Konami has admitted that its focus on visuals for last year's PES 2014 damaged the final product, leading to a game that was only "half done" and "extremely unhappy" fan feedback.
But the publisher doesn't intend to make the same mistake with this year's PES 2015, which it hopes will recapture the "magic" of fan favourites PES 5 & PES 6 and pledges to only ship "when it's done".
"There's obviously a change in what PES used to be and what it is now here in Europe," European brand manager Adam Bhatti told VideoGamer.com last week. "Around PES 5/PES 6 it was the football game that everybody wanted to play. It's not there right now, certainly in Europe. We're still quite strong in South America and Asia. So it's quite important for us to recapture that, and I was brought in along with [PES Productions UK] to do that."
Part of that process, Bhatti suggests, is acknowledging and rectifying earlier mistakes, particularly those linked to the introduction of Kojima Productions' FOX Engine.
"With PES 14, we had a new engine - FOX Engine - that we were trying to incorporate and many of the gameplay feelings of PES were just lost really, because we were trying to make a game that looked beautiful," Bhatti says. "But really, PES has been known for playing the beautiful game but not really caring about... how we moved, having the most accurate animation. [Earlier PES titles] definitely captured certain things, like a player run, for example, but it was super responsive and that allowed you to be very instinctive when you played. [In] PES 14, you had to think two seconds before you were going to do something because the animation would play out, and that's not PES."
He continued: "So for us, [PES 2015 is] about going back to the basics, going back to why you played PES in the first place. PES 5 and PES 6 have been earmarked by us, mainly because it's that era where the fans still say to us, 'That's when you guys were good, that's when you guys were the best'. Now, you can't just high-res a PES 5/PES 6 game and ship it for £40/£50... We really can't... and I don't think we should as well, we should be aiming a little bit higher. But the gameplay feeling is still magic, it's still perfect to me. We've tried to capture that and [rediscover] why it was special."
The key to getting PES back on track, though, is getting the controls and responsiveness right, Bhatti suggests.
"The most basic thing for me is, in PES, when I played it, 1) super responsive and 2) left stick dribbling and R2 stop," he says, "this feeling that I didn't need a trick stick or needed to do tricks to beat a player, it was all about seeing the play and react to what's going on.
"The final thing is not scoring the same goal twice. That was so important to me in PES. You will shoot from anywhere, take a chance, you'll feel like, hey I've got a chance here. I think really with all football games you started to find too many sweet spots. PES surely had its own, PES 5 did as well, but you weren't just locked to those moments. You could try it and score [a wonder goal] and 'Oh my God, did you see that?'. They're the moments that we're trying to catch with the gameplay."
The back to basics approach has led to a shake-up in the development schedule, too, Bhatti suggests, and rather than target the usual late September slot, Konami's focus with PES 2015 is "to ship it when it's done".
"That's a really good ethos," he says. "We tend to have the same focus every year, we stick to a time. We learned with PES 14. As you mentioned, it was probably half done, and I think that was the feedback we got from all the fans. The majority of fans [were] extremely unhappy with us last year. We heard them and we're fully aware, so this year it's not just a case of 'don't worry, we're going to fix it'. When it ships it'll be ready."
PES 2015 launches on PS4, Xbox One and "additional formats" later this year. To find out what Steve thought of the PS4 version after getting to grips with it last week, head through to his hands-on preview.