Konami’s long-running Pro Evolution Soccer franchise has been running against FIFA for quite some time. To folks not into football, it can be confusing why you’d choose one game over the other, however, Konami has really carved out their own part of the market with PES as more of a football simulator and less of an arcade-y sports game most of us are used to playing. The latest in their PES series boasts new features and impressive visuals, but is it the definitive football game? Read on to find out!
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019
Developer: PES Productions
Platform: Windows PC, PlayStation 4 (Reviewed), and Xbox One
Release Date: August 28th, 2018
Players: 1 Player
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 fully embraces next-generation hardware and Windows PCs, meaning the game has really taken a leap in terms of visual fidelity, and then some. Character animations, movements, techniques and even the stadium itself with its roaring crowd are staggeringly realistic and lifelike. It’s honestly kind of overwhelming, I’ve yet to see a sports game look this good.
Improved animations and overall reactions to the ball itself, as well as the overall physics to the game itself, all come together for a startling amount of realism in the game. It’s hard to describe, however, this isn’t simply a new coat of paint on PES 2018. The little subtleties you’ll notice as the game is played really drive home the bullet point that this is more of a simulator.
Diving into the player animations a bit further, as the ball is passed, kicked, blocked, and so on – players just know how to contextually and fluidly react to the ball. Furthermore, movement feels more weighty and grounded in real-world physics and gravity, while other soccer games might come off feeling more arcade-y and twitchy.
It may seem like a simple thing, but even the physics of the soccer ball itself have been improved. Once you see the game in motion and play it yourself, it doesn’t take long to see the blatant independence the ball seems to have now. It doesn’t look glued to the player’s foot, instead, it rolls and flows realistically, just as it would in real life.
The new lighting engine can bring in some really stunning vistas, putting lifelike shadows across the entire field and even the crowds. I’d dare say from a glance, the game could even pass for real life football if you had a recording of it playing while you worked on something else.
All of these little visual improvements really nail the look and feel of the game, bringing it all together for an extremely realistic and excellent presentation. Players bumping into each other, pointing to the spot they’re going to haul ass to, and even noticeably getting physically tired, all of the animations I saw were simply fantastic.
Goalkeepers have finally gotten new animations, ending their previously robotic and stilted performances. Now, you’ll be seeing your keeper pulling off interesting and wild saves, dives, and of course – throws back to the game. Unfortunately, the commentators haven’t changed and still repeat the same lines from previous games, so they can be a bit of a snoozefest.
While the myClub feature has been reworked to include changes for its Ultimate Team formula, with new Featured Players cycled out each week. Should the players really play well in real life, this will actually translate to improve performances in game – a feature I really liked. You can also get packs of four players now instead of a single player like before.
The stamina system has been redone quite a bit to now put a huge emphasis on the overall fitness of your players. This translates into “visible fatigue,” and it does exactly that. You’ll have to be very mindful of how much you push your players, because constant sprinting will equal an exhausted team unable to keep up in the later game. This is a massive update for realism, and I loved it.
Licensing has always been an issue for Pro Evolution Soccer, with Electronic Arts gobbling up all the big, top-level licenses for their FIFA series. PES actually lost a few big licenses to FIFA this time around, only to grab more licensed leagues than ever before. However, if you’re a stickler for licensed teams, you will be missing out as they are still lacking here.
Online play was pretty shaky at launch, hence the delay in this review. I was anticipating fixes and improved netcode, and Konami delivered – the game definitely plays a lot better now. Outside of that, few other disappointments exist, save maybe the Master League mostly coming in the same as the previous game, a missed opportunity for improvements.
All in all, Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 has raised the bar in terms of accuracy, realism, and overall presentation in sports games for myself. I’m by no means a devout sports game player, however, I’ve played enough in my time, including previous PES games, to see how far the series has come and how much more this iteration brings to the table.
While there are some areas where the game sadly hasn’t changed since the last game, there’s enough minute improvements that really bring this football simulator to an entirely new level. Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is the definitive soccer game for gamers wanting that extra oomph in their kick, quite literally.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Konami. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here.
The Verdict: 9
- Amazing visuals, life-like even
- Realistic and accurately recreated football mechanics
- Reworked stamina system is a literal game-changing feature
- Goalkeepers are more realistic, less error-prone
- Online had issues at launch, is now improved
- Lack of some big licensing
- Commentators can be a snoozefest
- Referees are still unpredictable, annoying