EA Sports' flagship title FIFA has been the Godfather of football sims for a long time. Even as certain instalments have disappointed, it is still one of the best-selling games every year. However, an old rival has reemerged in 2019.
Pro Evolution Soccer, so long the butt of jokes and the poor man's football game has taken strides to challenge the reign of FIFA and it is on course to take the crown this year.
With PES 2020 set to release on 10 September, a full 2 weeks before FIFA 20, it will dazzle fans and become the top football game in town.
Konami takes on EA
For years PES existed in the shadow of FIFA, but the Japanese gaming company have put the groundwork in this year, producing a gameplay experience that is far superior to that of FIFA. With both games listed at the same price; why would you splash out for a worse game?
Considering how EA have had a brand advantage for years with FIFA (outselling their closest competitors at a rate of 15 to 1 last year), it comes as no surprise that the American video game developers are resting on their laurels.
For example, numerous gamers this year have complained that FIFA 19 gameplay felt too similar to that of the previous 2 editions, with very few improvements. Compare this to the efforts that Konami have put in to increase the transparency of their creative process and improvements to most aspects of their video game, and well… you get the gist.
Attention to detail
EA are highly complacent and assume that their monopoly of licenses is enough to justify their laziness with gameplay enhancements, but now PES have fought back in a big way.
They went after the exclusive rights for Juventus and succeeded, meaning the eight-time defending Italian champs won’t feature on FIFA 20, instead being replaced by the laughable Piemonte Calcio. They backed this up by agreeing new partnerships with Bayern Munich and Manchester United, and renewals with Barcelona, Arsenal and Celtic.
Konami have been able to secure exclusive rights for the Brazilian domestic setup. Which could mean the national team could solely appear on PES this year. PES is well and truly back this year, and the much improved approach to licensing is just the tip of the iceberg.
The focus on improving PES 2020’s gameplay, both online and offline, could transform their cult following into worldwide fandom. The slower gameplay pairs especially well with the close ball control, giving the game a fluid and intuitive feel.
Enhancements to the physics engine allow for a deeper gameplay experience. With improved ball physics and unique first touches creating the authentic feel that the developers are striving for.
The Evolution of PES
Having owned a couple of editions of PES in the mid-2000s, I have lived through the days where Konami failed to secure any licensing. The result was teams like Arsenal being called ‘North London Red’, and Spurs ‘North London White’. We have seen the dark ages of PES, where some footballers could not have looked more different than their virtual counterparts.
Franck Ribery featuring in PES 6.
After not playing PES for the best part of a decade, it is remarkable to see the how much the game has improved.
Konami had focused massively on improving virtual players’ appearances. Using Manchester United on the demo this week. The attention to detail by Konami is impressive.
David de Gea’s depiction is uncannily accurate, with Konami focusing on the most minute of details to make their game more authentic.
Slight angle twitches and adjustments to the camera angle had me convinced me that I was watching a game on television. Konami have been gathering momentum with every season that passes, but the leap this year has taken them into unchartered territory.
14 years on and PES players are now easily recognisable
Konami are making steps to revolutionise eFootball, developing their game to deliver a greater sense of agency to the player, with new interactive dialogue systems in the Master League game mode putting the reins in the hands of the player when controlling their story progression.
Players can choose responses that suit their personality, helping them to create their own personal Master League story.
This includes custom sponsorship logos for team kits, and the availability of legendary managers such as Johan Cruyff, Diego Maradona and Zico to use as an avatar.
PES developers have also teased fans with their brand new game mode Matchday, which seeks to close the gap between virtual space and reality and allow gamers to emulate their favourite club’s success.
The Limitations of FIFA
Loyal FIFA followers have made their voices heard online, and they are disappointed by the lack of changes to modes like Ultimate Team and Career Mode.
EA’s Career Mode Pitch Notes outlined their introduction of pre- and post-match interviews, Player Morale System and Manager Customisation, but as discussed in a piece written earlier this week, it falls drastically short of our high expectations.
These are cool features, but we want MORE! We want some sort of assurance that FIFA have made their game more realistic, because watching 35-yard rainbow-flick volleys fly into the top corner is getting slightly old now.
Konami’s pursuit of realism can be traced to their increased consideration of fan feedback, and we want to see EA match some of these efforts! The said Pitch Notes, which highlighted improvements made to FIFA 20’s Career mode, have underwhelmed fans around the world.
These fans have also seen official in-game visuals from FIFA 20, which didn’t go down very well either.
With all of this following underwhelming drops of information on Ultimate Team and Pro Clubs, it feels like EA will fall short this year.
FIFA’s Redeeming Features
It’s not all doom and gloom for FIFA loyalists; in the official Volta Pitch Notes released yesterday, EA confirmed 17 new playgrounds that will feature in FIFA 20 Volta. These grounds range from a neon-lit rooftop in Tokyo to the return of FIFA 18’s iconic cage, situated in the heart of Rio de Janeiro’s largest Favela.
Pass, lob, and shoot with additional flair, and even bait the defence with a range of cheeky taunts.This addition is a classy touch by EA, acting as a nod to old editions of FIFA Street and reminding us of how much FIFA and the beautiful game truly shaped our childhood.
Now, you really thought I’d finish this article with nothing bad to say about PES? Well, you are wrong. Although the FIFA 20 Demo will not drop until September, Konami’s early release of the PES demo confirmed some issues.
Firstly, the menu screens appear to be slightly less user friendly than those of FIFA, with the transition between game modes taking slightly longer than what is desirable.
I also found it particularly difficult to change the line-up and formations, with Konami expecting players to already understand what each symbol stands for.
FIFA 20’s improved QOL designs also emphasise this shortcoming of PES 2020, but with their Demo out and fan feedback coming back in, we could see some enhancements ahead of the September full release.
Menu screens on PES look like a mobile phone app, and could do with being improved.
With all of that said, it is exciting to see the playing field more even than ever. A little bit of healthy competition could bring out the very best from these two gaming giants, which is only beneficial for the fans.
I still find it confusing how Konami produced a masterpiece of a game last year, and were still outsold by a staggering margin. Football fans need to wake up and stop following the bandwagon.
If you have an open mind and want something different this year, try PES 2020. The online demo has been a breath of fresh air when the full game drops on 10 September it will be the best football game of the year.
Will you be buying PES 2020 this year? Or are you a FIFA loyalist? Let us know in the comments below!