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Football’s coming home: PES 2018 review

The battle between FIFA and PES has been going on for as long as time itself, or at least since the 1990s, and following a couple of releases in which Konami seemed to be clawing back some ground on EA Sports‘ contribution to the genre, their latest release has arrived. But how well does it build on recent versions of the game, and have they finally taken the number one spot for the best footballing video game?

Neymar couldn’t wait to get his kit off after hearing he was moving to Paris Saint Germain

Seldom is it that a football game makes massive changes and it doesn’t matter which of the hit football titles it is, each year just usually brings the same content with minor changes, new rosters and improved graphics. It also brings with it claims from many gamers that surely a new game isn’t needed and a DLC roster update could be purchased instead. This year will be no exception when it comes to PES really because once again it’s mainly just performance and graphical related improvements. Although PC gamers will be happy to know that where they were once just a thought at the back of Konami’s mind and offered poor ports of the console version in the past, PES 2018 has undergone substantial enhancements to bring it up to scratch.

I suppose I am being a little harsh really because although there doesn’t appear on the face of things that much has changed (except for a new UI for all menus), there is a lot of work that has gone on under the surface. The main thing that isn’t apparent until you pick up a controller is that the game’s controls have been finely tuned, and I didn’t think it was possible to get them any better than past versions, but Konami found a way by introducing ‘strategic dribbling’ and ‘real touch+’. These enhancements really give you more control over the ball, not just in the form of dribbling around defenders but also shielding the ball from the opposition. No matter how many enhancements are made though I still can not defend to save my life, although I do pick out a pretty mean through ball over the top if I do say so myself.

If Liverpool hadn’t held out against Barcelona, this could’ve been a scene in this year’s Champion’s League (minus the yellow Brazil kit)

As well as the more intricate parts of the game’s mechanics being tweaked, the freekick and penalty systems were both overhauled as well. The first of the two I’m struggling to perfect in all honesty; aim where you want to shoot, apply the power to the ball and then as you run up to the ball, use the left analogue stick to add curl and bend your shot into the top corner. Sounds simple enough right? Wrong! I either don’t get enough bend, too little power, or I just can’t get it up and down over the wall. Penalties, however, I’m un-f*****-stoppable. Every time, BAM! right in the top corner, sometimes even scraping the post and crossbar. I imagine the confidence I have is the same as that of German fans when their national team faces off against, well, any other country.

Graphically PES has once again surpassed the quality of FIFA for me, something that I don’t think anyone can argue with. Not only do they have players looking more detailed and as accurate to the real thing than ever before, including full body tattoos of player’s of official partnered teams, but stadiums look spectacular too. From  Camp Nou and Signal Iduna Park to my favourite of them all where I’ve experienced some magical nights, Liverpool’s Anfield. Each stadium looks absolutely magnificent, with the only thing looking better is seeing them in person.

The new main stand looks just as good on here as it does in real life

It’s not all just enhancements though, there are in fact some new bits and pieces that Konami have added to the latest edition of PES. My favourite of the bunch though is the new online co-op mode that allows you to find people online for 2v2 and 3v3 games. Obviously, luck plays a part in how your games may go, because you could be stuck with some useless bugger like me, or you could find the Aguero to your Jesus (I couldn’t fill the whole thing with just references to Liverpool). Fortunately for me, I managed to get a couple of dream pairings where they were awesome defensively, and so my weakness wasn’t exploited too badly, and then going forward I was supplying some beautiful balls for them that they tucked away with ease.

If you find that these types of games aren’t your cup of tea though then you still have the usual modes like Master League and myClub, of which the latter is now also part of the PES LeaguePro Evolution Soccer’s eSports competition. So if you fancy competing with the best players from around the world, you can do so using your own club, or by just playing with existing squads from the game. I’m hoping that I can buff up my skills ready for the European round of the 2017-18 season, which takes place next Spring. I’m not too hopeful though as my defence is as leaky Liverpool’s at the moment, and I have the advantage of being able to bring in players to fix my defence, so no excuses.

Reliving my memories of that Europa League quarter-final in 2016. I think I can actually see my seat in the Kop

So, what’s the overall verdict? Well, I think that PES  is finally at a stage where gameplay-wise it is better than its main competitor; there are far fewer bugs, controls are more realistic and I don’t know, it just feels more fun to play because performing skills is not overcomplicated, and games aren’t ruined by being forced to watch overly long goal celebrations. That said, Konami still has some way to go in terms of competing over licensing. They’ve obviously got some big teams on board, including my own which is fantastic, but league names are still an issue unless you fly off to far-east Asia and play in the Asian Champion’s League. This is something that may take some time to correct though and is probably the thing that holds them back the most when appealing to the general public, which is a real shame because I do think it is far superior to FIFA.

The TL;DR:

  • Gameplay mechanics have been finetuned, and the freekick/penalty systems overhauled
  • Introduction of new modes, including online co-op games
  • Although more teams have signed exclusive rights, there are many leagues/teams with fictional names
  • I’m still terrible at this but I’m open to all challenges, so anyone wanting to beat me just comment below
84%

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, developed by Konami, is now available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One online and in all good video game stores.

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