eFootball PES 2020 full review

Pro Evo is back, and it’s now called eFootball PES 2020 – not something you’re going to find said out loud in full by anyone any time soon, frankly.

What you will find in full is Manchester United. The club has signed a long-term partnership with Konami following the loss of Liverpool FC image rights, and PES 2020 will be the first game to feature an incredibly detailed Old Trafford, first team player likenesses and playable MUFC Legends.

PES plays second fiddle to EA Sports’ FIFA series when it comes to licensing. It used to boast Champions League rights, but even that is now gone to FIFA. With Man Utd, FC Barcelona remains as eFootball PES 2020’s only other major club partnership. Messi will grace the cover, with MUFC PES ambassador Scott McTominay in some regions.

PES 2020 (I can’t keep saying eFootball, sorry) will launch on 10 September 2019 on PS4, Xbox One and PC via Steam from around £47.99 / $59.99

Tech Advisor was at the launch of the game at United’s Carrington training ground to go hands on with the game to see what’s new and whether the realistic gameplay is enough to convince us it’s a football game that really can compete with FIFA 20.

In adding the eFootball prefix, Konami is hoping to further associate PES with competitive eSports. It has realised it cannot win the sales war with FIFA, nor the licensing war, so instead this rebrand is aimed at encouraging a specific and large audience to engage with the game.

At the launch event PES representatives explained how this is currently being pursued beyond existing organised PES competitions such as eFootball Pro. It’s basically a nod to the wider community that Konami is taking eSports seriously and will continue to support it.  

Another link is the new Matchday game mode which I unfortunately could not play in my time with the game. It lets you pick a side and earn points in weekly events. In a nod to the eSports aspect, winners of such events will be able to compete in a live streamed weekly final.

The game promises an updated Master League with legendary players Johan Cruyff and Diego Maradona as managers. It adds a more immersive transfer system and better cut scenes – a whiff of The Journey from FIFA about it, but good to see nonetheless.

In the hands-on I could only play as Manchester United or the PES Legends teams, which was frustrating, but at least you can finally play as actual United, not the fabled Man Red of PES gone by.

The match ups were a little unbalanced – a front line of Maradona, Cruyff and Ronaldinho left Chris Smalling and Ashley Young huffing and puffing somewhat, and in the four matches I played quite a few goals were scored.

One of the first things you’ll notice is a new default camera angle. It’s a little lower and makes the field of view a little flatter but it didn’t take long to get used to in order to adjust direction of pass.

One annoying thing though is its attempts to ape an actual camera man means in quick counter attacks the view lags behind the play like a slow real person behind the lens might. Realistic maybe, but it got a tad tiresome not being able to see your running players.

A new finesse dribble technique uses the right analogue stick in tandem with the left, for closer control than ever. Apparently, Konami consulted with Andres Iniesta to make sure it is true to life, and if it isn’t quite that then it’s certainly better than before.

PES has always flown the flag for realistic gameplay – it isn’t necessarily more realistic than FIFA, but it does feel more fluid. I found that for every runner I couldn’t catch I could also thread amazing pinpoint through balls to my forwards. I like a great pass, but I’m hoping it isn’t too easy in the final game to split open defences.

To that point, movement off the ball is still excellent and is an aspect of PES I always enjoy. Cutting off your mate’s pass with a well-timed run feels doable here rather than a result of a misplaced pass.

Players react more realistically to the ball too, allowing me to run in and take the ball off a stunned AI (or vice versa, to be honest). It means that tackling is pretty rough and ready compared to the last few versions, but in a good way – OK, so it’s still hard to tackle the PES Legends team because they’re all 90 points plus, but it’s not like FIFA 19 where we found a lot of top players impossible to tackle at times.

You can also indulge in intentional fouling to take down the last man and take one for the team. Maradona was less than happy when my Phil Jones clattered into him with not so much as a yellow as the consequence.

Early verdict

I had a lot of fun in my short time with PES 2020. It’s a fast paced, potentially high-scoring set up of a football sim that has to deflect attention away from its lack of licensing by changing its name and sticking Messi on the cover.

But if you are all in on the realistic gameplay then PES is still very good. The player reactions to play, ability to force mistakes with pressure and new camera angle give the game a slew of small but noticeable improvements that should make it worth the asking price.