Reviewed on PS4
Being tied to annualized release schedules has curbed an opportunity for major innovation in sports games since its existence but, Konami may have just come up with the most meaningful resolution for a problem as old as time. Unfortunately, they fail to attain a balance between ambition and actual execution, leaving a lot more to be desired. Here is our review of eFootball PES 2021 Season Update.
Konami has released a Data Pack 2.0 ( 22/10/20) which includes various updates ranging from new kits, teams, face models, manager portraits, stadium data, boot & glove data, player photos added to menu screen & most importantly – Iconic Moments for my club which you can find out about more below. This prompted us to reconsider our initial score and the final score is derived due to the implementation of Data Pack 2.0.
But First, What is a Season Update?
We have to give credit where it is due, as we might’ve just witnessed Konami pioneering the most ethical, player-focused approach to sports games we’ve seen in recent years. They are releasing this year’s PES game as a season update rather than a full-priced release, and rightfully so because it is just an update to the squads and kits. It is significantly lesser priced at just $29.99 for the Standard Edition.
This shift in business model is certainly commendable and respectable, and we wish more developers would follow suit. This is an excellent alternative for games that need to be annually released and cannot feasibly follow a release structure similar to EA’s UFC games.
However, as much as we were rooting for Konami to win here, their execution says otherwise. Firstly, since the main point of this release was to update squads it’s pretty ironic how a majority of them haven’t been updated yet, and although we know PES 2022 will be a more robust and complete experience, this update isn’t.
Secondly, Konami continues to lose licenses to major teams. For someone playing a PES game for the first-time ever, it might be quite astonishing that prominent teams like Manchester City, Chelsea, Real Madrid (just to name a few) and their respectable stadiums are simply not present here and this can understandably be the reason of turnoff for many. There isn’t any inclusion of women’s teams either. This trend woefully does continue here and the menial efforts they’ve put in this front doesn’t suffice. Although a large part of its player base does rely on mods for the inclusion of all teams, it hangs console players out to dry.
Visuals & Gameplay
The baffling visuals had us completely mind-boggled and are clearly unacceptable by current-gen standards. Most player models look awful, some look robotic and hauntingly menacing, and almost all of them look nowhere close to their real-life counterparts. Their attempt to create realistic visuals is evident in an overplayed bokeh effect; this is especially apparent during the replays which don’t help with the end result. Konami could really learn from this and work on PES2022 with improved visual fidelity.
All this would’ve been borderline playable if the gameplay was authentic and responsive, but sadly that isn’t the case here. Notably, the first-touch responses are exceptional but the gameplay is anything but fluid, with stutters and evident screen tearing sticking out throughout our entire time playing it. It doesn’t end there, as we’re introduced to a whole slew of new problems to tackle. We encountered several bugs, like players and even the football itself disappearing, and players running straight through each other’s bodies as if they were mere holograms.
No matter which player you take control of, every single one of them will blaze past defenders unrealistically no matter what their rating is. This makes every offensive encounter a goal once you figure out the inconsistent shot meter. At the other end of the spectrum, defense doesn’t require much skill either. All you have to do is stand directly in front of the opponent on dribble and you’ll be able to retake possession without breaking a sweat. Fouls are rarely called, which means that you’ll be able to get away with pretty much any aggressive playstyle.
The audio in PES sounds shallow for the most part. The commentary is underwhelming and passive, which is exactly what it shouldn’t be doing. There is no dialogue during Master League cutscenes; you’re instead forced to read subtitles while bland music plays in the background to fill up the silence. Although they’ve put a significant amount of effort to liven the crowd and their chants, they feel as lifeless and one-dimensional as they’ve always felt.
There is a tremendous lack of available game modes whether you’re looking at online or offline play and regrettably, the few that are present aren’t realized particularly well either.
Perhaps the mode with the highest potential, Master League, is yet to be solidified and lacks much depth, although it seems headed in the right direction. However, their rendition of the build-your-own-team mode, myClub, is a primitive implementation that makes it feel at least a decade old and doesn’t host enough features to make it engaging or enjoyable. Other modes like Become a Legend have been around since forever and don’t bring much to the table either.
Back to the Past
The entire experience feels severely outdated. The design of both the UI and the in-game menus are text-heavy, developers have shifted to a visual format years ago for a reason, and this game is the perfect example why. This makes it extremely difficult and annoying to navigate the menus, especially for players who haven’t been gaming during the PS2-era.
eFootball PES 2021 Season Update Verdict
PES 2021 had the potential to not only be a noteworthy entry in the franchise but in sports games entirely. Unfortunately, due to the poor execution and overall lack of addition to PES 2020, it is lacking.
If you do not own PES 2020, it is a decent football game for PES Fans, who understand the season update they are getting for the excellent price of $29.99.