Just when you thought PES was getting old and stale, it gets a new name. That’s right, for a franchise that began as International Superstar Soccer, changed to Pro Evolution Soccer, and sporadically adopted and rejected the name of Winning Eleven, Konami has decided 2020 will mark the new era of eFootball PES 2020.
It sounds like it could be the name of a hacker-inspired football version of Space Jam, perhaps themed around Zinedine Zidane getting sucked into a computer world while budget Kraftwerk plays. Sadly, eFootball PES 2020 is not that film, but instead a perfectly fun football sim that hasn’t been altered as much as the name change would have you believe.
The new name is supposed to signal a new focus on online play, which has been a growing focus for PES Productions. To herald this new era, Matchday mode has been introduced, a slight twist on FIFA’s notoriously time-consuming Weekend League.
At the start of each week, a new Matchday will appear between two sides, whether it’s an upcoming derby match or an amalgamation of national teams. After choosing your side, every match you play earns points for your team. The side with the most points enters the weekly Grand Final with an advantage, which can manifest itself in different ways.
Once the Grand Final comes around, the best player from each side is then picked to take part, while all others can spectate the showdown live. You can tell Konami is really pushing for PES to become an eSport seeing as only professionals and children are likely to have enough time on their hands to take part in a Grand Final.
For PES 2020’s biggest addition, it really doesn’t affect the game all that much. While you get great myClub – the PES version of Ultimate Team – rewards for taking part, Matchday never feels particularly exciting or high-stakes. You’re better off investing your time in myClub if you want the rewards instead of plugging away at Matchday only to lose the Grand Final.
Other than that, PES 2020 has no major changes from the year before. There are, as always, gameplay tweaks wheeled out that are barely noticeable, but this series' gameplay has always been exquisite: goals are satisfying and hard-fought, matches can change in an instant, and tackling is weighty enough to make you wince. Refereeing does seem a tad harsh this year, but strikers are going to need a bit of help from the officials when trying to get past Big Virg.
For the most part, though, PES 2020 is just minor tweaks and fun details, which is no bad thing. The addition of Serie A and the Brazilian second league is not likely to convert any FIFA fanatics, especially considering most PES players just import kits and team badges en masse from the internet.
But it is notable to point out Konami’s lawyers have finally recognised they can’t be sued for copyright over place names. Goodbye East Sussex Blues vs South Norwood, hello Norwich Yellow-Greens vs Liverpool Reds. Newcomers might appreciate this compared to PES titles in previous years where names were a bit more obtuse.
Thankfully, despite the supposed focus on online play, manager mode Master League has received quite a bit of attention. Though they take a while to load, there are now a lot more cutscenes featuring your manager and club officials. Deciding your objectives at the start of the season, explaining a loss to the chairman, and dealing with the press are all nice touches, especially when Master League has felt a little neglected over the past few years.
The mode remains mostly unchanged apart from that, except for the fact you can now play as legendary managers Johan Cruyff and... Diego Maradona?! Then again, it is fun to see the Argentine strut up to cubic counterpart Xherdan Shaqiri in the Liverpool dressing room.
Both Be A Player and myClub modes remain, for all intents and purposes, unchanged this year. The latter does seem a little easier than before in terms of getting better players and being able to fit them all into your squad, but nothing else new comes to mind.
As you can probably tell, this year is a quiet one for PES. Perhaps the new eFootball moniker is an attempt to shield that. But when the gameplay is this fun and the formula for Master League so infatuating, what’s the point in making swathing changes? This is Pro Evolution Soccer, not Pro Revolution Soccer.
eFootball PES 2020 won't convince any FIFA fans over to Konami's side, but it will certainly appease those who are already enthralled with Master League and myClub. There really isn't too much to write home about this year, but when the gameplay is this enjoyable, there's hardly any reason to complain.