eFootball PES 2020 Review
Reviewed on Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox One and PC
Same game, slightly different title. eFootball PES 2020 is on all the right paths to pipping FIFA to the post, but sadly still falls short in many ways.
For all Konami's efforts, PES 2020 does deliver an impressive football experience if only overlooked by its other failings. PES has struggled to catch up to FIFA for years and ultimately the focus needs to be on how it can get fans to make the transfer. Is this the year they do it? I have my doubts.
The gameplay on offer is beautiful - perhaps even it's best feature. PES 2020's player animations are joyous and as realistic as they come, unlike FIFA's players that will happily glitch out in order to complete an animation, no, PES offers more realism with a fluid motion in every pass and kick of the ball. Facing away from the goal and taking a shot? PES shows you what you would actually see if this happens and it is a real struggle. Equally the ball compliments the motion of the players and their actions as it feels incredibly realistic; in the way it both bounces and travels through the air. PES gives an accurate representation of a football match; down to the football scraps over possession, goalkeeper reflexes and the last ditch clearances of the ball.
PES 2020's controls are harder than expected to pick up and master; with sensitive passing and shooting, it certainly asks more of the player to get success. It does make for a more rewarding satisfaction when you do pull off a 30 yard screamer (there's actually a trophy for that). With the weight of passing being so sensitive it means the match's feel a lot slower but with the tempo very much in the hands of those in possession. PES 2020 offers a context-sensitive kick accuracy, meaning that the player's pass and shooting accuracy changes relative to the player's posture and the amount of pressure they're under.
Now supposedly, Andreas Iniesta consulted on the game - namely the dribbling feature. By the small chance that name means nothing to any readers, he is one of the greatest magicians (and by magicians I mean midfielders) of our generation. Dribbling is what I found most difficult, even with the more iconic dribblers of world football; Messi, Ronaldo, Hazard, Salah - I tried them all and it was consistently frustrating to dribble past players (even players that were not Virgil Van Dijk). I'm not saying that I expect to be able to dribble past players at leisure but it is part of football, the excitement of a 1 on 1 opportunity. It is sadly held back in this version and I hate to critique Iniesta but his involvement, if in fact it truly was in his control, has not done any favours to PES.
PES 2020 was disappointing in the same two areas that it has been for many years; commentary and replays. The commentary does not flow to naturally fit the game and the recorded dialogue isn't applied to the most suiting moments - perhaps this is the cost of not having set animations in place. The choice of Peter Drury as lead commentator is fine but does he really have to emphatically shout a player's name for every shot? It's like I'm rewatching the "AGUEROOOOOOOO" moment over and over. As for replays, well, no different to most previous versions, there is a replay for practically every stop in play and it is tiresome and actually quite contradictory of the fluidity match-gameplay can give.
Master League makes its expected return and for the most part; a welcome one. This year's version opts with a more story driven experience all beginning with your choice of manager. With what I assume is the same nostalgic 'legends' approach EA have made, PES 2020 is also on board, starting with legendary managers you can opt with, each with their own coffee-in-hand cutscenes of them running the club, owning press conferences and making key decisions. I opted with my all-time favourite left back Roberto Carlos but other big names like Maradona and Cruyff are also available.
Master League is essentially the game's main 'career' or 'campaign' mode and you are able to opt with your desired team, providing they are amongst the limited teams available. Setting up is fairly straight forward and players can dictate the leniency on transfer budget and objectives - naturally I opted with the biggest budget for my sparse Man United team and whilst I appreciate it was self-inflicted, I had £2.3 Billion available to spend, yes billion! I know football transfer fees are going crazy but we aren't there just yet. With £1.8 Billion in salary at my disposal the transfer market was pretty much free roam - very quickly I had a front free of Ronaldo, Neymar and Messi. My point is, regardless of the budget being in your control, if funds are going to be virtually unlimited then it should take more effort to secure the players; contracts, bonuses, clauses. Counter-act the lack of realism in budget with realistic contract talks.
The most popular mode in PES, MyClub makes its obvious return in PES 2020. Given that it is Konami's answer to FUT in that it is a sure money-maker, MyClub was always going to be a focal point. MyClub is slightly less cynical than FUT however, giving players a look at what players are obtainable in each pack and the odds of obtaining each quality of player. MyClub carries all the same traits and purpose as FUT and ultimately is a pay-to-play mode - one benefit that can come from Konami's lack of player depth due to licensing is that it must mean better odds of obtaining those big names, surely?
PES 2020 carries it's usual modes still; Kick Off, Become a Legend, Edit Mode. One mode that is perhaps the key reason behind this version's full title 'eFootball PES 2020' (everyone is still going to call it PES) is the eFootball mode - which is basically just online versus mode (Seasons to the FIFA fans out there). The rules are simple, you win and you move up and towards higher divisions, you lose and you go down. The mode does what it says on the tin and with a courtesy rating for each player it deters rage-quitting for those sore losers.
Graphically PES 2020 is stunning, the pitches and stadium have improved and some of the players, namely it's coverstars; Messi and Ronaldo, are simply exquisite, perhaps as close to real as we've seen yet. Sadly I think Konami used up all their budget on a handful of players and forgot about the others because for as impressive as Ronaldo is, the rest of the Portuguese team look like they've been smacked around with lumps and jagged edges to show for it. Inconsistency in appearances take away the praise Konami deserve.
PES 2020 have stepped it up this year in terms of licensing; they have added to Barcelona in their partnering roster with Manchester United, Bayern Munich and Juventus all joining - the latter being an exclusive to PES 2020 meaning FIFA will not be able to use the same name. Licensing is an important part of making a football game feel real and this is perhaps as far forward as PES have ever been with it, albeit still lightyears behind rivals FIFA. PES 2020 have made efforts to make the names of unlicensed clubs more accurate, for example London FC are now Chelsea B. But one thing still eludes the success and stature of this game because of licensing issues, and I found it was something that affected various modes, is the lack of player depth because their respective teams simply were not on the game.
PES 2020 is on the verge of brilliance, desperately clinging on to the rivalry but with a new generation of consoles looming, PES needs to find that injury-time winner and fix its repetitive issues. The football is realistic, the animation is seamless but for every brilliant new or existing part of PES, it is matched by something equally frustrating and nonsensical which is why it still falls short of its rival.