The PES series has seen quite an overhaul over the last few years, bringing a back to form gameplay experience that is satisfyingly juicy. Last years game was a huge step up in standard, not only for the PES series but against its biggest rival too. This year sees a change of name as Konami introduce eFootball PES 2020. I’m not sure why they have decided to go with the eFootball tag line but for the masses, it is still, and always will be just good old PES 2020.
With a promise of new features, an overhauled Master League and additional but significant gameplay tweaks, PES 2020 is aiming to give players THE ultimate football game experience. All the modes that regular players will be familiar with are all present here including MyClub, Master League, competitive online modes and much more. PES has always and is still struggling with a severe lack of licenses and while it has never impacted the overall gameplay experience, it’s starting to become frustrating that official club kits, crests and stadiums, for the most part, are absent yet again this year in PES 2020 for Xbox One. There is an option file that can correct this on other systems but unfortunately it is unavailable on the Xbox platform.
The Master League overhaul that was announced earlier this year was what caught my interest the most and it was the first thing I jumped in to upon my first play of PES 2020. Master League has been one of the most popular modes in PES for as long as the series has been going so you can imagine my anticipation surrounding it. I have to say that I was left a little underwhelmed and disappointed with these so called additions and it felt more like a tweak than an overhaul. Cutscenes have been added to give the player more of a narrative experience of their managers journey. It’s okay, but it’s nothing groundbreaking and even the few multiple choice questions that pop up now and then don’t really make much of a difference based on the choices made.
The transfer system has had a welcome refresh though and makes things a little less predictable in the transfer market. The whole Master League experience, regardless of the few little changes is still an enjoyable and addictive experience, whether you choose to actually play the matches or even sit back and watch your tactical masterclass play out on the field without you even having to touch your controller in the brilliant coach mode. Master League is really good again this year, but don’t expect a massive change in the experience compared to last years game, the changes are subtle at most, but still offer slight improvements.
The online experience of the PES series has been renowned for being inconsistent and a laggy mess but the last two games in the series have taken steps will to improve that. PES 2020 is no different. While it isn’t the smoothest online experience it is clear to see that Konami have taken the necessary steps to improve things this year. Out of all of the online games I played, I had significant issues in one match out of every three. In every match I played there were the odd stutters but nothing game breaking, but there were the odd occasions where an online match was almost unplayable at times due to slow down and stutter. Matchmaking is still slow and it took a while to find an opponent on a fair few occasions, but the overall online experience is still decent and certainly an improvement on last year. It’s not perfect but it’s a step forward in finally getting a consistent online experience.
Visuals look great again this year, with excellent detail on players’ faces, kits, boots and stadiums. Lighting is fantastic on the pitch and PES 2020 has a broadcast style look to it that looks close to the real thing that you would normally watch on TV, especially in 4K and HDR. Adding to this broadcast quality look is the new broadcast camera view, which is set as the default camera as standard but can be changed if you wish. The game runs smoothly with a consistent 60fps and a great use of motion blur is in play that adds a realistic look to replays in particular. My only real criticism in terms of the presentation on PES 2020 is the collision system seems to have taken a step backwards. Tackles connect fine but when a defender and a forward are tussling while running for the ball, a weird jerky stutter happens that looks unnatural and ugly. Audio also leaves a lot to be desired though and has been a curse of the PES series since day one. The commentary is boring, bland and sounds unnaturally stiff and scripted, plus the soundtrack this year is also disappointing. Despite these slight criticisms though, PES still looks great this year and is definitely a step up from last years game.
Where PES 2020 really shines though is in its gameplay experience. Players are responsive and the game as a whole plays great, with build up moves and passing motion offering a compelling and satisfying game of football. Not much has changed from last year though, as last years game had a winning formula with its gameplay mechanics and PES 2020 has merely tweaked it to improve on its predecessor while keeping its core gameplay well in tact. So if you’re expecting a huge step up from PES 2019 then you may be left a little underwhelmed but why change a winning formula too much? That’s the question you have to ask yourself. Added dribble mechanics and shot dynamics give PES 2020 a noticeable tweak that adds to the addictive nature of the series’ gameplay of the last 3 years. The ball physics still feel a little heavy though and sometimes certain actions by players in relation to how the ball behaves can look a little unnatural and jerky at times, but it’s a small criticism that otherwise doesn’t spoil the overall gameplay experience much. PES 2020 plays great and looks the best it ever has but do I think it is much of an upgrade from last year? PES 2019 was such a step up in quality that it’s hard to improve on that. So no PES 2020 isn’t too much of an upgrade, not is it much better than last year, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be because what PES 2020 does is it makes small tweaks to an already solid, great playing football game, so there really isn’t any need to change an already winning formula too much.
A copy of the game was provided for this review by the developer/publisher