Football, or soccer as it’s known to the non-pure, is a sport with global appeal, I mean, they don’t call it ‘The World Game’ for no reason. In the world of video games it is no different, with one of gaming’s most popular franchises (FIFA) being a football simulation experience. However, much like the never-ending war between the Call of Duty and Battlefield fans, FIFA has a more than competent challenger for the football simulation crown. That challenge comes from Konami’s long-running Pro Evolution Soccer series, which despite living in FIFA’s shadow potentially offers football fans a more rounded and true football experience.
PES aficionado Rob Pike caught up with Konami’s Adam Bhatti ahead of PES 2017’s launch on September 13th to find out how deep Konami have gone to change up PES this year.
DYEGB: Both the Barcelona FC and Liverpool FC partnerships were huge announcements and very well received by fans. Can we expect any other partnerships announcements for PES 2017 or future games?
AB: Absolutely. We have a new deal in place with Dortmund, and have also wrapped up all the key South American clubs. Working closely with the best teams gives us an enviable amount of access to make sure they are represented perfectly within the game. This will be key for us moving forward, hence they are all tied to long-term deals.
DYEGB: The gameplay videos have shown us a huge improvement in the goalkeeping mechanics, how hard is it to find a realistic balance for the keepers?
AB: Everyone has a different idea about what makes a good keeper, and how they should appear in a football game. At a basic level, you do not want them making silly mistakes, so we have worked to see how the best ones govern the penalty area and approach one-on-one and shot-stopping situations. We have also implemented Player ID for key goalkeepers, so that they behave like they do in real life. Stopping shots and getting up to parry the rebound, etc…
DYEGB: Option file sharing is a huge addition to the PS4 version, are there any plans to bring this feature to Xbox? Also any chance of in-game option file uploading/sharing in future games?
AB: It’s an area we want to look at, and will continue to investigate.
DYEGB: Are there any plans to add tattoos to all players? The Neymar player model is quite remarkable!
AB: We want PES to be as realistic as possible, and with more and more players adding tatts, we will be looking to make sure they appear for sure.
DYEGB: What are some of your favourite new or improved features in this year’s master league mode?
AB: A lot of work has gone into making Master League a more immersive experience. The whole transfer system is much better with dedicated budgets for players, the ability to set loan durations, and working to get deals done before the window shuts. The way new signings adapt will also be key, as their personality may not make them a natural fit within a well-oiled team, which can lead to issues. Training is also better, with players able to learn new skills and be taught to play certain systems or in new positions.
DYEGB: In-game training drills was a much loved feature of past games, will it ever return?
AB: We’re always looking at the ways of implementing tactical changes in-game. The new system is incredibly flexible, but never say never…
DYEGB: Will the PC version of PES 2018 be getting extra attention or will it be a standard console port?
AB: The PC market is key to us, but it is too early to discuss plans yet.
DYEGB: PES 2017 looks to be more of a football sim compared to last year’s game, is it hard to strike the right balance between fun and realistic gameplay?
AB: Gameplay is everything. If a game is not fun to play, people won’t play it. There is a balance between realism and fun, but I think it comes down to giving the player total control of their team. That way, when a move comes off, the joy felt is genuine – as is the thrill of scoring a well-worked goal. Get that right, and the rest can be built on top.
DYEGB: Will there be time for gameplay tweaks and changes based on feedback from Gamescom and other hands-on sessions prior to launch?
AB: We can update various elements via downloads and constantly refined PES 2016 during the year, so we can make tweaks, etc, if and when appropriate.
DYEGB: Will we see the crowd chant import feature make a return this year? If not is there any chance of it returning in future games?
AB: Not this year, but we’ll certainly look into it now that we’ve managed file sharing.The focus this year has to recreate the real sounds, so we’ve been gathering real crowd sounds from famous stadiums such as Camp Nou and Anfield. Our new deals allow us to include the most famous songs from key teams, too.
DYEGB: Do you keep an active eye on what EA are showing off with FIFA or is it all PES for you?
AB: We have a healthy respect for the guys at EA and the work they do. I have to focus on PES, but EA is working to the same goal of making the best possible football game and the competition pushes us both to be as good as possible.
DYEGB: What was your favourite Pro Evo game prior to PES 2010?
AB: Funnily enough it was a Japanese version called Winning Eleven 10. It used to be released earlier in Japan, and it was bang in the middle of PES 5 and PES 6 – it had great elements from both games. Loved it. Pure football, the series at its PS2 height.
DYEGB: Lastly, which football team do you support and how do you think they’ll do this season?
AB: AC Milan. I think we are out of the trough of recent years, and are assembling a good side capable of beating anyone on their day. Hopefully, we can keep hold of Bacca, as the potential in the team is definitely there.
DYEGB: On a side note, thank you and the PES team for the amazing nets this year!
AB: You’re welcome! I will pass on your comments to the team!