This is only my second year into my Pro Evolution Soccer journey, with PES 2018 being my football game of choice last year. And overall, I’d still consider my experience in the game nascent when compared to the years I dumped into the FIFA franchise. And while the rivalry still burns hot between the two, no other year has publisher Konami had the most to prove. Electronic Arts managed to successfully poach the UEFA club competitions–most notably Champions League–after years of a Konami-exclusive license. Can PES 2019 successfully close the gap?
It’s a good question, and perhaps one that can’t be realistically navigated until the launch of FIFA 19. However, PES 2019 is undoubtedly (to date) the frontrunning football game in terms of polish and gameplay.
Developer PES Productions (just like all licensed sport developers) finds itself in another tricky situation, as they do every year. With so little space to move in terms of gameplay improvements, the development team has doubled-down on fine-tuning gameplay and making small tweaks and enhancements. Although to most other gaming genres this seems like too small a step, football (and most sports) games boil down to nearing a perfection. And the Pro Evolution Soccer legacy has always been one of pristine gameplay.
While some changes to balance are going to be hard to pinpoint, especially to casual players of the sport, some new additions like visible fatigue add to the depth of gameplay. Sure, there is the visual component to watching some of your players tire out, but there is more than just that. While it was necessary in past iterations of the game, I’ve never felt more compelled to call in substitutions than after watching my striker absolutely exhaust himself.
More important than that, though, is the new system of skill traits termed as that is described as “adding individuality to each player.” And while that all sounds like nice and good PR buzzwords, it realistically does. If you know enough about football to follow the strategies of specific players, for instance, David Beckham, you are going to note how seamless his passing is going to be. Instead of just attaching names and faces to samey models, PES 2019 takes strides in making each player stand apart from his teammate. This comes down to being the most notable addition to last year’s iteration.
Each match has also been polished visually, an obvious move after committing to jump from last-generation consoles. The contests look brilliant on my PS4 Pro and 4K display thanks to both 4K and HDR output support. There is always work that can be done, but I’m glad to see the polish was added towards the actual gameplay rather than major graphical overhauls in an otherwise great-looking title.
There’s no doubt in mind that PES 2019 is the most inclusive football title on the market–but there doesn’t seem to be any real benefit that comes from it. Sure, there was a big show about all the new leagues and franchises added to it, but it often felt like a way to calm fans’ concerns about the loss of more prominent exclusivity deals. And while fans of smaller or more obscure leagues are going to revel in delight over the additions, if comes off feeling like quantity over quality–what amount of teams in sum add up to the loss of Champions League or the absence of La Liga and Machester United? It’s worth applauding the effort, but not so much the end product.
While PES Productions works to broaden out the roster on PES 2019, the modes themselves don’t get nearly the same variety. Well–at least not year-over-year. A lot of the series stalwart modes are still available without major alterations, which is fine. The modes are consistently polished and newcomers (or those looking to make the switch from FIFA). However, it doesn’t lend for too much of a reason for tried-and-true fans of the series to pick up the year.
But what are the major edits? Master League has folded in some team roles, adding some added variety and specialization to building your team. These act as more macro improvements to the formula, allowing you to boost stamina or boost the income that is coming in. It isn’t going to entirely change the formula on how you build your team, however it does build more into the fantasy of building a team.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is the most polished football game on the market. Full stop. And despite all my nitpicking, FIFA will have a lot to prove when it rolls out later this month. Although PES 2019 takes some major blows, they make up lost ground with added variety and fine-tuning an already tight system.