“The pitch is ours.” That’s been the PES slogan for a few years now with Konami attempting to wrestle away FIFA’s crown and once again claim to be the better football game. It’s come exceedingly close in recent years, even feeling superior to what EA offers at times, but it’s never been quite enough. As we approach a new decade, Konami has kicked off a new era of PES, and that is eFootball. Hence the franchise’s new title of eFootball PES 2020. Esports are another arena in which Konami has set on trying to conquer, but is the latest iteration enough?
As discussed in our review in progress – that shock Norwich score I mentioned hasn’t aged so well – Konami has progressively shifted the series to take a more realistic approach on the pitch, with all player attributes being much more significant than before. At least in theory. Of course, very few players are able to outmuscle Virgil van Dijk when contending for the ball or match Kylian Mbappe’s skills, but there seems to be a couple of control issues that will hamper both in PES 2020.
One of the things I’ve noticed playing across the offline and online modes is how easy it is to give away or lose the ball. This could be from a well timed tackle to the ball’s reaction to hitting someone being a bit over the top. In an attempt at realism Konami seems to have gone too far in the direction of making players clumsy a lot more than you’d expect of professional footballers. There are even moments when non-controlled players just seem to watch the ball roll by instead of chasing it down, allowing for the opposition to exploit those situations. Sure defences can be caught off guard in real life as well, but when a defender is just watching a ball and maintaining the team formation instead of reacting, that’s a sign of something not being right.
In the moments when everything does come together PES 2020 can create some magical moments, like scoring an absolute rocket from 30 yards out or getting together a lot of quick passes to outdo a defence and slot the ball into the net. Most of the time though you’ll be in the centre of the pitch watching as players struggle to dribble the ball past opponents, even though there was emphasis on a new system implemented with one of the greatest controllers of the ball, Andres Iniesta, being on hand to consult with the dev team. Whether you’re playing with a mid-60 rated player in the MyClub team up to someone like Mohamed Salah who can make most top defenders look like school kids, it’s just far too easy to lose the ball.
Venturing into MyClub and you’ll find that nothing has really changed from previous systems. You’ll be given a random deck of players and a couple of agents that can unlock players for you, and are then bombarded by message after message to lead you through setting up your squad for the first time. Before you use an agent you’ll be able to see the probability of what kind of rated player you’ll get, and the group of players the agent will select from. It’s still random selection, but at least can narrow down the kind of player that you will be received.
Of course you can buy coins with cash to get more agents and scouts to find more players, but I personally wouldn’t bother. Match bonuses are pretty generous, especially if you take part in the time limited events, so you’ll be able to use agents regularly and scouts are awarded after each match. Plus you’ll likely get some decent players early on. Before even starting my first game in MyClub I managed to acquire Leroy Sane and Wojciech Szczęsny.
You can ignore MyClub and play standard online modes like divisions and tournaments. In divisions you’ll be playing similarly ranked players (unless you choose not to), while in tournaments you could come up against anybody, One team I came up against consisted of a ton of high level players that would command high transfer prices in reality. Online seems generally fine though there were some bouts of lag in many of the matches, despite the connection being shown as strong.
A new Matchday mode , looking to take real world match ups and rivalries and spin them into large online events within PES where you pick a side and battle for supremacy. Think Splatoon’s Splatfests, but where Splatfests would run for 24 hours over a weekend, Matchday is only open between 3-6PM UTC each day, currently making no distinction for players in different time zones. That’s moderately OK in Europe (currently 5-8PM), doable for a quick match after getting home from work in the UK (4-7PM), but either the middle of the day in the Americas or middle of the night in Asia. With a bit of work, this could be a fun mode, but it’s currently sidelined by a lack of in-game information and wonky availability.
Master League and Become A Legend also offer pretty standard ways to play the game, with both having quite simple layouts to navigate to move from one match to another, or negotiate contracts. There’s not a ton of depth to either, the biggest change being more cutscenes and decision points added in Master League, but the modes suffice well for those who prefer the offline single player experience. Where PES 2020 shines is with the in game graphics, where player models, arenas, and pitches all look fantastic. It truly is the beautiful game at times, though it’s punctuated by awful commentary. I’ll always mention the bad commentary in PES games because it is repetitive, with tons of material used from games past and there now seems to be an issue with the sound mixing where volume between the two commentators can fluctuate.