EA can’t buy what makes ‘PES’ great

Even without Champions League, ‘PES 2019’ is still a blast to play.

It hasn't been a good month for Pro Evolution Soccer. Back in May, UEFA ended its partnership with Konami, a deal that allowed PES to include the biggest annual club tournament in Europe. And, perhaps more importantly, the teams that qualified for it. Some of those big names remain thanks to separate licensing deals with the club itself or with a league. It's true that EA is stacking the deck when it comes to teams and tournaments in FIFA, but the charm of PES goes way beyond its team roster.

There's no denying the loss of Champions League (and Europa League, by extension) teams is a huge blow. It means that teams who wouldn't otherwise be available in the game definitely aren't there now. I'm talking big clubs like the current Premier League champs Manchester City. However, PES 2019 still has the likes of FC Barcelona and Liverpool, along with recently added Bundesliga side Schalke 04. There's also still a selection of international clubs to choose from. In other words, there are options, but they are more limited than they've been in a long time.

They may not be super flashy additions, but there are a few new leagues on the PES roster this year. Those include leagues from Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, Russia, Scotland, Switzerland, and Portugal. It may be a tough sell for gamers in the US, but diehard fans in those countries will certainly welcome the new clubs. Konami says more teams are on the way after PES 2019 launches August 28th. Legends are also still in the game, including the debut of England's David Beckham -- or for those who played Konami's ISS Pro 98, D. Decham.

Like EA does with FIFA each year, Konami is on a quest to make PES more realistic. This year, that means adding more player skills, visible fatigue, improved ball physics and upgrades to the venues. Among the 11 new skills are things like no-look passes, double touch and both rising and dipping shots. During the two PES 2019 matches I played at E3, the no-look pass came into play most often, but it's easy to see how shots with deceptive movement would make gameplay more realistic. Along with visible fatigue, there's also a new quick sub feature. Basically, it will be easier to make changes on the fly when you have a tired player.

4K HDR is becoming standard these days, and PES 2019 will offer it as well. To enhance those high-res views, Konami has employed the Enlighten global illumination system to make both natural and stadium light look more realistic. In terms of weather, this year's installment of the game will also include snow. The conditions won't only change the look of a match, but it also affects gameplay. In the one match I played in the snow, I could definitely tell the difference between the less ideal weather and the perfect sunny conditions I played in immediately before.

Master League seasons have also been retooled. The preseason International Champions Cup that features some of the biggest clubs in the world is now part of that game mode. Konami revised the in-game transfer system as well to make them closer to real life. Both of those changes will help make full seasons mirror the schedule and process teams actually go through each year. Again, like the changes to gameplay, these are tweaks along the constant journey to bring more realism to PES.

Sure, EA could throw some money at Konami and swipe up the PES team. But even though EA was able to secure the rights to Champions League through its own deal with UEFA, it's the details PES offers that make it so good. Indeed, FIFA is constantly adding its own new features to make its title more realistic, but PES still has enough to make it a compelling soccer game. EA can add all the teams in the world to FIFA and PES will still be PES: a beautiful and interesting alternative to the most popular soccer game in the world.

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