Still atop the throne… Mostly.
The King returned last year with PES 2018, a game that I personally really enjoyed despite it seeming to split some of the community. PES 2019 takes a few steps further in the right direction, but doesn’t quite keep up the pace of improvements that we’ve seen over the past few iterations.
The first thing to say about PES 2019 is that it looks unbelievable. From the lighting, to the detail on the players faces, everything on the pitch looks absolutely fantastic. The level of Detail has been improved during gameplay, giving you a much crisper look overall, particularly when running at 4k, and the improvements to the overall presentation go far beyond those as well. Animations have been tweaked, added and improved, and quick substitutions have been added, which allow you to swiftly move through all of your players (as opposed to just having presets) and make changes on the fly whenever the ball goes out of play without needing to trawl through some menus to do so. It’s a relatively small quality of life improvement, but it’s one that definitely helps the game flow a lot more.
Elsewhere on the pitch, the game looks and feels incredibly smooth. “Visible Fatigue” has been touted in this year’s game, and it’s definitely on show, with players starting to look completely knackered as you approach the business end of the 90. Instead of just moving slower, players will react differently, and occasionally pull up or not chase balls on the AI team if they’re feeling the strain. It’s a new feature that will undoubtedly shift the balance of a few matches as you try and strike that perfect balance between all-out attack and cagey defensive play. Outside of this, the game plays much like last year’s title. Obviously it’s not just a re-skin of last year’s game, but the heritage definitely shows. The more measured pace of 2018 has more or less been retained, and after fiddling with some camera angles and other things that everyone always finds a way to complain about, you undoubtedly feel like the game is earning that “This feels like real football” tag that you so often see on social media. Games ebb and flow with all the tension and drama of the beautiful game, with goals almost popping up from anywhere thanks to some revamped shooting controls.
Lashing a screamer into the top corner from 35 yards out never felt so sweet!
In fact, the shooting feels as good as it ever has in PES, if not more so, thanks to a few new methods. Depending on how you want to play, you can now have a much more granular level of control when it comes to thrashing the ball into the onion bag, with an advanced shooting mechanic. It takes a while to get used to, but once you find the sweet spot for the first time, there’s no better feeling. Lashing a screamer into the top corner from 35 yards out never felt so sweet! Ball physics have been tweaked as well, leading to a more unpredictable flight at times, but a much more realistic feeling entity, that still feels completely detached from the players, something that FIFA repeatedly seems to struggle with.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. While the on-pitch game has improved yet again for PES, the off-field drama, so much like in reality, has been grabbing the headlines. The loss of the Champion’s League license to FIFA, along with the somewhat disheartening licensing kerfuffle with the likes of BVB, have been big talking points in the community. Additionally, the situation with some of the leagues being removed, such as the Italian and Spanish second tier. The official reasoning was to do with disc space limitations, which led to some in the community feeling aggrieved that these were not being included.
In addition, there is a weird licensing situation with the Brazilian national team lineup, but Konami are hopeful that the correct lineup can be patched in later via a data pack. The correct kits are all there, but the players aren’t. It’s a weird situation that I hope can be resolved swiftly, either by official or unofficial means.
It feels right to mention here that edit mode is still incredibly comprehensive, and just as straightforward to import kits as it has been since 2017, meaning you can import the entire Premier League kits and names with just a couple of button presses).
To counteract these criticisms though, Konami have been plucking licenses from world football’s tree in as many places as they can. Dortmund’s loss is offset by the addition of Schakle, while the addition of the SPL is much-requested one that even the giants in Vancouver have ignored for a number of years, and it’s going to make an awful lot of people happy north of the border when the Old Firm stadiums get patched into the game in the coming weeks. Additionally, the licenses from Russia, Switzerland, Turkey, Argentina, Belgium, Portugal and Chile are present and correct, which indicates that while Konami don’t have the zeroes in the bank to go after the Premier League and EFL, they are listening and are trying to pick up as many options for people as they possibly can with the resources that they do have available to them.
Master League has had a few tweaks, with full pre-seasons being made available to people this time out, which includes the “International Champions Cup” (no, you can’t have a prize for guessing what that’s meant to be), as well as improved transfer windows, and the addition of those new licensed leagues making things all the more “real” feeling.
Also promised is a huge MyClub update, but as things stand I’ve not been able to try this out due to the servers not being live before embargo. As a result, my score stands as a result of the offline game ONLY
As soon as you cross that white line in PES 2019, you immediately feel at home. Gameplay tweaks have been given the right level of subtlety, with benefits being reaped in all areas of the gameplay. Presentation value has been upped, with plenty of care and attention being paid to the new animations and gameplay traits, and the new shooting options make you feel like a god when you finally nail that top-bins screamer. New licenses make things feel a bit more impressive, but the Champions League license was a big one, and there is a definite void in some of the presentation as a result. It’s a shame that there’s a much bigger boy in the playground with all of the money, and we’re starting to see what happens when that money gets thrown about, because PES 2019 makes some baby steps forward on the pitch, which elevate it to be the best it’s been in a long, long time.