I'm not one of those twats on Twitter*. You know, the people that moan when their feed begins to fill with tweets about football whenever there's a big game on. I understand the appeal of football, you see: supporting a club, getting tribal about it, fighting in stadiums, being a closeted racist (okay, not most of you) and feeling super sad/overjoyed whenever that team gets relegated/promoted. It's the same with most sports. I didn't give a shit about rugby until this September, but I found myself getting well into the England games, shouting at the television like Ioan Gruffudd. I'm the same with football, and I'll always get swept up by the World Cup, learning players' names like Zola and Nevilles (I can't remember if that's one person or two), and then forget about it all once the final is over. See you in four years, lads.
This year I wanted to learn football properly, or at least make an effort to understand the buzzwords, know which players play for what teams, and the leagues those teams play in, all to help me be a part of conversations in pubs or at bus stops. It's a tall order, as I've found out – football is a huge sport, and there's fucking loads of tax loopholes to familiarise yourself with and bribery techniques to master. To make matters more complicated, there are two very different football video games on offer right now – FIFA 16 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. Each offers very different approaches to the Beautiful Game. I have played both quite a lot now and can now bring you the definitive answer to which is the best, from the perspective of a know-next-to-nothing when it comes to this whole kicking and diving malarkey.
(*Okay, I am a twat on Twitter.)
There are a lot of teams in football, and FIFA 16 has them all. It has all the teams. It's like Netflix for teams. It's amazing, frankly, that the guys working on the game have managed to make sure all the teams fit onto the disc. Playing this year's FIFA gave me the opportunity to get attached to certain teams, and also learn how teams play differently depending on what league they're in, or what players they have. With PES 2016 that's pretty much impossible, with only a small number of licensed squads available in comparison. The Spanish league is all present and correct, but let me walk before I can run, yeah? The English teams, Manchester United aside, are named stupid things like North London FC or Shoreditch Wankers United. I found myself only playing as a couple of teams in Pro Evo, United and Barcelona. And this really limited how much information I could glean about other squads. I've been told that the AI in PES makes teamwork far more distinct, and that you can more quickly get a feel of how individual teams play; but this information is useless to me, a football idiot.
Okay, so I already know some of the players like Lionel Messi, the most prolific dribbler since Beethoven the Dog, and Paul Scholes, the world's greatest-ever ginger-haired man, better even than Mick Hucknall and Ron Weasley. But learning all of them is a real test, like that exam that London cabbies have to take to prove that they know Literally All The Roads. Commentators are definitely the best way to learn more about the players, and FIFA has that absolutely nailed with Martin Tyler on board (who VICE recently spoke to, just over here). Pro Evo's commentary is still decent, but it repeats much more regularly, so you pay less attention to it – plus, versus FIFA, it sounds a lot like Peter Drury's phoned his contributions in on the way to pick up his new Range Rover, the prick. Pro Evo does, however, look better, so players are more instantly recognisable – at least when it comes to the properly licensed athletes, the avatars that aren't nightmarishly ugly afterthoughts. They move more intuitively, and like actual people, instead of FIFA's weird striding robots that look crap by comparison.
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I know all about tekkers now, I do. PES 2016 is brilliant for tekkers, as it makes really damn cool things happen without you really having to do much. The flow of the game is much faster, more streamlined and more enjoyable as a result. FIFA 16 feels so sluggish and unresponsive when experienced after PES, and while there's definitely room for real top-class tekkers there it takes a lot more effort, and looks less cool when you manage to pull it off. There was one moment when I was playing as Chelsea, or whatever the game calls them, Chumpo FC or something, and I was running into the big box – no, not the penalty box, I know which one that is, I mean the bigger box – and I pulled off some amazing tekkers with Diego Costa, who fucked up, but then the ball inadvertently went straight to the guy in midfield. I forget his name, I just know him as The Man Behind Diego Costa, but he also did incredible tekkers straight away. I mean, I'm pretty new to this football lark, but I know a consistent level of tekkers when I see it, and Pro Evo absolutely without a doubt has more tekkers per square football than FIFA does.
There are no riots in football now. It is 2015. Grow up.
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This is a tricky one. FIFA 16 is really good at telling you the buttons. It goes so far as to have the contextual options above the players' heads, if you need it there, so you know how to pass, lob, cross and strike – among other more in-depth controls – as you play. PES 2016 has none of that hand holding, and it's pretty daunting to begin with; but Konami's game very quickly feels smoother to handle. Manning other men, and having other men man other men, oi oi, is more elegant in motion, and keeps the pace of any game considerably higher than the EA-made alternative. Playing a game of PES feels more fluid, and getting possession, keeping it, and watching the movement of a game progress throughout its runtime is much more exciting. Despite FIFA's control prompts, I came to understand the PES set-up a lot swifter. FIFA needs fewer buttons. It has more buttons than the control panel on the Death Star. You don't need that many buttons to kick balls, even if you are doing it in £1-million-a-month style.
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Both games make their career modes quite tough, and detailed, so I haven't yet had the opportunity to properly explore either. But then, I don't know how to be a football manager. I see myself as more of a football coper. I cope. All of these big-name players come to me and ask for money, and I just give it to them, forgetting to negotiate at all. I don't know if they are any good, I just wish Dennis Bergkamp were still alive. That would make all my efforts worthwhile. I want him on my pitch. We have the technology; we can rebuild him. Why is there not that option in FIFA or Pro Evolution Soccer?
I think both games have their merits, sure, but I would be being very egotistical if I said I now knew lots about football because I have played video games based on the sport. I still know nothing in the grand scheme of things. I still call Chelsea's midfielder The Man Behind Diego Costa. In a way I feel like playing a game of FIFA is like learning French sat in a school classroom – it's clear and methodical, and gets the job done, but it's oddly soulless. Playing PES on the other hand is like moving to France on a whim and having to learn the language on the fly as you get a job as the only Information Bureau employee in the whole of Paris. It's thrilling, terrifying and electric. You end up learning more, quicker, in PES, because you aren't given the option to be lazy, like all real footballers are. Heh.
FIFA 16 by EA Sports and Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 by Konami are both out now on just about any system that you can play video games on. But you already knew that.
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