Having been a fan of PES since its Winning Eleven days I look forward to a new edition of the series like Dec awaits the return of Ant; eager and nervous at what this new version will be like. While last year’s PES 2018 was excellent, and introduced co-op online matches, it felt less exciting than the year before. It was slower and more considered with an emphasis on intricate passing. In terms of PES it was a sidestep, a toe poke rather than a sublime side-foot, but a goal nevertheless. Why talk about last year’s PES in the review of this year’s edition? Because PES 2019 takes everything good about the last two years in the series and splices it into one of the best football games on PS4… with some familiar issues.
On the pitch you get the pace and end-to-end ping of PES 2017 mixed with the close control and free kick system of PES 2018. There’s a real sense of balance to this year’s game that ensures no matter what’s happening you always feel there’s a creative opportunity to zip the ball to a teammate or nip at your opponent’s heels, stealing the ball and countering.
The overpowered passing from PES 2018 has been refined. There’s now room for error, and with fewer passes seemingly arrowed to teammates the opposition has a chance to intercept. If your player is off balance or harried his passes can lack power or precision and bobble into space away from your intended target. It sounds irritating, but in play it feels natural and is recoverable. It’s one step closer to emulating the tussle of real matches.
There’s an addictive swagger to PES 2019. You feel empowered to shoot from anywhere with few routine goals. When you do strike the ball it feels good – hit a 25-yarder and the ball will rise and dip realistically. Players react with urgency to loose balls in the box, too. The new adaptive animation really brings these pinball moments to life as players flick and flail at the ball in realistic ways.
When playing Master League it’s a testament to the AI that these moments feel random and not orchestrated. While PES 2018’s AI was good, opposing teams would get stuck in the same tactics and unflinching passing patterns. This year CPU teams sub tired players but also switch tactics to suit. That said, this singleplayer mode lacks polish and aside from slight tweaks to the transfer system and budget calculations, Master League is as it was last year.
Of course, the lack of licensed teams is an issue but Konami
“IT’S ONE STEP CLOSER TO EMULATING THE TUSSLE OF REAL MATCHES.”
has done a good job of trying to plug the gap left by the Champions League moving to EA’s FIFA this year, with sporadic team deals and introducing new leagues – the Scottish, Russian, and Portuguese stand out. However, if you want true authenticity, FIFA is still your game.
That’s not to say PES 2019 doesn’t look good; I can confirm Firmino’s teeth are spectacular. But the depth of fidelity will always be lacking when you don’t have every realworld stadium, player likeness, and the latest kits.
It’s moot once in-game, however, as animation is fantastic and helps sell the moment-to-moment events that always make PES feel like a real football match. This comes into its own more than ever, with fatigue visible on screen so you can spot tired players and swap them using the new Quick Sub – change players without going into the menus.
Online the lack of licenses is less relevant as you build your team in myClub. PES’s equivalent to FIFA Ultimate Team has undergone a shake up and introduces a card-based system, just like, ahem, FUT.
There are now players of the week with accurately modelled stats that adjust as real-world players perform in a weekend’s games. You can even sign duplicate players and use them as trade-ins for new stars.
But like much of this year’s PES improvements to myClub are slight once the season gets going, and you may start questioning what is truly different. PES 2019 still plays great, but maybe we need more.
Forget the licenses – PES 2019 feels like the real thing.
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Below Snow is back! Games feel zippier when played on frozen pitches.
Right Free kicks and corners adopt the excellent system from PES 2018.
Above left The replay system enables you to relive goals in 4K HDR glory.