Every year there is a competition between FIFA and PES and most years I buy both at some stage. This year, however, I have bought both from the beginning and the on-pitch gameplay has thrown up some surprising results. Which one is better?
In previous years it has come down to what you want out of a football game. Do you want the perfect simulation that lets you feel like you are controlling the best players in the world or do you want one that feels like you felt when you were struggling on a pitch on a wet night at training? If the answer was the latter then the choice was always PES. It had the mud, blood sweat and tears of the beautiful game, while FIFA felt like you were controlling a television broadcast. This year it feels like the tables have turned.
PES 2019 in full flow is an almost zen-like experience. You have total control and can be as accurate with a surgeon’s scalpel in attack and defence. When you get the ball you can tip-toe your way through an opposition defence looking for the killer pass that gets you right in on goal. It feels like you are Manchester City or Barcelona, constantly switching play and probing for an opening against a resolute defence.
FIFA, by contrast, feels dirtier, more organic and to be honest more like it is in reality. You can be getting battered by the opposition and by chance the ball takes a wicked deflection and spins to your fullback, as the opposition is closing you can play a through ball at decent weight down the line and completely expose the defence, putting your winger in. In PES this simply would be cut out by the AI, yet FIFA may have pulled the AI out of defence to cover the midfielder joining in the attack. What I’m trying to say is that FIFA has a lot more of the unknown about it in attacking play.
Again in defence PES likes to be exact. If you mistime a tackle you will give away a foul, and in a stark contrast from last year, the AI will give away fouls as well. You have the traditional stand-up and sliding tackles and after that, it is up to you whether you play the high-pressing game or let the opposition come onto you before trying to get a foot in and win the ball. It is as clean and precise as the rest of the game and you know exactly what is going on.
FIFA continues along the feel of the attacking by being a bit more ambiguous. The defending is much harder than in PES and you can make a real fool of yourself. Pressing the stand up tackle button results in a lunge, which can either give away a penalty or leave yourself out of the game for a few seconds as your opponent skips past. There is also a real weight and physicality between the two players as on rare occasions you can bulldoze, your way through some defenders down to sheer luck rather than skill. Equally, you can try the most elaborate skill move and forget to take the ball with you letting it trickle through to the defender. The one problem with all this organic, physics-based action is the difficulty it gives any AI programme of being able to award fouls correctly. Like PES last year FIFA can be alarmingly short on actual fouls. The computer will usually penalise you for a rash slide tackle but a coming together where you heavily use your player’s weight can be a different matter. There are times when the AI literally shoves you off the ball because of their superior strength. While it is great that strength plays a part there needs to be a few more fouls called. Perhaps a patch can easily sort this. In all, you need to keep your wits about you in FIFA as one lapse can lead to an embarrassing concession. In PES the AI are more likely to pass around you.
Without a doubt, PES has the most realistic and beautiful ball physics. Simply passing the ball across the pitch from centre mid to the wing or fullback results in a beautiful arcing pass along the deck, with just the right amount of bend and swerve to take it to the other player. It is enough for people walking past to ask you to do it again. Similarly, crosses and shots move exactly as you would expect them and depending on the traits of the individual players rise and dip to make it as difficult for the keeper as possible.
FIFA, by contrast, has a ball that feels heavy. When this thing is struck it stays struck and looks more like a missile than a football and the animations when it hits a player in the groin or face are both welcome and funny. However, the extra weight of the FIFA ball gives a much better feel when playing long balls and crosses. You can really punt the ball into the corners for your forwards and wingers to chase without the fear of it simply rolling out of play like it would in PES. Because of this clearances and touches in your own penalty area need much more thought than in PES. In PES the tactic has always been to hit a blind ground pass as a clearance as it would home in on the nearest friendly player. In FIFA this may only travel a few feet leaving the opposition forward to smash the ball home. Where a heavier ball stands out is when heading. Heading in FIFA is glorious. Think Harry Maguire at the World Cup. The amount of time the ball spends in the air means there is the opportunity for your players to get a run-up and launch themselves at the ball clearing out the opposition. Whether attacking or defending the heavier ball physics make heading easier to judge than the placed, cushioned, skimming and weak efforts from PES.
Again as has been the case in the last few years both games play a compelling game of football, however, both are not without their faults. PES has a number of them involving AI play such as an over-reliance on low crosses, every team playing like superhumans against you and some quite ridiculous AI slide tackle precision. FIFA’s problems this year are more subtle such as lack of fouls and some truly frustrating keep ball played by the AI but it does play a more organic brand of football. SO the choice comes down to what kind of game you want.
PES will let you feel like Mess and Barcelona, whereas this year FIFA makes you feel like the sweat and mud is on your own controller. As always the choice is yours. Make sure to check out https://peschronicles.co.uk/ and the new https://fifafx.com/ for ongoing views and comments on both games.
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