It’s football season which means it’s time for the two biggest football franchises’ new instalments. FIFA 18 and PES 18 have dropped and both have improved since last year’s release. AS undoubtedly happens, FIFA and PES will be compared until there’s no one left alive, other than those that don’t play either. Both are appealing in different ways and comparing them has become so boring that this review just won’t do it. PES 18 is a better game than its predecessor but the improvements are less grand and fewer than the jump from 16 to 17.
Pro Evolution Soccer has been, by far the slickest football game on the market right now and 18 is no exception to that. The speed, the beauty, the grace – it’s the Miss Congeniality of football games and that makes me feel good. What it isn’t however, is a distinct jump in quality from PES 17. There are some improvements but generally speaking, there’s not too much to write home about with this title. There are all your standard game modes and the football is still slick as hell but innovation is hard to come by and PES 18 suffers because of it. On the pitch, there have been a number of improvements over last year’s title, which I will discuss before delving into what exactly is wrong with PES and why I score it much lower this year than I have in past years.
To begin, once again PES has created individual players that match their real life counterparts. Players like Lukaku and Kolašinac truly are beasts while players that play for Tottenham are all weak and no good (OK, this might not be exactly true). The top talent in world football has had their PES player crafted on their real strengths and weaknesses and this really shows on the pitch. On the other hand, teams in the lower leagues are far more physical and games tend to be a fair bit scrappier than in the top flight. Tactically, there are more options than you can poke a stick at and each player will find a team/league that ideally suits their playing style. Matches are fast-paced, high energy and a whole lot of fun. The new feature, strategic dribbling, gives players more control with the ball at their feet and the difference is strikingly noticeable when you’re running on goal, surrounded by 3 opposition players. This does create a greater challenge in defending, one part of PES that has never been a strong suit, but landing a beautifully timed tackle is far more rewarding this year. Ball physics have been updated with Real Touch+, meaning ball movement is more realistic than ever, going so far as to change the way the ball reacts to different parts of a players body. On top of this improvements have been made to the visuals of the game, including stadium lighting and pitch turf.
Ah yes, the classic rivalry of Arsenal and North East London
Something I noticed this year was the effect placed on music in-game. Rather than having a clear sound coming from the TV, it really sounds like the soundtrack is being played over the virtual stadium’s speaker system. The feature that makes the biggest difference for me this year is the way players will battle for an aerial ball. No longer will it be first in best dressed but a physical battle to be the first to the ball and it’s something that’s always annoyed me in previous iterations. Overall, matches are far more realistic in PES 18 and losing the ball can be really frustrating as it takes so long to get the ball back. Players will have to be far more methodical in their game-plan to ensure they get the win.
With all the greatness of the PES 18 title, there are plenty of flaws to go with it. On the pitch, there isn’t a finer game anywhere and it’s unlikely we’ll see true competition any time soon. Off the pitch, however, Konami really has some work to do. For a start, the menus are unbelievably annoying to navigate and far too complicated, resulting in a frustrating experience doing anything. Licenses are once again an issue but this is easily solved with a simple patch. The kits, however, are pretty terrible and some bear no resemblance to their real-life teams. The commentary team remains the same and as a change to previous years’ criticisms of lacking excitement, it appears they now shout at everything that comes close to the goal. They’re annoying and I don’t like them.
Despite the flaws, there is one mode that makes it all better for me and that’s random selection mode which allows two players (couch co-op only unfortunately) to be randomly given players from different leagues around the world. Once the team is set there are three rounds of “trades” but here’s where things get interesting. Each player gets to nominate a player they want to steal from their opponent’s team and then selects a player they want to protect from their own team. After the three rounds the big reveal takes place and you get to see if you’ve managed to get your filthy hands on their best player. It’s an extremely fun mode and something football games have been lacking for some time.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 tweaks and slightly improves on the winning formula that PES 17 employed, creating a finely polished football simulator that, in the author’s mind, is damn near perfect. The lack of innovation in modes and the dull and frustrating menu paths scale down the score on what is an otherwise perfect game…only just on the pitch.
Reviewed on PS4 // Review code supplied by publisher