This is the first year in the last six or seven that I haven’t actually bought both FIFA and the Pro Evolution games – now renamed eFootball PES for some reason. I did get FIFA 20, but after last year’s awful PES, I wasn’t quite so keen on trying this years. At least, I wasn’t so keen on paying for it – and no, I’m not confessing to piracy – it was recently released on Game Pass for Xbox, meaning it’s free for all subscribers to enjoy. As far as that is possible with Konami’s latest footballing simulation.
What makes eFootball PES 2020 good? The same thing that made all the other games worth playing and set it apart from the FIFA series – Master League. It’s always a solid game mode, you take a group of unknown talents from the bottom of your chosen nation’s league and try to win your way to the top. As player retire, they get regenerated as 16 year olds and put back into the game for you to potentially sign and train up to be as good – or better – than they were in their prime. It’s always fun, and they’ve got a decent selection of leagues to play through, meaning you can pick a new league to play every time you start up the game to enjoy. Not knowing how players will develop, and how to unearth top talents is one of the best things about this series, and it’s as polished as ever in this version of the game.
There are a plethora of issues with eFootball PES 2020. First up – I loathe the commentary. I know Pro Evo has always been extremely far behind the FIFA series in terms of the niceties and the bells and whistles, but it feels like the commentary hasn’t changed in years. Peter Drury spitting out the same old tired lines with Jim Beglin having around ten different soundbites to choose makes for some incredibly dull matches. Their phrases are so limited that you’ll inevitably hear repetition at least two or three times in a match, if not more, and it has always been a major bugbear of mine. I’m also not a particularly huge fan of Peter Drury’s over-enthusiasm for banal events, but that’s not necessarily limited to just the game.
Second issue is one that really baffles me. Two or three years ago, the intelligence of your players was extremely solid, and no-one behaved in a frankly bafflingly gentlemanly manner. What I mean by that is that on many occasions, the ball will trickle through your defence – or your opponents defence – without any attempt from the defenders to go towards the ball. If an attacker is with that ball, they’re on it quick, but if there’s a pass through the back line, it’s a slow, ponderous look at the ball. Never wanting to disturb the ball from its path, never seeking to disrupt the natural movement of the ball, the defenders will always just admire the beauty of a defence splitting pass, even when it’s just trundling slowly through your backline, somewhat akin to a milk float travelling along the M25.
Mechanically, eFootball PES 2020 and its predecessors have always been lauded as having the edge over the FIFA series. While it may not shine as brightly, it can definitely play the better game of football. Usually. Not always though, and certainly not this year, as it is hands down one of the most frustrating football simulation games I’ve played. It has so much potential, and some aspects of it are absolutely marvellous, but it falls down on the basics. Passing, for example. Should be relatively straight forward, but unless you’re doing manual passing, your players will boot it the complete opposite direction to where you want it to go. Even to where logic dictates it should go. You’ll think that eventually you will get used to it, but I never did, and it’s quite the change to go from standard quick taps to having to manually direct your passes.
Around 2015-2017, Pro Evo had some top music in the game. Since then, it’s started to drop. At first is was only a small decline in quality, but I think of the entire soundtrack this year, I like one song. The rest are all not to my taste at all, and it just makes me lament the significant drop in quality that this series has had. It also seems like every year Konami release Pro Evolution, then fire their design team and bring in a new team to remove any continuity and familiarity players might have with the game.
The Final Word
eFootball PES 2020 is not worth your time. I do think Master League is still great, and the enhancements that have been made – including just the commentary names – are fantastic, but overall it’s a pile of garbage. Rubbish commentary, poor music choices and infuriating player AI make this game definitely one to miss.