*Note, unfortunately, I have been unable to test how myClub has improved as the servers don’t go live until release, and the same goes for the online co-op modes; therefore, this review is based on the offline modes of play only. The review will be updated after release.*
PES 2018 is the metaphorical Tottenham Hotspur of football games. What I mean by that is that the game is close to perfection, but it’s just missing a couple of vital things to make it the champion. PES 2017 had a lot of great improvements, but this year it has been taken one step further.
The biggest additions this year are in the realism of the players and the greater emphasis on co-op. Konami have introduced 2 v 2 and 3 v 3 matches with support for local guests with an 11 v 11 online mode as well. The new feature of “REAL capture” provides true-to-life lighting across day and night games, while over 20,000 components have been recreated such as the turf, tunnels and the surrounding areas of iconic stadia, such as the Camp Nou and Signal Iduna Park. The individuality of how the players move, shape to shoot and make passes is also closer to the real thing. Konami motion captured players in life-like situations to get the movements as authentic as possible in a complete overhaul of the in-game animation system. Core movements have been reworked, like walking, turning and posture, while the player models have greater variety with attention paid to how strips fit different physiques. Konami’s agreements with partner clubs means even authentic tattoos are shown on players, which is a nice welcome touch.
All the ever-present game modes from previous years are back but with some notable tweaks. The much requested ‘random selection’ match returns with all new content. The Master League now implements pre-season tournaments, a new transfer system and pre-match interviews, as well as changing room insight certainly improve the career experience. Presentation-wise, the menus of Master League have been streamlined, not a particularly needed change, but it is welcome nonetheless. PES’s answer to FIFA’s Be a Pro mode called Become a Legend is the only mode that hasn’t received any notable improvements, but that isn’t really a bad thing as it was near perfect last year. Why fix what isn’t broken?
The Champions League, Europa League and AFC Champions League are all back, but they are, however, identical to the last season. This isn’t a bad thing, but the cutscenes could have been different at the various stages of each competition to enhance their respective atmospheres. On the plus side, the theme music to each competition has been included, with the TV-style intros making you feel like you’re really taking part in an elite European competition. PES 2018 has embraced eSports this year by making PES League a part of the main game. 16 of the world’s greatest players will gather ahead of the Champions League final to compete for a $200,000 prize.
This game is an absolute blast to play. The passing is silky smooth, and that makes build-up play similar to the way it would be in real-life, and I’ve found that scoring a goal is not easy no matter the difficulty. On the topic of difficulty, if you are a seasoned footie game player, selecting anything less than the regular difficulty setting makes scoring a bit too easy. As a result, most people will want to pick a harder difficulty in order to make scoring goals a challenge worthy of PES 2018’s elaborate goal celebrations. Celebrations are a highlight of this year’s PES, with those featuring Konami’s partner clubs recreated perfectly. The overall improvements over last year’s instalment are, admittedly, fairly subtle to a veteran player; however, the infamous YouTube fodder that are glitchy strange goals of last season are now an even rarer occurrence, although some may still occur, especially on lower difficulties where the AI play like they are on the school yard.
The other big positive in this game is how deep the tactics go. In the line up menus, the depth you can go into with your formation and strategy is unrivalled. As a lover of Football Manager, the tactics options on offer here are right up my street and blow those in FIFA out of the water, that is unless FIFA 18 can compete when it arrives. The depth of the formation options is outstanding with far more to choose from than last year’s FIFA. PES 2018 also allows for a greater variety in game plans with the ability to greatly change it up mid-game, and that was a great feature to have when I was trailing behind or trying to maintain a steady lead.
The only other notable change are the likenesses of the aforementioned Konami partner clubs. Borussia Dortmund and Barcelona players, as well as their respective venues, are recreated to such lifelike detail, it is simply breathtaking, with the inclusion of player tattoos (such as those featured on the likes of Marco Reus) adding to the realism. The stadiums of both have the exact feel of the real thing (I should know, I’ve been there) by rendering the immense height of Camp Nou’s main stand, and Signal Iduna Park has that intense atmosphere from the yellow wall; these additions really make you feel like you’re on the pitch.
The modes on offer are neither revolutionary nor are they mundane. The Master League improvements are welcome but don’t do much to change the formula, and Become a Legend is as fun as it’s always been. The licensed competitions are great fun to play with the teams in the contest, and there is always the fun challenge of taking a lowly team to glory.
The negatives in this game are few and far between. The main one that continues to be ever present in PES is the lack of licenses in the English and Spanish leagues. This is made worse on the Xbox One as there is still a lack of editing tools, even though you can still put the real team names in edit mode, but you can only import other real elements on the PS4 or PC.
Gameplay critiques include wing play, which feels unbalanced, and commentary gets repetitive very quickly after a few matches with the commentators starting to repeat lines. The lines are different to last year, though, which is great if you’re sick of hearing Peter Drury say, “He spooned it forward.”
When the servers go live, I do worry that it’ll just be full of crosses and headers. Wing play is so effective no matter who the wingers are nor who is in the box to meet the ball. I was winning headers with players from all different heights. If you watch a player like Christian Eriksen for real, he will rarely win a header, but his ability on PES 2018 was that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. It’s the same with whoever crosses the ball as well, whether it’s Anthony Martial or Ngolo Kante, the cross will be pinpoint perfect almost every time.
Overall, PES 2018 is an incredible football game and well worth any football fan’s time and money. No matter the game mode you play, the gameplay is so satisfying that you will look past its shortcomings. This is the year football fans should pick up PES and give it a chance. Going forward though, PES needs to acquire some more licenses to be the best football game on the market.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Microsoft Windows
Release Date: 14th September 2017