eFootball PES 2021 Season Update (Sniper)
Format: Xbox Series X
Genre: Sports
Developer: PES Productions
Publisher: Konami

When this reviewer looks back on his screenshots from "Pro Evolution Soccer 2013", he more or less sees the same game. Sure, it runs at a native 4K with HDR on Microsoft's flagship system. But the same character faces, weird hair textures, animations, stadia quality levels, and player models have been recycled more times than a Coke can. The menus have been copy and pasted for so many years it's a miracle the glue hasn't run out.

Ever since Pro Evo went away from the hilarious "Gran Turismo"-style Japanese elevator music and towards the FIFA-envy licensed soundtracks, the game's "world's worst stadium music" menus have been almost unlistenable. This edition takes a veer towards some genre of rock music that sounds like it came from Mars. It's bizarre, to put it mildly. The crowd sounds and announcing are just as bad as ever: more like noise than an active contribution to the experience.

The saving grace in this latest Pro Evo, if there is one, is that the core gameplay C++ code they've been nursing for a decade or more is as good as ever. Sure the collision and foul system could use a refresher, as players awkwardly smack into each other and fall over. Yes, the exact same Master League has been re-purposed for the seventh time. But the ludonarrative-rich, real-time physics driven on-pitch gameplay and RPG team-building combination is still a winning formula.

The Pro Evo series was king of the hill during the PlayStation 2 era. Then it went through its FIFA-envy period, losing its quirky Japanese identity but still providing the best gameplay of any sports game, regardless of sport. Now? It's a dead series, staked through the heart by its own creator, replaced with a micro transaction-festering, abominable mobile game. This oddly named 2021 "roster update" rendition of the game, then, is the swan song: a sort of "best and worst of" simultaneous assemblage of what the series was in its glory years, and what it became in its death throes.

Sniper's verdict: