Pro Evolution Soccer is back for another year and this time it could be really up against it, given that for the first time it’s without the prestigious UEFA Champions League license. FIFA’s pinched that one, leaving PES 2019 a little light on the ground when it comes to high profile competitions.
Konami has done its level best to even up the score with FIFA by signing up some new leagues and becoming partners with the likes of Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal, some green and white team from Scotland and of course, the greatest and most successful team in the world, Glasgow Rangers.
At the time of writing the servers aren’t live, so I’ve been unable to test online modes such as the newly revamped MyClub, Online Divisions and Online Co-op, but I suspect they’ll play very much like they did last year, albeit with a few tweaks here and there, although this is something I’ll likely revisit at some point in the future. But if you want to know what’s changed now, then basically MyClub will include new Featured players whose stats can go up depending on how they play. Signing players are also cheaper via agents and you can also complete in online tournaments too. You’ll also have new slots and be able to improve players abilities and you can exchange duplicate cards too if you have three of the same. There are more changes too, so fans of MyClub will likely be happy, although to be honest, it’s never a mode I’ve really spent a lot of time dabbling in.
Since the servers are offline at the time of writing, this also affects live updates too, so Rangers for instance still have their old players, although by the time you play all licensed teams will have the correct players. One thing I am impressed with is the strips. The latest kits are all here and very authentic looking, including any change kits, this means you’ll have a choice of up to three kits for your favourite team.
It’s always difficult to understand the changes each year which justify the need for yet another version of sports games. This time around it’s quite obvious the graphics have stepped up a notch. The fans inside the stadium really seem to add a lot more to the atmosphere, while player likeness are better than ever. I’m still not overly fussed by the commentary as it doesn’t have that ‘Sky Sports’ feel you get from FIFA, so there’s certainly still work to do here.
Another area which annoys me are the menus, they feel almost archaic in nature, so Konami needs to be taking a look at other sports games for inspiration. I really can’t stand changing my team because it’s more awkward than it should be, honestly I feel like I need a mouse half the time just to swap strikers.
When it comes to the football this is where PES is always a winner for me. As always the on the field action is fun and fast flowing. I love the passing, which feels very fluid and realistic. Hold the button for too long or not long enough and you’ll lose possession in seconds. You really need to pay attention to what you’re doing, and if you pull it off the rewards are there to see, with football that’s fantastic on the eye, fancy flicks and tricks and some spectacular goals too.
The AI seems to be much improved too, reading the play and intercepting your passes. Counter attacks are also swift, so you’ll need to make sure you don’t have too many players out of position or you will pay the price. I love the action in PES, so much so I wish I could lift just that part out and place it in FIFA, as it’s the one area EA has never quite managed to better Konami at. The actual football is the best thing about PES by far, which is just as well really because it’ll never have the budget to bring us the ‘Premier League’ glitz and glamour of the FIFA series.
Usually, I spend most of my game time in the offline modes and this remains the case for me in PES 2019. In other words, I’ve spent lots of time playing a season and of course, in the excellent Master League. The latter seems to become more like Football Manager each time I play, with transfers, scouting and player interaction becoming more complex with each passing version. Sure it doesn’t have the tactical depth of Football Manager, however, there is a decent transfer and negotiations system, despite the fact you are having to fight against the menus to get anywhere.
Other offline modes are also present, such as Exhibition, Leagues, Cups and of course Become a Legend. In other words, there’s enough here to keep you busy until PES 2020, so you’ll get plenty of value for your money here.
Konami has promised to keep adding new leagues, stadiums and teams throughout the year and let’s face it, they’ll need to because EA’s FIFA juggernaut will continue to dominate sales, no matter what the product on the park plays like. This year it’s looking like a close match, but perhaps PES can win some fans with its clever strategy of focusing on leagues not already snapped up by EA. My ears certainly perked up when I heard the game was an SPL partner and of course I got extremely excited when Rangers were confirmed as a partner, bringing players, strips and even the famous Ibrox Stadium into the game.
With fantastic action on the park and ever improving graphics, it does feel like PES is moving in the right direction. With a few more tweaks to the little things such as menus and team management screens, I see no reason why it can’t upset the big boys and one day become the football game on everyone’s lips. For now though it’s still a work in progress. Much like Steven Gerrard’s Rangers.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*