There’s been a bit of resurgence for the once universally-loved (then mocked) Pro Evolution Soccer (PES) series. After gaining considerable ground on nearest rival FIFA in recent years, last year’s PES 2018 took a sort of side-step as opposed to finally leaping ahead. But that’s in the past, as the PES 2019 demo is available, and early indications are looking very bright for the inconsistent franchise from Konami.
First and foremost, how does it play? Because personally, that’s what should matter when playing a football game. Looks and presentation are important too (more on that later) but if it plays terribly, it’s not worth your money. And I am pleased to say that initial plays of the demo are very positive indeed.
Matches feel like their real-life counterparts, mostly. Passing is incredibly smooth if done correctly. The ball has a very defined weight to it. Short, sharp passes on X feel light and quick, whereas longer held presses of X genuinely feel like hard kicks, moving the ball further afield at pace. If you pass to a teammate who’s only a few feet away and hold X for all its worth, just like in real life, you’ll twat the ball against his shins, losing control. As a veteran player of the PES series I got used to this quickly, however newbies might need a few games to familiarise themselves.
Shooting as well is fair and balanced. Screamers from 30 yards once again look like they’ll be few and far between in your games, but to be honest that’s how they really should be. Basically it looks like it’ll be down to making sure you’re hitting the ball with a player who can leather one in from distance in real life. Conversely, your Suarez’s and Griezmann’s will slot one-on-ones in with no trouble, so it’s an agreeable trade-off.
However, a fault that has seemingly not been addressed from last year is that of the goalkeepers. Wildly inconsistent, they still seemingly make daft decisions on a whim. In one game I played a Milan derby as Inter, and took the lead pretty much straight away after a tame header was parried out by the com-controlled Milan goalkeeper right back into my path for an easy tap-in. I eventually won 3-0 without a fuss. On the contrary, in another game as Barcelona versus a com-controlled Liverpool, I only won 1-0 because Loris Karius had somehow become not Loris Karius and was almost unbeatable between the sticks. Still, nobody shuts out Lionel Messi when he’s playing for Barca, as the world’s best defender Dejan Lovren got turned like a page before I buried a chance in the first half coolly.
Unbeatable as he may have been, Karius and everyone in the licensed teams available to play looked absolutely incredible. It almost lapses into cliché but PES is getting scarily good at creating lifelike footballers on consoles. Everybody looks like their real-life counterparts. However, I said licensed teams, as it’ll be interesting to see how players look for the numerous unlicensed teams on the game this year (and there are many). Images of a forlorn and haunted-looking Kolo Toure from PES 2014 still spring to mind years later. Here’s hoping due care and attention is given to the players of our Merseyside Blue and West Yorkshire Whites as well as our Barcelonas and AC Milans.
UI looks pretty uninspiring too. Menus and bars look pretty much like they’ve been imported right from PES 2018, not inspiring much confidence for when the full game is released on August 28th. A lack of polish could be PES’ downfall for another year to the wider market.
That being said, it is only a demo and I feel there is enough here to justify buying PES 2019 and keep me onside for another year. Whether it’s enough to win over the FIFA faithful however is another matter altogether. Check back on the site in the coming weeks for a full review of PES 2019.