I think it’s fair to say that last years PES was quite possibly the best football game made to date and I pretty much said so in my review when I gave it an 8.8 this time last year. It’s pretty much a given that annual football video games most often than not have but a mere few subtle changes in each instalment but last years PES went the extra mile in terms of how it played. In fact the last 3 PES games have all absolutely trumped the FIFA games and ultimately come out on top each time where the gameplay is concerned. There is that age old license issue though and this is what brings PES down quite a few marks and has done since the franchise started in the mid nineties. With the latest game in the PES series arriving for me to review I was curious to know, how can Konami improve on the beautiful gameplay of last year’s game? The simple answer to that is ‘they just can!’
I’m going to put it out there right away, PES 2019 plays better than last year and offers an incredibly smooth, satisfying and flowing game of football that is absolutely fantastic to play. With the additional animations added in to accommodate new gameplay mechanics there is a seamless connection with every passing move, counter attack and any other way that you choose to play the beautiful game. Passing has been heavily improved adding more purpose to ‘through balls’ and standard passes along with more versatility in shooting options and successfully pulling off one of those wonderful 45 yard floating passes has never felt so good. Every aspect of the gameplay in PES 2019 has been improved so much that it makes last year’s game feel a little dated already which is a bit of a shame because last year’s game played brilliantly so if anything it’s a testament to how good this game plays. Shooting has had some fine tuning to the finesse shots and added some meat to them as in the last game they felt somewhat weak and underpowered in many ways. Simply put, PES 2019 is an absolute dream to play and I take my hat off to Konami for making huge improvements to something that I didn’t think could be improved much at all.
AI is also much improved from last year and my team mates will make more intelligent runs allowing me to execute some glorious passing moves and compared to last year, goalkeepers no longer let silly goals in and are improved a massive amount, pulling off some spectacular saves when called upon. There are still a few little issues I found with the AI but it was all to do with the referees more than anything. It seemed that every single sliding tackle that claimed not to touch to ball in the process was met with a booking, which gave me flashbacks of PES 2016 and 2017 where the refereeing was overly strict and inconsistent. It seems to have crept back in to this year’s game but a small part of me hopes that this is toned down with an update. Although the overly sensitive and card happy referees can be a little frustrating, it doesn’t impact the overall enjoyment of the whole gameplay experience and while the referees are a little inconsistent everything else is so good and on point that it’s easy to forgive.
PES 2019 has all the features and modes that have become a regular thing in the series recently with Master League, MyClub, Online Multiplayer and many more. In terms of any of these having new fresh features, well they seem to be very thin on the ground. There really isn’t much added to these modes from last year and there aren’t any new, never before seen modes added either. It’s a little puzzling to see that there haven’t really been many drastic changes if any at all to these but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a little disappointing that some of the past shortcomings of these features haven’t really been addressed. There are some subtle changes to Master League here though but even these wouldn’t be noticed unless they were pointed out, except for just one little feature that adds a slightly new dynamic to player selection. This year Konami have added the player traits feature to Master League which can seriously impact the on field performance of your team and work like a perk system. For example these traits can add boosts mid match and give your team a new lease of life, especially if you find yourself trailing at half time.
These traits are things that high rated, high valued, skilled players can earn depending on their playing style and with over 30 available it gives you, the manager, more of an incentive to spend a little more money in the transfer market. These traits vary in impact and can be the difference maker in a match where you may be struggling to break the deadlock or you find yourself trailing with 15 minutes to go. By bringing players with these traits active on to the pitch, depending which player has which trait applied can give your team a stamina boost, increase their pace by 10%, increase chances of scoring by intimidating your oppositions keeper or offer a confidence boost as just a few examples. It’s a neat little addition and adds some authenticity to the players themselves and how much they compare to their real life counterparts but it’s unfortunate that this is the only real addition that I can speak about as everything else is pretty much as you were.
Visually PES 2019 looks absolutely superb and is easily one of the best looking football games to date. Even on a standard Xbox One the visuals look superb but it’s on the Xbox One X that PES 2019 takes it’s visual quality to a whole new level. Whichever machine you decide to play this on, you won’t be disappointed in its presentation. Players look absolutely superb, faithfully recreated from their real life versions and look as detailed as ever, but it’s the improvement in the lighting, weather and finer details within the stadiums that really stand out, especially the use of a texture map that actually uses a ‘real grass’ look on the field, instead of a textured green surface. The huge upgrade in the visuals this year, its new animations and the ever present smooth 60fps really stands out to make PES 2019 a fantastic looking game and I can’t stress enough how good PES 2019 looks this year, particularly running on an Xbox One X in full native 4k resolution and some brilliant use of HDR.
Online performance in PES 2019 is greatly improved and is probably the best performing PES game from an online point of view that I’ve ever seen. Matchmaking was nice and quick and server quality within matches was pretty good with only a few drops every now and again. Unfortunately the criticisms of each PES game that gets released each and every year are still present here and it’s just something that will always remain unless something is drastically changed. The mediocre commentary is in full flow and while it’s verysightly more tolerable this year, its robotic, scripted sounding voice over is still pretty annoying, but crowd chants have been slightly improved, especially for partnered clubs and add a boost in the atmosphere when playing a match.
It’s in the sheer lack of licenses that hurts the series again this year though, if anything more so than it has for a while. The Champions League and Europa League licences have been lost to EA and with a falling out of some of the teams in terms of licensing rights and some players have not been able to be incorporated because of image rights for this year’s entry. So all in all, PES 2019 suffers more than ever before with its licensing and in a way I feel very sorry for Konami because, let’s face it, Money talks and their lack of budget to bid on licenses is evident more than ever this year. Despite these hindrances though, Konami have still managed to deliver a game that plays and looks absolutely superb. No, there aren’t many new additions to their features but these modes and features still hold their own and with gameplay this good, I can see PES 2019 taking the football crown again this year. Over to you EA Sports, good luck.