Konami’s revelation that they’d sealed the exclusive rights to Juventus was far more momentous than it originally appeared.
To deny EA and FIFA of using a bonafide footballing giant on their game was valuable in itself, it gave their rivals a first taste of the licences medicine that Konami has been drinking for years.
But its real value runs much deeper than simply securing a scalp over EA, it’s in the fact that it created the loudest narrative in years that the football gaming market has not been monopolised by FIFA: there’s another major player in the game and they mean business.
17 years of FIFA
To set the scene, I’d consider myself a pretty serious FIFA player. My first game was FIFA Football 2003, fronted by Edgar Davids, Ryan Giggs and Roberto Carlos. I’ve been a loyal servant of the games ever since, having bought every single edition without fail.
Over the last 17 years, I’ve played a lot. A lot, a lot. I dread to think how many hours I’ve poured into the game throughout my childhood, teenage years and now my early twenties. I probably could have learned three or four languages in that time, or read an entire library of books.
FIFA 19, however, was the first time I felt a sense of disillusion with the game to a point where I was playing less. But why?
As a young player, I was all about Career Mode. Back in the day, I’d turn my beloved Arsenal into a super team, ending trophy droughts to bring home consecutive Champions League titles.
As I got better, I started seeking more of a challenge, taking charge of League Two sides, from Cheltenham to Colchester, and taking them to the top on legendary difficulty. Soon, it became too easy – it’s hard to keep your heart in the game when you’re churning out consecutive 5-0 victories in your second season in League One.
The introduction of ultimate difficulty was welcome news to me, promising that career mode would become challenging once more. Although I found it marginally more difficult, it still wasn’t enough. The difficulty needs to be refined to keep an already stale career mode challenging for the top players.
My second gripe is Ultimate Team, something I wrote about it more depth in my last RealOpinions piece. FIFA’s flagship game mode becomes more money-centric each year, with players too often losing to opponents who are not more skilled than them but have more real-life money.
The game mode needs to be revamped, levelling the playing field for those unwilling to empty their bank accounts to compete. Of course, because it’s such a money-maker, it never will. But we all can dream.
Finally, FIFA 19 simply didn’t make enough positive gameplay changes to justify the price of the game. Dynamic tactics weren’t user-friendly and the timed shooting was an outright downgrade on the long shots of the past. FIFA 20’s Volta is going to be fun, but I want adjustments that make playing matches both fun and realistic – counter-attacks from corners, for example, should be nowhere near as easy.
Time for a change?
In previous years, it would have taken me a lot for me to try PES. This year, three things clicked into place at once to tempt me to at least try the other side – these three being the hype surround new licenses, my dissatisfaction with FIFA and PES’ earlier release, promising to satisfy my thirst for football gaming that always seems to arrive in September.
So, I gave it a good go and found myself impressed yet still dubious.
Longtime PES players often argue that their game has the better gameplay, and they could just be right. I got to grips with the game during a tournament and, once I’d familiarised myself with the difference between the two games, I started having a lot of fun, more fun than I would have had playing FIFA.
In my experience, the midfield is often bypassed, creating end-to-end games that align closer to basketball than football. The finesse dribbling is pretty awesome as well, giving you more control over the little touches that your player makes.
Konami also made a lot of noise this summer about their 3D scanning process, supposedly creating ultra-realistic graphics. It certainly delivers, and I’ve seen little in the FIFA 20 demo to suggest that their graphics can rival PES.
Game modes lacking in innovation
When considering making a permanent switch to PES, or eFootball PES as it’s now known, my deciding factor was always going to be the game modes.
Although PES gameplay and visuals are better, I’m not dissatisfied with FIFA in that area to the point of changing games. Thanks to the aforementioned boring career mode, and expensive ultimate team, game modes is where my loyalty is vulnerable.
Here is where PES can differentiate themselves from their better-known rival, creating something fresh, fun and challenging. Sadly, my primary source of doubt about Konami’s game comes from the lack of innovation in these modes.
Master League may be shinier than career mode, with cool press conferences and the opportunity to be legends such as Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff, but it’s fundamentally the same. MyClub lacks the massive community of players that makes Ultimate Team so addictive.
And what of the new Matchday mode? I really can’t envision it being a success, as players won’t feel as if they are making a significant impact on their club’s fortunes.
Still, discounting Matchday mode, I don’t think the game modes are a massive downgrade on FIFA, I just think they’re a missed opportunity to capitalise on their rival’s shortcomings.
READ MORE: FIFA 20 soundtrack announced
A step in the right direction, but still a way to go
My PES experience has been a positive one. Yet, I’m sorry to say that when FIFA comes out on September 24, I can’t imagine myself not buying and doing it all over again – I can see myself now, saving for weeks to buy Paul Pogba on Ultimate Team or boasting to my friends about how I’ve taken Scunthorpe or Stevenage to Champions League glory.
And why do I persist? I think it boils down to two things. Firstly, I feel that I’ve given too much to FIFA to abandon it now. My relationship with FIFA, albeit one where I sometimes give more than I get, is one I’m attached to.
The second factor, as simplistic as it sounds, is that all of my friends play FIFA rather PES. I can’t imagine that I would get the same satisfaction from beating my friends at PES, a game they don’t play, than I get from beating them at FIFA, a game they consider themselves to be good at.
Still, I’m an avid FIFA player, and PES has tempted me. If it can tempt me, I’m sure it will fully sway some disillusioned bit-part FIFA players. It’s a very good game, and it deserves a significant place in the football gaming market.
And that would be good for everyone. We want the market to be a tug-of-war, rather than a monopoly. That way, Konami and EA will push each other to constantly improve their games, rather than only making minor tweaks each year.
Has PES 2020 swayed you away from FIFA 20? Let us know in the comments below!
Want to join the RS team? Become a RealGamer