An Idiot’s Adventures In Gameland – Steve McNeil

19: The Other Football (Wed 7th October 2015)

Hello once again! As regular readers will know, last week I was banging on about American Football. This week, I’m going to be chatting about the other football (or “English Soccer” as I understand fans of the sport prefer it to be known) as I’ve been asked to review both FIFA 16 from EA Sports, and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer – better known as PES 2016.

I’ve always had a strange relationship with football games. They’re part of that rare selection of titles that my non-gaming friends would happily play. Well, I say selection – it’s basically just those or Call of Duty.

I’ve never been particularly interested in football myself and, as a result, not that interested in football videogames either. Yet, in the desperate hope of spending time playing computer games (which I love) with my friends (who I love) I frequently found myself over the years purchasing the latest FIFA title so that, when they visited, there’d be a game they wouldn’t mind having a go on.

Inevitably, they’d always kick my arse. At the thing I was supposed to be better at than them. Whilst they insulted all the other games in my collection. It’s small wonder then that, even when smiling, my eyes betray the sadness deep inside me that contorts every atom of my body into painful, shaking knots.

Anyway, as a result of all this, it was with some trepidation that I popped FIFA and PES into my PS4. It had been several years since I last played either franchise and the intervening years had done nothing to change my view that I hated them. Yet, I wondered, given I would be spending many hours with each game in order to write about them, perhaps I would finally learn how to play them properly. Perhaps I would finally understand what I’d been missing, discover that secret, special something that I’d failed to notice, that my non-gaming friends had enjoyed so much.

And I did. Sort of. Spending a proper amount of time with the game’s tutorials, it wasn’t long before I was scoring goals, traversing the pitch with confidence and even – heaven forbid – enjoying myself. But, before we get too carried away, I still infinitely prefer Madden NFL 16. The Americans just do hype and bombast so much better. At the NFL game at Wembley last week, when key players from the Miami Dolphins appeared on the pitch, they did so to loud rock music, bursting through a cloud of smoke, as fireworks shot dangerously close to the crowd’s heads. Contrast this with a rainy Great Britain SoccerBall match and, no matter how much you love the ‘beautiful game’, you’ve got to concede it’s hard to feel quite the same thrill.

One of the main areas of debate each year between FIFA and PES is which is better. This year the general consensus amongst critics seems to be that PES is the better game, with a lot of talk focused on how much more ‘fluid’ the gameplay is. Whilst I can SORT of see what people MIGHT be talking about, my experience from playing both back-to-back is that this difference is marginal, although I appreciate I simply might not have the frame of reference to be able to fairly make this comparison.

I’d draw a parallel between this debate about ‘fluidity’ and the recent appearance of ‘lager sommeliers’, which some of you may have seen. Essentially, lager-lovers have attempted to adopt the language and behaviours of wine sommeliers (for what it’s worth, in my opinion, equally dreadful people). Let’s face it: lager is not complex. If you care about (or think you can tell) the difference between a pint of Carlsberg and a pint of Carling, stop drinking. You’ve had enough.

Back to the games, what is undoubtedly the case, as anyone can see, is that PES looks absolutely DREADFUL. I’m not suggesting for a second games should be judged solely on looks but, as someone coming to both titles fresh, it really is embarrassing how poor PES fares compared to its rival in this regard. For those fans who love the latest PES, why not just go back and play the other instalment of PES from years ago you’re always banging on about as ‘the best football game ever’? It’ll look almost as good as this new one, and you’ll save £50!

For what it’s worth, as someone who never liked football games and has spent a lot of time in the last week playing both, I’d recommend you get FIFA instead of PES this year. I realise most “proper games journalists” disagree with this, but that’s not really the point. If, like me, you want to give these games another go, but football isn’t something you’re as passionate about as the millions of people who buy these games every single year, I think you’ll enjoy FIFA more.

Just be ready to ignore the many people who’ll tell you you’ve made the wrong choice, but then your level of enjoyment shouldn’t be dictated by how much other people think you’ve done the right thing. No matter how much people might tell me that Brahms is incredible, I’d still rather have an Abba compilation on a long drive. But that’s just me. A tasteless, awful prick.

See you next week!

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