Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 (PC) Review

By Tomas Barry 21.11.2018

Review for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PC

There are few longer-standing rivalries than the one between the Pro Evolution Soccer series and FIFA. Including Konami's precursor series, International Superstar Soccer, it's a grudge that stretches all the way back to the early '90s, starting out on the SNES and Mega Drive. The two series have come a long way in that time, and both have enjoyed extended periods of success. The golden days for PES were undoubtedly during the early 2000s. Every iteration, from PES2 through to PES6, was widely regarded as superior to EA Sport's annual entries during the same period. Subsequently, things became much more hit and miss for Konami, whilst FIFA, sporting a far heftier financial backbone, hit its stride. If anything, however, in the last few years both series have stagnated somewhat, with significant upgrades and overhauls few and far between. Consequently, the crown should really be anyone's to grab - but does Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 indeed take it?

In theory, that should be the case. However, football fans are a notoriously fickle bunch. Giving 110% on the pitch doesn't necessarily guarantee their love and appreciation. Certainly, that's how it works at the bigger the clubs, who have much loftier expectation levels to manage. It can be particularly difficult for teams whose most prosperous period was some time ago. After all, fans never really adjust their idea of a good season once they are accustomed to success, regardless of the situation behind the scenes. Pro Evolution Soccer suffers from its own success a little in this way, like a team that's rich in history, but lacking a billionaire owner. Its Achilles' heel, unfortunately, is entirely an off-the-pitch matter. Konami simply doesn't have EA's financial resources, and so it's pretty much impossible for it to compete, across-the-board, for full league licencing rights.

This obviously deters some of the pickier fans, despite the developer upping its game in terms of acquiring individual teams' brand rights. A further setback this year is the loss of the Champions League licence to FIFA. In previous iterations this was something that somewhat made up for shortcomings on the team-licencing front, so it's a shame that relationship has now concluded. Fortunately, despite all these difficulties, in recent years the football purists have consistently recognised PES' superiority where it really matters - on the pitch. While FIFA has barely evolved at all in recent iterations, the PES series has made strides forward in some departments. PES 2018 brought a higher of level of fluidity to animations, introduced more appropriate contextual passes and first-touches, and improved the implied sense of weight to the ball. These qualities gave matches a much more realistic edge compared to FIFA, with a more dynamic ebb and flow.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PC

There's not much in the way of fundamental changes to gameplay. Instead, it's mostly just fine-tuning of what was already a fantastic formula. It's very representative, and satisfying on many levels. FIFA can be a predictable and largely robotic affair, leaving itself open to frustrating exploits and repetitive goals. By contrast, PES 2019 has a much more accurate air of spontaneity. Players occasionally have loose touches, which present opportunities to break up the play, or counter and drive directly into the space without any build-up. Impressively, a ball pinging off bodies in the penalty box can be re-directed with an out-stretched leg at the last minute. The ball also spills away from mis-timed aerial duels in a very believable manner, making policing the space and the second ball much more important, too. All of this makes for a far more realistic and also more enjoyable experience, especially compared to FIFA, where the ball seems to be glued to the feet of either one team or the other.

The other way that PES 2019 excels and trumps FIFA, in terms of gameplay, is through its technical craft and range of tactics. It is possible to set your team up for full-throttle intensity and hyper direct play, but energy levels quickly become sapped if not managed correctly, leaving the team vulnerable in the closing stages of matches. Playing a more patient game that accommodates for the sides' tactics and shape is much more likely to be rewarded. There's no greater pleasure than working the ball around the midfield patiently, enticing the opposition to push out, and then playing the perfect through-ball into the space for the striker to collect and finish. The emphasis is on proper build-up play, and controlling and winning the key battles in the midfield. Clear chances are hard to generate, and so they are more valuable, and it's costlier when your side fails to convert. It's nice to have actual pivotal moments in matches, as it's a lot better than an endless barrage of attackers in on goal all the time, making every game feel the same.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PC

Another thing that helps each match feel unique is the impressive technical range of passes, through-balls, crossing, and shooting, which really accentuates the sense of creativity. Player's preferences and playing-styles are more pronounced, as a result, in a more evolved way compared to FIFA. Hop into an online game on that, and people tend to start spamming step-overs and elaborate skill-moves, or whatever their forte is, almost immediately, meaning you know exactly what to expect. When playing online with PES 2019, opponents keep their cards closer to their chest. You may learn that they like to play cross-field balls or overlap their fullbacks, early on, but they tend to reserve their signature finishing moves for the final third, and at pivotal moments. This makes the experience feel more dynamic, as there's a genuine sense that every team can be unlocked if you are resourceful and cunning enough. Upsets can happen. The only drawback is that headers are far too difficult to pull off now - the opposite of last year - and the AI seems to be clumsier, too.

Unfortunately, as enjoyable as the title is on the pitch, off it PES 2019 is lacking in many departments. At lot of these drawbacks can't be ignored, especially given they are issues that stretch back through many iterations. The lack of club and league licences is something that always hurts each edition, but this year's loss of the Champions League licence is a significant blow. It means that, overall, in that domain, the package has moved in the wrong direction. That's a real shame, considering that this year the team has added nine, albeit quite minor, new league licences. The most prominent being Scotland's Ladbrokes Premiership, which means the Old Firm derby can be recreated with full authenticity. Unfortunately, when it comes to the larger leagues, there's no pretending that the suspension of belief required to get absorbed in something like Liverpool FC vs. Merseyside Blue doesn't have a significant effect on the overall immersion.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PC

There are other aspects that don't seem to have been addressed for several iterations, too, and although many are small elements, they do add up. The presentation is sloppy, in various respects. The menus are nonsensical, and they continue to be illogical and poorly laid out. The commentary is very rigid. It doesn't seem to have been altered much at all since last year, and it's really starting to feel very detached and very much last-gen compared to FIFA's more eclectic effort. Players might prefer to turn it off completely. Worst of all is the lack of attention given to the Master League, the main single-player meat, which is associated with so many fond memories of years gone by. It's in desperate need of some tender loving care, but only ever receives light and superficial tweaks, such as more cut-scenes and tweaks to player scouting, development, and transfer market elements. It's basically the same experience it always was, and needs to evolve more.

The real emphasis of PES 2019 is in the same sphere as always: online. The equivalent to FIFA's Ultimate Team, myClub, has received a few tweaks. There's now a featured players system, which gives players who are doing well for their clubs in real life a stat boost. Elsewhere, players can absorb new skill attributes and be trained to take up new positions, which enhances the versatility and sense of control over the team. Overall, though, it's still a bit cumbersome compared to Ultimate Team. The plus is that it doesn't aim to rinse its audience with transactions, but the downside is it can be overly complicated and laborious to manage. This is largely down to more presentation issues that make things overwhelming. There's too much text to read through and too much tinkering between games. Elsewhere, the one-off online matches provide a lot of entertainment, with little lag experienced.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is solid enough in its footballing fundamentals, but it seems to have regressed in terms of its polish and immersion. Picking up nine more minor league licences is a consolation, but now that football games have reached a point of extreme high fidelity, with lifelike player models and animations, the fickle issues of its lack of aesthetic consistency is more jarring than ever. With the loss of the Champions League licence, it might have been expected that Konami would nurture the neglected elements of the series, such as the Master League, and the sloppy presentation and online connectivity issues. That doesn't seem to have happened, though. Consequently, it's difficult to sing the praises of the core gameplay as much as last year. That's especially the case as the AI isn't as sensible as it was previously, with too many reckless challenges and questionable keeper decisions. PES 2019 underperforms, despite its quality.

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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