With the loss of the Champions League licence to rivals EA, I was interested in seeing how Konami improved Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) this year. Normally, I always prefer PES to FIFA, but last season I was definitely firmly in the FIFA camp as it offered a significant amount more, and I felt the gameplay was a little stronger in FIFA than in PES. I actually wasn’t sure if I’d even get PES this year due to last year’s failing, but I figured I’d give it a try – with it releasing earlier than FIFA, if nothing else it would scratch the football itch that I almost always have.
Following your pass is always something that you should do if you play football. Being able to keep the attack going, and ensuring the player you’ve passed to always has an option as well is a very important notion, and it seems to have really hit home in PES this year. I’ve not noticed it being absent in previous games, but they’ve definitely enhanced it significantly in this version of the game. Every time I was attacking, instead of there being no options and having to try to dribble round people on my own, I had at least one body up there making a run to help me out. This led to me having some really fluid, beautiful to watch attacks that led to goals that would easily come in on any “goals of the month” video.
One thing I normally hate in PES is the commentary. I either have to mute the TV or listen to it in a different language, because Peter Drury and Jim Beglin are the worst commentators on the planet. They’ve not changed the personnel in the gantry, but they have given them far more lines than I remember them having in previous instantiations of the game. This time it doesn’t feel like I’m hearing Peter scream the same lines over and over, with Jim adding his usual boring patter on the end of whatever gets said. I know the commentary is the most minute part of the game, but it all adds to the experience, and I love hearing it for the most part. It is still Peter Drury and Jim Beglin after all, so it’s far from perfect.
PES used to be the kings of on-field gameplay, but this version is terrible. I’m not going to pull any punches with it, I genuinely felt incredibly let down by this years PES. There was a few times where I was aghast by the AI of my teammates. Too frequently would they ignore the ball that dribbles within half a yard of themselves. Instead of trying to prevent the opposition breaking through and having a free shot on goal, my defenders would much rather just stand, shocked to their very core that the ball has gone slightly to the left of them and watch the whole attack unfold. It’s not just limited to defending, even when on the attack, if the ball wasn’t intended for a player, or a defender got the slightest of touches on the ball, my team would forget they’re on the pitch and start wandering over to enjoy the daisies on the touchline.
Konami have even managed to screw up the camera on the pitch, with it seemingly requiring players to pass a certain point on the pitch before it moves the camera to the right or left. It’s immensely frustrating trying to start a counter attack, knowing that your player is available, but not knowing if he’s making a run, or if he’s on the floor or anything. Having just the first five or ten yards available to view ahead of you is not good enough, and definitely makes it extremely challenging to play as a counter-attacking team.
The final, fatal flaw in PES19 is the amateurish menu system they’ve given us. It’s impossible to compare it favourably to any of the FIFA games of the past five years, it’s as if Konami advertise their UX jobs on Fiverr or Upwork, grabbing the cheapest resource possible for their game. It’s even a backwards step from last year’s edition, as it no longer recalls what mode you were in last, so if, like me, you’re a Master League player, you have to scroll across three steps before you are able to access your season, rather than just starting up the game and having it right there. Also, when you’re in Master League, you have mini context-menus which disappear when you exit a screen. It’s a slight irritation, but it’s still irritating.
The Final Word
I can already tell that I’m not going to play PES beyond FIFA’s release date. It’s not awful, but it has seemingly regressed from last year and FIFA would have to really have cocked up for me to not prefer it over PES this season. There are so many issues with PES that makes it just absolutely not worth having this year. I’ll probably get twenty or thirty hours out of it, but as soon as FIFA is released, it’s going to go into a drawer, never to be touched again.