Pro Evolution soccer is here once again, and with it, so begins the biggest gaming rivalry outside of console fans. Every year, the biggest rivalries on the pitch are emulated the world over by fans of the 2 big football games, and every year there is the ongoing debate as to which is better. FIFA or PES? With the latter taking the first shot, here’s my full PES 2019 review to see if it’s hitting the back of the net.

With updates to the graphics, player actions and the game options, Konami have really made some steps forward this year. Many that I have really enjoyed during my review.

Then there is the inevitable discussion as to whether PES can compete with Fifa at all, due to licensing. But the sheer quality of this year’s effort may just hold the answer…

How does PES 2018 play?

PES, for me, is the definitive experience of ‘team football’ and has been since its release. With PES 2019, this year is no different. a more accessible tactics system allows you to play your team how you want.

The best way I can explain this, is that I play possession football, so I select the tactics menu, change my passing style to short passing, my tactics to Tiki-Taka, and boom, that strategy is on from kick-off, rather than having to activate it mid game.

meaning my players immediately move to expect a short pass, and move to receive the next ball as I pass from one to another.

The individuals in the team

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Moving on to the players themselves, there have been some big improvements this year on the unique feeling of each player. Particularly those with key traits like how leaders in the team effect players around them and how forwards react to playmakers on the pitch.

When My captain was not a ‘leader’ I felt things going wrong, and I could see from the lack of shape in my team that the players were feeling this lack of leadership, as soon as I signed a player with this quality, I suddenly saw a change in how efficiently my shape was kept!

Generally, the players feel quicker this year, but without reaching arcade levels of speed. Players also seem more intelligent in this outing.

Earlier I touched on how your team reacts to you, well the AI does too, so I set up Tiki-Taka, and after dominating possession for a bit the AI gets players behind the ball, trying for the counter-attack, there is also a lot more time-wasting by the AI in the lead, which is a nice, realistic touch

Within the 90mins

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Into the game itself, you know this is a true example of PES football at it’s best. There is so much to enjoy about the simulation style of play that really makes each match feel unique. players affect this but so does the environment you play in.

The pitch itself and the weather conditions around you really does affect the flow of play, with the weather changing how the ball rolls and bounces. The wear and tear the grass takes during the match is visible and affects the play as the ball bobbles and sticks.

Then ball may bounce on that through ball, or if the lofted pass you made sticks, players have to react to that, and suddenly slipping and sliding can lead to goal scoring opportunities for your opponents, but can also give you an edge when needed.

Free kicks and corners can be aimed much like the previous iteration, but with more control on ball flight using the sticks mid-kick, you can bend it like… well… you-know-who.

Overall, PES is fluid and positive. The gameplay never makes you lean on the best-rated players, although you can do that too.

Presentation and Graphics

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PES has had a graphics update this year, and my oh my, isn’t it pretty! Kit design, pitch textures, improved menus, all got the right kind of tweak. The updates to the menus are both simple easy to understand. Returning and new players will benefit greatly from this because it’s not always been so clear with PES.

The presentation of the stadiums, sounds of the crowd really do get you feeling the big game. Plus, the player animations are once again highly detailed with even more player actions added this time around.

It’s all very smooth too with the flow of players and the game moving seamlessly together. This is even more evident in the classic, detailed replays you can view and see every movement blend into the last.

The sole complaint I have about this side of PES is an annoying commentary system.

Many of the sound bites are the same as the previous year, with some of the more generically repeated nonsense coming from Jim Beglin. So bad is the commentary, and the overhangs from last year in that respect, it genuinely led to me ranting to a friend about it.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the other sound choices, menu transitions and music are all good. But it just seems we are destined to have bad commentary in PES, no matter the quality of the rest of the game.

Main Features

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So far I have said nothing about licenses… this big one where PES struggles to compete with FIFA. Well, PES 2019 adds a number of real leagues this year with Russian, Scottish, Turkish and Swiss among the additions.

There is still the lack of a full German League, and the non-licensed English and Spanish Leagues are a slight down-note. The game doesn’t suffer in terms of play, but with the loss of the Champions League licence there is a lot less official detail from the bigger competitions.

Editing team names and kits are still possible, plus there is the whole option file system that allows people to customise the game however they like. It’s not quite the full package, however.

Game Modes

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The leagues, cups and friendly matches are still here as ever but with a few tweaks. There is the random selection mode, which is either your favourite mode on the game or you keep getting whomped. Either way, it is fun.

Then there is the Become a Legend focusing as usual on an individual player. MyClub which has taken a number of updates and changes. Plus, the PES fan favourite, Master League. This also comes with a new set of features this year.

As ever in Master league, you take charge of a team and build them to dominate the competition. You take charge of contractual talks in a more hands-on way, you sign youth players, play pre-season, become an international manager (if you choose) and play some of the biggest names in the sport.

You won’t see the Champions League (another license thing, but not the end of the world) but there are new leagues, the menus are visually adjusted, there is an animated news ‘clip’ they use now, which is a nice touch, giving the website vibe of the presentation a bit more of a genuine look.

Transfers can be tweaked on a sliding bar, and money can now be allocated on in-comings for either transfer funds or wage, allowing a much easier time of building from youth.

MyClub is what it was last year, but with all the same tweaks to tactics, also both this mode and the traditional multiplayer have streamlined match finding menus, with tournaments and entry times much more clearly shown, than on previous iterations.

Whilst become a legend is more the traditional ‘be a pro’ then FIFA’s story mode, I think it’s simplicity is its strength, with transfer talks having the same tweaks as the season, and there being more countries in which to play means you probably won’t have the same experience twice.

In fact, most of PES’s modes got that little tweak from what was a great game last year, to an even greater one, this year.

Oh, and if you still need convincing, local multiplayer, and the now famed ‘Random selection mode’ is just about the best time you can have because it removes picking just the best players on the game and gives you a reason to keep coming back.

There are arguments here that revolve around the licensing. But with the updates and quality of options in PES 2019, it really doesn’t matter so much.

Should You Play PES 2019?

PES 2019 Review - Legendary Rating

PES is gorgeous, it plays amazingly well and there is so much to do with the updated modes. Frankly, the fact that the only fault I can genuinely agree to in this game is the commentary, that fact is incredible. The licencing is something that will put off some, but for me personally, everything else makes up for it.

To put it into perspective, I started a Master League as Blackburn, picked my tactics, and then went about signing players. In pre-season I drew against Paris Saint Germain, Neymar on a Fifa game would have made that impossible. But I stuck to my game plan and got a draw, and that to me summarises that whilst definitely challenging: PES is fair.

This year proves that not only can PES compete with Fifa, regardless of Licensing, it’s set the standard for FIFA to beat. And I’m not sure it will.

Gamers who will suit this game…

If you like sports, football specifically, and are on the fence about PES, this is the year to take the leap. If you played PES previously, it’s as good as ever, with some fantastic updates to the game that really make it a more in-depth experience.


The GoodThe BadThe Bugs
Graphics overhaulCommentaryNone experienced
Tactics overhaulLack of licences 
More Teams than ever  

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About This PES 2019 Review

Game Reviewed: Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 digital edition, provided by the publisher.
Review Format: Xbox One
PEGI Rating: 3

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