It's a real shame too, because nobody is going to question the quality of PES 2019's on-pitch action. PES has always been a series where freedom of approach is paramount, and that remains true. Tight, intuitive basic controls let novices string together passes and smash out soaring strikes, while several layers of complexity beneath the surface offer more experienced players a peerless degree of control over both player and ball movement. You could get lost in the countless pages of commands and inputs in a modern FIFA game, but the majority of it is pure peacocking – fancy yet impractical showboating or over-the-top goal celebrations. PES' equivalent is all about functionality and that couldn't be a more accurate analogue for the gulf between the two series. FIFA has always looked the part, but PES has typically been the deeper and more technical take on the sport, its variety and complexity letting players tell their own stories of Master League success where its rival found more success simply retelling those seen on TV most Saturday afternoons. At its best, then, PES 2019 can still produce some truly outstanding moments and supremely satisfying passages of play, but those flashes of true excellence also serve to highlight the weaker links in the squad.
Presentation on the pitch is similarly hit-and-miss, with such fluctuation in asset quality between things like player models, stadia and animations that the most extreme examples could be lifted from two different games. Commentary, meanwhile, is just straight-up poor, laughably so in places. Peter Drury spends the first ten minutes of most matches talking about the weather before being surprised every time that the match is underway already by the time he's finished waffling, while Jim Beglin coughs up staccato blasts of cliché and non-sequitur like a broken Alan Partridge sound board. You'll be sick of hearing saves described as 'sparkling' within a match or two, but at least Drury getting overly worked up about any shot on goal like a proud dad on the touchlines at his kid's first match is hilariously unprofessional. PES also has an unhealthy obsession with replays, cutting away from gameplay to show every clear-cut offside, every half-chance on goal and every apparent foul again as if players are actually going to want to watch all of these non-events back. Skipping them might only take a few seconds a pop, but that all adds up over the course of a match.
The Beautiful Game
Playing against a human opponent, you get to see the gorgeous flowing play that PES facilitates running up and down the pitch, and it's wonderful. Play against the AI, however, and it's a different story. AI players seem to have no interest in making the game interesting or utilising any kind of variety in their approach. Every time they reach the final third, all they ever seem to do is tap the ball around on the outside of the penalty box before playing a cross-goal pass or two to a man in space, looking for that same cheap or 'sweaty' goal that you might remember recall chastising mates about in previous PES games. Even when you grow wise to it, they keep trying – there's never a speculative 25-yard shot or awesome solo effort to spice things up... rarely even a cross into the box that leaves the ground. Against the AI, it's all on you to make the magic happen, but working so hard for a genuinely impressive goal only to have the AI equalise or steal a late win with a soft reply like that is always disheartening, doubly so since the commentator clowns rub it in by talking about those cheap, easy goals with the same kind of reverence as if they were watching Pelé in his prime.
- Retains much of the old PES magic
- Incredibly versatile systems
- Multiplayer is a blast as ever
Trad Brick Stadium
- AI plays boring, uninspired football
- Presentation is all over the place
- Only as good as you make it
PES 2019 Review (PS4)
Visuals vary from amazing to pretty rough, presentation is weak across the board, and the minimal spread of high-profile licenses means that FIFA will continue to be the game of choice for those who want the most accurate recreation of the match day experience.
If you're not so bothered about that level of authenticity and just want a soccer game that plays really well, you'll find one here. The only problem is that to get to it, you'll have to wade through a ton of needlessly convoluted menus and sit through a bunch of replays of nothing happening, not to mention putting the time in to master the nuanced controls if you want to do anything flashy.
Is it worth it? We'd say so, particularly for life-long PES supporters who are by now more resilient to these kinds of quirks, but life is always hard for Konami in this field given that its chief competitor is one of the most established, accessible and commercial game series on the planet.
Our Review Ethos
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