PES fans have long been adamant the game has superior gameplay than other football titles on the market – even EA Sports’ FIFA 20.
Regardless, it’s suffered from lacking rights to the majority of Europe’s biggest clubs.
This year, however, feels different.
Konami’s licensing agreement with Juventus is the cherry on the top of plenty of other big-name partnerships, such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Barcelona and Bayern Munich.
Not only this, PES (or eFootball PES 2020 as it is known this year) boasts shiny 3D scanning graphics, and a revamped Master League.
The signs are good, but does eFootball PES 2020 back up the noise?
As you organise your side before a game, it’s a little tricky to change between formations, but the ease at which can you move individual players up, down and across the field gives a much more customisable feel to your line-up.
Additionally, you can select a style of play (say, Long Ball, or quick counter) with a lot of ease before the game.
In terms of game aesthetics, the 3D scanning makes for some seriously impressive player graphics. Of course, Konami now has the licenses for both Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s clubs, and when you lead them out, the likeness is uncanny.
The gameplay itself has an arcade-like feel to it. The midfield seems often out of the game as play switches rapidly from defence to attack, sometimes more like a game of basketball, rather than football.
This doesn’t mean you will see plenty of goal fests though – finding the final ball can be difficult and when familiarising yourself with the game, you’ll have more luck seeking overlaps or chipped through balls out wide than you will through the middle.
The passing game makes a top-class midfield even more obsolete. First-time passes are difficult, even the most technical midfielders need to control the ball before playing an accurate pass, unless your timing is exquisite.
Long shots, however, look promising. When afforded a bit of space, it is well worth trying your luck from distance.
Konami promised that this year’s Master League would provide players with the opportunity to manage their clubs with a more distinct sense of personality and navigate a more intricate transfer market.
It’s another area where PES can get something over FIFA, with EA’s Career Mode stalling in recent years.
The set-up certainly has more of a storyline to it than EA’s version.
You first choose between a cluster of legends or fictional managers – Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff are the headline options, but there are plenty of great choices such as Roberto Carlos and Lothar Matthaus.
You are then taken around the halls of the club by a supposed board director, meeting the captains and various key players. Your chosen manager even holds a polystyrene coffee club as he oversees his first training session.
You then face the media where you’re given your first chance to shape your managerial personality in a press conference.
The immediate impression is not that the transfers are not necessarily more intricate, rather more personalised.
You can adjust pretty much everything about the transfer window, including transfer frequency, negotiation difficulty, starting budget and whether there is a first window transfer market. Essentially, you can choose whether you want a realistic experience of a Football Manager-like transfer frenzy.
All in all, if you are looking for a proper story mode in your career, the new Master League will suit you well.
While Matchday is currently unavailable to play, we know it is a new online game mode where you represent your club as part of a larger collective by winning online matches.
Each week, Konami will select important upcoming matches or possibly a derby game. You will then select which side to represent and play games to contribute to an overall score.
The selected games will form part of a group stage before the very best players from the winning teams face off in a “Grand Final.”
This will be streamed in-game so you can continue to support your team, even if you are not playing.
eFootball PES 2020 is a step in the right direction, but that step is probably not significant enough to significantly threaten FIFA’s stronghold on the football gaming market.
It still lacks the licences to compete with FIFA’s realism and its online matchday feature cannot seriously challenge FIFA Ultimate Team in terms of personal user experience.
However, matches are genuinely enjoyable to play, packing plenty of attacking football. Also, Master League is pretty great – if FIFA’s changes to Career Mode do not make an impactful improvement, there will be no doubt regarding which game has the better single-player mode.
RealSport Rating: 8/10
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