Platforms: Xbox One (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC

Writing about sports video games eventually evolves into an exercise of avoiding sounding like a broken record. The scenario depends on what the new, annual replacement brings to the table. Five years after my first review of a Pro Evolution Soccer title for this website, the scenario now teeters a bit into the negative side of things than the positive as Konami have delivered another solid entry but with fewer extras that gamers have come to expect from sports titles.

If it ain’t broke

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of PES has heard the plaudits over the game’s control mechanics and PES 19 is no different. The controls are practically perfect, easy to use, and deeply rewarding for anyone who takes the time to truly master them. Stellar ball physics are integral to the feeling of the controls, which give a non-existent digital ball the “feel” and “weight” of a real-life one.

The stellar work of the physics engine extends to the digital players on the pitch. Their movement is not only realistic but now includes visible fatigue. A gamer will know just how tired their full-back is after 70 minutes of game time without having to look at their energy bar.

The AI continues to work great albeit with some minor flaws, which I’ll describe a bit later. The AI, in general, works as great as it has before. The AI is smart and responsive to the point where I felt as if every aspect of my team on the pitch was perfectly aligned with my playing style, whereas I’d be cussing up a storm with other sports games because its AI seemed to be acting randomly with no regard to the action on the field or the digital athlete’s playing ability.

New to the game is the “Quick-Sub” option that allows players to make in-game substitutions on-the-fly during lulls in the game. It works wonderfully and keeps the action on the field going without interruption, which is great because PES matches will get intense for various reasons. PES 19 is never the same experience twice and, as has been true in the past, gives gamers a long list of options to provide them with near-absolute control of their teams on the digital pitch.

In short, the essence of what has endeared gamers and soccer fans alike to PES throughout the years is still there in PES 19, but it falls short in other areas.

Missing modes

PES 19 includes all the game modes from previous titles: Master League, Co-Op, Online, Create A Legend, Become A Legend, MyClub, etc. The modes feature a few updates across the board, but none have been revamped or redone in any way.

PES19, is the first year where the game doesn’t include a major, real-life tournament. UEFA’s Champions and Europa League tournaments are no longer licensed, marking an end to a 10-year contract. The Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana of South America have yet to be renewed either. The title does include the International Champions League Cup in Master League though. What was lost has not been replaced.

Licensing remains the same. PES 19 includes new leagues not licensed before, such as the Turkish, Scottish, and Russian leagues, but lacks in other areas. FC Barcelona remains the game’s largest, official partner but their digital counterparts compete in an unlicensed version of La Liga. Once again, the title’s extensive in-game editor saves the day for those gamers who want to take a Minecraft-style dive into the game.

Oh, and the complaints about the AI that I mentioned? For some reason, offline AI has an obscene preference for goals scored off the wing from a low-cross. Goals via headers are too few and too far between. I have also noticed a few times where my button-press for a shot, pass, or tackle didn’t seem to register on the first press. Was it because of my player’s movements on the pitch? A lag from control to system response? I’m not sure but all these issues need to be fixed in the next patch.