In a matchup of the biggest soccer sims on the planet, which one should you buy? FIFA 20 or PES 2020?
Listen, I get it. You like soccer. You also like video games. Therefore, you’re on the lookout for a good soccer video game. Luckily for you, there are two big-time soccer games for you to choose from. But which game should you get? Well, I’ve played 50 or so hours of each game, making me somewhat qualified to give you some help in your soccer purchasing decision for the 2020 season.
We’ll be looking at Konami’s eFootball PES 2020 and EA’s FIFA 20. Both games are solid choices; however, they have a number of key differences that might sway your mind when you’re looking at them at the store. Depending on which game modes you play the most, you’re going to prefer one game over the other. This is meant to be a relatively brief summary of each games’ strengths and weaknesses. If you’d like to read something more in-depth, feel free to check out my full reviews for PES 2020 and FIFA 20.
Both games play well, they just take completely different paths to get there. FIFA can barely be called a soccer simulation these days with how far it’s skewed toward fast-paced, constant action. Midfield and build-up play are basically non-existent in most of FIFA. Instead, the ball pings up the field in a matter of seconds before either a shot is taken or the team loses possession in their attacking third. The game also has a problem with terrible ball physics which leads to it feeling like the ball is magnetized to players feet on most passes/crosses.
PES 2020, on the other hand, feels like a Premier League game you’d see on a Saturday matchday. The pace slows way down and build-up play is basically required for competent gameplay. PES values tactics and careful planning over sheer pace and a few well-timed through-balls. Truthfully, I haven’t played a soccer game that feels this good on the field in quite some time. If you’re just looking for a best-in-class soccer sim, PES is probably the way to go.
I should note that both games have a problem with your team’s A.I. defenders seeming like they’ve never touched a soccer ball before. Some people like this as it makes more of the defending on you, but the number of times my A.I. defender just ran away from the ball made me feel like this is something that needs a major patch in the next few weeks.
That said, if you live by the saying that “gameplay is king”, then PES is going to be the game for you. It just feels so much better to play once the whistle blows. Put the first points on the board in Konami’s column.
Both games are absolutely gorgeous on the field. That said, for my money, Konami’s Fox Engine is an unstoppable juggernaut of graphical fidelity. Some of the screenshots I’ve seen out the engine are completely indecipherable from real life. FIFA is far from bad, but I’ll take PES‘ on-field looks every single day. Whether in motion at full pace or frozen in instant replay, PES just looks better.
However, once you get off the field, PES takes a sharp downturn. The menu system is still garbage and some options are layered under three or four options. In sharp contrast, I find the FIFA menus to be snappy and easy to use. Granted, part of that might be down to my familiarity with FIFA; however, I think most would agree that PES has always struggled to match up with EA’s presentation.
The deciding factor then has to be the various licenses each company has. This is where FIFA becomes the clear winner. PES is catching up in this department, but it’s hard to compete with Ultimate Team money. Sure, I can’t play as Juventus in my FIFA career mode; however, PES lacks tons more teams and leagues. Of course, there are ways around that, but we’ll talk about that later.
Ultimate Team vs. myClub
Ultimate Team might be one of the most profitable modes in all of gaming. This thing practically prints money for EA as everyone wants to build their dream squad and compete online to prove their skill. This year, the mode adds much-needed seasonal objectives and some truly fun new Friendly game modes (seriously, go try out Mystery Ball, it’s a blast). For Ultimate Team players, it’s a case of the rich getting richer. EA knows this is their money-making machine and they treat it as such.
MyClub, in comparison, is totally lackluster. The continued lack of a true transfer market really puts a damper on the mode as it makes it much less fun to build up a war chest of coins to go out and sign players with. Instead, you’re stuck signing scouts and then looking at a spreadsheet to see which scout combinations give the best players. It feels incredibly stuck in the past and is a huge turnoff for anyone who loves playing the transfer market in FIFA.
The one thing myClub has that I wish FIFA would add is the ability to take your myClub players into modes like Master League. If you scout a prime David Beckham, you can then import him to your career mode save and play with him there. FIFA doesn’t have anything like that, which is really a shame given how many Icons they have in the game. That said, FIFA is the obvious winner in this category.
Career Mode vs. Master League
Master League is far from perfect. As ever, the menus are abysmal and it takes far too long to find simple things like creating a secondary squad. The new manager cutscenes are fine but don’t really add much to the proceedings. However, for the most part, everything works as intended. The second year of Konami’s Master League refresh is mostly successful and lays the groundwork for what could be a great mode next year.
FIFA, on the other hand, is a dumpster fire that only gets worse the more you play it. In real life, Manchester City will likely never get relegated. In FIFA-land, they were playing Championship soccer before I’d even gotten my Salford City promoted to Leauge One. Obviously, that’s just my save, but it seems to be a common problem across the internet. Big sides consistently play their 3rd team (or worse) in what should be marquee matchups. This has been a problem for years but seems to have gotten worse in FIFA 20. New additions like dynamic potential are mostly duds due to how poorly they were implemented. It’s gotten so bad that EA cover athlete Joel Embiid has taken to social media to try to get EA to fix the mode. But you can create your own manager now!
Truthfully, if you’re mainly a career mode player, there is no question. PES is the one to get. It’s that simple.
Volta vs. Customization
Finally, there are a few features that both games provide to stand out from the other. For FIFA, it’s the new Volta mode, while PES lets you (on PC and PS4) completely customize everything in the game via option files. Depending on how you plan to play, both are important things to consider.
Volta is as close to FIFA Street that we’re probably going to get for the foreseeable future. The mode is fast-paced, arcade action that I loved to play. Volta has a barebones story mode, online play, and a mode that lets you travel the world and pick up new players as you win games. Personally, I’ve spent the most time in Volta Tour and loved what I’ve played. It’s also been a fun mode to play with friends who don’t spend nearly as much time with FIFA as I do each year.
PES doesn’t have a cool new mode to dangle in front of customers. Instead, it just lets you edit and share players, leagues, tournaments, and even sponsors to make the game as lifelike as possible. This may not sound like much, but in FIFA I’m stuck playing with Piemonte Calcio until EA gets the Juventus license. In PES, I can add any squad or league I want as long as the community creates it. It doesn’t completely take away the advantage FIFA has in licenses, but it does mitigate it quite a bit.
The Final Verdict
So, now the answer you’ve all been waiting for. I still think both games are very good. Personally, I will probably play FIFA more this year because I have a disease and its name is FUT. That said, unless you share my sickness, I think PES is the obvious choice this year. FIFA has FUT, better licenses, and better menus. That’s about it. PES does nearly everything else better. If you only buy one soccer game in 2019, make it eFootball PES 2020 and I think you’ll be more than satisfied.