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The PES 2021 Season Update really feels like a simulation soccer game

The transition between console generations is always a trying time for football games. The new systems always feature some of the worst sporting games of the generation as developers come to grips with new hardware. Meanwhile the older generation trudges on, putting band-aids over creaking engines and hoping players fork out full price to have the matchday squads updated. This years eFootball PES 2021 Season Update is exactly what it says. A cut priced edition of last years game with some minor fixes and updated rosters.

Gameplay feels fine! The PES 2021 Season Update really feels like a simulation soccer game that is an update from a solid simulation soccer game. Two aspects of gameplay jumped out at me. First, dribbling the ball is difficult, even with the fighting game-esque move sheet the game offers you. This appears to have been a problem in it’s predecessor, so maybe they’ll get it in Next Gen. Second, the transition from offense to defense is very rigid. Sometimes a pass would barely miss me, and my player would give up pursuit of the ball in favor of moving for defense. Or, an attempt to make a sliding tackle to disrupt a loose ball would instead charge a pass that I never get to make. PES 2021 draws a line at where possession ends, and it doesn’t feel fluid or particularly natural.

Quite clearly the main reason folks may be enticed to acquire the PES 2021 Season Update is to play with up-to-date teams and such. Many of the kits and squad rosters are updated through the base game and a patch at launch, ensuring the top two tiers of English football, Scottish Premiership, Russian League, the Portuguese Liga NOS and more are akin to their real-world counterparts. Sadly, almost as many major leagues aren’t getting the all-important freshen up until 22nd October – over a month post-release. It really sucks to be a fan of the Italian, Spanish and Belgian leagues right now.

Essentially, this is the exact same game as eFootball PES 2020.  Visually it looks the same, apart from a colour palette change and updated player images, the in-game menus are practically the same too.  On the pitch, the gameplay is also more or less the same as well. The only real difference to the gameplay of PES 2021 is that it’s benefited from the fine-tuning of the updates and patches that came with last year’s release.  So for better or worse, while gameplay is more or less the same, it can be said that the gameplay at the launch of PES 2021 is improved upon over PES 2020.  Though it is fairly minimal, so don’t go expecting any major overhauls to the gameplay.

This means that you get a much more fun game than FIFA, just with home brand trappings. The ball moves beautifully, taking delicious arcs through the air as you let loose with a cross field ball. It bounces more naturally than FIFA, and deflections can be just as comical as they are in real life.

Master League mode gives you the reins to your club pretty fully. The second series of cutscenes you encounter walk you through the transfer process. There’s a lot to look at but, overall, the process is pretty simple. You set terms. A CPU manager reviews them and decides if they like what they see. Your players don’t really get a say, which makes the process a little less engaging, if not wholly realistic.

In a nutshell, eFootball PES 2021 Season Update on Xbox One should be overlooked by those who own PES 2020 because it’s not worth the hassle of starting all over again for a selection of kits and partially updated squads. On the other hand, the gameplay and the modes combined with the updates makes it slightly more alluring to newcomers who haven’t experienced any of it. Even then it’s not a must-have and you may be best picking up PES 2020 on the cheap.

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