One Of The Best Footballing Sims
Pro Evoultion Soccer or Fifa? It’s a debate that’s raged on over the years with the early Playstation 2 days seeing Pro Evo rise to dominance before FIFA claimed the top spot. Since then, FIFA has become the behemoth of football games, despite arguably coming up second best where it really matters – on the pitch. I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a big FIFA fan and have played almost every title since the early days of Fifa 96, I’ve only dabbled with Pro Evolution over the years.
Having said that, eFootball PES 2020 boasts a wealth of options this year, so much so that the gap between Fifa and Pro Evo seems to be shrinking as Konami’s footballing title pulls out all the stops to deliver an authentic footballing experience. It’s here where Pro Evolution excels and when it comes to the gameplay, there’s no other game that accurately captures the feel of playing a real football game.
This year’s title adds the inclusion of mis-kicks and tightens up some of the physics to make for some surprisingly realistic plays. Balls regularly pinball around penalty boxes during a speculative shot or pacey corners being whipped in leading to some very frantic and exciting moments. You can change tactics on the fly with directional buttons and scoring volleys from outside the box loop over keepers with a lovely bit of finesse. While there’s still a bit of a disparity between attackers and defenders – especially if you choose to play as a lower league team against strong opposition – the attacking play is frequently exciting and games are surprsingly balanced as the AI act reasonably intelligently across the pitch.
There are still some hiccups in this department though, especially during wayward through balls struck between two attackers. AI can sometimes pause while the ball lazily drifts across the pitch and clearing balls from the box lacks the responsive urgency one may expect. There’s still an arcadey feel to set pieces as well too and some of the menus lack the polish Fifa manages to achieve so effortlessly. The team management screen in particular feels archaic after all these years and is crying out for a bit of a revamp.
Loading screens are a bit of a problem too and the commentary is lacklustre to say the least, with stock phrases from games of old still here in all their glory. There also appears to be a bit of a delay between the commentary and pitch action too, as commentators express excitement after a play has already fizzled out. After 10 hours of play, the same lines and phrases do crop up time and time again and this does make Pro Evolution feel stale in the audio department, accentuated by a diverse but ultimately uninspiring soundtrack.
The meat of the game is ultimately broken up into three predominant modes; Become A Legend which sees you take the reigns of a single player, Master League which allows you management control over a club and myClub which acts as the Ultimate Team of Pro Evo, where you build a club from the ground up by buying players. Become A Legend is virtually unchanged but myClub and Master League are likely to take up the vast majority of your time here.
On first appearance, myClub appears geared toward maximising the use of microtransactions that are used to buy match coins, which in turn can be used to buy players or scout new ones. There’s also another currency, earned through playing games and completing tournaments, called GP. With scouts costing 25000GP and each individual match resulting in a reward of between 1000 and 3000GP, at first glance these systems appear designed to make use of the microtransactions to cut out the grind.
Thankfully the game includes tournaments which offers much bigger pay-outs, with the early tournament on offer giving a prize of 10000GP after each game, regardless of whether you win or not. Games take around 15/20 minutes to complete and the scout prizes offer a user-friendly percentage to show the probability of earning each level of player. With an 83% chance of capturing a gold-rated player, in the 4 hours I sunk into this mode I managed to snatch Messi and a few 80+ rated players to add to my squad. Compared to FIFA, this mode is far more user-friendly and there’s a good amount of depth here that’ll easily see you pour countless hours into tweaking and developing the perfect squad.
While Master League pales in comparison to Football Manager, it’s miles ahead of FIFA’s offering and the added inclusion of press conferences and cutscenes add to the immersion of playing as a manager. The menu screens have been revamped here too and all in all, Pro Evolution really adds some much-needed improvements to some of its core game modes this year.
Of course, facing off against players online is the bread and butter of Pro Evo but given the quality of the online competition, newcomers may find themselves out of their depth here (across the first 10 games I played, I won a grand total of 1). However, the system includes a ranking, which increases or decreases with the result of each game, eliminating the annoyance of the best Pro Evo players being matched with the worst. When the scope is increased to match with players higher ranked than you, you’re shown this quite clearly on the match-up screens to avoid a nasty surprise.
With Konami’s increased focus on eSports this year (hence the name change to eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer), the Japanese publisher have added a wealth of different options here to maximise that stance, including Match Day which acts as a weekly competition where players choose a side and work toward giving their team an edge with on-pitch action, culminating in a livestream at the end of the week. We haven’t seen this in action yet though so how well this works is still unknown.
There’s a lot to like here and on the pitch, Pro Evolution is easily one of the best football simulators on the market. In terms of polish, the game suffers from some aesthetically janky menus and a cumbersome team management screen. The loading times are a little too long, especially during on-pitch breaks like throw ins and corners, while the commentary is pretty woeful all round. Compared to FIFA though, Pro Evo is all about performance, rather than aesthetic, and where it really matters, the game absolutely delivers.
The big changes to Master League, improved ball physics, a handful of licenced teams and their realistically depicted stadiums make Pro Evolution an absolute joy to play. While the game still suffers from some long-term issues and the lack of polish with its menus gives the game a somewhat janky and scruffy look, if you can get past that there’s a lot to like with Pro Evolution, which sets a high bar for FIFA to try and hit later this month.
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Verdict - 8/10