Don’t call it a comeback, it’s been here for years. Pro Evo (I’ll never surrender) between the white lines has been the better game of football for many years despite playing second fiddle to it’s wealthy competitor. Can PES 2019 draw some of its lost fans back into its grateful outstretched arms?
On the pitch it really should be able to claw it’s prodigal customers back. I’ll get this out of the way right from the jump: PES 2019 is the best installment in the series since the glorious Pro Evo 5 way back in the PS2 era. The jump to PS3/Xbox 360 wasn’t kind to Pro Evo at the time and it has never really recovered. This years title makes a great attempt to reclaim its youth.
There’s no getting around the barrier to entry here for the casual audience. As is tradition, a lot of Kits and Club names are not licenced. Some customers simply won’t go along with that. FIFA has done such a great job of having officially licenced Stadia for your officially licenced Clubs to have their players run around in while wearing their officially licenced kits, officially.
These things are easily edited but most people don’t have the patience for that. They want to play the North London Derby with correct kits in whichever of the three stadiums Spurs are officially licenced to play in these days. Sure, it’s not without some authenticity. Barcelona vs Atletico is a thing, as is Liverpool vs Arsenal but outside of that you’ll need to edit “Man Red” to Manchester United for example.
Like life, when you look past a superficial exterior you are rewarded with true beauty and character. If 80s movies have taught my generation anything it’s that the girl with the tied up hair and oversized glasses is most likely an absolute stunner. The type of lady that even Scarlett Johansson would feel self conscious around. Scarlett likely wouldn’t walk down the street beside her. She’s fearful of others comparing her looks to that of the girl with the new contacts and free flowing hair. Crashed cars filled with open jawed, horrendously injured drivers litter the streets as she walks by. PES 2019 is a bit like that.
PES 2019 plays a hell of a game of football and in it’s 4K HDR setting on Xbox One X it really is a visual treat. The control you have over passes is a delight. Shots never feel like pre-planned events like in FIFA. Here there’s beauty in the anticipation. The referees don’t seem to break up play for free kicks very often so it flows brilliantly. It offers this years PES an extra layer of physicality missing from FIFA and the stop-start nature of the real game of football.
The goalkeepers are much improved from last year and react on the fly to deflections. The ball physics are the best I have seen in any sports game, nothing touches it. The ball is as much a character in the game as the players are. Learning how to master this is the real joy here.
If I could offer a quick example of the above all coming together it would be the following. I had a free kick that was headed for the goalkeepers near post. It came off of the head of a defender in the wall and deflected towards the centre of the goalmouth. The goalie had started to move towards the corner. He stuck out a leg to stop the shot which sent the ball towards his opposite post.
The ball spun out towards the onrushing striker who poked it towards the goal only to see it stopped by the goalie who had gotten up, rushed toward the danger and pulled off the classic Peter Schmeichel starfish save. Arms and legs outstretched, the ball hit his shoulder and went out for a corner. Magic, all rendered in 4K with HDR to make it all pop. That doesn’t happen in other sports games let alone it’s great competitor.
PES 2019 is a truly excellent football sim but suffers the same fate as that famous tree that once fell in the woods. There has been little to no hype or promotion for it and this has resulted in a 42% year on year drop in launch weekend boxed sales from it’s 2017 opening weekend. A percentage fall like that cannot be brushed aside as a result of people migrating to a digital only future. Migration percentages are far, far lower than that. A 42% drop is catastrophic when you consider that Konami gave it a one month head start on FIFA 19 and a video games lifetime sales peak happens during its launch week or weekend.
With Konami seemingly disinterested in using it’s major franchises for anything other that colourful backdrops for its gambling machines in Japan, I fear the worst. Pro Evo, PES, Winning Eleven or whatever you choose to call it was dying a slow and painful death. Now, it may have suddenly been given it’s last rites just as it shows signs of life. Konami hastily added a free-to-play version of last year’s game onto digital store fronts in an effort to drum up interest. Maybe the signs were there a year ago.
If there isn’t a huge uptick in sales I can see this being the last PES. What a horrible world that could be. Support it, go out and try it. You won’t regret it! 4 Meltzers!