I'll get this out of the way nice and early; PES 2016 is really good.
As someone who has been absolutely obsessed with football games on a variety of consoles for the best part of the last 20 years, I've been with Pro Evolution Soccer through the highest of highs (the PES 4/5/6 glory days) and the lowest of lows (the utter dross that was PES 2008/09/10), and while PES 2015 was a big step in the right direction for the series, PES 2016 is another, bigger step.
FIFA vs Pro Evo is a debate that rages on year after year. Even though the last few years have been a landslide victory for EA Sports, the fans, the players who play FIFA will tell you straight away that the game is far from perfect, and that some good competition for the series is badly needed. It looks as though that competition has finally arrived.
The PES 2016 Demo is available on the Xbox Live and Playstation Network stores now, and if you've any interest in football and gaming then you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. You might not like it, but if you think FIFA is too fast and not realistic enough, and want to put some passing moves together before going in on goal, then you might just enjoy it.
Above are two goals that brought me a ridiculous amount of satisfaction to score in my first few games on the demo. PES 2016 has made notable improvements to the passing, and the runs that your teammates make off the ball make you feel like they actually have a brain, unlike far too many football games in recent years.
Visually, and this is always a stumbling block for Pro Evo, PES 2016 looks fantastic up close, but if official club licences and kits are a deal-breaker for you, then unfortunately PES still lags someway behind. Good news though if you're on PS3, PS4, or Xbox 360, as this year Konami are allowing you to import option files to make the teams look as good as possible. Some of the replay angles are breathtaking, as can be seen here:
Defending is something else that has come on leaps and bounds in PES 2016, having been one of my main gripes with last year's version. While the AI is still going to watch the ball roll past them on the lower difficulties, there now appears to be far more control in the timing of the tackle, applying pressure (which teams such as Bayern will do automatically), and intercepting, making defending far less erratic and much more enjoyable.
One clip I captured to show a moment I really enjoyed was the following, where Brazilian striker Diego Tardelli gets some space thanks to a lucky bounce, but the pace of Rafael Varane meant I could catch up and get in a position to make a challenge.
I've now shown you a few moments that I genuinely enjoyed from my time with the demo, and that's the key word that you should take away from this demo review; enjoyment.
PES 2016 is a good football game. Konami always seem to have problems with online networking, so I must reserve judgement on that until the game's full release, but if you are someone who likes to get stuck into a deep career mode, then you really need to consider Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. FIFA 16 will not bring about the Career Mode overhaul that the game so badly needs, so maybe it's time to make your return to Master League after all these years.
Of course there are moments where you'll think the defender was too easily beaten, or the keeper has made an error, but this is the best Pro Evo game in years and it will be waiting with open arms if the FIFA fanbase don't like changes made to this year's release.