“Pro Evolution Soccer 2018” is a step backwards for the world’s second most popular console football game. It retains the realistic passing techniques of the last iteration and the quirky non-simulation nature of the series, but it doesn’t move the franchise forward in any discernible way.
Last year’s game was a fun and moreish experience which left you wanting to play another match every time you completed 90 minutes. It wasn’t the most accurate depiction of football as a sport but it was an enjoyable game to play which made up for its peculiar sensibilities.
Unfortunately, this year Konami have attempted to portray a more truthful version of the beautiful game and in doing so have undone much of what worked about “PES 2017”. This game isn’t as entertaining or as easy to play as its predecessor and it isn’t as fluid.
The best thing about “PES 2017” was its contextual moments, in which players would choose the right technique for a particular pass or shot depending on the situation without requiring the player to insert another input. However, because the game is much slower this year these passes feel idiotic, especially given the fact that the AI react slowly and dwell maddeningly on the ball when in their own defensive area.
Previously I was able to ignore many of the issues that “PES” had – whether it be the AI passing the ball straight to the opposition from free-kicks or playing the ball across their own box – but in a game which feels as though it’s been stunted so that it can transition towards being a football simulator those problems aren’t as easy to swallow.
In many ways this game feels like just that – a transition. It doesn’t feel as though it actually works when you’re playing it and much of the time the experience is a bit of a chore. I can still have a good time when I’m playing on a team with my brother because he makes runs that the defence don’t track and when it gets too easy we can enjoy passing the ball laterally, but when I’m playing on my own there’s very little joy to be had.
I don’t want to be too hard on this game because “PES” is one of my favourite franchises and I think it gets unfairly overlooked because of licensing issues and graphics which are restricted by a budget, but it’s hard to overlook a game’s flaws when they represent the dismantling of something you love.
For many years “Fifa” has felt the way that “PES” feels this year – a game that has taken a lot from the previous iteration and then tried to change the wrong things. This approach is infuriating for the player, not least because the changes being made aren’t tangible in any positive way.
I want to believe that Konami are taking the game in a new direction (one which feels more deliberate when playing) for the right reasons, but to me it feels as though they’re trying to make a game which is more like “Fifa”. This, in my opinion, is a lost cause.
I’m not “Fifa’s” biggest fan and I’ve made that clear in the past, but Konami can’t compete with EA when it comes to realism or presentation. They have to win on gameplay and offer an experience which feels substantially different to EA’s football behemoth – sadly they haven’t done this with “PES 2018”.
Of course, there are positives mixed in with my mostly negative comments – the shooting is still satisfying with efforts flying past the keeper from distance, some of the player faces are great, and as previously mentioned most of the techniques are superb. The issue isn’t that “PES 2018” is completely awful or that Konami aren’t trying, it’s that this game’s positive features were all present in the previous game and thus the issues I’ve mentioned make “PES 2018” substantially worse than “PES 2017”.
I wish that I could endorse this game more confidently and delve into a list of positive features but the reality of the matter is that “PES 2018” represents a misstep for Konami and a fundamental misunderstanding of what made the last game great. I have a better time playing the free “Fifa 18” demo than I do playing this £40-£50 game so I can’t recommend it without being disingenuous.