Fans have known it for a long time: Konami's eFootball PES 2020 features great playability, grandiose ball physics and profound tactical possibilities. The overpowering FIFA competition, however, has left the Japanese video game publisher behind year after year - with its glossy covers and licencing power. Although this time around, PES presents itself as unusually combative. The game attempts to shake up the well-known balance of power and is entering the season with fresh self-confidence. Probably due to the sensational exclusive deal with the Italian heavy-weight Juventus Turin. The team around superstar Christiano Ronaldo is completely licensed only in PES 2020. In FIFA 20, the club is only playable by the fantasy name Piemonte Calcio.
PES's shell often looked unpromising and its simple and cumbersome menus could even be said to be deterrent. Although the graphics and player models didn't need to hide from the competition, the game always stayed behind in terms of atmosphere and authenticity. Luckily, the gameplay has much improved this year around. This becomes particularly clear when you start a game with one of the teams that Konami has won as partner clubs. In addition to the aforementioned Juventus Turin, Manchester United and FC Bayern Munich have recently joined the circle. The German record champion is the only Bundesliga club in the game alongside Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Schalke 04. Although Serie A, one of the major European leagues is officially included in the game, the latter does without the Premier League and LaLiga.
PES is playful and the finished game finds a great middle spot between demand and accessibility. The differences between the performance levels of individual teams and players can be seen and felt at any time. Messi has completely different ball-handling skills than your average player from the second French league. The game speed is slower than last year but still clocked just right. Passes, shots and duels have the right amount of force. This is partly due to the physis of the athletes carrying even more weight. Fortunately, dribbling with the right analogue stick is not too powerful and the possibility to commit tactical fouls expands the options on the defensive side. You can not only adjust the basic orientation of your offensive and defensive lines but also switch instructions during the game. This requires some fine-tuning and a basic understanding of your team's abilities but is very rewarding in the long run.
If you pinch your eyes together, the action on the grass can hardly be distinguished from a real TV broadcast. The animations of the players are fantastic with crystal clear passes, thrilling duels and spectacular goalkeeper parades - the game makes you want to use the slow-motion function more often than not. As in previous years, you can invest GP or real money to purchase new players and coaches for your dream-team. Luck plays a huge part and determines whether you receive a superstar or low league character from the player packages. Fortunately, the heart of PES 2020 can also be played offline. The Master League allows you to either fall back on the real squad of a chosen team or start with the cult no-name squad, which you can then gradually build up into a successful team through successes, training, and clever transfers.
As far as menu design is concerned, eFootball PES 2020 has made good use of the FIFA competition. The numerous sequences that show your coaching alter ego - including models of legendary ball artists like Maradonna, Matthäus and Cruyff - at press conferences, tactical meetings or coffee breaks add to the flair. However, the characters have no voice, making the sequences look like a pantomime show.
Is PES 2020 the better game?
PES 2020 is a great soccer game with great scope, ideas and playability. Series veterans will surely find some points that don't work optimally and a few old shortcomings - including the weak commentary and a somewhat cumbersome menu navigation. But PES pros and newcomers alike will be able to enjoy the well-balanced gameplay, the fine animations and the tactical finesse. Online, the series is sadly not yet playing with the big guys. Although the usual comparisons with FIFA can probably be expected at this point, both games want and can do quite different things. It's highly unlikely that Konami's game will be able to scratch the throne of the competition again. Nevertheless, PES 2020 is a successful football simulation, which should be a permanent guest in your game collection as a football fan.