PES 2021 on PS5 and Xbox Series X is a tantalising prospect. Already reinstalled as the purists’ favourite football game - even if its sales are dwarfed by the FIFA series - Konami has hinted at a new engine on next-gen, which in theory could see it recapture the magic of its PS2 years. But will it be out at launch, and what else is in store following the generational leap? Delve deeper into GR’s PES 2021 guide to find out…
PES 2021 release date: could it be a PS5 and Xbox Series X launch title?
Unlike EA - who seems sure to have FIFA 21 and Madden 21 ready for day one - Konami has never been concerned with PES being available for a new console’s launch day. PS2, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One all emerged without Pro Evo. Meaning there’s a strong chance that you have to wait until sometime next year for PES 2021 on PS5 and Xbox Series X - if indeed it ever emerges at all. With whispers of a new engine, Konami may decide to skip a year and instead reboot the series with PES 2022.
Things are more straightforward on current-gen. PES 2018 hit stores on 12 September, PES 2019 on 28 August, and PES 2020 on 10 September. So you’re likely looking at a PES 2021 release date of early September on PS4 and Xbox One, around three weeks ahead of rival FIFA 21.
PES 2021 on PS5 and Xbox Series X: Dawn of a new engine
Excitingly, Konami has hinted that next-gen will bring a new engine to the PES series. Dauntingly, it hasn’t given any idea as to when that might occur.
“Our plans focus on the version of the game that is relevant at this time. Updating such technologies is a very risky step. Before creating or releasing anything, you need to evaluate all the risks,” Konami’s Kei Matsuda told WinPes in 2018.
“In the future we plan to change the main engine, but this will not happen before the time when a new generation of game consoles will appear. On the current generation, the Fox Engine will remain forever. We are not planning any changes.”
The Fox Engine has been in place since PES 2014, and generally been a success. A switch for PS5 and Xbox Series X ensures 8K visuals, and hopefully a significant upgrade to the series’ presentation elements: in terms of commentary and graphical overlays, it lags way behind contemporaries such as NBA 2K21 and even WWE 2K21. The always-active community has plenty of other suggestions for how to improve the series too. On which note…
PES 2021 features wishlist: what do the fans want?
A comprehensive overhaul of Master League, once the series’ marquee feature, comes top of the hardcore fans’ wishlist for PES 2021. Superrandy on Reddit offers a detailed breakdown of how it could be reconfigured to mirror its glory days: “The menus need an overhaul again; the organization and naming of items needs [to be] redone. Get rid of followers, it’s stupid and meaningless. Konami also needs to fix release clauses. They need to let you recall loans. They need to give you more control over your budget allocation split. They need to make your budget grow with success.”
“They need to have an actual transfer list where you can see a filtered view of your listed players,” he continues. “They need preseason tournaments and friendlies. More injuries and longer term injuries, to affect teams and gameplay. Add the ability to edit players inside ML. Add the ability to change your stadium inside ML. Add more depth to scouting… and overhaul how potential works. Increase the rate of growth for high potential players. It shouldn’t take a FB like Reece James five years to move to an 80 overall. That’s dumb programming. I’ve had young players tear it up and barely increase in ability, that’s not acceptable. If a player is playing well they need dramatically more gains.”
On the dedicated Evoweb forum, moderator Chuny predicts that the Unreal Engine will be used on PS5 and Xbox Series X - and knows what he wants to see from it. “[Konami is] already familiarised with it because they've been developing the mobile version under that engine for two years now,” he says. “We could finally have actual dynamic lighting and weather. Which would really add a lot to the immersion: Live shadows not only in broad daylight but also at night with different shadows casting in player's faces, etc.”
“The most important thing this might bring is key elements to gameplay,” he adds. “Perhaps more refined, cleaner code. Better AI. More animations, because the new engine could handle them faster, and calculate which one to choose better, than the obsolete Fox Engine.”
PES 2021 licenses: Who’ll be exclusive to Konami?
Last year we ran a FIFA 20 vs PES 2020 comparison, charting which teams were exclusive to which game - and the line-up looks similar this year. Announcements for PES 2021 are a little while away, but we do know that Juventus are exclusive to PES 2021: it signed a three-year deal with Konami before the release of PES 2020.
These are the other partners clubs you can expect in PES 2021, if it follows the precedent set last year:
- Juventus (fully exclusive, so kits and stadium are only in PES)
- Barcelona (stadium exclusive to PES)
- Manchester United (also in FIFA due to EA’s Premier League license)
- Bayern Munich (stadium exclusive to PES)
- Arsenal (also in FIFA due to EA’s Premier League license)
- AC Milan (also in FIFA)
- AS Monaco (stadium exclusive to PES)
- Celtic (stadium exclusive to PES)
- Sao Paulo
- Vasco da Gama
- Universidad de Chile