Hands-on: PES 2019

PES 2019 launched a demo on Wednesday to give us a glimpse of what one of the football sims will be bringing us this year. The demo included exhibition matches, quick match and offline co-op across two stadiums: FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou and Schalke’s Veltins Arena. You also have access to 10 teams, namely the officially licensed teams such as Liverpool, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Argentina and France. New features for the game that were tested and showcased during this demo are visible fatigue, ball control and shot accuracy.

The first thing you’ll notice is that Konami has once again taken a step forward in terms of graphics, with the stadiums and the players receiving a touch more realism, with breath taking visuals of the stadium and its surrounds just before the teams line-up on the pitch. PES used to have these slow pauses between each transition, but it seems to have been removed, creating a natural flow between each scene. Team selections have not been updated as yet and probably because the transfer window only closed late last night, so we can expect a more accurate player roster by the time of release. It’s still a star studded affair with these teams though, with the like of Messi, Coutinho, Aguero, Pogba, Falcao and more all available for their respective teams.

Once all the players have shaken hands and done the obligatory photo pose, it’s time for kick-off, and everything feels smooth as butter. There’s just something really satisfying about playing a football game at 60fps with highly responsive controls and pinpoint passing. PES 2019 delivers that experience, but this time the tackling is even more direct and the players feel fully committed in the attack. When the opposing team approaches with the ball and you start closing them down, the opponent immediately shows that he’s aware for the oncoming tackle and starts to slow down to either evade or shield the ball as best possible. If you reach the opponent at the right time you initiate a solid lunge that gets them backpedalling trying to get away, but it’s not easy as the recovery time seems to have been shortened as you can then follow up with a chase down. Once you do get hold of them again, the eventual tackle feels strong and meaty, making the choice to rob them of the ball all the more rewarding. Beware though as trying to do the same tackle with a forward that isn’t used to defending can get you mistiming the tackle and affording the other team a free kick due to the players’ stats.

Passing is fluid, direct and poised with natural character movement and the ever so believable weight behind each pass based on the angle at which they pass and where they are facing. Trying to pull off something ridiculous like a back heel from one half to the other will never pay off. This is where PES 2019 shines: its realistic feel of how you connect with the ball. Each pass, whether it be lobbed or a through-ball, feels well calculated in relation to how much power you put behind it and the direction you are facing. Shooting is as weighted with shots from outside the box sending a thunderous leather sphere straight at the keeper who responds in equal measure with a punch or tap away from goal.

In the final 15 minutes of the game, you start noticing something. The players don’t sprint off the line as quickly or turn on a dime anymore. Tackles and mistakes become common place. This is due to the new visible fatigue feature where you can’t pull of those blistering runs or render defenders useless with nifty footwork anymore as your stamina, or what’s left of it, won’t allow you to. Even the power behind your shot diminishes and you’re required to be more crafty in your attempt at putting the ball in the net. And when you do, it feels like you have truly conquered the odds.

Online play is still one of the best in the football game arena that I have seen of late, with the only exception being loading times. In the normal exhibition rounds the game loaded swiftly with little delay compared to PES 2018. The loading is probably due to connecting to servers, but once you’re in, it’s game on. After four matches I immediately noticed the difference between a novice and a veteran with the latter pacing the game well and employing tactics for each situation. Novices end to sprint all over the place and lob balls into the box hoping a forward gets on the other end and magically tap the ball in. The fatigue punishes those that sprint out of the gate towards the end of each half. There was only one player I felt either had a bad connection which saw one of their players rubber banding on the ball, otherwise it was flawless.

PES 2019 has done what is expected so far: turn up on the mechanics of the game and make the game both visually and technically enjoyable to play both online and offline with  decent roster of top teams so far. Let’s see what the full complement has to offer when it releases 28 August 2018.

I Game, I Design, I wish I could Game Design.

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