There are only two definitive soccer video games in town nowadays. One is obviously EA and their FIFA with the other being Pro Evolution Soccer, excuse me, now called eFootball PES 2020 from Konami—the latter of which has always been the technical underdog with its own degrees of superiority.
PES 2020 lacks some of the flair of its competitor, but many have come to accept those shortcomings in lieu of refined gameplay. Pacing remains methodical and weighted, meaning you won’t get far trying to rush back and forth on field with pop-shot passes. Apparent timing and knowing the physics is required in order to play efficiently and builds off the previous entry, to a point that it may turn off newcomers who are looking to jump right in.
If you’re looking for change, the pitch will stand out the most. There’s an influx of new animations in all aspects of the game, and though it’s more realistic it isn’t necessarily spectacular or prettier to behold. This sounds like a knock, but this game opens the door to intricate plays and motions. Concentration is not limited to keeping the ball but watch body movement and direction they’re passing to match trajectory and momentum towards the net. Granted, a lot of these mechanics present in last year’s game but is improved for accuracy and purity’s sake.
Get it wrong and you’ll quickly stumble, crowd other players or plain miskick the ball under duress. The tension though virtual is real and can change the tide of a match, to the point that collision can get hairy and refs often call fouls in knee-jerk reaction, this also slows the flow down and sometimes doesn’t feel fair near the end of a game, it’s manageable but mildly annoying when you know otherwise. But really, you’re going to be fighting against well-tuned physics and opposing teams will eagerly bite with a counterattack, so you better be confident with your teammate choices or your golden opportunity will be snatched away by the A.I.
Graphically, PES 2020 gets a noticeable bump too. We’ve always gave Konami a participation trophy for updating their visuals as EA usually held the crown, but this iteration appears to be on par or sometimes better than FIFA. I know that’s a big declaration, but the environments look livelier and lighting details are comparatively more dynamic. The developers put a lot of time and effort into refining the proprietary Fox Engine over the years and the player models show this in full, the facial details are finally close to accurate and emote with believable response to on-field action. The result compliments their real-world counterparts well and looks fantastic regardless of which console you play it on, although the 4K and HDR treatment are welcome enhancements.
In the vein of pursuing a career like a boss, the Master League mode returns and feels less like a slog this time. You’ll have to build a team and all the fluff of answering questions in press conferences and paying unnecessarily huge amounts of money to enlist star players, which is fine. The experience is a little more streamlined but it’s still the same process of building up a mediocre group through the leagues while getting attached—eventually the game will screw you over and another club steals your prodigy away. You win some, you lose some.
Other inclusions such as MyClub are good as they were before but probably won’t be as impactful if you’re not into fantasy soccer, where assembling legendary player and pitting them against AI or other humans feels like a novelty as far as options and microtransactions are concerned. Online multiplayer is also good, if a little barebones compared to FIFA 2020. You’re pretty much left to your own devices and internet since Konami takes more of a hands-off approach, at the very least you can see how good of a connection strength potential opponent have before joining in.
eFootball PES 2020 is more of a continuation of a debatably precise representation of soccer, albeit without some of the licenses to make it wholly authentic. That really doesn’t matter if your more about realistic on-field mechanics than branding, as the gameplay is further elevated to be more convincing and dedicated to core of the sport first and foremost. FIFA still has the edge on outright presentation but PES remains unfaltering on the core aspects.