eFootball PES 2021

This year eFootball PES 2021 Season Update takes a relatively novel approach to the idea of annual sports franchises. Coming in at a lower cost than usual, this entry in the series is more of an upgrade than a full-blown new release. Let’s take a closer look at exactly what that means with a closer look at PES 2021 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

eFootball PES 2021eFootball PES 2021 Season Update Details

Platform: PlayStation 4Xbox One, PC
Reviewed on: Xbox One
Developer: 
PES Productions
Publisher: Konami
Genre: Sports
Modes: Single-player, multiplayer
ESRB Rating: E (Everyone)

Just your basic update

Fans often lament the fact that quite often annual sports franchises tend to lack innovation year to year. It’s a running joke to insinuate that the next big sports release is no more than a “roster update”. Some go as far as suggesting that all sports franchises should take on a more “games as service” approach. Why charge for a new game every year when a simple roster update would suffice?

Konami is among the first to actually embrace this idea with eFootball PES 2021 Season Update. The game is very much a standalone purchase. Yet it’s also—unapologetically—essentially a repackaging of PES 2020, albeit with a few new tweaks and updates. The upside is that the price tag shrinks to compensate.

The two games are so similar that it’s almost redundant to review the core features all over. In fact, you can check out my review of eFootball Pro Evolution Soccer 2020 right here, and apply most of what I’ve already said to this year’s offering. In essence, eFootball PES 2021 Season Update is still a game with solid mechanics, excellent ball physics and finesse dribbling, and a range of single player and online modes.

eFootball PES 2021

New rosters and events

That said, eFootball PES 2021 Season Update still attempts to create some value for returning players. Of course playing with the most current rosters and mirroring current league events always has some level of draw to it. Unfortunately with the tumultuous state of sports in general this year, it’s harder than ever to stay on top of this.

One of the big draws of PES 2020 was the online modes that correspond to real life league action. In the wake of a global pandemic, Konami has inevitably had to walk back the scope of realism of its Matchday features. The game has lost a few of its licenses from last year as well, so in some respects the “update” aspect is moving in the wrong direction.

The gameplay itself gets nothing more than the most minor of tweaks and balances. Again this is much more akin to an update (as the name suggests) than anything more significant. There are no major innovations to how you’ll control the match in eFootball PES 2021 Season Update. It’s a good thing the foundation is already quite solid.

eFootball PES 2021

Enter the Master League

However, one bright spot is the addition of new real-life managers to its Master League mode. Sadly, I’m not close enough to the world of pro soccer to know who any of them are myself. Nevertheless I’m sure their faces are welcome among those who do have their personal favourites.

Master League itself is a fun mode to play. In particular it gives someone like me (who isn’t particularly a fanatic) a broader view into the world of professional soccer. Although the odd hybrid of moving cutscenes without much in the sound department is a bit difficult to digest. Club meetings are eerily quiet when the characters are moving but the dialogue is only available as subtitles.

These cutscenes feel like they can’t decide if they are scripted interludes or full-blown cinematics. At times it almost feels like something isn’t working right—even though the structure is obvious and intentional. Still, watching people have conversations with no audio gives the nagging feeling that the sound has cut out.

It doesn’t ruin the experience, but other sports titles have set the bar with the inclusion of voice acting in their narrative modes. That can’t help but make it noticeably absent here.

eFootball PES 2021

Setting the stage for next year

Developer Konami does not shy away from the intentions in the reductive nature of eFootball PES 2021 Season Update. Their goal is to come out swinging with an incredible next generation offering for consoles like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S in 2021. Focusing less on innovations this year means (hopefully) raising the bar and delivering something unforgettable with the leap to new hardware.

Ultimately this means that eFootball PES 2021 Season Update is at best a great value for new players or those who skipped an iteration. If you weren’t on board for PES 2020, you’re getting this years offering at a great value. On the other hand, the return diminishes greatly for those upgrading from last year’s game.

Still, the franchise regularly offers a realistic and mechanically sound soccer simulation. If their reputation holds true, the extra effort could be well worth the wait for dedicated fans of the series. In the meantime, I think at the very least it’s worth giving Konami kudos for not trying to milk full price out of its fanbase for what is essentially an old game with a light amount of polish.

eFootball PES 2021

eFootball PES 2021 Season Update is an economical upgrade to an existing game

Calling eFootball PES 2021 Season Update an entirely new game wouldn’t be accurate, but then again it’s right there in the name. Konami is being up front with gamers as to their approach to this annual soccer franchise in 2020. Essentially, players are getting a discount over the price of a new release in return for the most basic of roster updates and gameplay tweaks, while Konami hedges its bets on making up for it with a monster next generation release in 2021.

If you’re new to PES it’s certainly not a bad time to jump in. Getting the “new” game at right at launch with a smaller price tag may be a great way to see what the series is all about at the height of its season. Meanwhile, returning players may still want to carefully consider whether the value in making the jump to eFootball PES 2021 Season Update is there, even at its lower cost of entry.

+ Konami embraces the idea of a budget annual franchise update this year
+ Core gameplay remains solid
+ New managers for Master League

– Minimal reasons to upgrade for returning players
– Cinematics don’t quite feel complete with a lack of audio/voice acting

OVERALL ASSESSMENT OF eFOOTBALL PES 2021 SEASON UPDATE

Gameplay: 4.5/5
Graphics: 4/5
Sound: 3/5
Lasting Appeal/Replayability: 3/5

Overall Rating 3.6/5 (73%)

Get eFootball PES 2021 Season Update for PlayStation 4
Get eFootball PES 2021 Season Update for Xbox One

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Dave Neufeld
Dave is an avid gamer, a musician/songwriter/recording artist, and an ardent reader with a degree in the Classics but a love for comics too. When he's not gigging with the band or pulling books at his local comic shop, he can usually be found gaming on any platform, from consoles to PC to his self-built personal arcade cabinet.

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