For years, there has been a suggestion that annual sports game releases should come in at half the price and be taken for what they truly are: A roster update. People fail to see significant changes on a yearly basis, and that’s even more apparent with the constant patching throughout the year on whatever the latest entry is.
This year, Konami have done exactly that.
As it builds a next-gen Pro Evo game, Konami took the decision to release this year’s game as a “season update” rather than a fully-fledged new game.
PES 2021 is essentially the fully patched version of PES 2020 with updated kits, balls and rosters. While it’s the same in almost all aspects – terrible menus and commentary included – it benefits from a full year of feedback and updates that came through on PES 2020. PES 2020 already had solid gameplay, with new animations, player ID, and other on-the-pitch features, and PES 21 has tweaked this even further, making for an incredible gameplay experience.
In terms of the gameplay, there are some noticeable differences. Players feel a lot more responsive online and offline, and while the game focuses on patience rather than speed, unlocking a defence and running through with your pace forward just feels incredibly rewarding. The game may lack that constant fast pace pinball-like effect, but that’s not a bad thing by any means.
PES 2021 is packed with the precision of a Tyson Fury punch combo and what it lacks in pace it picks up in intricacy. The new dribbling controls introduced in PES 20 have been refined even further and feel a lot more natural this time around, while AI opponents and teammates feel smarter than ever. Mostly gone too are the frustrating rubber-banding aspects that reared their ugly head in PES 20.
Visually, PES 2021 is exactly the same as PES 20 and with such fantastic likenesses and animations, you could hardly expect any changes in this regard. Sadly the dull menus and weird cut-scenes in Master League take away from that visual aesthetic, but this has been a longtime problem for the franchise which will hopefully be sorted out in the next-gen version of the game.
While the gameplay is spectacular, the variety of modes and the drought of content is still what seems to be holding the game back. It simply lacks the bit of a Suarez special, and feels as though the team at Konami are running out of ideas on how to freshen the modes up. Master League returns and sees improvements at least, albeit minor. Still, taking a team of nobodies and making your way up the divisions is great and continues to be the best single player mode in any sport game I have played.
The standard kick-off and Become a Legend modes are as tiresome as a fat pug on a hot day, neither providing anything of substantial effort in any regard. Become a Legend needs a serious makeover, and soon or it’s going to be taken to the “farm”.
MyClub has stagnated over the past few years too. On the plus side, it’s easy to get a stacked team early on. Within one day I had Salah, Van Dijk, Aubameyang and a number of other top tier players in my side which is great to play with but does take away a lot of the team building excitement that should be part of the game. It also means that when you play online, you are immediately thrown into tough matches. Just about every single one of my opponents online had a version of Messi in it. The content flow is decent, giving new matchday modes and obtainable players through the week, but if your team is stacked already, is that going to keep you interested?
Therein lies the biggest problem with PES 21, it’s just more of the same. Yes, the gameplay is phenomenal, but if you spent the year playing PES 20 then there’s not a lot more going on this year to keep you coming back for more. Even after two weeks of the game I am struggling to commit to coming back for more on a daily basis (something its main competitor gets right with its new content). The gameplay is definitely enough for now, but will it be in a month or two? Long time fans of PES will certainly keep going, while others might feel a bit jaded.
The online functionality of PES has definitely improved over the years and I can comfortably say that PES 2021 is the smoothest online experience I have ever had in the history of PES. There are still some weird collision issues, and sometimes players are non-responsive, but this occurs infrequently. Playing online is great fun and even weaker players will be able to enjoy this given the new matchmaking options. If you have previously been too intimidated to play online, PES 21 is your time to try.
PES 2021 has also acquired some new licenses and every team that is officially licensed looks spectacular. If you know your kits, then you will appreciate what the team have done with Roma and their likenesses. For the unlicensed teams, I say it every year, PES option files (PS only) make this a complete non-issue. A credit to the content creators everywhere.
Overall, PES 21 sells itself as a season update and comes in at a cheaper price to boot. There is no hidden agenda, or feeling as though the devs just got lazy. PES 21 is a quality game and hopefully allows the team to create something even more special for the next-gen. For anyone who didn’t play PES 20, this is the perfect game to jump into and an ideal jumping-on point for anyone who wants to get into PES rather than another year of FIFA. For those that played PES 20 (and a lot of PES 20) then this might stagnate rather quickly and you may just want to update the roster in your existing game.
Last Updated: September 30, 2020