1st impressions of football game Pro Evolution Soccer 2016

The Straits Times gathered gamers from within its ranks for their first impressions of the new Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 game that was launched on Sept 18.

Konami's latest challenger to Fifa 16 (which was released worldwide on Sept 25) has always engaged football gamers in heated debate for over more than a decade as to which franchise is the better one.

The Fifa series obviously ticks the cosmetic boxes at first glance, with its full array of team jersey rights. But discerning gamers have argued that the subtleties and nuances of football have been better captured in Konami's series.

Here are the first impressions of our reviewers from different desks after trying it out on the Sony Playstation 4 console.

ST deputy tech editor Trevor Tan

Pro Evolution Soccer 2016 continues to play like the Italian Serie A - all about movement, formation and tactics. However, the in-game referee who seems to hail from the English Premier League doesn't seem to blow his whistle for any fouls, except for the most blatant ones. And yet the linesman will flag a player offside for being mere millimetres ahead of the last defender.

As a result, the game does flow faster than previous versions. And when you manage to beat the offside trap, it is almost certainly a goal. The team's morale gets lifted after scoring, and you find your players starting to play better. A team also plays better when you put players into their preferred positions. Changing the formation and tactics to counter your opponent's style of play pays dividends too. But, why is my Liverpool team still called Merseyside Red and and why does it have such an ugly kit?

ST digital sub-editor Shea Driscoll

Telling anyone how good a PES game is must always come with a caveat, and PES 2016 is no different. PES 2015 was the best game in the series in years, with crisp passing and a pleasing sense of individuality to each player that made it great fun to try out different teams. This year's edition retains most of that and has made tackling more robust, albeit at the expense of any semblance of good refereeing. It is still a very good football game.

However, the "but" that comes with the praise is worse in PES 2016. Fans are used to ridiculous fake names for both players and clubs, and I've come to accept the fact that I have to change "North London" to "Arsenal" once a year. But why have default kits been changed to colours that no one associates with these teams? Arsenal's home uniform is in orange, for heaven's sake.

What's unforgivable is Konami's decision to only release full roster updates on Oct 29. That means you'll see Petr Cech at Chelsea, Falcao at Manchester United and Raheem Sterling at Liverpool - all players who have changed clubs in the summer - until almost three months after the English Premier League kicked off.

Anyone keen on starting a file accurate to real life in Master League, PES' signature offline mode, will have to wait another month. The delay sparked a slew of angry reactions from fans.

I bought PES 2016 sight unseen based on the strength of last year's game. I won't do the same next year.

ST digital news editor Ernest Luis

The good news for Playstation "Pioneer Generation" people like me who have been thawed out from the Ice Age (having missed out on the era of the PlayStation 2 & 3), is that PES 2016 boasts better defensive artificial intelligence. So that will make up for my lack of scoring and technical prowess, and allow me to continue my biting old-school tackles.

Referees in this 2016 version seem more lenient with slide tackles, and that will please me, but not my more gifted colleagues. I can hack down others like the Terminator and be rather embarrassed when I escape with no card at all. All in all, the gameplay is sharper and more responsive than the 2015 version, but while the referee was perhaps too strict in the 2015 version, the man in black has now swung to the other extreme.