eFootball PES 2020 Review: A Game With An Identity Crisis

When you bring up soccer video games, it’s far too common to hear someone bring up EA Sports’ FIFA franchise before any other title. 

For many, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series is an out of sight, out of mind product. It’s a stigma that the Japanese-based studio wants to change; it wants to be known as the king of soccer simulation. 

With eFootball PES 2020 — yes, that’s the game’s real name — the series is trying to prove that not only is it not becoming a stale experience but that it’s worth making the jump from its competitor.

The Star of the Show

On the pitch is where eFootball PES 2020 really separates itself from the competition. The gameplay is as satisfying as ever with everything you do has an impact on the outcome of a match. 

The series has finally implemented realistic kicking based on the positioning and angle of both the player and ball. Even the positioning of defenders around a player can impact both the power and accuracy of shots and passes. This helps with things like rushing upfield where just being in the vicinity of a lower-rated player could see a mess up on a kick rather than a perfect foot-to-foot pass upfield. 

you can find yourself getting carded one second while completely getting away with the same act right in front of an official just a minute later.

Timing means more now than in past titles. The smallest rush or hesitation to make a play could lead to the most catastrophic of plays, especially when trying to defend. If you mistime a tackle or a pass breakup, you’re going to find yourself chasing and giving up a prime scoring opportunity far more often than not. That same timing also matters on the offensive front. 

You have a short window to make that pass to a running striker or put up the cross near the box. Waiting too long or mishitting the ball will see the play ultimately go the other way after the opposing defense gets in position. 

The overall flow of games has been slowed, making it a less hectic experience than prior versions. The animations feel flawless and the controls give you a feeling of controlling actual players as opposed to digital recreations. Whether you’re coming over from FIFA or PES 2019, it’s going to take you a match or two to really get the hang of the feel of the players as well as the ball itself. But once you do, you won’t want to go back to anything else. 

Where the game on the field does falter is with the officiating. To say the referees are inconsistent would be an understatement. No matter what you do, you can find yourself getting carded one second while completely getting away with the same act right in front of an official just a minute later. 

Also, a big disappointment is how the AI plays. There are times where an AI defender will just decide that he doesn’t give a damn about the play on the field. Instead, he’ll stop seemingly to count the blades of grass on the turf. Not as big of a deal, but equally as annoying, is the dribbling system. There are times when you feel like Pele on the pitch while other moments have you feeling like you’ve never played the sport a day in your life. It would be one thing if it was because of your players’ ratings, but it happens too often to a variety of players that it’s just the way the system is. Oh, and that dribbling system had input from one of the greatest dribblers ever, Andres Iniesta. So…yeah.

Matchday Confusion

If the game’s new, yet terrible, title didn’t give it away, the focus for Konami this year is eFootball aka online soccer.

There’s a complete eFootball section of the game’s menu that allows you to jump into various competitions. Konami wanted people to know that its game was the place to be when it came to competitive video game soccer, but the name change just draws more laughter than realization. In fact, aside from the new name, nothing feels any different with the online experience.

Moving on from eFootball, PES 2020 doesn’t do much in terms of major mode improvements. The big new addition this year is “Matchday”, which takes real-world contests and makes them events within the game. While it’s all fine and dandy, it’s nothing to get excited about especially when it’s a time-limited mode that most people in the United States can’t even take part in due to timezone differences between America and Europe.

Offline the top mode remains Master League. There’s not a ton of new depth to the offering, but players do get a bit more cutscenes to watch and decisions to make. 

Other modes like myClub — which is PES’ version of Ultimate Team — and Become A Legend remain largely the same as last year’s. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad offerings, but when nothing gets done to a game mode (or two), you can expect the excitement for said modes to drop.

Broadcast Relegation

EFootball PES 2020’s presentation is still the lowest point of the game. While the visuals are stunning throughout, the commentary just isn’t on the same level. In fact, it’s just terrible. Inconsistent tone, constantly repeated lines, poor sentence patching, and more all make the game feel like a PS2-era broadcast. Luckily, you can turn off the commentary which makes for a far more enjoyable experience.

Also annoying are the constant replays that you have to turn off so your game doesn’t show a replay every minute play isn’t going on. 

Licensing still remains a hot-button issue for the PES series as the game has a very limited selection of real-life teams and players. But they did manage to lock up an exclusive license for Juventus, meaning they get Rinaldo’s likeness in the game. They’ve also added Manchester United to the game to replace the departing Liverpool.

Speaking of player likenesses, the players they do have in the game look incredible. The team at Konami is pushing the current-gen consoles to their limits in graphical presentation and it shows. From Rinaldo to David Beckham, there are such subtleties in the looks and animations of the players that make it stand out against it’s EA counterpart. But no matter how great the players and stadiums look, the awful broadcast presentation takes away so much from the suspension of disbelief that the game goes for.

VERDICT

EFootball PES 2020 is a game with moments as great as its gameplay while also having aspects as awful as its new name.

The flow of play as never been smoother and there’s an authentic feel to the action on the pitch that even the dribbling issues can’t ruin. However, the lack of updates to modes like myClub, Become A Legend and Master League leave you wishing there was more. It just feels like a title with an identity crisis: it wants to be known as an esports-friendly soccer game yet it doesn’t do much of anything to convince anyone that that’s the case.

If you’re already a PES fan, then you’ll certainly enjoy what eFootball PES 2020 has to offer. But if you’re looking for a reason to jump ship from FIFA, then this may not be the game for you.

  • 8.5/10
    Gameplay - 8.5/10
  • 6/10
    Game Modes - 6/10
  • 6/10
    Presentation - 6/10
  • 7.5/10
    Longevity - 7.5/10
Overall
7/10

Summary

EFootball PES 2020 is a game with moments as great as its gameplay while also having aspects as awful as its new name.

The flow of play as never been smoother and there’s an authentic feel to the action on the pitch that even the dribbling issues can’t ruin. However, the lack of updates to modes like myClub, Become A Legend and Master League leave you wishing there was more. It just feels like a title with an identity crisis: it wants to be known as an esports-friendly soccer game yet it doesn’t do much of anything to convince anyone that that’s the case.