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PES 2009 - Review and FIFA Comparison

Posted 11-16-2008 at 11:19 PM by Bahnzo
I used to be a Pro Evolution Soccer fanboy. I'm ashamed to admit I was a fanboy of anything, but I was of PES. Or Winning Eleven (WE) as it was sold here in the United States. I bought a PS2 soley for the purpose of playing WE9 and it was the only game I owned for more than a year. I reveled with my fanboy mates on the message boards about PES's superior gameplay over the big bad FIFA. I meticulously edited each team and created logos and crests and renamed players. It was the best soccer game ever made.

Last year I bit the bullet and bought an Xbox 360, and along with it, I went to the dark side and picked up FIFA 08. Apparently PES had fallen into decline, and EA had finally taken all that money and licenses and done something decent to their football game. And I was a PES fanboy no more. FIFA 08 was the best representation of the beautiful game on the new consoles yet and made PES 2008 an embarrassment to it's pedigree.

But PES 2009 is here, and it's......really pretty good. Not great, but nowhere near the terrible game I thought it was last year. And surprisingly better than the demo they released earlier, which took longer to download than it lasted on my 360's hard drive.

Getting Started

Putting in the disc and loading up the game, you are greeted with the familiar PES sights and sounds. I have to admit they are dated...they have a coin-op arcade feel to them that the new consoles and their games have left behind. It's not much, but it shows how Konami needs to rethink and update PES to bring it up to standards for the "next gen" consoles.

Heading straight into an exhibition game, and the first thing a FIFA fan will notice is the lack of leagues and teams in PES. Only 5 leagues are represented, England, Spain, France, Italy, and Holland. The French and Dutch leagues are the only ones with the correct league names, the others are simply named English League, Spanish League, etc. As far as teams go, the French Ligue 1, the Eredivisie, and the Italian League have all teams fully licensed. The Spanish League has 11 teams, and the English only 2. There are also 20+ "other league" teams that are licensed such as Boca Juniors, FC Porto, etc. And, along with all those, many of the larger nations are featured as well. So while there are certainly many less clubs than you'll find in FIFA, most of the largest clubs are represented.

And while there are some noticeable omissions, mostly in the Premier League, PES 2009 does have some decent editing tools. All the English teams are there, they are simply named differently. Importantly, all the players on those teams are correct, so no editing of player's names are needed. The team names are easily changed, and if you are so inclined, there are tools to edit both the badges and the kits as well. And of course there are option files you can find on the internet which folks have edited to input the correct badges and kits.

Playing The Game

Jumping right into an Exhibition Match, I chose Liverpool against Manchester United (the only two licensed English Premier League teams). If you've played PES before, you won't see anything different in the team screen than what you've become accustomed to. You can set and edit your team's formation, check your player's form and fatigue, set attacking and defensive mentalities, choose your kick takers, and much more.

When the game starts, you'll probably look at the graphics first. While they don't immediately wow you, they are very adequate and are clean and life-like. I'm sure there are some that will say they aren't as good as FIFA, but I was just fine with them and think they look good.

Kicking off and the buttons are pretty familiar. In fact, FIFA and PES share a similar control scheme so passing, shooting and crossing are easily picked up. Of course there are some buttons that differ and it takes a few games to get a handle on them, but nothing is overly complicated and just about everything works well.

The gameplay this year is very well done. The pace is still a tad fast for my liking which is especially noticeable when playing as one of the larger, more skilled teams. But it's much slowed from last year's effort and feels nice. The passing is very crisp and done well. One thing that PES does much better than FIFA is in how the physics are handled. Player positioning and his relation to the ball are very important. A player with the ball directly in his feet will make less accurate passes and shots than when the ball is a yard away. And the same goes for the direction the player is facing and which foot he takes a shot with. It all matters and getting it wrong can result in poor passes and shots that threaten to become a throw in.

Some big improvements in PES's gameplay over FIFA: When you pass to a player, they actually come to the ball if that's needed. I can't tell you how frustrated I get with that in FIFA! Switching up the play to the opposite field is also well done. By using the RB and the lob pass, you can send a driven ball cross field to a wing. It doesn't float there, like FIFA, but it *moves*. Also thru balls are better done and much more intelligent.

And, it's actually possible to build up and pass the ball around! While FIFA's focus seems to be on continuous up and down play, in PES it's often an advantage to play it slow and build up play. And the CPU will do this as well, especially with the better teams. Add in that simply dribbling the ball is well done and it's much easier to make space without having to resort to tricks to get by a defender.

I could go on and on, but it's my opinion that in 2009, PES is the winner when it comes to sheer gameplay. The game flows very well, passing is done nicely, free kicks are challenging and corners are dangerous. The CPU makes intelligent substitutions and I do believe they also make formation changes as well. If there's one thing I would have to point to that needs work, it's marking and tackling. It seems like your players give too much of a cushion to the man with the ball, even when you are using the tackle button. I'd really like to see my defender try to step in quicker and take the ball when I press tackle. But instead it seems they shadow the dribbler and step in when they think it's appropriate. You have to use the slide tackle to make an immediate challenge.

The Master League

Manager Mode in PES is called "Master League". If you are familiar with PES, then you will notice that nothing has changed for 2009. It's still the same ML where you choose a team, either real or one with weaker, fictional players, and build them into a hardware winning side. There are four "leagues" with 2 divisions for each. When starting you are allowed to assign teams to each league....so it's possible to create the leagues along the lines of the French, Spanish, Italian and English Leagues.

If you had to find a weakness in the Master League, you would have to point to the lack of teams and leagues provided in the game. Also, the second division in each league is only 12 teams. While the ML has been this way since I can remember, it would be really nice to see PES expand it's league and team choices. Even if it's fake teams and leagues, more of them would enhance the Master League experience greatly. With the editing options available the community would certainly take care of any needed edits to names and even players.

Once you start the league, most people will take the option of creating their own team. All the editing options to make your own badge and kit are here as well, along with choosing which stadium you'll play in and even the type of chants your supporters sing. After that is done, you then have 1000 PES points in which to spend to bring in a player or two to help strengthen your team for the upcoming season.

PES Points are the currency of the Master League. You get points after each game and they are awarded based on win, draw or loss. You can also build up points buy selling players on the transfer market. But you will also have to keep an eye on your players salaries, because at the end of the season you will have to pay your players and not being able to foot the wage bill could be disastrous.

The Master League is another area where PES shines in comparison to FIFA. The transfer market works well, and has many useful search options to help you find talent. Also, during transfer periods negotiations are done without playing any games. You have a certain number of days (10 I think mid-season) to make as many moves as you want. You are not limited to only being able to make 3 bids ala FIFA, you can make as many as needed and then advance a day.

But most of all, the AI in Master League uses it players correctly. One of the big knocks on FIFA is the AI used in manager mode. You won't see that here. The CPU AI takes fatigue into account and chooses starting lineups accordingly. They also make intelligent bids for players and uses them properly in their team...two things that FIFA seems unable to do for whatever reason.

Still, the Master League needs work. Like I said, it's the same old ML that PES has had for years. More teams, more leagues, more divisions are needed to make this a better feature. Also, there still seems to be no way to simulate games. You have to play each and every game on the schedule. For some this is no big deal, but I'd like to have the option to sim the odd game every now and then. But those two things are really the only faults I can find with the Master League, it's very well done and robust. If manager mode is what you look for most in a soccer game, then PES is by far the better choice.

Become A Legend

BAL is a great mode! You create your player, choose your initial position and are thrown into a scouting match. After the match you will get 3 offers from middle to lower tier teams. Initially you will only play in intra-squad matches as you gain experience. But if you do well enough, you will eventually be picked for the bench for a real game and start to see some playing time. You do earn experience for each game, but you don't get to spend it individually. Instead you can set areas you want the experience spent in, and how important those areas are to you.

And....unlike FIFA, which you only get four years in the Be A Pro mode, in BAL you can play for up to 21 seasons! I've yet to play more than half a season so far, but apparently you can be transferred and even play for your national team.

Another nice feature in BAL is that you can play from any camera angle. There is a "Player" cam that follows behind you (ala FIFA), but you can change to any one you like, and even set the camera to either follow you or the ball.

Champions League and Tournaments

PES has the license for the Champions League, so of course there's a special mode focusing on this. I've only played one game to check it out, but it's done well. It has the special TV intros, graphics and screen wipes when cutting to replays. If you are a big fan of the Champions League, you'll enjoy this feature.

But beyond that, there's just about every type of tournament and cup available to be played as well. They might not all be named correctly, but they are there. From the Copa America to the World Cup, you can setup teams and play them all.


Online play is where PES stumbles. While it's improved over last year's unplayable lag-fest, it still has major problems. Games are still somewhat laggy and while playable, it's distracting and IMO unforgivable in this day and age not to have a solid 1v1 online play. And to make things worse, the skill level of your players is set to the "Beginner" level, meaning they don't bother to play defense and instead stand around and allow your opponent to dribble around and through them. Because of this, online play is a cheese fest, with people using ridiculous formations to clog up the middle and pack in 8 outfield players in defense.

Also the lobbies are a bit confusing at first and it's not apparent how to go about setting up a game or how to play a friend. When you consider how well FIFA not only handles it's basic online, but also allows for 10v10 play, it feels like PES is still trying to figure out how to rub two sticks together to create fire.

So while it's very possible that playing only friends might solve some of the online problems, for the most part online play in PES fails again this year. And that's too bad, because there's a solid game to be had there somewhere.


There's a fully featured practice mode where you can practice not only corners and free kicks (with a wall), but also an open practice where you can just go out with your team and no opposition and just kick the ball around. Something sorely missing from FIFA.

There are legendary players in the game, like Pele, Best, etc. Some (most?) of them aren't named properly, but they can be edited of course. You can put these players onto a team, or even make them available in the Master League. A nice feature.

The controls are somewhat editable. You can't edit everything, but it is nice to be able to assign basic functions to the buttons. I'd still like to see something better however....the super cancel on the 360 is RB+RT and it's not a combination that's intuitive. But to change just this, you also alter a host of other commands and it's just confusing when you do so.


PES 2009 is a very solid game of soccer. It outshines FIFA 09 this year in just about every mode, except for online. So if you are someone who loves a manager mode and doesn't really plan to spend much time playing online, then you'd be amiss not to give PES a chance. Sure it's got some problems, and the average gamer is probably going to be turned off by the lack of licensed leagues and teams. But if you can get past that, PES is going to give you the more realistic game of soccer this year. It's unfortunate the online portion of the game is so weak still. A better online is a must next year for PES if they intend on gaining and taking back the crown from FIFA.

PES 2009 is back at least to where it was in the PS2 days. But with the new consoles, Konami still needs to put in some work to get PES up to the standards we all demand now. But Seabass and crew seem to be headed in the right direction again and PES 2010 should carry with it the promise of regaining it's place on top of the football gaming world.

Score: 8.5-ish

The Good:
Excellent gameplay. You can build up and sustain attacks.
CPU and teammate AI is actually intelligent.
Master League is a superior manager mode.
Be A Legend is much deeper than it's FIFA counterpart.

The Bad:
Limited licensed teams and leagues.
No easy way (think 2K share) for users to share option files.
Defensive control seems suspect at times

The Ugly:
Online play.
Total Comments 5


Matt10's Avatar
great review comparison, Bahnzo - well done. I agree with pretty much everything you said. Really can't wait for an update (if ever) from Konami so we can play with the greater option files out there.
Posted 11-17-2008 at 02:10 AM by Matt10 Matt10 is offline
Qb's Avatar
Well done, sir. My wife has been asking me about Christmas gifts lately, so perhaps this will end up on my list...
Posted 11-19-2008 at 01:36 PM by Qb Qb is offline
Bahnzo's Avatar
I highly recommend it if there's nothing else that catches your gaming eye. FIFA has been relegated to online play only at this point....
Posted 11-19-2008 at 06:29 PM by Bahnzo Bahnzo is offline
Tomba's Avatar
PES2009 is the first soccer game I've enjoyed since Fifa 07 on gamecube. And if anyone knows THAT game knows it was great. personally PES2009 plays and looks about the same as football kingdom and fifa 07(last gen0 if any cares... and those two styles put togtehr make it great
Posted 11-20-2008 at 12:04 AM by Tomba Tomba is offline
teambayern's Avatar
Thanks Bahnzo, this pushed me over the edge. I felt like I was the only one who had fallen out of love with FIFA. After playing the PES 09 demo, it may not be as realistic in the sense of what it looks like, or how long it takes to move the ball, ect. but it sure FEELS more real. Can't wait till I pick it up!
Posted 12-16-2008 at 09:23 PM by teambayern teambayern is offline

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