I have been a PES fan since the very beginning, in-fact since the days when it was known as ISS (International Superstar Soccer).  In truth, I’ve also been a FIFA fan since the beginning. So almost every year I’ve often gone with one or the other, FIFA or PES.  However in the last year or two, I’ve actually gone with both.  Sure it can get a little confusing at times with button commands, but I’ve been that torn recently, I’ve just thought “sod it, why not get both?”  And why not go for both, each game offers something that the other doesn’t.  FIFA has arguably the best visuals, the official licenses and it plays very well too.  Whereas PES looks gorgeous also, sometimes besting FIFA with some player likeness and in my opinion, and it often feel the best to play with its satisfying and addictive gameplay, in my opinion.

However, while PES arguably bettered FIFA in terms of gameplay, its lack of licences has often put so many off.  For me, being an Aston Villa fan, I’ve long been used to my team being called West Midlands Village, thankfully due to the in-game editing tool and some fantastic websites that offer great edit downloads that makes unlicensed team kits and leagues look official, that has been a god send of a workaround.  Also, we had the UEFA Champions and EUROPA League license, with all the official branding, marketing and the theme tune replicating the real-life counterpart to near perfection.  Sadly though after 10 long years, Konami has lost that UEFA licence to its bitter rival EA and for many, this is the final nail in the coffin for the PES series.  While the loss of that licence is disappointing, Konami has countered the best they can (more on that later) and PES 19 feels as fantastic to play as it ever had, so from a gameplay perspective, PES 19 should not be overlooked.

Gameplay-wise, PES 19 feels fantastic, but if you’re already familiar with the series, that should come as no surprise.  It’s quite difficult to explain how it feels, but even the passing feels almost therapeutic and when you unleash an early long-range shot so powerful it lifts up the net as the ball thumps into the top corner, giving the keeper no chance and the ball rolls on the back of the net, providing that ecstatic feeling.  Speaking of goalkeepers, they have been somewhat of an issue in recent years.  Granted they were much improved last year, but they’d still make silly mistakes, often it will be during the last minute, gifting the CPU a win, rather than the CPU’s keeper making that untimely error.  Don’t get me wrong, they’re not perfect in PES 19, but they are now far more reliable and often you will see them make a last gasp save with an out-stretched arm, giving you less feelings of being cheated by the CPU.

Visually, once again PES 19 is certainly no slouch with improved crowd animations, as well as new lighting and shadow physics.  We even get real grass textures, the return of snow weather (finally), and PES 19 is enhanced when playing on a PS4 Pro or Xbox One X.  It might not have the overall sparkle that FIFA has, but depending on the player or the team, some of the likeness are better than FIFA.  For example, partner teams such as FC Barcelona, Liverpool, Arsenal, Inter and AC Milan, AS Monaco, Glasgow’s Celtic and Ranger’s are all crafted with the utmost details, from players, kits, stadiums, crowd chants and more.  In total there are 19 partnered teams with an equal amount of precision and detail.  However, like previous years and despite initially being announced as a partnered team for PES 19, Konami’s deal with German side Borussia Dortmund was cancelled prior to release, which is disappointing, so they do not feature in this year’s game.

Keeping on track with official licences, no matter what anyone says, the loss of the UEFA license to EA’s FIFA series is a huge loss.  However, as previously stated, Konami has done their best to counter that problem and given EA’s pulling and spending power, this was probably as much as Konami could do in fairness to compete.  Depending on what teams or leagues you follow, whether the PES 19 league licenses represent the value you’re looking for is subjective.  For example, being an Englishman supporting Aston Villa, I will always prefer to have all my English competitions licensed, which obviously isn’t the case with PES 19.  In contrast, if you’re a diehard supporter of teams from Scotland, France or Portugal, your perspective of the licences may be different to that of mine.

The officially licensed leagues in PES 19 include Belgium, Denmark, France (two tiers), Holland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, Turkey, Brazil, Chile, Argentina, Columbia and Thailand.  Partnered teams include the aforementioned teams above, who are joined by FC Schalke, Corinthians, Flamengo, Palmeiras, Sao Paulo, Vasco Da Gama, Colo Colo, River Plate, Club Alianza Lima, Sporting Cristal and CA Independiente.  In total there are also 25 licences football stadiums, all of which you can find here, along with added details on licensed leagues and partnered teams.

It’s also worth noting that every team in Serie A is licensed, apart from Juventus.  Oh and there’s no Bayern Munich again, sadly.  The MyClub (PES’s answer to FUT) remains pretty much the same deal, however it does seem easier to obtain better quality players via the RNG and player stats will differ week-on-week depending on real-life performances.  The most notable difference to the Master League is that you finally now have far more control over contract negotiations when signing players.  Master League pre-seasons will also now feature the International Champions Cup, which is a fairly high-profile club tournament that sees’s teams competing from the worlds continents.

In conclusion, on the pitch, PES 19 looks gorgeous, from fantastic player likenesses and animations, crowd reactions and seeing the ball rustle the back of the net is just awesome at times.  I would also say that in terms of how PES 19 plays and feels, this is probably the best game in the series in recent years when looking from a pure gameplay perspective.  It has always been an uphill struggle when competing with the licences of the FIFA series and the loss of the UEFA license has made it a little more of a struggle, even to the most passionate of fans.  Konami has done the best they can, but at this stage, it feels like PES is starting to run out of fumes competing with the relentless power of EA, especially as FIFA 19 has seemingly been made even stronger this year.  I believe Konami will have to pull something special out of the bag next year, otherwise I do fear for the series.  However, don’t let the UEFA shortcomings put you off picking up PES again this year, because on the pitch, PES 19 truly is the representation of the beautiful game and in an ideal world, that’s what really counts.


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