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eFootball PES 2021

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Konami
Release Date: Sept. 15, 2020

About Chris Barnes

There's few things I'd sell my soul to the devil for. However, the ability to grow a solid moustache? I'd probably sign that contract ... maybe ... (definitely).


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PC Review - 'eFootball PES 2021'

by Chris Barnes on Oct. 27, 2020 @ 12:30 a.m. PDT

eFootball PES 2021 is a Season Update that delivers all the features and gameplay from eFootball PES 2020 with the latest player/club data for the new season as well as exclusive UEFA EURO 2020 content and the Iconic Moments Series.

Buy eFootball PES 2021

For years, I fell in the "FIFA is best" camp. With a stranglehold on nearly every sport other than basketball, Electric Arts always felt like the answer for any sports game. Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer series sits in EA's looming shadow, hoping to steal away a few footie fans from time to time. With an opportunity to finally give the series its fair due, I laced up the cleats and took a crack at eFootball PES 2021. At a lower price point of $40, PES 2021 is a surprisingly satisfactory alternative.

For those unfamiliar with the series, PES is just as much of a football simulator as FIFA is, and it may even surpass FIFA in many ways. The one thing that sets apart the two series are the licensing agreements. Whereas EA has the money and partnerships to include nearly every major league and team across the world, Konami doesn't quite have the finances to match. Beyond a handful of the biggest clubs (Arsenal, Barcelona, Juventus, etc.), you'll face mock teams that hardly replicate their real-life counterparts. Taking up the helm as the manager of "Liverpool R" lacked a particular oomph when I was competing in the "European Club Championship" and "English League" games. Without the recognizable names of clubs, cups and tournaments that I've learned to love, hate and ignore over the years, I felt it difficult to figure out which games mattered, let alone care. Fortunately, the club squads and player models are accurate, so there's still some level of realism in the game.

Despite these gripes, they're easily overlooked once you're in a match because PES feels fantastic to play. Those fed up with the wonky physics and contortion-crazed keepers of FIFA may want to consider giving PES a shot. Moreover, the precise ping-pong passes that are so easily abused in FIFA aren't present. The football in this game feels pure but still fun. It did take me a while to adjust. Initially, I couldn't execute passes that I was so accustomed to being possible. Then again, the ball shouldn't feel like it's connected to every player on the pitch via invisible string. The passing doesn't feel bad, just more realistic. If you want to connect on a quick give-and-go, the second relay pass may not be as precise, depending on the defensive pressure. That second pass may pop up in the air a bit while the player scrambles to get the pass off before the approaching defender bears down on them.

Similarly, the receiving player may not trap the ball smoothly, depending on their skill rating and the quality of the pass. This never felt frustrating to me, though. I quickly learned when I was forcing a pass into an area that may result in a sloppy outcome by the player. After a handful of matches, I was flying high, making TAA crosses into the box for Mané to hammer home. Unlike FIFA, crosses and corners in PES feel like a viable option, not a miraculous mistake.

The bones of PES are great and are a highlight of the game, but the frills fall short. The manager mode includes subtitled cut scenes that offer no real impact or value. Cheesy, instrumental music you'd expect to be isolated to college film festivals serve as the backdrop for cut scenes populated by character models with silent, flapping lips.

PES 2021 features a fantasy team mode called myClub, which is Konami's answer to FIFA's lucrative Ultimate Team mode. Your goal is to craft the best team through loot box unlocks. Gorgeously crafted player models and face scans capture the look and detail of the game's highest-profile players. (Yes, there are real players in myClub mode, unlike the mock teams and leagues in the rest of the game.) Some exciting players are unlocked through loot boxes, which provide odds to indicate the likelihood of unlocking a high-tier player. The system helps you mitigate your expectations, and when you unveil the face of someone like De Bruyne, Messi, or Van Dijck, it's an exhilarating moment.

However, the game lets you unlock duplicates of the same player, which can lead to frustration upon subsequent appearances, since you can only slot one "copy" of a player on your team sheet. This frustration compounds when you realize how many loot boxes you're going to need to remain competitive in this mode. With a small player pool, I was unable to find any matches unless I opened up my search criteria to international players with five-star team rankings. My low-tier team with a handful of elite players was decimated by a team filled with players like Messi, Ronaldo, Salah, and more.

In addition to this, PES 2021 offers a number of other modes, including standard friendly matches with support for up to eight players and the aptly named Become a Legend mode. The friendly matches are exactly what they need to be and add nothing new to the genre. Sadly, the Become a Legend mode does just the same and offers little in the way of innovation. You play as either a custom player or an existing one, and you play through games controlling only them. As it does in FIFA, the mode falls flat. The camera angles make it difficult to track the ball, so it's easy to lose your player and his surroundings in the action. This confusion is often met with frustration when you're forced to give up the omnipresent management in every other game mode. Instead, your fate is often left in the hands of the AI while your own player's actions feel void of impact or purpose.

For eFootball PES 2021, all of this adds up to a soccer game that feels great to play, even if it is slightly lacking in other areas. The $40 price tag makes that pill easier to swallow, though. Depending on what you're looking for on the virtual pitch, that will determine whether PES is the right option for you. If you're like me and enjoy playing through a season with some random teams that you've never heard of, then PES may be exactly what you're looking for. With solid controls and decent AI, PES 2021 is a competent alternative to FIFA from a gameplay perspective, but those who get excited about seeing their favorite teams succeed against their biggest rivals may want to pass on PES.

Score: 7.8/10

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