Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) has come a long way in the past few years. While EA Sports’ FIFA is widely considered the more popular football title, some recent iterations of PES have proved to be the better when it comes to on-field gameplay.
With a new football season now underway, how does PES 2019 stack up?
If we’re going to measure the quality of a football game, we need to look at how good the gameplay is. And when it comes to this aspect, PES 2019 appears to have things down pat.
The passing mechanics in particular stands out, and the subtlety with which you can string passes together i simpressive.
It’s also not a case mashing the pass button (X on the PS4, in the case of our review). Quicker, shorter presses get the ball moving around el rondo style, with longer presses not only yielding more power, but also help the ball skip along the ground.
Another aspect that impressed was the variety of crosses and chips one can pull off. A normal press swings the ball in from the flanks, and a double press plays it on the surface to pick out players making late runs into the box.
While those two elements are indeed better in PES 2019 than FIFA, we must admit that shooting could use a bit more refining. The variety of different types of shots is missing, and we’d prefer the ability to place shots a bit more purposefully.
Along with general gameplay proving pleasing and matching up nicely with what one might see during an actual match, the tactical elements that Konami has baked into PES 2019 are quite interesting for “students” of the game.
It also appears to be quite accurate depending of the team you use. Our primary choice was Liverpool, mainly as the English team is one of the fully licensed ones in-game, and if offered us a chance to see if Konami have made them play on-screen the same way they do at Anfield.
For the Merseyside club, gegenpressing is one the default tactics that they employ in-game and in real life too. It’s a counter-pressing tactic that involves swarming an opposition player when possession is lost.
It’s interesting to see it happen in PES 2019, as it’s something we actually see take effect in actual matches too. What’s also quite intriguing is the intensity of the pressing drops as the game continues and players begin to fatigue.
As such, the tactics you employ can have a significant effect on outcomes of games. Before a match starts, the tactics of both teams appear on-screen, and should the ones of your opposition change, you’ll get a notification, and if need be, you’ll have to adjust yours accordingly.
Now that we’ve touched on some of the things we’ve really enjoyed about the gameplay of PES 2019, let’s talk about the proverbial elephant in the room – licensing.
Or more precisely, the lack thereof.
When it comes to the number of leagues that Konami has captured the licensing rights for, PES 2019 only has nine official leagues, and unfortunately none of them are the major ones like the Premier League and La Liga.
There are a few teams that are licensed, but it is a little odd to have access to Arsenal and Liverpool in the Premier League for example, and have to play against “copycat” teams like Manchester Blue and London FC in place of Manchester City and Chelsea respectively.
If Konami is serious about making more players a part of the PES community, and we’re assuming they are, more needs to be done to get the Barclays Premier League a part of their game.
Should you be a Real Madrid or Manchester United fan, not being able to actually play as your favourite side, but rather a weird doppelganger, is just not satisfying.
Add to that the loss of being the official partner for the UEFA Champions League, which has seen been introduced in FIFA 19, and Konami faces an even harder uphill battle when it comes to licensing.
There is lots to enjoy about PES 2019. The on-field gameplay is superb, and the varying degrees of opponent difficulty actually provide a challenge as you get better at the game.
Along with well designed player faces, and a menu system that’s easier to navigate and understand, it’s clear to see that Konami has made some strides in developing its latest version of PES.
Unfortunately there is still one big shortcoming in the licencing, which has been there for some time now.
Regardless how good the action is on the pitch, if you’re not able to play as your favourite team or in an officially licensed league, there’s simply less long-term appeal to PES 2019 compared to its rival.
Until that is addressed, Konami will always be playing catch up.