Pro Evolution Soccer is often the forgotten football game, due to the popularity and success of the FIFA franchise. But does it deserve to be forgotten about?
Overall, if you strip back the licenses and features and focus purely on the gameplay; it is head and shoulders above FIFA. In fact, it is often referred to as the paramount football experience available on console.
Simply, if you are looking for the headline features and the real licensed kits then FIFA is the game for you, but if you want the full gameplay experience and want to feel the aesthetically pleasing pass on your Cardmunch reviewed controller, then PES is the game for you.
Unlike FIFA, which uses glossy terminology and superstar power to sell their product, Pro Evolution thrives when it comes to pleasing its diehard fan base. There were early signs that PES’ ‘MyClub’ mode could have left FIFA’s ‘Ultimate Team’ trailing when David Beckham signed up to help PES bridge the gap. However, fans were left wondering of the real difference in PES 2019 compared to the year before, as visuals were just as pleasing, while match modes will also the same.
However, play the game for at least a few games and it is clear that the refinements made for the 2019 installation are much easier to see than the changes of their competitor. This is a football game of the finest on-pitch experience.
It is the little things that make Pro Evo addictive to play. The lifelike animations of Messi waltzing past an opposing defender or Virgil Van Dijk clearly winning a sliding tackle but taking the opposing player’s legs away from him; you can feel as the disposed attacker hits the floor. It is simply unmatched when you play a match of FIFA.
The improved animations lead to a better and more realistic experience. Albeit PES lacks the gloss of the licenses and stadium rights, but it is scary how good the series could be if they had these. Let’s not forget, the crown jewel in the Konami armory- The UEFA Champions League- has also now moved to FIFA, meaning that PES doesn’t offer very much in terms of real-life kits. However, once you have started a match and have passed the first ball, this is almost forgotten. You forget that you are playing as Man Blue and you feel like you are taking charge of the real, free-flowing Manchester City.
Passing is notably a lot better than it has been in the previous games, as is the movement by your teammates. There are very little feelings within a football game that are quite as satisfying as stringing together a fine and slick passing move from defense to attack, while the AI is smart enough to know exactly where the rest of your team needs to be. However, you also see yourself smashing the controller as one pass can aimlessly go out for a throw-in. This compared to FIFA is head and shoulders above, far too often in FIFA does every pass reach its mark, it’s almost as if they forget that professional players are in fact human and prone to a miss-placed pace from time-to-time, even Kevin De Bruyne.
Even when you’re out of possession, trying to get the ball back has an air of enjoyment about it. Jostling and timing a perfectly timed tackle is more realistic. The difference between players strength is more noticeable- as it should be. It goes without saying that a player like Vincent Kompany should be stronger than a small player like Juan Mata. This doesn’t come across on FIFA but PES excels. Not only this, but even the smaller players that are good at weaving through defenses using their technical skill are able to do this, Messi is able to skilfully deceive stronger players like Kompany and Van Dijk into making a tackle by using his flawless touch, before then using his low center of gravity to beat them. Only adding to the realistic element that the game offers.
Overall, you can do a lot worse than picking PES over FIFA. The game is full of beautiful touches, which see you sucked in, as you attempt to master the game. However, the same issues such as in-game variety see it suffer. It was only made worse with the UEFA license going to FIFA.
That being said, once you have started playing; you almost forget about all that and you are just immersed with the perfect on-pitch experience.
Visual journalist/Graduating student, University of Missouri-Columbia. Lover of everything in the gaming industry and an avid fan of all films!