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Review: Pro Evolution Soccer - can this be the year the game tops the charts?

Tuesday 11th September 2018

Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 has a head start in the annual battle to be the year’s top football video game, but has it done enough to lift the trophy?

PES v FIFA, a battle for the ages that has gone on now for nearly two decades. In the early years, Pro Evo dominated on the pitch known for its fantasy football while FIFA has always had the upper hand with its licences, commentary and graphics. However, over the last five or six years, Pro Evo has fallen away on the pitch and the EA Sports juggernaut has dominated in every aspect. 

Last year FIFA 18 was a let down for many so is this the year Konami and PES can take advantage.

While official team names and licenses have always been the major set back of Pro Evolution Soccer, this year it suffered an almighty blow before the game was released - losing the prestigious UEFA Champions League licence to it’s rival after holding on to it for almost a decade. However, PES has to be looked at for its strongest point, on the pitch. The changes from last year’s PES 2018 aren’t huge across the board but they all help. A slower more deliberate pace of game makes it even more of a simulation of the sport we all love.

What I was most impressed with though was the individual styles that the game pushes you towards depending on which teams you are using. Crossing is important this year if you want to succeed, but when I was throwing balls into the box with Liverpool, Salah and Mane were struggling as they would in real life. Switch teams to Manchester United and Lukaku was dominating in the six-yard box scoring time after time with his head.

My biggest gripe though from last year was the difference from offline to online. In 2019, online gaming is such a big portion of the industry, it has to be done right. Last year PES was virtually unplayable online. It has improved for me greatly but it still is as fluid as you would like. On different modes, I have found different connections though. On My Club, the mode developers Konami have really pushed this year it is still buggy and I’ve had many games that have struggled while on Divisions I have virtually had a perfect connection each time.

When the connection is fine online and offline against friends it is near perfection.

In terms of modes available, a lot has gone into My Club to try and keep up with Ultimate Team in FIFA. However, this is to the detriment of the main two offline modes Master League and Become a Legend which both have only received minor tweaks from last year.

The other big criticism that has been labelled so far is playing offline against the computer they use similar attacking patterns each time, making many games repetitive. 

The graphics this year are fantastic and show how far the game has come on this side of things in recent years. In particular, the likeness of the big names is pretty ridiculous.

Away from the playability of the game itself, PES has positioned itself well. The game has been released earlier them normal to coincide with the start of the real season. giving it a month head start on its rival and publicity wise it has done well. Many of the big FIFA players on Twitch and YouTube have been filming PES a lot in the opening week which will certainly get the game out there to players who have never previously tried it.

It is hard to not compare it to FIFA as for the majority of players each year they will only buy one. PES 2019 moves away from the arcade style of EA Sports and tries to bring the perfect football simulation. For me they have delivered, when it works it is the best football simulator out there. People may prefer FIFA's arcade style but PES 2019 is definitely the more realistic representation of the game we love. 

It has its faults and it is far from perfect off the pitch. However, when it comes down to just playing football against another real-life opponent there is no better. It might not have swung the tide for the majority of FIFA players this year, but it has certainly has made a mark like PES hasn’t since it’s PS2 glory days. I can’t put the controller down long may it continue. 

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Simon Hahn

Lifelong sufferer following Darlington FC from League Two to the Northern League. Freelance Sports and data journalist. Living for 3pm on Saturday.


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