Published on September 11th, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
PES Soccer 2019
I certainly wouldn’t call myself a soccer aficionado. I wasn’t one of those kids you see on the weekends playing soccer in the numerous games around town and in fact, we didn’t even have a soccer team at my high school until my senior year and even then, I don’t think many knew that it existed. That being said, I’ve been a fan of video game soccer ever since I bought Real Sports Soccer for my Atari 2600 back in the early 80’s. Needless to say, soccer games have significantly improved since the old Atari days, and the improvements are really apparent when looking at the current field of games such as the Electronic Art’s FIFA series and Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer. Like many sports titles though depending on the year and the title, each has its own significant strengths and weaknesses, so I was excited when I had an opportunity to see what PES 2018 brought to the table.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 adds a significant graphical improvement over its predecessors, including dynamic light and shadows. The numerous stadiums and turf are extremely detailed and look absolutely stunning on my widescreen monitor. The weather effects are superb, featuring both day and evening games and in any type of weather you can imagine. That means you can play a game on a beautiful summer afternoon or during the winter in a snow storm (being a relatively new spectator to the game I didn’t even realize they played in the snow). As one would expect the weather has a significant impact on the players, both in reaction time and overall control of the ball.
Ball physics has seen an incredible overhaul in PES 2019 as well. As obvious as this may sound, the ball actually reacts accurately to how it is kicked and how the players maneuver around it. In games such as FIFA the ball feels almost drawn to the player and lacks the feeling that the ball has a mind of its own, this is not the case in Konami. The ball acts as you would expect in the real world, meaning it takes the player a bit more finesse to place it where you want it, and at times it can be a bit too easy to kick it into the stands with more power than planned. Konami has clearly put a ton of time and work into ensuring that the ball reacts exactly as it should, and it shows.
Gameplay is extremely straightforward which is a blessing when it comes to sports games these days. The controls are simple enough to pick up and learn right away so you can get into the game without having to learn any intricate control schemes. Players react to the ball with numerous different moves and if you play a character too long without substituting they become visibly tired, are slower to react to the ball and are prone to make more mistakes. I am the first to admit that I am someone who tends to rarely substitute even if my characters need it. Thankfully Konami has put a great deal of effort into making substitution both easy and intuitive, which had me substituting more frequently and in turn optimizing my gameplay.
Slide tackles are executed brilliantly, but the referees tend to be over zealous when calling fouls. So, if you are like me and prefer to rely on an excellent slide tackle to steal the ball from an opposing player, you will have to execute these moves much more carefully to ensure you don’t get yellow carded (or worse red carded) for an ill-advised aggressive move. That didn’t really stop me much as the slide tackles are so much fun that I was willing to risk my player getting thrown out, if for nothing more than the joy of revenge against a player who had stolen the ball from me.
Computer controlled AI players are however a mixed bag. They will occasionally opt to pass the ball out on offense instead of running forward for what would appear to be a wide-open shot. Thankfully you can adjust your team’s overall stance throughout the match as to how aggressive they will defend the goal versus how aggressive they will be on offense. Even with this option, there were moments I had to spend more time than I wanted to controlling each defender near the ball to ensure that the goal was properly defended or maneuvering a player to more aggressively attempt to steal the ball. The AI players aren’t bad, just inconsistent which tends to lead to a lot more micro-managing than I would have liked.
As much obvious effort that has gone into making what is certain to be one of the premiere soccer games, I do have a few complaints specific to the PC version of PES 2019. One such complaint is the frustration of online play. Not so much finding someone to play online with (although for the PC version I hear they are pretty scarce), but the ability to get online at all. As of the writing of this article, Konami is aware of an issue that prevents folks from going online, and all the official and unofficial workarounds have not worked for me. I actually spent three days attempting to log-on, and while Konami promises to address the issue, it’s a glaring problem considering the game has been out for over a week and is meant to be experienced online with other players. Playing offline is completely doable, but even an offline exhibition requires you to accept the terms of service agreement that…you guessed it…has to authenticate to the online server. I was still able to play the offline game, however since I was never able to authenticate, I had to go through the terms of service agreement every time I exited the game and came back to play. I must have accepted the agreement at least half a dozen times and I still haven’t been able to play online. The other issue with not being able to get online is that you can’t update your player rosters which, while not a deal breaker, is extremely frustrating. I would have loved to go in-depth on the online options in this review, but sadly that wasn’t in the cards for me. From what I have found during my research, this is something that only plagues the PC version of the game, so your console online experiences may vary.
One other glaring technical issue I had with the PC version was a fairly regular stuttering that occurred while playing matches. My FPS never dipped below 100FPS, and even adjusting the visuals between medium and high didn’t seem to make any difference. I rebooted several times just in case something was running in the background, but it never improved so I don’t think it was due to anything specific on my PC. I had played a demo of the game on a PS4 at CES this year and didn’t notice this problem, so it may only be an issue with the PC version or simply how the game plays on my PC. It wasn’t a show stopper, but another technical frustration that dulled an otherwise outstanding game. Interestingly there were options to run the game (and replays) at 30FPS…I’m not sure who would select these as an option unless the HW they were running it on was extremely dated, or if someone was looking for a last gen experience playing the game.
Technical issues aside, PES 2019 is a fantastic soccer game. The controls are easy, the gameplay is outstanding and even with the problems I encountered I enjoy playing it more than FIFA. Konami is hard at work addressing the online connectivity problem and I have no doubt that it will be resolved soon after this review is released (if it is not already). I really look forward to playing online against other human opponents as I know they will offer a significantly more challenging match than the AI (even if I struggled to beat the AI during most of my matches). As I stated earlier, I’ve always been a huge fan of soccer games, and PES 2019 is my new favorite and one that I will continue to play until the next release. Now the only thing I can hope for is my wife to no longer jump when I when I scream GOAL!!!!
What I liked: Ball physics are top notch, Shadows are amazing, Controls are intuitive and easy to pick up
What I liked less: Technical glitches, Inability to log online, AI can be a bit inconsistent
4 out of 5 stars