Pro Evolution Soccer by Konami has recently delivered their 2018/19 instalment of their franchise that has been running since 2001. As a direct rival to EA’s Fifa games, many gamers favour one or the other and I was certainly influenced early on into Fifa as it seemed more popular with my friends, what with having all of the major football licenses, ensuring you could always play as your team. How does Pro Evo 2019 look, play and feel? Let’s kick off and find out!
Pro Evo 2019 has disappointingly, as some of you will already be aware, lost the license to the UEFA Champions League after holding it for 9 years. EA looks to of snapped it up as it featured in their official reveal trailer back in June (release date 28th September). Don’t let this put you off Pro Evo 2019 however as they have added 7 more league licenses featuring the Scottish Premiership; Portugal’s Liga NOS; Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League and Sweden’s Raiffeisen Super League. Great if you are from those parts or support one of those teams I guess!
Putting the licenses aside, what does Pro Evo 2019 currently have over its rivals? Playing friendlies against my family, (yes you can actually be Arsenal FC as they have a deal with them) the first thing to notice is that the players on the pitch ooze a lot of player personality; players are more realistic, authentic and life-like even down to their tattoos which inturn helps them stand out as individual players. The attention to detail with sporting games is constantly improving but the players in Pro Evo 2019 really stood out for me, especially when the camera is close up to the action.
It is not just the graphical details of the characters that help you immerse yourself into the ‘great game’, the movements of the players is smooth and so much more precise when compared to other football games which enhanced the feeling of the control you have when manoeuvring on the pitch during matches. The fluency of the players responding to your every stick direction and button press felt organic, not forced, and made for an intense realism that you are taking part in a football match. With a lot of detail added to the dribbling animations including last years full body touch, Pro Evo 2019 has certainly built onto the previous years offering. When flicking a cross into the 18 yard box the player on the receiving end interacts with the ball based on its speed and their position however although this is a basic concept in football, the fluidity of how you connect your shot is amazingly realistic. You can really feel the weight of the ball as you take that swing. The ball physics are nothing short of awesome, especially as you smash that spinning outside of the boot shot from way beyond the box into the back of the net. Speccys galore!
Pro Evo 2019 has added new player skill traits, 39 in all, for you to pull off on your opponent at an unsuspecting moment and gain the upper hand. There is nothing more frustrating than playing against somebody that knows every no-look pass, dummy, spectacular cross and snidey quick turn however they are not that hard to find and pull off but so so effective!…plus they look really cool when they go well!
New to Pro Evo 2019, (cough) and possibly gleamed from Fifa, are quick substitutions. This feature allows lets you to sub on the fly without pausing and going into menus, great to stop that annoying person who likes to pause the game at that crucial moment you are on the attack to play about with their line-up!
Once you have had enough of either winning or losing against, friend, family and online football magicians there is of course the Master league to contend with. This is the Pro Evo single player career mode which has had some neat improvements this year. The pre-season cup competition features the International champions cup and in addition to this the negotiations and transfers of players have been greatly improved to make them more interesting.
For me, the main downsides are the lack of the Premier League and the menu system. You can play as a handful of exclusively licensed Premiership sides however the others have team names such as Man Red and London FC. It isn’t too hard to work out who they are all but it just doesn’t feel right representing the wrong club when playing.
For a game that is so refined to play, it is as if all the budget was spent on the player animations, physics and textures leaving a few quid to sort out the menus. Looking very similar to the PS2 menus of yesteryear, not much has changed and it just does not reflect the actual contents of the game well.
The text from interviews and statements that appears when playing the Master League is fairly generic with player names when being referred to appearing solely in capital letters, making it look fairly amateurish. Similarly there is the odd bit of pigeon English when sentences do not read correctly. It is a shame, and for me shows the short falls of what could so easily be the best football simulation game out there.
The lighting, shadows and weather is well represented and overall the graphics during gameplay is pretty spectacular. The licensed stadiums look nothing short of stunning and are on the verge of photo realistic. Even if you are not a Liverpool fan, Anfield looks amazing! Barcelona’s Camp Nou is just epic and you are silenced in awe each time as your players come onto the pitch at the start of each match. Xbox X and PS4 Pro offers 4K resolution and there is also HDR support. As mentioned earlier, the licensed players are very well detailed and when scoring a goal you can choose from a selection of celebrations that get viewed from various cameras including a pretty cool one based in the crowd.
One fun feature is to customise the banners that are displayed by the fans during football matches. This has however already led to some negative uses that has been featured recently in the media between Rangers and Celtic where controversial banners have been made that have caused both political and historical upset. This will always be the danger of allowing customisation of text in games and it is down to you to be responsible for what you create.
Once more the menus let the graphics side down slightly with their basic, boring look but lets face it, you’re not here for the menus really are you.
Football matches are all about immersing yourself into an exciting and tense atmosphere and this is created by the crowd and the commentary. Pro Evo 2019 is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to the sound. Yes there is crowd chanting and a noticeable rise in volume when the home team gets the ball into the dangerzone but there is nothing specific to the team, something that I enjoy in Fifa. The commentary is a massive let down in my opinion. Featuring Peter Drury who commentated on the 2018 World cup final, Pro Evo 2019 is a little dull in the way that the commentary comes together and it does not flow as well as Fifa does. Where Fifa offers a bit of banter and stories mentioned during gameplay to break up the slow moments, here there is nothing that made me think that my game is being watched live and commentated on in real time, it was all a bit broken up. Even the tracklist of menu songs I found a little uninspiring with the best track probably being “The Man” by The Killers which features in a few other games.
Pro Evo 2019 has all of the normal modes that you usually find in a football computer game and therefore will keep you playing for as long as you want to. The actual gameplay of Pro Evo 2019 is brilliant and in my honest opinion, better than Fifa. The feel that you have when controlling the players and passing the ball around is hard to explain however it works really well and gives you an enormous sense of satisfaction as you successfully work the play up towards your opponent’s goal. Where Fifa is quite arcadey, Pro Evo 2019 is definitely more of a simulator in comparison, and a well refined one at that. The disappointments come with the lack of licenses to use the real football team names and players which I know is a massive turn off for most players as they cannot be their actual team. That along with the bad commentary, boring menus and dull soundtrack lead me to give Pro Evo 2019 a Thumb Culture Silver Award.
If they were to get the licenses and sorted out a flowing commentary as well as spice up the menus this would easily be a Gold or even Platinum as the gameplay certainly kicks Fifa out of the park. For now, Pro Evo will remain the underdog to Fifa.
Disclaimer: A code was received to complete this review.