It was good last year; it's great this year; it'll be absolutely superb next year. Right?
Wondering which is this year’s best football game? If you want a comparison between FIFA 16 and PES 2016, you're covered here. I'll be avoiding it as much as possible here, as this is a review of PES 2016, not FIFA 16.
It was almost at the point where I'd forgotten why I wanted Pro Evolution Soccer to be a relevant series again, what with the procession of mediocre/somewhat broken entries to the series hitting throughout the PS3/Xbox 360 generation. Two years ago, I remembered a little bit. Last year, I remembered more. This year, PES 2016 has helped me achieve total recall.
Coincidentally my face, when playing online, looks like this, but fortunately that's not because of the issues that have plagued PES since online play was a thing people cared about. This time around, despite the odd issue popping up here and there, PES 2016 actually functions online.
There have been some delays to getting services up and running, but that's obviously down to the fact that Konami and PES Productions have learned their lesson. I've seen the odd bit of lag and had a few connection issues, but generally speaking PES 2016 is solid and reliable online.
And what do you get if you do play online - or off? Well, a fantastic football game, that's what. It's snappy and quick, responsive in the extreme and - while not a perfect simulation of the sport - plays a damn good game of soccer.
It's one of those things that sounds airy, mainly because it's so difficult to quantify or explain in words. But PES 2016 just feels right. It feels like the kind of game I fell in love with 20 years ago in Goal Storm, through the ISS Pros and onto the PESs pre-2007.
If you played those games and experienced the joy they brought you, you'll know what I'm talking about. If you don't know what I'm on about, take this old hand's word for it: this is a much more urgent, passionate and vital game of football than you've likely played before.
If it was just endless exhibition matches I'd probably still be happy, but PES 2016 does have its requisite money-wringing mode in the shape of MyClub. Create a club with default, not-great players and use your accumulated Game Points (GP) or PES coins to bring in new, better players and managers. Simple, and effective.
One element that makes PES 2016 different from before is how your players in MyClub mode actually develop, through both training and playing. This means that even if your microtransaction-funded player purchase (though you can get all the GP you need just by playing) isn't up to snuff, if you play and train him well enough he may well be.
Or, of course, you can remain entirely offline and get straight into the revamped Master League or Be a Pro modes. Both play similarly in setup, with menus and navigation that aren't utter bullshit* like in previous years (*that's the scientific term). Both modes are just as captivating as they've ever been, meaning Be a Pro is fun for a bit and Master League has the potential to take over your life for a few months.
There's tournaments, customisable championships, basic online play and more; it's the package you'd expect from a footie game these days, basically. But all the fun times come on the pitch - well, apart from in Master League, when you negotiate a player's salary down to 50% of what it was at his previous club and sign him for a pittance.
The age-old criticism (also a reason to love it for many people) is still doing the rounds: PES 2016 is lacking a load of licenses for teams, players, tournaments, whatever. There's a fair amount in non-English/international football, but anyone looking for a proper Premier League or Championship - as will most of our readers - will be left wanting. No change there, then.
Where there is change is in PES 2016's editing suite, which has seen one key improvement over last year's decent, though imperfect effort: you can import hand-crafted images. What this means is you can bring in kits, club emblems, manager pictures and more, and they can be anything you want them to be.
Want the Premier League to actually be the Premier League, with proper teams and everything? You can have that. Want a super league from the future made up of teams all sporting penises on their kits? You're covered. Want to give everyone 1976 versions of their strips? Make them, import them, use them.
It's straightforward, but rather laborious. There's no way to import option files to the consoles (on PC it's possible), so it's a case of batch-importing images and pasting them onto kits one by one. But the mere fact you can do it fills me with a childlike glee. While FIFA (I did say I'd try not to mention it) has gradually moved away from a super-customisable setup, PES has been working its way back to the point where we can build whatever we want.
And that, in case you're confused, can only ever be a good thing. It's just a shame the editing doesn't stretch to the bargain basement presentation or the poor commentary from the returning Jim Beglin and new, supremely irritating voice of Peter Drury. The best I can say about that is that, one, it's better than the commentary was 20 years ago, and two, at least it's not Clive Tyldesley.
One thing I sincerely hope Konami will release a patch to fix, though, is shit refereeing. The amount of crap players get away with - on both sides - borders on the ridiculous, and while it isn't ruinous it is something that needs to be looked at, as some matches are more like the vastly inferior sport of rugby, with nary a blown whistle to be heard.
Last time around I seemed to think PES was 'back', as everybody (including me) seems to say every four seconds. But it seems I wasn't wholly correct - the true comeback is this year. PES 2016 playing a snappier, pacier and more fun game of football than last time around.
It might not be the most realistic representation available, nor does it have all the bangles and baubles that some demand of their soccer sims, but right now PES 2016 is the best football game on the market. It took a while - near enough 10 years - but it was worth that long wait. Almost.