PES 2019 Master League – An Honest Review

PES 2019 Master League

Having been a die-hard PES fan for over 15 years now, I have seen the franchise, and more specifically, the Master League mode, change drastically over those years. It has culminated at a point, where, here in 2018, PES 2019 Master League is merely a shadow of its former colossal self.

For anyone over the age of 25-30, mention ‘PES’ to any male into video games, and he would immediately respond with ‘Master League!!!’ with a glint in his eye and a smile broader than Castolo’s forehead.

ML mode gave Pro Evolution Soccer its cult status. It gave you the freedom and creativity to imagine up your own fantasy football world, forge make-believe relationships with each of your players, take a team of no-hopers such as Dodo, Castolo, Hamsun, Ivarov, Ximelez and company to the dizzy heights of world football. It was Championship manager meets match of the day. Countless hours, days, weeks and months of every year were invested until you had achieved that elusive back to back treble, hoisted that shiny WEFA cup above your captains head, and watched your players ceremoniously awarded their winners medals on pitch to the backdrop of a high tempo, joyous Japanese trance soundtrack.

It was beautiful, it was the beautiful game at its finest.

PES 2019 Master League Not Living Up To Its Year

Sadly, those memories are a thing of the past. Times change, life moves on and nothing lasts forever. Unfortunately, the business model which Konami understandably seems to be aligning themselves with, doesn’t cater well for the offline players who prefer simulation and realism over instant gratification gaming.

The recent boom in online gaming, streaming, and e-sports has brought big money into the industry. You have gamers who stream for hours and hours on end each day, produce content that is saturated throughout social media, all the while. This serves as indirect advertising for the developers and brands, so of course it makes sense to align themselves with this growing trend, they are a business after all. To compensate for the generation of free to play games they will focus more on the game modes that they can monetize, this provides additional revenue over and above the initial sale.

What this means for the offline gamer in today’s age though is that we get the second pickings. Our beloved Master League is now an afterthought. Therefore, it appears limited resources are put into developing PES 2019 Master League.

PES 2019 Master League – The Frustration

That’s the background, so why is there widespread disappointment and frustration within the offline PES community? Purely and simply it’s because we are served up a mode year after year, that in my opinion is an unfinished product. The basic elements do not function correctly, or are missing, the features that are there, are bare bones and a token gesture, and much of the old Master League mode that made the game such a cult figure with fans, has been removed for no justifiable reason.

PES 2010 Master League

PES 2010 arguably had the best, most feature rich ML mode of any PES game, ever. It had in-depth individual player training, team training, full control over finances, hiring and development of club facilities and staff, such as doctors, physio’s, assistant managers, all of whom had an impact on how your club was run. Do you decide to invest heavily in a 3-star physio so that you can prevent as many injuries and help injured players recover quicker? Or use that money to boost youth team facilities in order to generate better player potential, with the ability to nurture into a future talent, or sell on for a decent fee?

Under perform and you may lose your contract with various sponsors who have set criteria, again affecting the bank balance and your ability to invest in facilities or sign new players.

You had player interactions, Shimizu moaning because at the ripe old age of sixteen, after being promoted from the youth team but yet to make his debut, he demanded the no. 10 shirt, do you give him it or say no and risk his affection level going down and thus risk him choosing to let his contract run down?

There was stuff to do off the pitch, it made you feel like you were existing in a fantasy football world, and everything you did then mattered on the pitch. Lose games, reduced attendances, lower gate receipts, less transfer money, all contributed to the dreaded game over if you failed to adequately balance the books every September. The big difference was you were the manager, you ran the club, you played the games, your decisions mattered, you earned every second of the success you achieved.

Then there were the in-depth player stats, his rating when he joined, how he has developed over his tenure with your club, how many goals, assists, yellow and red cards, and how much profit he generated when selling him on. It all added up to a wonderfully engaging mode, that captivated your imagination and made you want to be playing, every second of the day.

All that has now gone, Master League has devolved, not evolved.

Back to PES 2019 Master League

Queue PES 2019 Master League, and more than 10 years later and the mode has been left to stagnate and rot beyond recognition. Transfers are broken, teams sell half their squads and end up only having two subs, with goalkeepers playing up front, release fees are ridiculously low, making the entire reason for release fees null and void and pointless. Transfers between teams see the likes of Sergio Aguero at West Brom, and Lionel Messi at Stoke. Disappointingly we were assured prior to release that issues such as these had been fixed.

Couple the above with the fact that the offline AI is the worst we have ever seen in a PES game, due to repetitive over use of low cross into the box, from the wing, throw in a first time back heel, and first time shot, used in every single attack, then it becomes monotonous. Yes you can track runners and prevent the goal 70% of the time, but the monotony is in knowing what the CPU is going to do every single time, every single match, where is the variation or intelligence? The longevity?

PES 19 feels beautiful when we have the ball at our feet, but absolutely horrid when we don’t. Player celebrations are generic and scoring a 90th minute winner in an FA Cup match against a team from the division above is as rinse & repeat as scoring the 5th in a 5-0 win over the bottom side. I could go on, but ultimately what ML fans want, is realism.

The newly licensed ICC pre-season cup is again unrealistic and pointless. Only the ‘Champions’ or top teams from each league compete in this tournament, hence the name, you don’t get invited if you are Stoke, or Brentford, or MK Dons. Consequently, as most people start a ML campaign with the default players at a lowly club in the English Championship or equivalent lower league division, you are then immediately pitted against the likes of PSG, Boca Jnrs, Lyon, etc. Competing in this tournament should be something you have to earn, work towards, instead you should have a month’s period whereby you can arrange pre-season friendlies against clubs of your choice. The bigger the club, the more gate receipts, TV rights money and merchandise sales you pull in. Resulting in boosting the coffers for your pre-season transfer dealings. It used to be this way, why did it get removed? For what logical reason?

Features Missing

This is a recurring theme throughout the last 5 years or more with PES. Here are some of the more loved features that have been removed:

  • Sponsorships
  • Hiring staff
  • Finance control
  • Pre-season friendlies
  • Varying attendances based on results
  • Stadium editor
  • In-depth stats
  • Decent AI

PES Master League’s 3 Year Plan

Konami stated they have a 3 year plan for Master League,  PES 2019 should have been year one of that 3 year plan, so we couldn’t expect the world, but at least start on a solid footing. Instead the mode is hollow, stale and totally lacks immersion. If Konami want to stand by their word and reinvigorate PES 2019 Master League then they need to go down the simulation and realism route, as this is what fans want. Reinstate the features that we once loved so much, give us back stadium editor so we don’t have to play as Burton Albion in a 70,000 euro bowl stadium, add in a match day experience broadcast package, actually CARE about the mode that kept the series alive and gave it the reputation it has.

Hardcore PES Fans

We were here playing ML, supporting the series and building the brand way before any of this MyClub streaming stuff came about, but to us, it feels as if Konami have ditched the long-term loyal fans in favour of the ones they can use to market their game and make money from. Photo shopping screenshots posted on Twitter to correct the fact that their own official screenshot showed Liverpool having sold Mané, Firmino and Salah all in the same season, doesn’t help. It feels like, we, as offline players, are put second. Naturally resource will go to the most popular game modes. Nevertheless, the situation has to change soon, otherwise Konami risk losing the most loyal of their user base.

So What’s Next?

We are where we are, the problems and possible solutions have been suggested above, some will agree, some will disagree, everyone has an opinion on the game, and most aren’t afraid to be vocal about it on social media sites. However, one universal thing that I’m sure we all, as PES fans can agree on, is that the offline play just isn’t up to scratch, and needs patching immediately.

Forget the shiny bells & whistles, the snazzy menus, the improved intelligent commentary, all that can come at a later date, what we need right now is a fix for the repetitive AI play, low crosses, and keepers being rooted to their lines. If we as offline players could only have that sorted then we would still be in for a great ML year, such is the quality of the game play when the ball is at our feet, it’s just when it’s not that the quality takes a severe nosedive.

If a random guy from the PC Mod community can make a gameplay altering fix within 2 weeks of release, I’m sure a multi-million dollar global games developer can do something, anything, please!

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