Just as every football season is welcomed with the debate about who will win the league title, the same debate rages as to whether Pro Evolution Soccer or FIFA is the better for playing the beautiful game on a games console.
We thought we’d put Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) 2019 to the test on our trusty PS4 as West Glamorgan City, or Swansea City as they are officially known to football fans.
When compared to last year’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 offering, in all honesty, there aren’t a huge number of enhancements to mention, with the focus primarily on accurately reflecting a players individual ability, dare we say personality, and some enhancements to the game modes.
Out of the box, the first thing that strikes you is that visually the game menus aren’t as easy on the eye or as slick as those in FIFA, but in fairness this has never seemingly been one of Konami’s (the publishers of PES) aims.
Fans of FIFA’s Ultimate Team will enjoy the MyClub aspect of PES, which has been improved further this year by the introduction of ‘Featured Players’, which are effectively star versions of actual players whom are currently in form. It all goes to make MyClub feel all the more, here and now.
As someone who has played a lot of FIFA and PES over the years, I appreciate how Konami has tried to make PES the true football simulator instead of an arcade football game, which is often how I feel about FIFA.
Of course for newcomers, PES is without doubt a steep learning curve, especially if you are used to playing FIFA, and there is little doubt in my mind that it can be overwhelming for some gamers.
But if you are prepared to put the time and effort into PES, then you’ll soon get to grips with it and enjoy the realistic, methodical and precise approach to the beautiful game, especially when, as per the real world, you understand your players and their strengths/weaknesses.
There are plenty of different games modes to enjoy, including exhibition matches, online divisions, myClub and 3v3 co-op – which is ideal if you’re having, mates around for the night.
A particular favourite of mine is Online Divisions, where you play against people (from around the world) across a ten game season, where you can get promoted, relegated or simply stay in the same division.
If that is your sort of thing, then you can also enjoy an old PES favourite, the Master League, where you can create and manage your own team or choose to take over an existing team. The new twist in PES 2019 to this aspect of the game is that you can now get the sack!
As you can see, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy during your footballing journey through PES 2019.
Who are ya?
Of course, the biggest gripe aimed at PES for as long as I can remember is the lack of licensed teams and the loss of the licence for the UEFA Champions League won’t make matters any better.
Some leagues, such as the Ladbrokes Scottish Premiership, are fully licensed, along with the likes of Arsenal, Liverpool, AC Milan, FC Schalke 04, Monaco and Barcelona to name a few, but it can be irritating to play as West Glamorgan City rather than Swansea City, especially when up against the likes of South Wales (Cardiff City)!
One way around this of course, is that you can always download an options file to get the proper team names, badges and kits for any unlicensed teams. You also have the ability to create your own badges and kits for your teams, should you wish to do so.
Unfortunately, it’s not only the teams that are a little awry, some of the players bear little or no resemblance to their actual appearance either.
There are players such as Oli McBurnie and Aaron Ramsey below, that don’t look much like they do in real life.
In fairness, it must be extremely difficult to ensure that hundreds of different players from numerous world leagues, actually look like they do and it is fair to say that the majority of players from licensed teams, such as Barcelona, are more realistic in appearance.
If Chris Pearlman is reading this, then perhaps he can get his Head of International Business Development to speak to Konami and get the Swans as a licensed team for PES 20.
How did West Glamorgan City play?
Where Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 shines, as per its predecessors, is in the actual gameplay – especially when playing against a real person.
Don’t get us wrong, there are no huge new revelations here from PES 18, but subtle improvements have been made and it’s not just shooting and passing that have been improved, the replays are actually more realistic than ever too.
Make no bones about it, PES 2019 is more difficult to learn to play, than the pick-up and go approach of FIFA, but that makes for (in the long term) a more realistic approach to the actual game, not to mention a huge sense of satisfaction when you put together a 15 pass movement before unleashing a thunderous half-volley from outside the box to score a worldy!
In FIFA, the ball sometimes looks and feels as though it is attached to the player’s boot, whereas with PES it almost feels like you’re trying to deal with a divet or heavy, sodden pitch whilst controlling the ball – much as you would in real life.
There is no getting away from it that you’ll have to work to master PES 2019 but it sure is worth it, if only to see the Swans’s very own Barrie McKay score against the Gunners at the Emirates (albeit on the Amateur match level).
We did notice that playing against the computer offline can sometimes be a little predictable, especially at the beginner and amateur playing levels, whereby there appears to be a reluctance to go for that killer pass or perfect finish.
This could quite possibly be due to the fact that gamers who chose to play at the lower match levels of ability are given the chance to improve and compete, which is something that couldn’t be said for the higher match playing levels of the game!
There were also occasions whereby we felt that even the slightest clash with opposition players would result in a card being shown, with many a “WTF was that for” comment being shouted at the TV screen.
Of course, that could just have been Mike van der Hoorn living up to his on-field reputation in the virtual world, but something didn’t feel quite right with the “contact” shall we say.
Despite these minor irritations, PES 2019 is still the stand out player in the football realism stakes and something which FIFA will have a hard job in changing.
In fairness to Konami, they have a decent track record of providing regular patches for PES, improving both player visuals and general artificial intelligence tweaks as it goes along, so the initial quirks that we found will no doubt be ironed out in due course, as per previous PES releases.
As for the Swans squad on PES, in terms of the accuracy of ability, they are pretty much spot on with players such as Jeff, Asoro and McKay being as quick as the road runner, Oli B a real threat in the air and Bersant Celina showing all the guile of a former Manchester City player – even under my control.
In summary, if you are looking for the most realistic console based football game available, and don’t already own PES 2018, then PES 2019 is worth the money.
But there’s a reason why FIFA is probably more popular than its arch rival and to be quite frank, it has nothing at all to do with the gameplay, it is more a case of gamers wanting the real team name of the club they support.
So if that is more important to you than playing the beautiful game in a manner as close as the real thing as you’ll find on a console, plus you prefer an easier football ride, then you’re probably better off sticking with FIFA.
However, the bottom line is, for all its dated menus, PES 2019 is still the best at delivering where it matters – on the pitch.
Our Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 review was done on PlayStation 4, thanks to a code provided by the publisher.
The game is available for purchase PC, PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.