Each and every year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for sports games to raise the bar in terms of gameplay.  After all, there’s only so much innovation one can come up with, especially with our beloved football.  As a result, it gets to the stage that only subtle tweaks can be made here and there, and in truth, it’s been that way in recent years for both the Pro Evolution Soccer and the FIFA series.  Though at this stage, that’s all we can really ask for, especially as there’s little to complain about in terms of gameplay, regardless of which of the two football franchises you passionately support.  However this year, it seems that Konami has really tried to push the boat out with this PES instalment, not only with its core gameplay, but also its modes and overall visual presentation with its User Interface, making the game much more easier on the eye.  Konami have even been more aggressive this year with the official licences, which includes acquiring exclusive rights to Italian giants, Juventus, forcing FIFA 20 to use a fake team name and kit.

I don’t want bore you with all the fancy jargon that the publishers come up with every year about how the ball moves more realistically then ever or that the players have real emotions on the pitch, because we hear the same corporate spiel with every new release.  But with this year’s PES, now known as eFootball PES 2020, that corporate spiel is truer than ever, especially with how the ball moves.  Unless you’re very skilled, you can’t just ping the ball about at any pace and at any angle, as more than ever, you have to take into account not only the body positioning of the player with the ball, but also the player that you aim to receive the ball.  Otherwise you will increase your chances of making a wayward pass, which of course affects your passing accuracy and the player receiving the ball, might struggle to take control.  The same applies when making an unmeasured popshot at goal, because if you shoot with no measure of composure, you could very well end up blasting the ball wide, over the ball or give the ball away to the opposition for a punishing counter-attack.

The ball mechanics and the added factor of player positioning, just makes you play at a more calculated pace and precision.  It might take a little while to get used to, but as a result, PES 2020 plays at more of a realistic pace than it ever has in recent years.  Now of course it’s all personal preference and many will still prefer the quicker, arcade style that this series was once known for.  However for me, this is how I want my football videogame to be played and I couldn’t be happier, as both a life-long PES and FIFA fan.  The football just feels so good, it’s quite hard to explain without you experiencing it first-hand, but the developers have achieved something quite special with how it feels when passing the ball around the pitch.  Somehow, they’ve made you feel the weight of the ball with every short or long pass, and there’s not much more satisfying when scoring a screamer from long-distance, especially now that the goalkeeping AI has been vastly improved upon this year.

Visually, PES 2020 isn’t leaps and bounds above last year’s game, but it’s still quite stunning, especially in 4K and there seems to be more player likenesses too.  But as with FIFA, there are still plenty of generic looking players to fill in the gaps that look nothing like who they supposed to be.  However, throughout the season, the developers will continually update the game with player likenesses and what not.  I know we could say “well it should be in the game to begin with” and in most cases that would be a fair statement, but it’s also fair to consider that the football world has a massive pool of 1000’s of players which are constantly changing with transfers and what not, so you’ll be forgiven in giving football games some slack in this respect.

One major issue that many fans rightly have with the PES series is the official licensing and while it’s by no means perfect this year, Konami has covered more ground.  Granted we only get Arsenal and Manchester United as the two only officially licensed English teams and Barcelona as the only officially licensed Spanish team, but we do have an officially licensed Italian Serie A, which includes exclusive rights to Juventus, the French Ligue 1, the Dutch Eredivisie league, the Portuguese Liga NOS and much more.  Heck, we’ve even got German giants Bayern Munich back this year, though we sadly have no Bundesliga.  Even with the unofficial names, Konami has made more of an effort with the likes of Chelsea being known as Chelsea B, instead of North East London or Tottenham being called Tottenham WB instead of North East London.  Even my beloved Aston Villa are called Aston RB, rather than West Midlands Village.  So if you take advantage of the improved in-game editor, it should be much easily identifying which team are which, regardless of the league.  You can check out all the official and unofficial teams/competitions here.

In terms of modes, PES 2020 has plenty to offer, though I still can’t help but miss the UEFA competitions such as the Champions and EUROPA League which were lost to the FIFA series last year.  Thankfully we still have various league and tournaments available worldwide, as well as skill/training modes, and the likes of MyClub and the Master League “remastered” this year.  If you don’t already know, MyClub is PES’ answer to the Ultimate Team money spinner from the FIFA series.  MyClub offers you the chance to assemble your own dream team with great players from the modern day and legends of yesteryear, as you aim to bring together a team with a perfect chemistry.  Of course with a mode such as this one, it very much entices microtransactions and it would be easy to give into the temptation to spend a little extra money on your dream team.

However, you can easily acquire currency from playing the online and offline MyClub events on offer, and you’ll get the usual login bonuses too.  I’m never too keen on these modes, but from what I can remember from last year’s game, it does seem easier this year to earn in-game credits and the drop-rate of randomised players from the loot box inspired mechanics seems more generous.  Maybe this is Konami’s way of trying to get ahead of all the recent loot box controversy, by attempting to find some form of compromise?  Personally, I’d much prefer to have no loot box inspired mechanics to begin with and it would be great to play a competition with the aim of unlocking a specific player, but it will be interesting to see where we’re at with next year’s PES instalment in this respect.

Back in the early days of the PES series, I used to love the Master League; however, that’s not been the case in the last 5 to 6 years or so.  For me, this once favoured mode had long got stale and it would be too easy to get the sack from not balancing the finances, rather than the performances of your team on the pitch, which took a lot of the fun away for me.  This year’s “remastered” Master League (as its being dubbed) seems to take more inspiration from FIFA’s Career mode, where you have a somewhat light emphasis on club management, in which you still have to manage team morale, sign players, deal with existing contracts, winning games and so forth.

So far I’ve not got the sack, despite spending much of my budget, so either me or this mode is doing something right, either way, I’m finally having fun with the Master League, something that was lost to me years ago.  You will also take part in press conferences, have conversations with your players and members of the board, all of which will grant you multiple choices and you’ll even have cut-scenes with your manager avatar and the characters involved in the current interaction.  It’s another small step in the right direction for this popular mode, though it does seem a little odd reading text during the cut-scenes, rather than voice actors, but hopefully this might be something that we’ll get in a future release.  Fingers crossed.

All in all, PES 2020 might not be the evolution of leaps and bounds, but Konami seem to have taken several strides in going the extra mile to keep this long-running series feeling fresh.  It may not be huge steps, but it’s a step forward none the less and in some cases, it’s the smallest of steps that has the best impact in the long run.  There are noticeable improvements with just about every mode that PES 2020 has to offer, though the game still frustratingly suffers with lag and latency issues when trying to play online and as a result, I’ll be avoiding the online modes until I know that Konami has improved the performance, which is shame, because everything else seems to have taken a step forward.  None the less, this year’s instalment shines where it really matters and that’s on the pitch.  It may not be perfect, but at least in terms of gameplay, the beautiful game is truly back with eFootball PES 2020!

P.S Find out how to easily import official kits, badges and competitions to your eFootball PES 2020 here.


Richard Lee Breslin
Richard Lee Breslin

Gamimg has been my life for 30+ years and will always be my passion. I have a BDes Hons Games Development and Digital Media, and I hope to one day turn my passion for gaming and writing into a living. My favourite gaming series are Resi Evil, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Assassin's Creed, Uncharted and The Last of Us. I collect gaming merchandise, comics and movies. I love football (namely Aston Villa) and WWE. I can also often be found wondering the outskirts of Raccoon City. Follow me on Twitter @Solidus5nake and you can check out my Patreon here: https://www.patreon.com/solidus5nake