Well, the day has finally arrived.
This evening at around 8pm GMT we will get our first proper look at PES 2019 as well as further information on the game following the initial reveal.
As a fan of ISS/PES whose love goes way back (I was 17 back in 92 when the first ISS was released on the SNES) there is just this feeling I have that this year is a landmark one for the series. Note that when I say that I am not making a declaration that the game is going to be amazing; just mere observation that on the face of it and based on what we do know this is the first step in a new direction for the series.
PES2019 is going to be the biggest PES ever with regards to the number of teams, players and even licenses that will feature. Users will be getting a larger game world for both offline and online play as a result. Again, this does not guarantee quality but I reckon it is something to look forward to if even just to see how the development team handle the expanded roster and the fully licensed leagues that will feature. My hope in relation to tonight’s presentation will be that these license acquisitions will be championed in the trailer in some way or another and that the info that will be disclosed regarding them will nod to some TLC having been applied to each. My dream is that this will mean a couple of licensed stadiums from each league will feature, with maybe an increase in developer created stadiums that suit the leagues in question to boot. I don’t expect to see that, certainly not to the level I would like, but that is the dream. I do think that it is something the development team will need to look at in future though. That game world will only feel even bigger if the stadium count and variety are there. It is likely never going to return anytime soon but oh, how a stadium creator would be sweet to have in the game again.
Staying on rosters, at the start of this year, Konami advertised for editors so my hope there would be that they are taking a regional approach regards what these new editors are tasked with. It will be interesting too to see if we will see even more player likenesses that scale with the increased roster. I still play a lot of PES 2018 MyClub and I do still find myself surprised at the number of scans/likenesses that do feature in the game but do of course scratch my head at some that are missing. Surely clubs like Celtic, Rangers, Benfica, Porto, and Sporting Lisbon to name but a few will see their squads get “the treatment” as best possible. If you go lurking in any of the “enthusiast” communities forums this stuff gets unfairly critiqued and used, somewhat bewilderingly, as means to label a certain type of player. The “Face and tattoo crowd” they are often called. I have no idea what they are talking about, to be honest, and just seems to be a user-type that is dreamed up by those folks who need to take aim at others for their own woes with the game; a need to rationalise what they think is wrong. If there is such a crowd who like faces and alike then I suppose I too would have a name for them: football fans. Any fan of either Old Firm club, for example, is going to want their team’s squad looking accurate, regardless if they are a hardcore player or a casual one. It might not be the top priority for me and others who are as invested as they are in these games, but it does matter. To reference FIFA for a moment, do you think Manchester United fans the world over who play that game would accept genero-faces for their clubs players? No, they wouldn’t. It would actually end up making gaming press news if that were the case. It seems as though Konami have good solutions in place for getting these likenesses in the game for either the release or over the course of a titles life-cycle in recent years, so my hope is that will continue, except on a larger scale. A big ask maybe for it to be all there straight out the box this year, but surely it is something they will be aiming for.
It would be ignorant to not acknowledge that which will no longer feature in the game. The omission of the UEFA license caused a bit of a stir when the news hit a month or so ago. Listen, I can only speak from a personal poi t of view on that one. The UEFA competitions featuring in PES were always a nice to have, never a need to have. I played ISS/PES that featured club football for 10 years before Konami acquired the UEFA license in 2008. I have no problem going back to compete in the WEFA League and WEFA Cup with my club of choice in Master League. I do hope that the artists in the development team have been at work and will make European competition feel different and a big deal. I remember in the PS2 days they did this by simply changing the colour of the scoreboard and displays, as well as have wee splashes and wipes to signify it was a European club fixture. I genuinely feel that UEFA license no longer featuring could allow for greater artistic expression, so my hope is that will prove apparent moving forward. And yes, cup and title celebrations for all competitions need to be in place. I’d love to see them look to their past and take from it. I can’t remember exactly which game in the series it was but when you won the World Cup the celebrations included the camera panning from player to player and their name flashing up on the screen. They even had a little highlights reel as part of the celebrations. That sort of stuff making a comeback and being implemented into Master League would be a very welcome touch and would increase players connection to their squad. Team photo’s that could be shared and other cool little nods to football culture and not just broadcast authenticity would be cool as well. there is so much that both franchises have yet to capture from the culture that surrounds the sport. You don’t need licenses for that stuff either, just imagination.
That brings me nicely onto Master League itself. While it will be bigger by default, the community is wanting more here, and an increase in teams and licenses will probably not suffice if some of the issues that put this player off the mode completely in PES 2018 are not addressed. I have already spoken of things like celebrations and a greater feeling of connection to the team you take over the reigns of, but there is so much more on top of that needs improving. If I am being honest, I do not expect a massive overhaul of the mode itself, but things like transfers in the Master League world being improved and them just being more believable in general need to be a point of focus. If I am going to say things like likenesses do matter to football fans, then you best believe that applies to when it comes to transfers too. I am trying to manage my expectations as best possible regards Master League, so my hope there is that even just getting these basics sorted and the football doing the talking would prove enough for me. This year. After that, the development team really need to knuckle down and try ace the mode as best possible. It can only help improve the product overall if the main offline game mode is a draw in itself. Also, seeing as Legends are very much part of the strategy for the series now, Konami really could do with looking at allowing users to access these Legends for offline only use that can be made available to users, one way or another. I can actually understand some of the cynicism when it comes to Legends, even if it is from players in the community who are openly hostile towards MyClub as a whole and thus never get to use them, but as someone who has been lucky this year with Legends acquisition I can safely say an open goal is being missed regards goodwill towards offline players. The Legends are an asset to the game. They are great fun to use and in some cases have been realised fantastically well. Part of the game’s history was unlockable classic teams, what is stopping them bringing them back and dropping any released Legends into these unlockable teams as they become available, or indeed having bespoke offline challenges that are delivered via updates to unlock them for use exclusively in offline play only, including Master League. Yes, there are the (odd, in my opinion) purists who go on about how Legends in Master League is glitching the matrix, but I can say from conversations both within the community and away from it there are many who would welcome having Legends in Master League. Yeah, Konami need to be taking a good look at that.
Finally, I want to touch on gameplay itself. PES 2018 introduced something that, for me, was a genuine innovation when considering football games as a whole and that was the dribbling. That left stick to perform quick feints was a pretty genius addition, but it did in this players opinion seem just that little bit better implemented in the beta compared to final release. I do still like the dribbling mechanics a lot as they are in PES 2018, but a return to that beta feel there, along with how shielding seemed to function better too in the beta would be welcome. I have always been a big advocate of contextual features in gameplay, and in PES 2018 the groundwork was laid for truly worthy additions to control that were driven by situation and context, but there were issues. Strength on the ball was overpowered in higher rated players, as was their ability to press and steal possession. That needs balancing. As someone who uses Advanced Shooting, I never experienced the woes many other users had regards shooting, particularly when considering placement and ball-flight (for the most part) but there was a lack of shot variety and execution. It, therefore, will be interesting to see how that has improved for PES 2019, with new traits centred around shooting also being introduced. Passing is another area that requires some improvements from PES2018 with the hope there being that it will be looser on PA1 and even PA2 as that seems to be the default for mos that play MyClub. Ball physics, as always, will be interesting to see overall and I have a feeling that we will see improvements or certainly changes there. Positioning is also something that does need to be looked at and I hope it has. I am not one who needs absolute strict positional adherence as I do appreciate that these games are going to take a wee bit of license over reality, or that design choices are made in order to ensure balance and flow, but I do think there is scope for improvements there, without doubt. Do I really need to cover foul count? Just more there please. I can draw fouls easily enough in PES 2018 but there needs to be a vast increase in calls made for fouls that don’t require me to try and draw them. I hate to use the word, but they do need to materialise more organically.
Not everything I have spoken of here and wish for will be evidenced in tonights reveal, even if it was all to miraculously feature in the game, and believe me when I say I could write thousands upon thousands of words more regards my hopes and dreams for PES 2019 as believe it or not these are quick thoughts, but I’m going to wrap this up and simply look forward to what awaits now.
Over to you, Konami.