In keeping with its recent tradition of supporting PES post-release, Konami dropped Data Pack 6 (Update 1.06) last week. With a host of cosmetic changes for the upcoming 2020/21 Euros, as well as the usual updates to player faces, hairstyles, and so on, Konami also dropped some subtle gameplay changes. While I did not review Data Pack 5 (Update 1.05), I certainly got some serious time in with it. With that in mind, after a couple heavy sessions with Data Pack 6, I can already tell there are indeed some changes under the hood. So let’s look at the top three areas Data Pack 6 helped improve in eFootball PES 2021.
Data Pack 6 Review
The first thing I noticed when I played a couple matches on Data Pack 6.0 were the changes to the AI attack. While Data Pack 5 had the AI playing direct, almost to a fault at times, the AI in Data Pack 6 plays some of the most patient, intelligent footy to date. If you’re a PES veteran like myself, one of the first things you do after kick-off is take a look at what level the AI’s attack/defense level is set to. Tactics aside, nothing quite impacts the pace and flow of matches quite like attack/defense levels.
Seeing teams “in the red” means you can expect a fast-paced match as the AI will close you down more aggressively and attempt to move the ball up the pitch as fast and direct as possible. While this is still generally the case with Data Pack 6, there are some pockets of play where the AI displays patience and attacks in a variety of ways, keeping you on your toes as you defend.
As you can see in the clip above, the AI plays the ball backwards, sideways, as well as diagonally when in possession, even when it is attacking on the “red” tick. Sure, the game can still get reach a frantic pace at times especially when you transition from attack to defense, but overall the pace has found a more realistic balance.
More Realistic First Touch
One of the more frustrating things about Data Pack 5 was the seemingly random first touches your players would take.
Instances like this where the ball would just randomly pop-up despite what should have been an easy ball to control were far too common. It helped create more 50-50 balls and more variance, but it was incredibly frustrating not knowing what type of touch your player would take in certain situations.
When you were in space, you generally would have time to control the ball. However, in tight spaces where you need precise touches, you couldn’t rely on the game to let you control the ball comfortably because the game randomly decided what kind of touch you would take. This means it would often ignore the factors that lead to poor touches (weight of the pass received, proximity of closest defender, playing surface, and so on). To combat this, I’d often find myself playing first-touch passes and shots at an increased rate.
Luckily for all of us, the crazy touches have largely been toned down, usually only occurring contextually. Now, you’re able to confidently take that extra touch knowing that something special might come out of it.
Better Cursor Switching And Awareness
One of the most frustrating aspects of PES over the years has been cursor switching. The amount of goals I’ve conceded over the years because a cursor switch moved me to the wrong defender are countless. There’s nothing worse than defending an attack, only for the switch to force you on the wrong defender and give an easy opportunity to your opponent.
In a game where a moment can decide the outcome, it’s important that player switching is both intelligent (selecting the best defender) and responsive. Data Pack 6.0 has seen improvements in this area, especially when defending crosses.
It might seem insignificant, but the quickness with which the game switched my cursor allowed me enough time to put off Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema as he rose for the header. This is also highly beneficial when defending through balls, which in eFootball PES 2021 often split your defense apart and lead to good chances. If you haven’t mastered player switching, here are a couple of tips to help you out:
- Master Super Cancel – This tip is just a good one to master overall. Super Cancel (R1 + R2) is a must for both FIFA and PES, two games that often lock you on to the ball, sometimes at your own peril. Master this and you can halt some of those annoying player awareness issues. It’s also particularly helpful when/if you get stuck in certain long animations.
- Manual Switching – By using the right stick, you can switch to any player of your choosing as opposed to letting the AI decide which player you control next. Contextually mapped, manual switching requires you to flick the right stick in the direction of what defender you want to control. I find this particularly helpful when defending on the wings, as opposed to within or near your own box where the sheer amount of bodies can potentially switch you to the wrong player.
There are still some issues overall with player awareness, perhaps due to some legacy Fox Engine quirks, but overall it’s been improved upon since Data Pack 5.0. Seeing as how these issues have managed to creep into every version of PES since 2014, I’m more inclined to believe that they are indeed a product of the Fox Engine, something Konami is dumping in favor of the Unreal Engine. This will no doubt be one the main issues we look closely at next year for PES 2022.
This is probably the best eFootball PES 2021 Season Update has played all year. While some might have shelved the game already, I’d strongly encourage those folks to dust off their copy. We’re still getting one more Data Pack update (#7), which will be released towards the end of June. It will have the following updates:
- Updated national team squads, based on the final 26 chosen players for each team
- Increasing squad sizes from 23 players to 26
I wouldn’t put it past Konami to stick in a couple gameplay updates in there as well.