It’s early days to judge PES 2020 – or to give its new (awful) full name “eFootball PES 2020.” The online functions have just gone live, the squad updates only release later today, and a lot of the matchday live options are still to be fully realised. For those reasons, this review-in-progress will focus on gameplay, aesthetics and offline options, before a more conclusive review next week.
In the past few years, it’s easy to see how PES has evolved. For a franchise that has always claimed that “gameplay is king.” The key focus has been on ensuring the ultimate footballing experience when taking to the field. PES 2020 follows along similar lines in this regard. Last year’s first-touch control mechanic has been tweaked to make even the subtlest of touches with the ball more precise, often proving the difference when attempting to create space for the perfect pass or shot.
Finesse dribbling joins the armoury, and while it is difficult to master its effects are clear to see when pulled off correctly (with the caveat of this being against AI and not human controlled players). The ability to tap the right stick in different directions and in a variety of combinations keeps attacking play fluid and controlled. Precision control makes keeping the ball in tighter areas much more intuitive, especially when surrounded by defenders with no easy way to progress. It means that players like Gini Wijnaldum and David Silva are as playable as ever, utilising their strength in those situations and creating space for other players to run through and continue the attack.
Crossing and heading feel more realistic while player movement from your own AI seems to have improved drastically compared to some of the unbearable movement in PES 19. The biggest improvement has come with passing and shooting, where players need to ensure correct body positioning to pull off the best pass or shot that they can. Players need to be more precise and more aware of which way a player is facing, and where they want to play the ball. For example, it’s impossible to have your back to goal and turn and shoot in one instance – this will likely end in a shot going wide of the mark. Similarly, with passing, if you are in a position whereby a pass would be difficult to play, you will struggle to hit the mark, your pass will go awry, lose power or end up going straight to an opponent. While this adds more realism to the flow of the game, it can prove frustrating too. It’s a matter of adjusting, but there are noticeable times where my players appear to be in the perfect position for a shot or pass only for it to go in the complete wrong place to where I am aiming. I also haven’t noticed any discernible difference in the way players make these passes based on their specific abilities.
A lot of this might have to do with the new “stadium” camera setting introduced into the game which shows the match from a similar angle to what you see when watching pro football. The camera pans across depending on where the action moves, and this creates better angles and vision across the match, but also goes against what you might be used to. Attacking situations seem to have received the most work. The slightly slower pace of the game adds to this as you attempt to penetrate through an opposing team by being patient and playing sensible football for the most part, before bursting into life down one of the wings, cutting in and doing what Salah does best.
Defensive aspects of the game don’t seem to have received quite as much love. On the positive side, you can no longer spam the tackle button to the degree where your player will pressurise an attacking player until winning the ball. On defence, you need to be a bit more measured, but not to the degree where it feels like a massive change in skill. Defending, at times, feels like it lacks true control as you miss tackles that seem simple, make tackles that seem unlikely and often find your players “stuck” in a position or animation where you need them to be a bit quicker to react. I have experienced this with some of the top players in the game and is not rating related. Sometimes players completely miss the ball coming to them, failing to react until too late. Offensive AI players make runs which see your players left for dirt as you try to get them in place following a ridiculously perfect chipped through ball from the AI midfielder. It’s unfortunate that the balance of control that is evident in attack, seems to be bypassed in defence.
In terms of aesthetics and the menus, the less said the better. Last year I moaned about how unintuitive and aesthetically unpleasant the menus are, and nothing has changed this year. They are clunky, confusing and horrible to navigate, although they do seem a bit faster in transition. While the soundtrack has increased in number, the songs are not great and are unlikely to find their way onto your Spotify playlist. If it’s even possible, commentary is worse than ever; often disjointed and lifeless, while the stadium and crowd sounds are oddly dull and even the ref’s whistle sounds completely out of place. At one point I thought it was one of my kids blowing on those cheap plastic toy whistles. The excellent facial likenesses make up for some of the let down in other aspects, players look uncannily like the real players, but that doesn’t feel like it’s quite enough anymore.
Master League has seen several “quality of life” changes with things like cutscenes and dialogue options. In truth, I have already started skipping these as they feel pointless and have little impact on your players or the game. Master League has seen improvements in its menus to a small degree, while more control over managing your club has been added in terms of your budget and aspirations per season. Signing new players has been fixed so that it’s not totally unrealistic, but the cap on how many players you can negotiate with at one time is still there, and that feels particularly archaic. While Master League was promised lots of updates and changes, it appears to be remarkably unchanged in most aspects. A refresh is sorely needed.
Other offline modes include the generic kick-off modes and the dated Become a Legend mode, neither having added any noticeable aspect to it. While Konami proudly announced the acquisition of exclusive rights to the Juventus license, and added Bayern Munich and Man United to their licensing options, the rest of the missing licenses remain an eyesore until you update with an option file (on PC and PS4 at least – sorry Xbox owners).
Last Updated: September 12, 2019