After nine years of smartphone gaming, the case for traditional football games on mobile isn't going well.
The main piece of damning evidence is FIFA. The king of console footy hasn't wholly convinced in the move to mobile, particularly with FIFA Mobile.
But there's one final card up the defence's sleeve. The connoisseur's choice and perpetual FIFA-alternative, Pro Evolution Soccer, is coming back to mobile at the end of the month.
In fact, PES 2017 has been in soft launch for quite a while now. Here are a few pre-launch thoughts based on the latest version.
My main problem with FIFA Mobile isn't the compromised touch controls or the restrictive freemium structure. It's that the on-pitch action doesn't feel anything like the FIFA console games.
By contrast, PES 2017 has been built on the same engine that drives the PS4 and Xbox One versions. It shows, too.
It's evident in the way that the players receive the ball, physically jostling for possession and stumbling under challenges. You also see it in the game's satisfyingly believable ball physics.
The ball is a lively, unpredictable, and active participant in PES Mobile's matches. It often flicks up off a player's foot unexpectedly, leading to the possibility of something calamitous (a cheap turn-over) or even wonderful (a volleyed screamer) happening.
A league of its own
Within minutes of the opening practice match, it's apparent that PES 2017 is playing in the Premier League while its great rival is in English Football League.
There's a full set of virtual controls that largely replicates (with a little more assistance) what you can do in the console version, and there's also an attempt to construct a more natural mobile control system through contextual swipes on the left and right side of the screen.
The resulting alternative control system is mixed. On the one hand, it's hard to play and react accurately at speed when you have to, say, flick back, then forward and hold on the invisible right-hand stick for a lofted through ball.
Conversely, you can execute commands consistently and without having to look down at the bottom of the screen, which is always an issue with imprecise virtual controls.
PES 2017's more purist focus can also be seen in the fact that you play full open games as standard. That shouldn't be a thing to brag about really, but FIFA Mobile ensured that it is.
That's not to say that PES 2017 on mobile is the complete console experience. Purists will be disappointed that you can't play in any real world leagues or tournaments, and there are many of the usual freemium staples of a limited energy system and a pair of virtual currencies.
The onus here is on guiding a randomised team of mediocre players to glory across a series of randomised encounters. You can't sign players directly, but rather have to jump through some strange hoops that result in limited and randomised dice-rolls to get you a player that loosely meets your requirements.
It remains to be seen if this structure proves satisfying over the long haul. You'll also have to wait for the review to see whether those more sophisticated controls can hold up when the difficulty ramps up (the early matches are embarrassingly easy). But those looking for a proper console-style football game on their phone definitely have a new contender to root for.