Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is a great feeling experience of the beautiful game, but it is not without its flaws.
The overall feel of playing football is second to none and ahead of its competitors; PES 2019 manages to create a realistic feeling simulation of football, without becoming too frustrating or overburdening. If you are someone who enjoys football games but you find FIFA too arcadey, PES 2019 could be for you.
Passing the football has a good, weighted feel to it, whether it be a short pass to keep possession or a long, defence splitting, over the top ball to your 7 foot tall target man. Passing animations are also improved and you will see the ball move and ricochet in a variety of different ways, adding an extra layer of realism to the simulation; this also ensures that passes don’t feel like they are magnetising to the receiving players feet as soon as the pass is released. Ball movement could be described as unpredictable and it will bend, float and rocket across the pitch depending on the weight and power of your passes.
Similarly, the goalkeeper animations are of a higher quality to Konami’s competitors, you will see your goalkeeper pull off saves that you think they shouldn’t, you will see miraculous 1 on 1 stops and their idling/positional animations work well. In other football games goalkeeper’s have been a large problem year-in year-out and I feel safe in saying that the way goalkeepers react, move, rush off the goal line, make fantastic penalty saves and quickly throw the ball out for counter-attacks is a breath of fresh air. I have not seen any goalkeeping AI errors, unlike in other football games. That is not to say there isn’t any, however, I haven’t come across them.
Player movement is far less arcadey and unlike games like FIFA, your players will not be flying around the pitch at 90mph or splitting defences in two steps as if your striker has been graced with legs the size of a giraffe. Instead, the actual stats of your players matter; their speed and acceleration totally feels tied to their stats and how good they are in the game. Not every player needs to be lightning fast. The act of dribbling the ball in tightly compacted areas of the pitch feels fluid and makes dribbling between two or three opposition defenders feel and look realistic as you are avoiding tackles and weaving your way to the opposition’s box.
If, on paper, your team is statistically better than your opposition you should find it much easier to hold on to the ball, get higher possession percentages and generally have a more attacking flow. Similarly, if you are the weaker side you will need to defend well and take your very limited chances against superior opposition. The AI will constantly change their tactics and plans depending on how you are playing, the amount of possession you have or even the score and how valuable a win is to them.
Outside of the actual gameplay, stadiums feel alive. Depending on if you are playing a local rival, in a cup final or just a midweek game against a smaller side, the crowd and stadium atmosphere will differ. Expect matches vs your rivals to have lively crowds full of chants, cheering and booing while that midweek away game to a lower-league side may seem quieter. Performing last-ditch tackles to stop a 1 on 1 situation diving in to a crunching slide tackle in a derby match and the crowd will show their appreciation or disgust, depending on if you are at home or away. However, the commentary is completely lacking and the same lines will be said over and over again – this is a huge letdown as the rest of the match atmosphere is phenomenal.
Overall, the actual act of playing a game of football in PES 2019 is a great experience.
myClub mode makes its return in PES 2019 and seems fairly unchanged; you are given an extremely lack luster team of players and by playing ranked matches, in tournaments or vs the AI you will gain a virtual currency in which you can spend on card packs in an attempt to get players with a higher ranking in to your team. This mode feels like your standard ‘Ultimate Team’ like mode in other sports games like FIFA or Madden. Players have the option to purchase virtual currency with real money here, however, in my time spent with myClub I didn’t necessarily feel like I was being left behind or that it was difficult to earn currency to purchase packs.
Master League mode is still fantastic and is like a mixture of PES 2019 and Football Manager and is near identical to FIFA’s Career mode. You take charge at a team of your choosing and you are tasked with winning your domestic trophies and league as well as any other continental competition that you are taking part in. You will be given a transfer and wage budget with the goal of scouting and bringing in players that will fit your newly created tactics system. Perform well or risk getting sacked by your unhappy board! This is a great offline mode that combines everything that is great about this year’s iteration of PES.
Player faces for licensed teams/players like David Beckham, Phillipe Coutinho, Eden Hazard or Lionel Messi are nothing short of outstanding and have an extreme likeness to their real-life counterparts. However, players without a likeness license can seem extremely generic.
During my play sessions I never came across any audio or graphical issues, experienced zero game crashes or freezes and frame drops were pretty much nonexistent as I hit a consistent 144FPS.
However, the game is not without its flaws; there are still many unlicensed teams and it absolutely takes you out of the great platform of simulation that Konami have built here. If you do not want to play vs teams like Man Red and would rather come up against the formidable Manchester United, I highly suggest downloading a community patch/mod. The PTE Patch, which releases every year, is an easy way to solve this problem – it not only adds licenses to teams in the game but it actually adds in new teams, leagues, club badges, kits, scoreboards, advertising boards and more. If this is something you are interested in, head over to the PTE Patch website and download the 2.0 patch for PES 2019, and as of this review, the 2.1 patch. You can find those here, along with installation instructions: http://ptepatch.blogspot.com/2018/10/pte-patch-2019-20-aio-released-23102018.html. After installation, follow the README/Tutorial word document to ensure it works perfectly.
The UI seems completely dated and not very intuitive to use with some weird grammatical missteps. This includes the notification pop-ups for completing certain objects having several exclamation marks, e.g, “Made a sub using the quick sub menu!!!”.
My Xbox One Elite controller was not automatically assigned buttons so be sure to figure out your keybinds when you first launch the game as the settings will open first. Speaking of the settings, after that initial set up you will need to head in to the games files and find the settings.exe file if you would like to change your keybinds or any other settings that were in that initial set up, in the future. This is an annoyance as this should be built directly in to the in-game settings.
Signing players in Master League mode can be overly simple, the lack of club or player statistics in myClub mode and the tactics menu could all do with an overhaul. These three gripes are small in terms of the overall scale of the game, however, fixing them would lead to a more packed out experience.
I only played a handful of multiplayer matches and I was able to get in to matches, unlike the complaints stated in previous Steam User Reviews – by the looks of it Konami has issued a patch and those matchmaking issues have been resolved. However, the online matches are marred with latency problems and it ruins the experience.
PES 2019 is a fantastic football simulation, marred with small issues that, if fixed, would see the franchise grow. If you are looking for a great single player or local co-op experience, I would give the game a go – if you are purchasing this for the multiplayer; proceed with caution due to matchmaking issues.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is, quite simply, the best sports game released in 2018.
You can pick up a copy of Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 for PS4 here.