PES 2020 review – A Frustratingly Unfocused Football Game

PlatformsPC, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Size50 GB
Latest Version

PES 2020 is an excellent football game that is in dire need of post-launch fixes.

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PES 2020 is the best-looking football game to date

It’s strange that in a game about running, PES 2020 can only offer joy in starts and stops.  This game flirts with greatness but shoots itself in the foot with its lack of polish. It’s in turns absolutely amazing and frustratingly unintuitive, and the experience as a whole suffers for its overall inconsistency.

Good news: the action on the pitch is genuinely brilliant. All the new animations and dribbling mechanics set PES 2020 apart from its competition. It’s so good that it had us, at times, lost in all the high-flying soccer action, almost completely assured that, yes, PES 2020 must surely be the greatest football game there ever was. Encounters with the countless bugs of varying brokenness are instantly sobering, however, pulling you out of the action and into a pensive state, seriously considering whether or not it deserves a binning. For example, one bug randomly causes your AI defender to blindly ignore all enemy strikers.

The great Andres Iniesta was the primary consultant for PES 2020’s new dribbling system and it shows. There’s a greater variety of skills available to you, and the greater control it provides over individual players offers a new depth to the overall experience. Clean passing and clever positioning are still key, but the dribbling system introduces a wildcard into the mix: individual skill on the ball. It’s a promising new aspect that could play a major role in competitive multiplayer.

PES 2020 still suffers from a clunky and obtuse menu interface, an issue that has been a real concern for several years now. Navigation is unintuitive and confusing (some screens inexplicably use a different button for confirmation) and it’s a wonder Konami refuses to accept this is a valid issue. Especially considering staple game modes, like competitive multiplayer, are now hidden within an entirely new section called eFootball.

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The improved animations – like players arguing with referees – add to the immersion and realism.

The regretful name is an apparent attempt at targeting PES’s competitive community, perhaps for esports purposes, though how this will affect competitive play remains to be seen. Also, Master League is still Master League, which should be enough description for long-time players to know whether it’s worth diving into. For the uninitiated: it’s an afterthought, an unbalanced mess that pales in comparison to FIFA’s Career Mode. Konami doesn’t have rights to the Premier League license, a problem that is easily overcome by downloading custom kits (though this isn’t possible on the Xbox One), but the lack of official PL support might be a deal-breaker for some players.

Another small issue that hurts the overall experience: replays can’t be disabled. The problem is made even worse by the fact that the game apparently thinks every minor action is deserving of a highlight and playback. It’s hard to believe that a game released in 2019 has unskippable cutscenes, but here we are.

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PES 2020 myClub is back.

“Surprise mechanics” are here to stay, but at least myClub, PES 2020’s own take on FIFA’s Ultimate Team, isn’t nearly as predatory as FIFA’s lootbox system.  We’ve heard reports of players having issues with this game mode, including some incredibly lucky draws that have already ruined this mode’s balance only days after release. Personally, however, our short time with myClub was smooth and largely problem-free.

Being a PES fan is a bit like being a Manchester United fan in 2019. It hurts to see this historically winning franchise continuously fail to reach its former heights. PES 2020 is a buggy, jumbled mess of a game, but underneath it all is a truly great football game. That said, avoid it until the bugs have been addressed.

The Verdict
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PES 2020 is arguably the greatest football game we've ever played - when it's working. The new animations are realistic and satisfying, the innovative new dribbling system adds depth to an already fantastic core soccer experience. Unfortunately, an overall lack of polish and some terrible, game breaking bugs ruin an otherwise excellent game. Fans would do well to wait for some major patches before investing.

Editor's Rating: