Pro Evolution Soccer 2019 Xbox One X Review

An enthralling experience on the pitch, a bland and disappointing affair off it.

By tomj, Posted 11 Oct 2018

Another year, another iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer. Has Konami’s latest PES game moved on from the 2018 edition or are we stuck with much of the same from last year?

Out of the box, PES 2019 is fantastic. The football experience is everything you’d expect from a PES game. Passing feels fluid, shooting has more of a punchy feel to it (rising shots are a terrific edition) and clattering full speed into a tackle really emphasises the work that Konami have done with player weight, movement and momentum.

Visually, PES has never looked better. The Xbox One X is a remarkably powerful console (the most powerful ever made - courtesy of Microsoft’s marketing team!) and PES takes full advantage of the technology afforded to it. Whether at 4K or at 1080p, PES 2019 looks wonderful. The pitch looks vibrant & sumptuous during gameplay (if a little odd during replays) and the lighting at licensed stadiums could almost convince you that you were watching a real game of football. On the other hand, PES hasn’t updated crowds and they still look and sound flat. Score a late winner in the Milan derby and the crowd reacts in the same way as when Man City put their 4th goal past a struggling Cardiff side. From a purely visual standpoint, the Xbox One X is the best way to experience PES 2019. However, once again Xbox users are let down by a reluctance from Microsoft and Konami to find a compromise on option files and importing images.

And it’s off the pitch where PES 2019 doesn’t deliver. Ageing menus that look eerily similar to PES mobile, a formation and tactics menu that hasn’t changed since PES 2016 - it all contributes to an off-pitch experience that leaves you wanting more. Clearly Konami feel that a simple menu structure will be enough for PES users to navigate and find what they’re looking for, but we end up looking at a bland, grey interface that doesn’t excite and is far from pleasing on the eye. No-one is asking for the full EA approach with floating logos and stadiums in the background, but a little movement away from Konami’s particularly dull menu structure outside of the game might lend to a more enjoyable experience once you step off the pitch.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2019, PES 2019, Xbox One X, Review, Screenshots, Gameplay, Animation, Chelsea

Dwelling on the limitations off the pitch could leave us putting PES 2019 down and not returning. But by doing this you miss out on a phenomenal footballing game. Playing against a friend or another user online (or locally) is fantastic and PES feels as fun as it ever did back in the early 2000’s. End to end action is all well and good but PES is great at allowing users slower build up and more precise passing - working round someone’s high press feels great when you realise you’ve got a 5v3 because they’ve set the entire team to press your box. And tactical adjustments do feel refined and precise. There haven’t been any adjustments to the PES 2018 tactics, which is unfortunate, but we have enough variety in tactical selection to set teams up to play a certain way, counter a certain style and attack in a specific way. And these adjustments will all immediately have an impact on the pitch - MyClub opponents seem to favour a Klopp/Guardiola-esque high press to win the ball back but launching it over the press to a target man means you can implement the Peter Kay ‘ave it technique with scary realism.

MyClub is improving too. Year-on-year it gets better as Konami reacts to what users enjoy whilst also implementing new features that are well received - featured players each week are a great way to incorporate less popular players that have higher stats after a standout week. It means that each game isn’t against a team full of Ronaldo, Messi, Hazard and Modric. Instead, Dzeko or Falcao can lead the line, Sigurdsson can pull the strings at the top of midfield and Ajax’s Ziyech can run rings around anyone’s backline. It allows you to build your team, the way you want to. And yet if you’re insistent on having a team full of ‘black ball’ superstar players then the contract costs are going to run you up a pretty penny. The intricacies of MyClub means that once you’ve got a taste and have started to delve into the deeper areas of training players, signing players with scouts, taking advantage of the auction house and winning COM tournaments for GP all mean you have an experience that leaves you wanting more.

Combining scouts to land the player you really want is a rewarding experience, from bidding on the different scouts in the auction house to landing free scouts, winning games and tournaments. It’s also something that isn’t overly complicated, however, Konami would certainly benefit from adding some form of tutorial to explain this within the MyClub menus - far too many users would prefer to ignore the initial fear of complication with scout combining to use their GP for spins and hoping they land the player they want. Meanwhile, I can combine two 4* scouts that I’ve won in the auction house to land exactly the player I want for a fraction of the GP cost.

Training your existing players is also a fulfilling experience once you’ve settled on the players you want to level up. It took me far too long to realise that training a player with another who is in ‘A’ form yields much better results. Again, if a guide for this was in the MyClub menus then many players would realise the best approach to this.

But how you spend your GP and your time in MyClub is entirely up to you. You’re not funnelled into spending it entirely on spins and packs - you can save it for a player using scout combinations, you can save it for that one chance of landing a legend like Cruyff, Ronaldinho or Del Piero amongst many others, or you can spend it on a new manager to try out a new playing style or formation.


Where MyClub greatly differs to FIFA’s Ultimate Team is allowing you to train players to higher levels. This means you can take a lower rated silver player or full team and turn them into a squad that can take on the very best. But the choice is yours! You’re not forced into playing in a particular style, you don’t have to sign the best featured players and you don’t have to play against anyone other than the computer if you don’t want to.

Yet for all of what makes MyClub so great, the limitations of the offline experience are even more evident this year than ever before. Master League has not changed. The AI still transfers out half their team at the start of a game, although playing against a Leicester City side with Kasper Schmeichel up front was quite an experience, and the lack of any real evolution to Master League makes the game feel hollow.

If you take the formats out of it - if you take away Become a Legend, Master League, regular Cup & League modes - and play PES matches in exhibitions against the AI or online then PES 2019 is the most accurate and enjoyable representation of football that we’ve experienced on the latest editions of consoles. But you can’t help thinking that with more resource, more work and more effort into certain areas that PES could once again be the football game that you buy annually.

When PES was as dominant as it was during the mid-2000’s fans didn’t care about playing as North London vs. Chamartin or Catalunya vs. West London Blue. The amount of stadiums, a fully licensed Swiss or Russian league - these things weren’t what made PES great. PES was great because the experience playing against friends was second to none, the games against the AI were enthralling and addictive and the Master League mode was in a league of its own. The work that Konami have put into MyClub over the last few years is a clear indication of where they see PES going - we only have to hope that they appreciate what was once so compelling about PES was more than just spins and wins.

Tom Chattaway, NoobFeed
PES Reddit

Also check, PES 2019 PlayStation 4 Review and PES 2019 Tips and Winning Guide

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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One
Publisher(s): Konami
Developer(s): Konami, Konami Digital Entertainment, PES Productions
Genres: Sports
Themes: Soccer
Release Date: 2018-08-28

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