PES 2019 Review

Richard Walker

Ever since Konami came back from a series love point with PES 2014, each game since PES 2015 has been getting gradually better and better, it's almost like the old glory days, where Pro Evo was the only real choice for true connoisseurs of digital footie. But in recent years, EA has been getting better and better too, its own mighty FIFA franchise now match-fit competition for PES, and this year, the two soccer titans might have something of a fight on their hands. Especially with PES still displaying all of the same old flaws that continue to dog the series.

Like the commentary, for instance, which remains utterly woeful. Somehow, in PES 2019 it seems worse than ever, Peter Drury and Jim Beglin back once more for another round of stupid lines and dumb observations. The relative dearth of official licenses still grates too, and I'm starting to get pretty sick of playing as West Midlands Gold in a dog shit brown away kit or Man Red in black apparel (despite being called Man Red) unless I'm prepared to sink hours into fixing every unlicensed team. And while EA continues to push the envelope with FIFA – in terms of modes, at least - Konami seems to content to leave PES pretty much as it is.

Consequently, PES 2019 isn't really that much of a leap forward over PES 2018, or even 2017 or 2016, for that matter. The most significant (pro) evolution is in further defining player individuality, so that each player – especially the major ones – feel unique, so Cristiano Ronaldo runs, shoots and generally handles entirely differently to Eden Hazard, say.

Visible fatigue is also another new 'back-of-the-box' feature that ironically, doesn't seem all that visible, beyond tired players struggling to sprint a bit. Arguably, I suppose that's all it really needs to convey, and it does have an impact on player performance too.

On the pitch, the core gameplay remains Pro Evo's ace in the hole. It's crisp and immediate, and still quite possibly the best representation of virtual football there is. While FIFA continues to play catch up to some degree, PES 2019 maintains a high bar, with fluid passing, smooth player movement, shooting that feels unparalleled in its gratification, and some player likenesses that are second to none. Player AI is also fairly intelligent for the most part, which makes it all the more glaring when something does go wrong.

All too often, players fail to make smart runs on goal, or will comically trip over others inhabiting the same space, and while you can switch tactics on-the-fly, it does little to alleviate the idiocy your computer-controlled squad can occasionally display. Discounting these niggles (and they are minor complaints), PES 2019 handles wonderfully, though I'm struggling to determine whether it's really that much of an improvement over PES 2018.

There are more licenses in the game this year, compensating somewhat for the loss of the UEFA Champions League license – by far Konami's biggest licensing coup, which is now conspicuous by its absence – with fully licensed Scottish squads, Turkish leagues, Italian teams, and more, alongside the usual authentically replicated Arsenal and Liverpool Premier League content, and ongoing partnership with FC Barcelona. But compared to the sheer, comprehensive licensing might of FIFA, PES is increasingly lagging behind.

Again, the fundamentals of PES 2019's minute-to-minute on-pitch action are second-to-none, which is ultimately why the continuing lack of licenses is a minor concern, but at some point Konami is really going to have to raise its game in the presentation stakes if wants to compete with FIFA. At this juncture, you can't help but get the sense that Konami is happy to coast along with PES, because the last few games have been really good, so why fix something that isn't broken, eh?

PES 2019's simulation of the beautiful game is still sublime, and fans of frosty precipitation will undoubtedly be elated that snow has returned to the pitch, while the enhanced level of visual fidelity and detail across the board is astonishing. Indeed, this might just be the prettiest football game we've seen to date, with lush grass, fantastic lighting and shadows, and realistic player movement that rarely looks robotic (very occasionally, it does). Shooting and goal scoring is also more rewarding than it's ever been, but as ever, it's the suite of modes that lend PES 2019 its long-term appeal.

Which is why it's something of a shame that Konami has opted for mild tweaks and refinements to staple modes like Master League and myClub, the former receiving a new negotiation system and realistic transfers, while the latter now has a new player card design, bringing it ever-closer to being PES's version of FIFA Ultimate Team. Online is another area in which PES 2019 shines, with a surfeit of options to choose from across almost every mode, ensuring that if its online multiplayer you want, then online multiplayer is what you'll get. It's pretty comprehensive.

Nonetheless, PES 2019 apparently sees Konami getting increasingly cosy in a nice sweet spot for the series, it's like the developer is reluctant to change too much, lest we have another dodgy PES 2014 on our hands. If ain't broke, don't fix it can be a good mantra to go by, sure, but it would have been nice to see a bit more innovation beyond subtle refinement in this year's PES. Nonetheless, PES 2019 remains a stellar footie game that continues to eclipse FIFA in delivering intuitive, superlative on-pitch action. For now.

PES 2019

Last year, we said that PES 2019 needs to go big or go home. And while Konami has indeed gone big on refinements and minor changes, the same modes, presentation and lack of licenses holds this year's game back again somewhat. Which is why it's fortunate that PES 2019 still plays a mean game of football. Your move, FIFA.

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Crap analysis again from Peter Drury and Jim Beglin. Seriously, who writes their lines? The soundtrack is perfectly fine, while the stadium atmosphere is as electrifying as it should be.


Player likenesses are still excellent, especially for the big hitters, and every one of the game's stadia is rendered in minute detail. Pitch textures are fantastic and the new visible fatigue feature affects a players behaviour and performance, which is a nice touch.


Much like last year's game, albeit with a few refinements such as improved shooting and an increased emphasis on player individuality. Goalies are still far too acrobatic, but overall, this is a mild improvement over last year.


Still polished, still good, but most of PES 2019 will feel remarkably familiar if you've been buying and playing it for the last few years. Konami needs to come up with some significant new modes and features for next year.


Oh, come on Konami. You can do better than this. Yet another list that borrows the majority of objectives from previous years. Boring.

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