PES 19

This year’s li­cence-light PES is still chas­ing the ti­tle

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Chris Burke

Kon­ami’s an­nual soc­cer fix­ture and its derby-style ri­valry with FIFA di­vides play­ers into two camps: foot­ball fans, and fans of foot­ball games. If you’re more the for­mer, then PES is play­ing its sec­ond-team from the out­set in a game it can’t pos­si­bly hope to win.

The lack of li­cens­ing is an is­sue, and die-hard PES fans can’t re­ally ar­gue that the game’s su­pe­rior foot­ball game­play ex­pe­ri­ence isn’t just a lit­tle bit spoiled by hav­ing to play as East Dorset­shire ver­sus PM Black White in the What­sit­sname Cup. But, just to tie a knot in the trunk of that par­tic­u­lar ele­phant in the room, let’s agree that FIFA wins that one hands­down this year, what with PES los­ing the Cham­pi­ons League, and move on.

Pro Evo­lu­tion Soc­cer has al­ways been the su­pe­rior foot­ball game, and the sub­tle changes to the game­play me­chan­ics and physics keep it top- flight. It’s quite hard to back up with any cer­tainty Kon­ami’s claims that the top play­ers’ avatars play ex­actly like them, but hav­ing the likes of Coutinho or Messi on your team does boost your per­for­mance, with those play­ers much more likely to dis­play greater con­trol of the ball, pull off mazy runs or fire home a won­der goal.

It’s not just with the big names that these dif­fer­ences are felt though; all play­ers have a real pres­ence on the ball, a stud­ied phys­i­cal­ity and pace, so that each match feels dif­fer­ent, there are no ‘de­fault’ play­ers do­ing pre­dictably ‘de­fault’ things. Big de­fend­ers are solid enough to hold off more nim­ble for­wards; smaller, quicker play­ers like Ra­heem Ster­ling can skip round slower cen­tral mid­field­ers.

AI is much im­proved, and play­ers can mostly be re­lied upon to de­liver the pass you want – or some­times the pass you need, while you’re hit­ting and hop­ing. This isn’t al­ways the case though, and there’s a re­al­is­tic frus­tra­tion that will have you scream­ing at the TV, “Who was that to, you numpty?!” It’s hard to say whether these are ran­dom mis-kicks for ex­tra re­al­ism, or our own in­com­pe­tence, but cer­tainly the care paid to the be­hav­iour of the play­ers and the ball leads to some un­pre­dictabil­ity, as in the real sport.

Pass mas­ter

New an­i­ma­tions – in­clud­ing play­ers ges­tur­ing where they’d like the ball – add to the nat­u­ral feel. PES’s fa­mous pass­ing fi­nesse has been im­proved again, while the scope of on-the-ball ac­tions, util­is­ing both sticks for shim­mies, turns and feints, gives you the po­ten­tial to put to­gether some quite bril­liant dis­plays of show­boat­ing. There are al­most end­less com­bi­na­tions of pass, lob and shot types pos­si­ble within its in­tu­itive con­trol scheme, but it’s the off-the-ball move­ment and the team be­hav­iour that sets PES apart, and

“Sub­tle changes to the game­play me­chan­ics and physics keep it top-flight”

matches have the tac­ti­cal nu­ances and oc­ca­sion­ally cau­tious pace of a real game. You won’t of­ten be knock­ing in eight goals a match – your po­si­tion­ing and mas­tery of the mid­field, the need to keep the ball and work it to gain tac­ti­cal ground, are well rep­re­sented by PES’s deeper sys­tems and player AI.

Light­ing and shad­ows are stun­ning, giv­ing the game a high level of TV-match re­al­ism, while physics are im­proved and there’s a pal­pa­ble weight and sub­stance to the ball – it re­acts re­al­is­ti­cally to the vary­ing touches it re­ceives from dif­fer­ent parts of a player’s body, goal­keep­ers’ fin­ger­tips, wood­work etc. Player like­nesses are the best yet, with body and fa­cial scan­ning quite jaw­drop­pingly ac­cu­rate (check out Harry Kane’s hooked schnozzer in 4K!) – but again, it’s only a se­lect num­ber of teams given this treat­ment.

There are more league li­cences be­ing added even now, and it’s nice to see the Scot­tish Pre­mier­ship rep­re­sented, as well as a hand­ful of other Euro­pean leagues you won’t care that much about, as mostly you’ll want the ab­sen­tee Pre­mier­ship and Cham­pi­onship, or even the Bundesliga and La Liga. If you’re not a fan of one of the few fully li­censed teams, you can work out who your team is by vague geo­graph­i­cal hints, but even then, it’s dent­ing OXM ’s score here that on PS4 and PC you can use com­mu­nity cre­ated mods to the teams, badges and kits – but not on Xbox One.

Match maker

Away from the matches them­selves, there’s a clut­ter of op­tions and modes that, de­pend­ing on your pro­cliv­ity for foot­ball man­age­ment sims, you’ll ei­ther love or just get frus­trated by. Those who want the grind of hav­ing to scout and sign play­ers, deal with con­tracts and other stuff will be served by the MyClub mode, but it’s not par­tic­u­larly clear, and de­mands a level of com­mit­ment at odds with the jump-in en­joy­a­bil­ity of play­ing a PES match. There’s a try-hard ton of other stuff, but still it’s where PES trails at least 2-1. FIFA’s whole pack­age, its pre­sen­ta­tion and com­pre­hen­sive suite of op­tions, modes, li­cences and com­pe­ti­tions is just bet­ter.

There’s no doubt that in terms of game­play, PES19 has a con­sid­er­able edge over its ri­val, though, and should still be con­sid­ered the con­nois­seur’s choice of footie game.

left A se­lect few play­ers have been ren­dered us­ing full body and face-scan­ning tech­nol­ogy, with pretty ac­cu­rate re­sults.

right As the match wears on fa­tigue will start to take its toll vis­i­bly on play­ers.

below Celtic is one of the fully li­censed teams.

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