Coming off a universally popular demo, PES 2019 released in September to fairly positive reviews. Once the initial excitement wore off, the flaws began to stick out like a sore thumb. Repetitive and predictable attacking AI, a stale Master League, and a game that just felt like it was released a little bit before it was ready. To the company’s credit, Konami recognized the feedback from the community and took its time in addressing them, ultimately releasing a huge gameplay patch in late October.
Fast forward a few months and it’s time to address the current state of PES 2019.
Perhaps the biggest issue with PES 2019 on release was the highly predictable attacking AI. Spamming the wings and refusing to shoot from distance, the AI fell into predictable patterns to the point where games became frustratingly boring as nearly all the clubs played the same no matter if it was Manchester City or Colo Colo. After nearly 100 matches post patch, I still see the majority of clubs attacking via the wings, albeit the final delivery is not always comprised of low crosses. One-two sequences played over the top with fullbacks and wingers are still abused with fullbacks falling for it nearly every time. Furthermore, the CPU virtually never fires long-range shots.
Keepers are improved in terms of closing down angles and do a better job at coming off their line, but they still suffer from the odd gaffe. More concerning is the lack of awareness displayed by your CPU teammates when it comes to 50-50 balls. Too many times your teammate will completely ignore a ball entering his radius in favor of getting back into the defensive shape. For teams that press high up the pitch, this is a huge issue as your players will often sprint back to your own half immediately after losing possession. This lack of awareness still shows up in player switching and pass recognition, which has been broken for quite some time now.
Perhaps more frustrating is the poor CPU managerial AI. Not only do CPU managers never change formations after Konami has set many up to fail tactically, they switch to overly aggressive attacking mentalities that result in the game becoming an end-to-end track meet, bypassing the midfield and resulting in ridiculously high scorelines. Nowhere is this more evident than in Master League derby matches where the scorelines can get out of hand if you play anything longer than a 10-minute match. Defending in general seems to have gotten worse as your players feel less responsive to button commands (teammate pressure), and often find themselves pulled out of position by quirky movements/animations.
Gameplay aside, it’s now a few weeks out from the new year, and we’re still waiting on the DLC that will update the game with Celtic Park and the Ibrox, two stadiums promised to be included in the game at some point, which is taking way longer than fans expected. Apart from that, Konami has done a good job of keeping up with weekly ratings. However, with the January transfer window also arriving soon, we’ll see how on top of things Konami is considering the struggles in the past.
As is the case with a lot of sports games these days, PES 2019 released with some annoying gameplay issues, as well as modes that lack depth and partners not yet included in the game. While the most recent patch was highly anticipated, it failed to breathe life into a game that is short on oxygen. Those who exercised patience with their purchasing decision aren’t missing much, and at this point PES 2019 is only worthy of a purchase if you can find it on sale.