Gaming Rivalries: PES vs FIFA

No rivalry in the world of gaming is fiercer than the one between competing football franchises. It almost mirrors the strength of feeling people have for their club. Crossing the divide to support another franchise is a relatively rare occurrence. There are two major derby matches in the football gaming calendar and they feature a bitter enmity which has built up over the last few years. The first is Pro Evolution versus FIFA and the second is Championship Manager versus Football Manager.

The world of football gaming back in the early 90’s was strictly a top down or side scrolling affair. We can look back fondly at games like Sensible Soccer but the release of FIFA International Soccer in 1993 brought us an isometric view and the genre has never looked back. FIFA was also a properly licensed game and it quickly turned into an annual release. By the time FIFA 96 came out on the PlayStation it was the biggest football franchise available with real player names and a 3D stadium, although it wasn’t until 1997 that the models turned polygonal.

I spent many a night smashing in the goals against my furious flatmate and he would always have the same complaint as he threw the controller to the ground and stormed off to bed. His problem was that I had figured out a way of scoring 100% successful goals by doing exactly the same thing every time. The fact that his reaction was more entertaining for me than the gameplay was a sign that FIFA was ripe for a competitor and up popped a garish Japanese game called International Superstar Soccer Pro.

It was comparatively ugly, the player names were all wrong and the line ups before games featured a multitude of brightly coloured smiley faces. Despite the surface veneer ISS Pro played like a dream and it was instantly the best football game available for the original PlayStation. After another few releases the series was supplanted by Pro Evolution Soccer.

It was the release of the PlayStation 2 that kicked the FIFA versus Pro Evo war into overdrive. FIFA Football 2002 and Pro Evolution Soccer were released in November of 2001. Pro Evo absolutely annihilated the opposition serving up a game that looked and played infinitely better. It had depth, it required real skill and it felt like a genuine flowing football experience. This was the beginning of a long period of dominance for the Pro Evolution Soccer series although it is worth pointing out that thanks to heavy marketing and official licenses FIFA has continued to outsell PES.

Real footballing gamers were in no doubt – PES represented a much better approximation of the beautiful game. Of course FIFA continued to plug away but it took until 2007 for EA to really challenge Konami’s dominance. In 2007 FIFA 08 went up against PES 2008 and for once it had a new innovation that was worthwhile the “Be a Pro” mode where you could guide a single player through a career. The success of the mode was highlighted by the fact that, the following year, PES 2009 included its own version called “Become a Legend”.

It was the FIFA 09 versus PES 2009 that saw many people jump ship and proclaim FIFA the new king of the genre. PES had gotten fat and lazy, simply not hungry enough for the title anymore, FIFA had the eye of the tiger. Funnily enough the comparison has switched around. PES was once the realistic take on football while FIFA was arcade style accessible action. With FIFA 10 and PES 2010 the opposite is true.

As a staunch PES fan it’s tough to let it go. Sure PES 2010 has its failings and FIFA 10 is an impressive release but my loyalty to PES is deeply ingrained. It may not be as good a single player experience but when it comes to late nights, beers and a series of grudge matches which end in expletives PES is still the best option. The eccentric goalies, the outrageous long shots and the end to end gameplay are as engaging as ever. For a deep single player experience FIFA 10 is hands down the winner of this year’s battle.

With each passing year the new features are quickly adapted by both series. This year it was 360 degree movement. They don’t just adopt new features from the competitor the following year they actually synchronize their new features which makes you wonder about just how closely the two developers follow their opponents. PES will surely come back stronger than ever, if they don’t they risk a Liverpool scenario as fans jump ship to Man Utd (FIFA) and their glory days become a fading memory.

Next time we’ll hit the dugout and examine the battle for the top soccer management game. Before you go, make sure and let us know where you stand on the PES versus FIFA match up. Which is best and has your allegiance changed over the years?

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I originally wrote this for Boomtown.net but they have gone bust and the site has disappeared so….

 

 


About Simon Hill

I'm addicted to gaming and have been since I was a wee boy. Worked in the industry as a tester, designer and producer. I'm now a full time freelance writer and editor.