eFootball PES 2020 full review: Master League gets welcome improvements – but online still needs work
It might be considered the poorer relation to EA’s behemoth FIFA series, but PES has developed its own impressive reputation in recent years. The series’ unique gameplay has been repeatedly lauded for its simulation-driven qualities, while its visuals and quantity of official licenses have improved dramatically over time.
The latest release in the franchise – eFootball PES 2020 – takes all of this to the next level, resulting in a more mature and authentic replication of the sport. And while there are still some grumbles for long-term veterans of the series, the actual football is better than ever, making PES 2020 a key consideration for PES and FIFA fans alike.
With the game’s online servers being unavailable ahead of release, we’re postponing our final verdict until Thursday, September 12. For now, here are our review-in-progress impressions from the offline portion of eFootball PES 2020.
PES 2020 new features
eFootball PES 2020 separates itself from last year’s game by incorporating a variety of new features on the pitch, as well as including new animations and enhancing gameplay balance. The result is a game that feels grounded in reality, challenging you to play an authentic style of football without resorting to rushed attacks and unrealistic manoeuvres.
Take passing, for example. There’s an enhanced accuracy system in the game relating to mis-kicks, and it works by punishing unintelligent passes and shots. Attempting to turn quickly on the spot when passing to a team-mate will often see the ball diverting off in the wrong direction, forcing you to think more carefully about how you build attacks and generate scoring chances.
The ball also acts more contextually this year, spinning and swerving in authentic ways. This, combined with an array of new player animations, allows for more experimental attacking opportunities. You can get more curve on your passes, more whip on your crosses, and ultimately score some incredible goals as a result. In all, it encourages you to get creative when going forward.
An occasional lack of responsiveness can still be attributed to the AI, with players sometimes failing to intercept passes or move towards the ball in obvious situations. That said, these instances are far less common than in the game’s demo, and the AI behaviour is otherwise impressive. It serves to enhance PES 2020’s authentic and highly engaging gameplay.
PES 2020 licenses
The big news in terms of team licenses this year is the exclusive addition of Juventus. The game does a great job with the Serie A giants, implementing a stunning replication of their Allianz Stadium, as well as including updated player models and face scans. You even get the benefit/horror (delete as you see fit) of their Chelsea Dagger goal music when you score.
Elsewhere, some of the major new licenses include Manchester United and Bayern Munich, meaning Old Trafford and the Allianz Arena are available to play at. As you’d expect, these arenas look terrific in-game and come with incredible aerial shots and/or unique tunnel cutscenes. Their interiors are enhanced by some notable lighting and turf improvements.
Unfortunately, the audio aspects of the presentation prove less impressive. The biggest culprit is the English commentary, which remains repetitive and dated, with tired phrases such as “there’s still time for some ebb” inciting groans aplenty. On the flip side, some of the crowd chants are effective at generating a unique sense of atmosphere (particularly in South America), but the antiquated announcers are in definite need of a tune-up.
A notable upgrade is the addition of a new default camera angle. It provides a more realistic, TV-like view of the pitch than the ‘Dynamic Wide’ of old, and adapts smartly to various situations, zooming in and out as required. It’s a game changer once you get used to it, providing a far greater overview of the field and dramatically increasing the sense of immersion.
PES 2020 Master League
The majority of eFootball PES 2020’s offline modes remain largely untouched, with the key exception being Master League. The series’ popular manager mode has grown stale in recent years, receiving few major upgrades, but has undergone various changes this time around.
By far the biggest new feature is the addition of detailed cutscenes. These crop up periodically in relation to everything from press conferences to derby days; some are interactive and present you with multiple-choice responses. Your answers might have an effect on your seasonal objectives, for example, and some decisions can influence player morale, but disappointingly many of these scenes simply act as window dressing and have little impact in the long run.
That said, they still do a welcome job of freshening up the mode. Master League also includes some other enjoyable new features this year, such as a more visually appealing main menu and customisable sponsor logos. Additionally, it integrates more realistic transfer values, while improved customisation options allow you to tinker with things like financial budgets and difficulty levels.
As an added bonus, you can even take charge of various legend managers. The likes of Diego Maradona and Johan Cruyff are selectable as avatars in-game, and feature heavily in cutscenes. The trade-off for this is an inability to create your own custom manager – seemingly, a restriction of the new cutscene system – with just a relatively small selection of preset models available at launch.
PES 2020 online features
Along with the usual suspects such as divisions and co-op, there’s a brand new online mode this year called Matchday. It takes the form of a tournament, requiring you to join one of two sides (for example, home or away) and play games to earn points for your team. At the end of a four-hour window, a representative from each side is picked to compete in a grand final.
It’s a fairly enjoyable mode (particularly if you’re a myClub fan), with its GP currency, coins and scouts distributed as you go. The one big issue with Matchday, however, is how limiting it proves. The times within which you can play the mode are constrained to a tight period, and only suit those with plenty of spare time on their hands.
In the case of myClub, it’s very much business as usual. There aren’t too many additions to speak of outside some minor interface changes, as well as the ability to obtain exclusive kits. Still, it continues to remain an engaging mode which offers a reasonable number of ways to play – although it’d be nice to see more options for offline players next year.
When venturing online, you still get the odd bout of lag. It’s most likely to occur when playing certain tournament and co-op games, when you can’t filter your opponents. For the rest of the online features, however, you’re now able to identify players’ connection ratings ahead of time, helping to restrict any potential issues and improve your chances of a smooth experience.
In all, eFootball PES 2020 provides a more intelligent and authentic take on the sport than previous entries. Various gameplay improvements add up to a more realistic brand of football that’s packed with creative potential, while an array of major new licenses and visual enhancements only add to the appeal.
There are still some issues to be addressed, such as outdated features and an occasional lack of AI responsiveness, but otherwise there’s plenty to enjoy about Konami’s latest effort – particularly for dedicated purists of the beautiful game.
Verdict: 4 Stars
Four things we love...
1. New celebrations
There are some fantastic new ways to enjoy your goals this year, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s famous ‘Siii’ celebration also receiving an overhaul.
2. Defensive blocks
New defensive animations result in your players making intelligent blocks when positioned correctly, preventing any needless goals.
3. Variable transfer budgets
An increased number of options allow you to customise your Master League experience to your needs, including how hefty your initial budget is.
4. Finesse dribble
You can now use the right-stick to perform subtle skill moves, which add flair while retaining an authentic feel.
… and one we hate
1. Master League regens
This mode still reintroduces retired players as younger versions of themselves, ultimately leading to a loss of realism as the seasons wear on.
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