PES 2020 has the same prosperity and failure in another year.

Danilo D’Ambrosio picked up the opponent’s pass with his legs outstretched, finding space on the right-wing and breaking through. He looked up and noticed Radja Nainggolan had made a clever run through his Bologna marker and deftly went out with his feet to intercept his trajectory, in which Nainggolan consumed the ball and dumped him coveted. It was a few brief seconds, the deeply humane football that cut off half the opposition line-up, and with their final third, my Inter attackers plunged into the box, stinking of blood.

Perisic was the spearhead of that line of attack, and Naingollan picked him up with a precise line of the ball. All he had to do was get past the goalkeeper’s bulging arm. He gave up and watched the ball roll over him harmlessly.

It’s the free, clever, often persuasive, and often disappointing football PES has played for the last few years. The only thing this time is not called football, it’s eFootball, the character added is probably a kind of enthusiastic nod to esports.

However, don’t let eFooled, the modes remain as they always are: Becoming Legends magnified microscopes on a single player and allows you to live in a career — though not staged like FIFA’s The Journey — while the Master League is there for long in the pursuit of team glory in offline form and MyClub offers real performances: a fat adventure, filled with menus including online competition, team building, and index filling. Online players offer a new Matchday mode similar to raids in limited time in the MMO along with division, fast play, and co-op. Of course, these things we know: they have taken place as such since the formation of Pangea.

What has changed, though small but noticeable, is what happens on the pitch. There are a host of new animations in all aspects of the game and the end result is actually a more realistic football game. That doesn’t mean it’s always nicer — for every new bit of mocap kick, an impromptu tackle, or a pass that should have been at home in Joga Bonito’s ads, there are plenty of new ways to show players the ability to flip together, kick the wrong ball, stumbling, or crowding each other.

That has a strange effect. Partly I nodded appreciating purity and realism, while the other part (and this part became dominated as soon as I scored) just wanted my players to be as cartoon characters as they did fifteen years ago. It’s a clear improvement. It doesn’t always make for a more spectacular football match, that’s all.

With your players now empowered to do all the new ways of playing cockfighting along with all the ways they’ve proven themselves capable of performing brilliantly in previous games, there needs to be a bit more focus. It is of critical to use the player’s body to face the direction they pass and track trajectories and dynamics, because if their athletes do not allow them to hit the heels then they will try — and fail — to pop a penny and throw the ball out of limits when you ask too much.

“There is a strange dullness for AI players, which are not entirely new but expressed in new ways.”

That’s especially true when it comes to passing. This is the most developed feel area from PES 2019 and its identical PES 2018 predecessor because it rewards body position and the right time with some great, varied delivery and also punishes unsopally artistic cross-button touching with hoaxes.

However, when it comes to problems, the song remains the same. Even in addition to the meager license of eFootball PES 2020 (which its community has been trying to fix through optional files), its presentation is still inferior to FIFA forty or fifty years. There’s nothing here to go head-to-head with Alex Hunter’s chic but classy footage and the big new feature in the Master League is to include wordless thriller cuts between the manager’s agent you’ve chosen and other club staff. It’s beloved, in its own way, but it’s a world away from EA Sports‘ patented polish.

However, these failures are not only at the surface level. Ivan Perisic wasn’t the only player to pass an easy goal or witness a perfectly good pass rolling away from his shoes. There is a strange dullness for AI players, which is not entirely new but is expressed in new ways thanks to the growing emphasis on matches and disjointed balls out of challenges. They seem simply incapable of taking the ball themselves and do not always have time to pick and move them manually before the moment of exit.

And yet— how many times have you read this saying over the years? —PES still plays more convincing football than its opponents. Players don’t seem to be stuck between canned animations as much as in FIFA and for eFooty purism, that’s all that matters. However, those with weak views on poor presentation and reporting will be disappointed that eFootball PES 2020 is not willing to compete on those terms.

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Written by Lauren Morton

Lauren loves long books and even longer RPGs. She got a game design degree and then, stupidly, refused to leave the midwest. She plays indie games you haven't heard of and will never pass on a story about players breaking games or playing them wrong.


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