It’s no secret the gap between FIFA and PES is quite large, both in terms in sales and reputation. However, Konami still has the resources to offer a more complete product and attract some of the players who have grown tired of FIFA’s yearly offering. With that in mind, let’s take a look at three ways PES can close the gap on FIFA.
1. Improve The Online Experience
The words online and PES go together like Mourinho and Manchester United. Simply put, it’s a bad scene. Online gameplay aside, the entire online experience for PES is frustratingly outdated. From weekly server maintenance that makes playing the game impossible to terrible matchmaking, playing online is a generally a poor experience. After being forced to navigate through what seems like a million menus just to get into a match lobby, the online experience is often marred by unexplained input lag.
Living in Washington DC and playing a buddy in Philadelphia should not result in lag, especially when both players are on very fast internet connections. While it balances out if both players are suffering from lag, playing randoms online whose main tactic is to gegenpress is often a tough task when you have to deal with lag. Now you could argue that it forces you to think like a real footballer, and you most certainly wouldn’t be wrong in thinking this, but the responsiveness that is exemplified by FIFA certainly makes the experience more fun.
2. Improve The Offline Modes
Once the cornerstone mode of PES, Master League has become horribly outdated, perhaps by design as Konami looks to copy the success of FIFA’s Ultimate Team by driving players towards MyClub. Let’s start at the top for this one, the menus and how outdated they look. While Konami has improved the UI over the years, the menus are extremely shallow, and once you pass the top menus you will notice the sub menus (Database, Forward Time, System, etc.) have not been looked at in years. They suffer from clunkiness and terrible Japanese-to-English translations. Simple things like changing “Goal Ranking” to “Top Scorers” are examples of little things that would go a long way towards helping PES look like there is an actual quality control department. Even the overuse of capital letters in the news scrolls is outdated and something I’d expect in a text from my mom who doesn’t know that all caps means you’re screaming at someone.
Beyond that, please give us a proper Youth Academy or let us build one from scratch like FIFA. While it’s far from perfect in FIFA, the fact that you start Master League with the same youth products no matter if you’re Stoke or Real Madrid is maddening. Even with the abundance of foreign imports in English football, at the youth level — as it is in the majority of top leagues — youth academies are mostly comprised of homegrown kids. If Konami can’t do that, then give us the ability to edit our youth academies. Hell, you can edit almost everything else in PES, yet we’re stuck with kids like Bacchus and Russo. Regenerated players (Regens) are also an annoying inclusion in PES. Seeing a 16-year-old Andrea Pirlo pop up in your youth ranks takes the fun and realism out of the mode knowing that he’s going to turn into a legend.
“Nicknames” are also a cheesy attempt at creating a bond between the club and the supporters, especially when they make no sense. After leading the Eredivisie in goals as an 18-year-old prodigy, my Dutch Become a Legend striker was given the nickname “The Buffalo” despite being a pacy, on the back shoulder type of striker. Overlooking all of this, the “new and improved” transfer system Konami boasted about leading up to PES 2019’s release was unrealistic due to deflated transfer prices that made building a squad ridiculously easy. Despite the consistent low values across the board, the fact that club transfer budgets aren’t realistic at all means you can acquire some of the game’s biggest stars with clubs that have no right to even be in the market for them. In its current state, you’ll see players move to clubs that are in no way realistic, such as seeing a plethora of English players in the Brazilian League.
Once my favorite mode, Become a Legend (BAL) hasn’t been touched in years except for taking features away. Where is the request to be loaned? Where are the manager instructions before a match? Where are the season objectives for you as a player? Nowhere to be found! Basically, the only thing to do in BAL is to play matches, and while that’s the heart of any game, it gets old when there is zero immersion to be had. Contrast this with FIFA’s “Become a Legend” and you’ll immediately notice how shallow things are here. Advanced stats, training, season goals and much more help increase the gap between the two games. Lastly, and this applies to all modes, the player rating system in PES 2019 badly needs adjusting. Rating players on a .5 incremental scale needs to be re-calibrated as does how the game rates your players. I’ve scored hat tricks in BAL only to see my player rated a 7.5 out of 10.
3. AI Improvements
There are times in PES 2019 where the AI will behave so human-like that you cannot tell the difference between playing your buddy and the CPU. Unfortunately, there are too many times where the AI will behave so oddly that you’re forced to either overlook it or adjust accordingly to compensate. Seeing your AI teammate completely ignore a ball in his immediate area because he’s too worried about running back to his position is an all too common sight. Seeing one of your defenders step up in attempt at an offsides trap even though another one of your defenders is a good five yards behind him, thus playing the attacker onside, is another eyesore. While miscommunications do happen in real life, the amount of times this occurs in PES 2019 far exceeds what’s believable.
Out of the box, the attacking CPU AI was extremely one dimensional. After the patch that was supposed to fix the AI, the attacking variety is still underwhelming and predictable. Rarely shooting from distance, the CPU still spams the wings with attacks and doesn’t play to its strengths. Imagine playing Barcelona and Messi is simply just another guy. A lot of the AI behavior can be attributed to a poorly designed and implemented tactics menu, but at its core, the AI in PES 2019 needs some serious attention. FIFA’s isn’t perfect by any means, suffering from some odd animations and decision making, but the attacking variety when playing the CPU is more realistic.
Konami will never be able to compete with EA when it comes to licenses, so perhaps it’s time for PES to focus on areas that EA has neglected over the past few years. Modes like Master League, Become a Legend, and even a version of FIFA’s Clubs are what Konami should be focusing on while tuning the AI. What areas do you think PES could improve upon in an effort to close the gap on FIFA and attract more players?