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Playing is Believing: eFootball PES 2020 review

You know once the premier league kicks off, it won’t be long before the football games come rolling in. It also isn’t long before I get a swift reminder of how terrible I am at them. It doesn’t stop me playing them though and we’ve been fortunate enough to get our hands on the latest instalment to Konami’s PES series, which has been rebranded, eFootball PES 2020.

Last year’s instalment saw some massive improvements as Konami strived to up their game and compete with their main rival, EA’s FIFA series. And this year they have looked to rebuild eFootball PES 2020 from the ground up in order to claim the top spot. But, will all their acquisitions of licences for new leagues and big teams be the only thing to do the talking? Or will the gameplay have a few things to say as well? Let’s find out.

Ronaldinho makes an appearance in eFootball PES 2020
Ronaldinho makes an appearance as one of the Legend players in myClub mode

Where should we kick-off? How about we start with the matters off the pitch. As mentioned above, there have been a whole host of leagues and teams that eFootball PES 2020 has signed licences with this year. They’ve retained teams like Barcelona and Bayern Munich, as well as leagues such as the Bundesliga, and captured new teams like Manchester United and probably the biggest coup, Juventus, meaning for the first time in decades, they will not be included in the next instalment of FIFA. However, they have also lost licences for teams like Champion’s of Europe, Liverpool FC.

Fortunately, Konami has dealt with the blow of losing teams such as Liverpool in a relatively clever way. Fans of the series, especially fans of old, will remember top teams such as Merseyside Red and Manchester Blue. All these teams have now been rebranded to more closely match their actual names. So instead of Merseyside Red, you have Liverpool R, but the kits and badges remain the same. They don’t have to be though, because Konami’s edit mode in eFootball PES 2020 is more customisable than ever, and allows you to upload teams, kits, leagues and even partnered logos onto your custom kits. So, as soon as someone bothers to put a premier league patch together, you can easily upload and have everything just as it’s meant to be.

As well as making an appearance in-game, Iniesta has also been an integral part of the development

Whilst off the pitch matters look to have improved, what’s waiting pitchside? Well, the famous Master League mode is back, and it’s bigger and better than ever. Take control of your club like never before with a new interactive dialogue system where every choice you make has consequences, impacting everything from your fan base to the club’s stature. Get it right and you’ll take your club to the pinnacles of world football, get it wrong and well, it’s probably evidence to why you’re not a football manager in real life.

Another returning mode to eFootball PES 2020 is the popular myClub mode, which is similar to FIFA’s Ultimate Team mode. Create a club, hire a manager, sign players and go an compete with other player’s teams from around the world. Whilst much hasn’t changed with this mode, there have been some minor tweaks, such as the player’s stats screen, which is now a little easier to read and compare players. There is also the introduction of National Players being introduced, which may not sound big, but they may have better stats than their club counterpart if they’ve been on form internationally, but dropping said form when playing in domestic competitions.

Among the returning faces, there is also a new kid on the block in the form of Matchday mode. This newcomer looks to divide gamers by having you pick a side when it comes to some of the biggest matches the footballing world has to offer. Whether it be El Classico or the Old Firm derby, players will pick a side to represent. Gamers will then play against the opposition to earn points for their chosen team in two stages, the group stage and the grand final. The side who win the group stage will go into the grand final with an advantage, where the best representatives of each team will face off against each other and have their game live-streamed on the Matchday mode feed. Everyone who takes part gets prizes, but the better spoils go to the victor of these ferocious battles.

Maradonna makes a guest appearance in eFootball PES 2020
It may look like his solicitor is telling him to deny all the drug charges against him, but Maradona is just here for footballing reasons…honest.

Now for where the real business happens, on the pitch. For me, PES has always been more about the beautiful game, keeping gameplay nice and simple, whereas FIFA in the mid-noughties began to overcomplicate things introducing things like in-game skills that you only ever see being performed by freestylers. And for this reason, I’ve always preferred the gameplay of PES. But with their systems being revamped, I was worried that Konami may have moved away from the ideals they’ve always been true to.

Enlisting the help of Andres Iniesta to develop the game in a way where the mechanics felt natural, eFootball PES 2020 actually feels like the best game I’ve played in the series since, well, forever. His main input was in implementing the new Finesse Dribbling system that allows people to truly see the separation between player and ball and also helped Konami win best sports game at E3 this year. But that’s not the only change to gameplay.

Another feature that has been introduced is improved mechanics when it comes to player interaction with the ball. Normally, you can hit a ball from anywhere and score an absolute worldy. Now, however, if your player is off balance, or hits the ball at the wrong moment as he’s running with the ball, you can end up sending the ball into the top corners of the stand instead of the net. This also works in reverse as players can make mistakes as balls come to them with too much power and they lose control, allowing the opposition to capitalise and punish you. Improved interaction also comes into play with other players too, with more realistic reactions as players collide with each other, and the ability to dive and deceive the referee (it had to be included when you have player’s like Messi I guess).

One reason Arsenal have been partnered and not Manchester City is because it’d look silly to populate empty stadiums on match days

The most impressive feature of the game’s mechanics though is the realism not just of the players, but the ball as well. Depending on the positioning and power you apply, the ball moves realistically along the blades of grass that make up the holy turf of each ground you visit. This may not sound that spectacular, but once you see it, you’ll understand what I mean. Previously balls tended to go from point A to B in straight lines, even when they’re lofted over the top, but now the ball curls off as it would in real life slowing down and angling away as the ball loses momentum. It truly is the most realistic I’ve seen a football game.

The only downside really to eFootball PES 2020 isn’t even a fault with the game itself, it’s the fact that we’re still yet to see it come to a Nintendo console. They made a smart move a couple of years back focusing on developing a PC version, rather than doing the normal port over of a console version and it made the series more popular amongst PC gamers. But with Switch fans being annoyed that once again FIFA has overlooked the console for a full release in favour for a restricted version, I feel that this could’ve been something Konami could have capitalised on, but alas, it’s not to be. But who knows what the future holds.

Messi new player model in eFootball PES 2020
He may be Messi, but the new player models look clean and detailed

Even after completing the skills training that helps players adapt to eFootball PES 2020, I still suck really bad. But even though I suck, I can’t help but feel this is hands down the best football game I have played for many years. Konami has captured some really big names with the licensing, and they’ve developed the game in a way where it feels more realistic than ever before. They’ve managed to keep things nice and simple, with that classic PES feel, whilst fine-tuning all the good work they’ve been doing over the previous years, to the point that I now think they could well and truly be challenging FIFA for that most coveted top spot. It may not necessarily win people over right away, but I think once gamers get a taste, they will soon think twice about what title they’ll be buying in the future.

93%

The TL;DR:

  • New licences with some of the biggest names in world football;
  • Master League and myClub return, with the new Matchday mode, also being introduced;
  • Improved player models and pitch rendering;
  • More realistic gameplay mechanics make this the most realistic football game we’ve ever played.

Konami’s eFootball PES 2020 is available now on PC, PS4 and Xbox One. You can find more details about the game on the official website HERE.

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