Title: Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
Platform: PS4, Xbox One (reviewed), PC
Release Date: Out now
TL;DR: A game of two halves
Family Friendly? Find out if PES 2018 is family friendly here
Another year comes and so does another Pro Evolution Soccer. This year’s iteration: PES 2018, is a welcome addition to the franchise. Now, I’ll put it out there nice and early; I haven’t played a PES game since 2006, switching instead to FIFA at pretty much the right time as PES – from the fragments I’d played in intermittent years – had fallen off the pace. Since then, Konami have adapted to the changing landscape of football games, and, from what I’ve played of PES 2018 so far, offers a compelling alternative to FIFA in some respects – it’s not a game changer, but what it gets right is done very, very well.
Let’s jump straight into the gameplay. The most notable difference – as a FIFA player coming back to PES – was the pace. Whilst FIFA tries to capture the realism of the beautiful game through a slower player movement, PES focuses on speed, with players able to tear down the pitch at will. The fluidity of player movement is a massive advantage here, with players able to change direction in a far more natural way than previous titles. Add to this the chaotic crash as possession bounces back and forth quicker than Sonic stuck in a bouncy castle, every match becomes a frantic push for victory that ends in a surprisingly satisfying win, or a bittersweet defeat.
The game holds itself up not only with the movement, but – in places – with the graphics too. PES had to be patient in getting to the same level as FIFA when it comes to visuals, but, with teams like Barcelona and Liverpool, where likeness agreements have been improved, has allowed for some absolutely amazing recreations of the likes of Suarez, Coutinho, and Messi. That said, the top-quality graphics of some players is not spread across all teams. With the star studded cast of Real Madrid, Manchester City, and United, they all hit an average quality of graphics, but when you compare a player from Barca to Madrid, it’s easy to see where the graphics drop in places.
So whilst the aesthetics of the game are a bit all over the place, PES has always been very good at getting the little extras of a match spot on. This is apparent most of all in player reactions. When I was through on goal with Giroud, and placed the ball just wide of the goal, it was great to see the frustration of the player in such a clear way. He skidded to the ground and banged his fists against the ground before pulling himself up. Too often have fans of football games been promised a “natural,” reaction, only to have to settle for a semi-frustrated skip jump. It’s a simple touch of immersion that has a great impact for when you want the players to reflect your own feelings.
Now, if you’re anything like me, one of the best things about a football game is the career mode. I’m glad to say that the career mode is a great experience – mostly. Again, what PES does well with the career mode is get the little touches right. From the cutscenes of your new manager taking over the club, scenes of players lifting their Player of the Year award, to the impact that players have on a whole team. Other features like players having to adapt to new positions and a functioning job security measure also help in giving weight to your decisions and results as a manager.
The features that are present in the PES career mode, great that they are, are nevertheless let down by a sloppy UI. This extends beyond the maze-like interface that makes choosing a formation and starting line-up an absolute pain in the arse, to the very core aspects of the career mode. Negotiations are rage-inducing, with the player only able to offer one set of counter-terms for contract renewals or transfers, before you’re stuck waiting for targets to magically change their minds and join. Even manouvering your way through to players you want to scout takes longer than it should, as you fight against a wave of pointless sub-menus and second guess where you need to go to find a player from a specific team. It’s a massive let down, because the gameplay side of not only the career mode,T but the entire game is brilliant, so to be let down by what looks feels like a crappy arcade game UI is a tough pill to swallow.
The thing that kept bugging me as I approached PES 2018, as a long time FIFA player, was the licensing issue. Yes, PES have worked on adding to their roster of fully licensed teams over the years, but I knew I would still be somewhat prejudiced. However, PES have done what they can to put a positive spin on customising the unlicensed teams. Sure, you can still change the team name and recreate the kits so you’ve basically got the real thing, but a nice touch that PES now offers is the ability to use a host of pre-set recordings help you put a unique twist on your local team. It’s a nice idea that makes the most of a decent customisation system and turns the issue of unlicensed teams into a weirdly addictive way to spend some time on the game.
All in all, PES 2018 is welcomed addition to the series, one that is a culmination of the work Konami have put in to become a true alternative to FIFA. And whilst it’s let down in places – mostly the UI, it excels in the places that matter. With a fast paced and just the right amount of chaotic gameplay, excellent player reactions, and a career mode that takes into account a lot of the decisions you make and does a decent job in reacting to them, PES 2018 will certainly be a great addition to any football fan’s collection.
Great gameplay in matches
Manager mode is far better than FIFA’s in places
The entire Barca team is scarily realistic
The UI is so bad you guys, it physically hurts
Not all leagues are included, meaning you’ll have to search a while for certain clubs
The multiplayer is pretty much untouched from previous titles
PES 2018 is rated 3+ in the UK and E for Everybody in the US. It’s the perfect game to play with your kids either competitively or together on a co-op season.
Disclaimer: This review is based on a retail version of code provided by Xbox UK for this review.