Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Chris Leebody 22.09.2018

Review for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PlayStation 4

It's that time of year again. A time when the dark nights start to draw in, good TV is back on the screen, and when the scent of freshly mown grass is rich in the air. Football is back. A summer of World Cup action is over and with it come the resumption of sporting rivalries all across the globe; rivalries that, as it happens are not limited to just the sport itself. Yes that's right, a now age-old battle begins anew between Konami and EA for the crown of this year's glorious gaming accolades. Konami, however, has changed up its tactics this time by taking a shot across the metaphorical bows of EA by launching PES 2019 in August, a full month before the traditional launch window of the latest FIFA. The off season also brought a lot of challenges for the game, with the news that the official UEFA Champions League and Europa League license had been poached by Electronic Arts. In response, Konami announced a raft of additional licensed leagues, most notably the Scottish Premiership. Cubed3 noted that last year's version was "a highly refined package," but does Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 continue that trend of refinement?

No one can doubt that when it comes to the videogame representation of the beautiful game of football, PES 2019 is the closest that anyone has come to replicating the action on the screen. The refinements and improvements to player movement and animation over consecutive years have added up to a rather startlingly realistic brand of gameplay. Gameplay is, of course, what PES Team's Adam Bhatti regularly cites as the strong point in the many interviews and presentations he has conducted over the years. It marks the difference in approach between the flamboyance and bombast of FIFA and the more subtle, no nonsense streak of PES.

Part of the problem comes, however, when time passes on and there begins to be the sense that tweaks and flourishes here and there are no longer enough to satisfy the fans of the series. It feels like this year's version is approaching that point. Expanding deeper into PES 2019, firstly, the on-pitch action is at its core unchanged from previously. The football is deliberate and realistic, avoiding the basketball court (endless back and forward action) feel that so many sports games descend into. The tactical options present a number of ways to play and what this does is really give each individual team their own sense of identity.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PlayStation 4

Barcelona with its low-centre of gravity, and skillful players, pass the ball to death in real life and with the 'tiki-taka' tactical option - in PES 2019 the team also does just that. Meanwhile, Liverpool displays its notorious high intensity pressing and devastating counterattacks. Other sides are different, too. The newly licensed Celtic and Rangers from Scotland are more robust and functional with more physical players. This, incidentally, is where the game deserves a lot of credit. It is easy to design the skillful and technical teams but is much harder to give balance to the physical sides while retaining the charm. Konami manages to do that, which also adds to both the variety of gameplay and the realistic representation of football.

This is enhanced further still with the individual attributes that certain players can both develop organically within the 'Masterleague' mode, or are automatically assigned based on their real-life counterpart. Some key individuals within teams, for example, will be known as the 'star player' and will increase the morale of all his teammates around, as well as providing revenue to teams through marketing in the management mode. Other attributes include position specific roles, such as defensive midfielder with the 'destroyer' tag, which increases their physical strength in the tackle. These not only mean that every player has a sense of individuality but it also gives a role-playing aspect to developing players. This kind of depth and detail does a lot to give PES 209 a real identity.

The animation in ball control and player movement has also been enhanced to more closely replicate the way the players trap balls and dribble. It leads to some sweet moves and even sweeter goals. Thankfully, this year doesn't suffer with goalkeeper issues that took a number of months to iron out. Graphically, PES 2019 looks exceptional for the most part, with some absolutely stunning lighting effects. The way the camera glides across some of the licensed stadiums is reminiscent of actual TV footage at certain times and on certain camera angles the on-pitch action looks superb.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PlayStation 4

Where things are a little disappointing is in some of the player faces looking a tad off from the real thing. For more obscure players this is, of course, natural, but there are some quite well known faces that could do with a lot more work to say the least, especially in some of the well publicised 'partner' clubs Konami has teamed up with. There is really no excuse. Hopefully, this will be rectified in the coming months as there are usually face updates scattered throughout the year.

Whilst all the above is positive, it is now impossible not to reflect on the glaring issues with PES that Konami seems ambivalent about addressing and while tweaks and improvements to gameplay are fine, fundamental issues stretching across multiple departments still remain. Firstly, the issue of losing the license for the European competitions; it has to be said that this is a huge loss. Now, of course, licenses come and licenses go; however the solution of replacing it simply with the 'International Champions Cup' (a glorified pre-season friendly tournament) does nothing to address the departure. Ultimately, it is just a bit of branding and context to the matches, but it was one of the marks of real prestige that PES] had over the competition.

It makes the 'masterleague' mode (the management mode) even more redundant and lacking in features - a mode that already feels like it needs a serious refresh. Secondly, the match commentary and general presentation is, at best, underwhelming and, at worst, woeful. Whilst one can appreciate that fundamentally the game is about playing football not navigating menus or the way things look, the lack of care in the UI is so apparent. It generally feels like a 'that will do' approach in which the menus for getting into matches are so cumbersome. Then there is the commentary, which has barely changed in many versions now.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PlayStation 4

Peter Drury and Jim Beglin are not household commentary names in real life, although fans will know them. From the very start, then, it feels like a team that is behind the competition. However, they are perfectly fine if the material being worked with is good. The problem here is that half of the lines are just ripped straight from last year and there is simply not enough contextually based commentary on specific teams and situations, which FIFA tends to do so well. The result is that it just ends up being this irritating background noise that does nothing to enhance the feel of playing a real match of football.

Finally, the most glaring issue in today's modern gaming world is that the online performance is just not acceptable for a football game in 2018/19. It's pretty apparent that the PES team knows this - after all, last year it admitted it in various interviews at the time and even went as far as doing a kind of 'online demo stress test' before release in order to develop the performance further. It is unclear what the results of that were but the evidence is that performance has not improved. Matches still take an extraordinary length of time to get into and the performance when in the matches is far from ideal. This is exacerbated by many players then feeling it is not worth the time or patience putting up with the issues and leads to a dwindling population. FIFA is so far ahead here and it really is about time that some serious focus was put into addressing this for next year.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

PES is always such a hard game to review and a frustrating one to score. Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, despite the issues mentioned previously, is by no means a bad game. In fact, this is a very good game. It is probably the single best representation of the sport of football that someone has created in the videogame medium. It represents the beautiful flowing moves and the tough as nails tackles. It represents the skill and movement of a variety of different types of players. It makes it a challenge to score great goals past strong AI defenders and rewards putting time and dedication into developing teams and tactics. All of this is wonderful and just what a football title should be. The issue is that whilst people can appreciate this for a few years, standing still is not acceptable when charging full price for a new version every year. There are some glaring flaws that need real focus and attention in order to elevate PES back to the glory days as the king of football.

Developer

Konami

Publisher

Konami

Genre

Sport

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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