Pro Evolution Soccer is at a crossroads. PES 2016 was a stark improvement over anything the series had delivered since its PlayStation 2 heyday, with critics widely declaring that it outperformed FIFA 16—at least in raw action, if not shiny extras. Konami's challenge with PES 2017 is to continue the upward trend, and give FIFA diehards a truly compelling reason to switch.
Smartly, the advances and tweaks seen in PES 2017 do not revolve around what the competition is doing. PES 2016 took the series away from the showy theatrics and power fantasies of FIFA 16, edging it ever closer to realism. PES 2017 continues that approach. This is a game that knows exactly what digital football should look and feel like. As in real life, you might witness the occasional 30-yard bullet here and there, but the long-term rewards revolve around how diligent you are in understanding and practising the core strategies that underpin the world's most successful and respected teams.
Mechanics as simple as how players pass and caress the ball have been perceptibly altered. Even the shortest of passes feels important thanks to the authority with which players execute them. Almost completely gone is the pinball sensation that has plagued football games of the past, replaced by clever physics that make the ball its own individual entity. It no longer feels as though the ball has some form of magnetic attraction to a player's body—get a pass wrong, through poor timing or power, and you pay for it.