Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2019
Regarded as the Holy Grail of soccer video games by many in The Beautiful Game’s simulation community, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer is back for another round with its 2019 incarnation. The latest installment of PES introduces a slew of new licensed league and club along with some stellar tweaks to the impressive gameplay of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 that make it hard to stop playing. We’ve been trying out the David Beckham Edition of the game since its release data. Read on to see what we think about it. Our video below covers all of the game’s main features and gives a look at its gameplay.
Licenses and Option Files
Konami has signed deals with seven new leagues for Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 following the loss of their UEFA Champions League and Europa League licenses. The world’s biggest club football competitions are still in the game however via the aptly named “European Club Championship” and “European Master’s Cup”. The formats remain the same as their UEFA counterparts along with the teams in the 2018/19 tournaments. We made them more realistic via imported option files. More of this shortly.
The best known licensed leagues in Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 remain the French Ligue 1, Dutch Eredivisie, AFC Champions League, Campeonato Brasileiro and Argentine Superliga. All of the major South American leagues are present given PES’ massive following on the soccer-mad continent. The new additions include the popular Portuguese Liga NOS, Russian Premier League, Scottish Premiership and Turkish Super Lig.
Of the other big European leagues, the Italian Serie A is present with every team licensed except for Juventus (again an option file can fix this). Only Arsenal and Liverpool are licensed for the English Premier League while powerhouse FC Barcelona are the sole licensed clubs for the Spanish La Liga.
Individual club licenses have been a nice highlight of the Pro Evolution Soccer in recent years. These provide authentic stadium experiences and in-depth realism customized to each team that is absent from EA Sports FIFA. While this is done best for Barcelona because of their standing in world football, AC Milan, Schalke 04, Inter Milan, River Plate and others are well-represented in the game.
Konami seemingly conceded that they could not compete with EA Sports FIFA for league licenses some time ago. They’ve made kit image templates for Pro Evolution Soccer available online and have relied on their army of fans to deliver option files that can be easily imported via the game’s Edit feature to update teams with their real kits. The same imports allow quick team name, emblem, stadium and player name updates if needed. We grabbed an option file for PES 2019 the day after its release to correct the names of the unlicensed league along with those of the teams in them and the club’s kits. The option file also fixed up Juventus in Serie A.
Konami is currently sorting out their license with the CBF to have the Brazilian national team licensed in the game. Our option file corrected the team’s kit and crest . We then used Pro Evolution Soccer’s roster update feature to swap the fake players out with Neymar, Coutinho, Firminho and the rest of the Brazil team sprinkled throughout professional teams around Europe.
Previous editions of Pro Evolution Soccer had slim soundtracks that included some big hits from the previous 12-month period with offerings from a few up and coming artists. Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 takes a page out of the EA Sports FIFA playbook and offers a twenty-four song repertoire of tracks from lesser known artists from around the world. The exceptions are the songs from rockers AWOLNATION, The Killers and X Ambassadors. None of the tunes from these bands have been big commercial releases though and are therefore not played out. The result is an entertaining soundtrack that provides a pleasant backdrop to navigating between matches in PES 2019.
Pro Evolution Soccer’s longtime commentary team of Peter Drury and Jim Beglin are back to provide English language match insight in PES 2019. Their analysis abilities are largely unchanged since Pro Evo 2018 and is generally adequate though overly canned and repetitive at times. While some have long voiced distaste over the duo you can gain an appreciation of them by playing the commentator-less demo version of the title.
Commentary is also available in several regionalized versions of Spanish, French, Brazilian Portuguese and Japanese if you speak any of those languages or would rather live without the Drury / Beglin combination this time round.
There is no shortage of unique match options in Pro Evolution Soccer 2019. You can play standalone offline and online games, get into training sessions to master PES’ many and sometimes complicated skills moves or delve into an array of leagues and cups.
We have always preferred the offline modes of Pro Evolution Soccer. They are largely unchanged over the last few years and include the much-loved Master League and Become a Legend options. Neither has been augmented much with Master League essentially matching FIFA’s Career mode with its “Challenge” setting that can result in you being fired. Negotiations and Scouting networks work well with interfaces less flashy but easier to use that in FIFA. Both domestic and European cup competitions are well-integrated into Master League to give you a chance to capture football glory beyond your shores. The International Champions Cup pre-season tournament is also now an option to take your new team through the motions against big name opposition in Master League.
There is now a total of twenty leagues on offer in Pro Evolution Soccer thanks to all of this year’s new licenses. This volume of contests is starting to rival FIFA’s. All of the licensed ones are well-presented with accurate overlays and accurately capture the vibe of the stadium culture in each country. For example, Scottish Premiership matches are in smaller PES-specific venues with restrained fans whereas Brazilian league games are filled with the sounds of club chants and makeshift drums coming from the stands.
Once again Pro Evolution Soccer rocks at international soccer. All major continental competitions are there including the European, African, Asian, South American and World championships. Their formats and the general vibe of crowd team support for each national team are correct. Our updated their names and logos so we’ve now got the likes of Copa America, the Africa Cup of Nations and the World Cup in the game. See the video below of gameplay between France and Sweden in PES 2019.
Last but not least, myClub is back allowing to your earned GPs and purchased coins to build your dream team using a bunch of shadowy “Special Agents”. David Beckham is the highlight player of the edition of Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 named after him. Sign Becks via an agent and you get him in his best form despite his advanced year. This is an onlinecentric mode that lets you battle teams created by uses around the world. Player ratings are updated at least once a week to reflect their real-world form.
Konami has retained its tile-based menu format of the past few versions of Pro Evolution Soccer in PES 2019. The theme of the menu is now lighter colored and there are less tiles in each of the game’s main screens that last time out. The pictures on each tile are also more apt to section in question and often use real life, professional grade photography of professional players. The simplification of what is called the “Top Menu” of Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is welcome after a bit of clutter in PES 2018 but in unfortunately made possible because there can be no tiles for the now lost UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and Copa Libertadores official licenses of old.
Once you get past the Top Menu and into tournaments and games, the user interface is largely unchanged and quite intuitive. If you’ve played Pro Evo at all over the last five years then you will be able to set up your team roster, attacking and defending styles, man marking, and player positioning with relative ease. The only notable update is that player ratings are updated on the screen in real time when you select them for a position on the team management screen.
PES neophytes will be able to get the fist of things within three to four matches. Hint: Attacking Support is not set high enough for any team by default. Move it up to at least seven to give midfielders and forwards for options for passes and shots.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019’s graphic have been reworked to create more realistic stadium, field and stands lighting. This is seen in both small grounds created for the game only and in its slew of licensed stadiums such as Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Liverpool’s Anfield and the storied Maracana of Brazil. The result is a feel that’s akin to what you see on matchdays on television with the small club or European or South American powerhouse vibe accurately captured.
A major graphical improvement comes in the stands itself where PES now has fully animated fans with a host of moves and emotional stances. There is a wide variety of faces and body shapes in the mix with no noticeable fan duplication at the game match as seen in FIFA. The fans are also reactive to what’s happening in the game with them celebrating their team’s goals passionately during zoom-ins into the stands. Meanwhile you can see supporters of the side that has been scored on in their seats stoic-faced. This is most noticeable when away teams score.
Players are slightly sharper with a tab more detail than in PES 2018. There is also a slew of new on the pitch moves supported by good, realistic animation. Faces of big name players and those scanned for partner clubs are spot on for the most part down to facial hair, wrinkles and neck tattoos. Less known players (such as those on many of the AFC Champions League squads) are approximations based on Pro Evolution Soccer 2019’s stable of generic players.
The levels in Pro Evolution Soccer remain Beginner, Amateur, Regular (the default), Professional, Top Player and Superstar. This mix provides a bit of something for everyone from those new to Pro Evo (Beginner and Amateur) to experienced players (Regular and Professional) to hard core gamers (Top Player and Superstar). Top Player and Superstar remain quite difficult. They’re fun to dabble with if you’re not overly concerned with winning or drawing every match. Our team has been playing PES since it the PS4 almost a decade ago. We still find these upper echelon modes quite challenging.
The difficulty setting on good old Regular Mode is notched up slightly with Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 and for the better. Just about every opponent from Europe’s and South America’s big league and the top 40 FIFA ranked national teams in the world offer a good fight in it. The best teams will challenge you hard in Regular mode with wins no longer as easy to come by as they were in Pro Evo 2018.
Pro Evolution Soccer has always been regarded the soccer simulation for purists of The Beautiful Game. Despite the lack of or a limited number of licensed teams and leagues the franchise has persevered for over twenty years now and continues to earn annual plaudits from fans around the world thanks to its renowned gameplay. PES 2019 continues to build upon the magnificence of its predecessors of the last five years with a series of tweaks that increase both its realism and enjoyment factors.
We’ve seen Konami slow down the default game speed in Pro Evolution Soccer from time to time. The last time in 2013 to good effect. They’ve taken it down a notch with PES 2019 with good effect. Instead of the sometime breakneck pace of Pro Evo 2018, you now get to enjoy slower, more realistic gameplay at an almost EA Sports FIFA pace. The similarities end there however. Get into counter attacks or have speedy wingers in a 4-1-2-3 formation and you’ll enjoy some speedy offensive play.
Dribbling and Skills Moves
Dribbling and executing skills moves is easier in Pro Evolution Soccer 2019. The right joystick is more reactive in all directions are works well gives player more fluidity. Naturally pulling off feints and fancy footwork coupled with the R2 button becomes simpler.
PES 2018 has also dropped some pleasant surprise new technical moves that you don’t discover until playing the game. These reflect the immense foot skills of today’s professional footballers and include such as backheel, no look and instep flick past the standing leg passes even within the penalty box. Konami says that they’ve added eleven new “skill traits” in all ranging. We’ve been running into them to much satisfaction along the way. Those used to set up goals have had us replaying our own gameplay in amazement.
Individual one on one defending has always been a strong point of the Pro Evolution Soccer series and has surpassed what EA Sports FIFA has offered over the past two years. Man on man matchups and smart man marking (based on manager pre-match assignments) remain sound in Pro Evo 2019. Team defense is now smarter though and has caught up to the AI level of FIFA 2018. You’ll now notice increased defensive team pressure on attackers along with better pass reading, anticipation and interception. There are also Safety First clearances Pro Evolution Soccer 2019’s AI-powered defenders in one on one situations against highly rated players such as Messi, Neymar and Ronaldo.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 has also notched up defending by midfielders. Instead of them directly facing attacker and attempting tackles we noticed that midfielders will now run back and put their bodies between attackers and the ball to dispossess them of it. The intensity at which this is done is quite intense and adds a previously lacking physical element to PES’ defenders. They are now tougher and will rough up opposition players holding the ball for too long in the midfield.
Goalkeeping has been tweaked in Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 with netminders more agile and heroic than ever. They are quite reactive to shots and extremely fluid and lifelike in executing saves. It’s not uncommon to see them leaping to the bottom and upper corners of the net with palms wide open or pulling off multiple saves in quick succession when under siege. For the first time ever, we found ourselves watching replays of saves on Pro Evolution Soccer.
The many years of lenient refereeing in Pro Evolution Soccer now appear to be gone. Although their tolerance levels vary, referees in PES 2019 are generally stricter than in the past. Gone are the days of getting away with overly aggressive standing and careless sliding tackles. Yellows cards are now shown with much more frequency with reds coming out for acts of wanton recklessness. This is reflective of the real-world game but does take the free-flowing street soccer feel out of Pro Evo a bit.
On Screen Enhancements
Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 introduces a Quick Substitution menu the on screen when the ball is out of play. It lets you scroll through the players on your team and make switches without having to go to the team management menu. Realistic free kick tactics also appear via a simple series of four-optioned menus in the lower left corner of the screen. This is very similar to PES’ corner kick options menu.
League Specific Play
The wide array of leagues now available in Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 reflect the styles of play in each. For example, the Scottish Premiership is gritty, physical and a bit short of elaborate buildups. Meanwhile defense always seems to take precedence in Italy while flair, passing and technical ability reign supreme with Spanish La Liga and Campeonato Brasileiro teams.
Essentially a treasure chest with a plethora of cup and league options, Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 has enough depth to keep even hardcore soccer gamers entertained until the 2020 incarnation of the game is released. From Master League to standalone cups to the host of domestic leagues to building a dynasty in myClub, PES 2019 has more tournaments than of its predecessors. Casual gamers who play the simulation a few times a week could enjoy it for two years.
Extremely addictive, well-packaged and presented and boasting its best gameplay ever, Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 is a must for footie gamers. Get a decent option file to correct the unlicensed teams in a few minutes and you are set for countless hours of arguably the closest video game simulation of professional grade soccer to date.
Gameplay: 9.9 /10
Graphics: 9.6 /10
User Interface: 9.4/ 10
Realism: 9.8 / 10
Longevity: 10 / 10