Pro Evolution Soccer or Winning Eleven as it is known in Japan is one of the two most popular soccer video game franchises in the world. Having existed since the early 2000’s, PES has been providing an alternative to FIFA for players who want the focus in one place, on the gameplay. This year’s PES 2019 is no exception, I have sunk over thirty hours into the game, and it is the in-game experience that keeps me coming back for more.
PES 2019 makes its unparalleled quality of gameplay apparent from the first game of soccer you play. Right of the bat, I was reminded of why I have sunk countless hours of my time into PES games over the years and why PES is not only one of the best soccer games but is also easily one of the best sports games of all time. The game is tactical; it has its physics on point, and it is getting closer to what you would see in a real game of soccer with every iteration.
The additional focus on player individuality continues this year with the addition of eleven new skill traits that help add the nuances you find with players in the real world. This in addition to the existing skill traits brings the total number to thirty-nine. On the stamina front, managing stamina plays more of a critical role this year with the neat addition of the fact that players will show visual signs of fatigue.
Before the release of PES 2019, a lot of players were a little disappointed to see that Konami had even fewer significant licenses this year. The most noticeable of absences is the UEFA Champions League, which is missing from the game for the first time in ten years. I wasn’t too worried though, like previous instalments Konami has provided gamers with the tools to create or customize almost anything that they might find missing from the game. The PES community has made great use of the tools provided and have created adequate substitutes that are making it possible to look past the lacklustre licensing. That being said, all is not bad news on the licensing front. There are a bunch of new smaller leagues that have been licensed which allow for gamers to engage with their local clubs.
PES 2019 breaks away from the graphical limitations of the previous generation of consoles and is, therefore, a much better-looking game. You now get 4K HDR support along with 3D scanned licensed players and careful attention paid to the smallest of details. Scanned players and licensed stadiums look gorgeous and at times make me forget that I am playing a video game and not watching a match. On the flip side, there seems to be a pretty noticeable difference between the scanned players and those that have not been scanned, especially when they play side by side. This is where the lack of licensing is apparent to the point that it made me feel like my experience was pretty inconsistent.
When it comes to game modes, my time with myClub was easily the most satisfying, and it is where I will be spending most of my free time for the foreseeable future. myClub closely resembles FIFA’s FUT and is essentially a game mode where you collect players and build your dream team. You can obtain players through scouts which you can get through playing matches or from the auction house in exchange for in-game currency. In addition to scouts, you can also draw players from randomly generated packs via agents. You can then use the team you build to take part in matches and tournaments versus both players and AI.
The other two major modes in the game are Become a Legend and Master League which are PES’s versions of career mode and manager mode. In Become a Legend, you can either create your own player or manage the career of an established player. Master League is similar in the way that it gives you that option as a team. You can either manage one of your favourite teams or create a team and build it from scratch.
While I definitely found that Master League was a little more fleshed when compared to Become a Legend, they both failed to produce anything groundbreaking or immersive in the way of an experience. There is also the fact that Become a Legend does not in any way make of up for the lack of a meaningful story mode the likes of which could take on FIFA’s journey. Overall, there is a lot that Konami can do to bring depth to its game modes, and it would be nice to see some of those changes next year.
Issues from previous games also seem to persist when it comes to presentation. The commentary is sub-par and needs a lot of work, the same can be said for the game’s UI which also leaves a lot to be desired. While these are things I have now grown accustomed to, it wouldn’t hurt to bring some changes to these persistent issues.
Despite all its flaws, the compelling gameplay experience still makes PES 2019 a profoundly satisfying experience and the primary reason anyone should pick up a copy. While this keeps the hardcore fans coming back each year, it does little to bring in newcomers or have players switch over from FIFA. A little work on the consistency across the game and bringing depth to game modes could put this great game on the path to excellence.