• Paul Fingleton

A Brief History of The Beautiful [Video] Game: Pro Evolution Soccer vs FIFA Soccer

Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer and Electronic Arts FIFA Soccer series have had a similar titanic struggle in their histories to take and maintain the crown of 'Best Football Game'. How has this battle evolved and where will it go next.

Rivalry, healthy rivalry, can make a big difference. Liverpool's dominance in English and European Football led a young Alex Ferguson to issue his desire to knock them 'right off their perch' as he drove Manchester United to take control of the Premier League era.

Berfore we delve deeper, it is inevitable at this stage that this is going to be a Spanish La Liga-style two horse race. There isn't likely to be a Leicester-sized upset as a new soccer game coming in the near future to steal the crown from either if these two giants.

Pro Evolution Soccer has long held a special place in the heart of football fans and gamers alike. Although the franchise has often missed out on official club or league licencing, due to EA's exclusivity deals, the game was known as a truer representation of the beautiful game. Teams like Man Red, Merseyside Blues or North London challenged for the English League, but that didn't matter because on the pitch it felt right: The ball moved like it should, the players looked remarkably like they should and the title of Best Football Game was secured for many years.

But, just as Fergie plotted to overthrow his domestic rivals, EA did not take this lying down. Their game was often seen as "too arcadey" and the ball "ping-ponged" around the pitch. Despite these gameplay quibbles, FIFA Soccer sold well based on the officially licenced leagues and teams.

Around 2008/2009, the status quo changed. EA released a version of FIFA that eclipsed PES in terms of graphics and, more importantly, gameplay. The Pro Evolution Soccer engine hadn't changed that much from it's original PC, PlayStation 2 days.

The ball moved realistically, thoughtful passing replaced the hit and run tactics of the past, mostly. Pro Evolution Soccer went the other direction and the ball could be pinged forty yards and land on the toe of a team mate, or the ball would pinball around the box and slide easily past a recently lobotomised goalkeeper. A new "Become a Legend" mode was not enough to make up for horrendously broken online multiplayer.

Through the next number of seasons, the annual cry of the PES fan became that of a long suffering Arsenal fan (Or should that be a London North fan?): "This year will be our year." only to be mildly disappointed again with the perpetual runners-up trophy.

Along came a new generation of consoles and surprisingly for the first year of this generation Konami did not have an entry available for the new consoles. A release on the PS3 and Xbox 360 kept die-hard fans ticking over, but was this the end of PES?

Konami had a big update in the wings, switching to the Fox Engine for better graphics, physics and collision detection. On the new generation of consoles the Fox engine looked stunning and along with improvements to the gameplay and competition structure.

Now with FIFA 17 and PES 2017 we have a true next gen face-off. EA have used Frostbite for the first time and the graphics of both games look stunning. Player models have lost that plastic, mannequin look. Both the Fox Engine and Frostbite engines both began life in the respective companies action games. I suppose it means that this year we are in for a very exciting penalty shoot out.

Coming head-to-head with Become a Legend and Be a Pro formats. FIFA's fantasy footoball-like Ultimate Team mode eventually had a similar MyClub mode in PES. FIFA added womens teams and then the RPG-light The Journey mode. The teams consistently try to equal and eventually out do each other in terms of features gameplay and performance.

In the end it is that rivalry should be to the benefit of gamers, as they try to knock each other off their perch, that will ensure that the beautiful game remains the beautiful video game.