still being cautious about saying that, because it’s very difficult to be certain. However, the gameplay (which so far I’ve rather liked) seems close to the same, and the modes of play are all there. I’ve been unable to properly test the viability of online PC play, so that’s up in the air for now, and it’s worth keeping in mind that the online player base will be much smaller on PC.
PES 2016 is not a good PC port by any stretch of the imagination, as it fails to even reach visual equivalence with the PS4/Xbox One versions and Konami added a further insult with the misleading Steam store page. In terms of gameplay and modes of play the PC version appears to keep up; but aside from the long-term flexibility of modding on our platform (a definite bonus), PES 2016 conveys none of the usual benefits of a PC release. In many ways, it’s worse.