It’s that time of year again – the transfer window has closed, the football season is about to start and we’re about to have a whole new year of PES vs FIFA arguments.
With that being said, we’ve been hands-on with the recently released PES 2019 demo for the last couple of hours and we’re here to tell you what we think of it and stuff.
The PES 2019 demo gives you access to 12 teams to play as (all licensed – do not expect that to be the case in the full game) across 3 modes (Exhibition, Quick Match and Co-Op) in 2 stadiums (Camp Nou and Veltins Arena).
Graphically, the game looks gorgeous; from the lighting effects, the details in the stadiums, to the player likenesses and all the way down to the fact that you can see every individual blade of grass – it’s all spot on, this may be the best-looking football game we’ve ever played. Player animations are great, with any player who has a distinctive playstyle and movement being instantly recognisable. Ball movement is good too, it really is lovely to watch at times as you knock the ball about with flair and precision; your passes over distance curling around opposition players with an air of beauty that FIFA can only dream of.
Speaking of opposition players, let’s talk about the AI. The AI in PES 2019 seems to be in a good place, as opposition defenders take up good positions off the ball and track runs much better than before. Equally, the AI plays some nice football when on the ball; at times (playing on Top Player) they were passing the ball around me with a disgusting level of confidence and adjusting their passing style and tempo depending on how I positioned my defenders or if I commited to try and make a tackle. AI controlled goalkeepers seemed solid, with the keepers making saves where you would expect them to (with an odd worldie thrown in) and conceding goals that you wouldn’t complain about conceding. That said, I did see one instance of a shot going straight at a keeper, hitting him on the knee and going in.
All of this sounds great, and it would be, if it wasn’t so bloody slow. I wondered at first if I was just playing slowly and I would be able to dictate the tempo of the game a bit more myself, but I can’t. It would appear that the game has been slowed down to make it a more realistic simulation of a football match, I just feel that slowing it down to the pace of Per Mertesacker was a step too far. The slow pace of the game, coupled with the improved AI and the short match time available in the demo (5 minutes) led to me having several goalless draws or 1-0 results. It made it feel, at times, well boring. When I did concede, I noticed that it was fairly regularly from crosses into the box from out wide and I couldn’t really do anything about it, which may be an issue in the full game.
Outside of how the game plays on the pitch, the menus remain as familiar and as dreadful as ever, with some awful music thrown over the top to make you feel right at home. Setting up your team before a game remains the same and is still easy to use, and now for the first time you can make quick substitutions during a game when the ball goes out of play without having to go into the menus; unlike FIFA’s quick substitutions (which gives you it’s own suggestion for what sub to make), PES gives you access to your entire lineup to make whichever substitution you please.
So, what do we think? We like it, we really do, but we do hold our reservations about the pace of the game and the ease of goals from crosses. Slowing the pace of the game down to make it a more realistic simulation is one thing, but when Barcelona are playing as slow as a Jose Mourinho team it has the opposite effect. This and the issues with the crosses (if there is one – we may just be awful at defending them) are obviously things that can be fixed before the full game is released, and we hope that Konami listens to feedback on these fronts and addresses them. We certainly can’t complain about the game visually though, it looks absolutely stunning and the player likenesses make it the most realistic looking football game we’ve ever seen.
One place where PES 2019 will suffer, sadly—and we say the same thing every year—is licensing. Back in 2002-2008 PES was so far ahead of FIFA on the pitch that the lack of licensing was worth suffering, but that isn’t the case in recent years. Sure, PES is immersive and looks perfect when you’re playing with the fully licensed teams available in the demo but you will lose that effect when you’re playing East Dorsetshire vs Lancashire Claret. You still feel that FIFA needs to really mess something up and move backwards before it will be fair to recommend PES as the more complete package and better value for money.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 releases on August 28th 2018.