Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 Review – The Better Underdog
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, PS3, Xbox 360
Release: 12nd September 2017 (NA) / 14th September 2017
Once again the yearly football games are upon us and with it the annually question: FIFA 18 or PES 2018? While most would tend to buy the monolith EA´s FIFA is, I could never convince myself to buy this microtransactions dream. No matter how many licenses there are PES always was this underdog with slightly better gameplay and more charm. Of course PES 2018 won´t change this but can improve on a lot of other areas beneath the surface.
Unlike its competitor PES 2018 still doesn´t offer much in terms of a campaign besides the MyClub feature. Even though it´s fun as always to build up a team from ground up, managing it and climbing the ladder, compared to FIFA 18´s second cinematic story about Hunter, MyClub ultimately falls short. At least presentation-wise. When it comes down to the actual gameplay, MyClub will surely satisfy the ones preferring gameplay over story, due to the complete focus on team-building and matches. Especially the building and customization options are huge and unrivaled by any other game, even improved with better interfaces and more options.
On the other hand, menu composition didn´t change to other games, presenting big, undescribed button to the player, unable to truly convey what they´re for. If someone never played a PES or didn´t inform themself they would most likely be lost in the huge selection of buttons, sub-menus, menu categories and the lack of information. They look pretty though.
As expected the graphics didn´t change much either, the Fox Engine can still produce great models, textures, arenas, basically everything. PES 2018 is a stunning looking game and can actually produce some pretty atmospheric stadiums. Even though the sounds and commentaries are more of a mixed bag for me, they tend to range from pretty good to awfully bad in no time so that should be kept in mind. The recreation of the different football players is more of an opinion thing as well. FIFA 18 and PES 2018 look pretty similar, despite their slightly different visual tone, so which player faces you´ll like more is very subjective. Personally, I prefer PES 2018 faces.
Where PES 2018 could always impress was the gameplay, a far more tactical approach to football than FIFA and the latest entry doesn´t change this fact. Improvements like real-time reactions of both player and ball once they come in contact along other minor subtle things. Every year I struggle with finding the impact of the various “improvements” wondering if they´re all that important. Same here, the named important new things just don´t make a lot of difference in the end. The game arguably feels more fluent at times and passes seem to impact the players a bit better. Yet, in theory and feeling improvement I definitely think that it´s a bigger step than 2017 did.
Nevertheless PES 2018 is a damn fun football game, no matter how minor the additions may be. Starting at the players themselves, everyone has different stats calibrated by their real life performance and game balance. Not only are they more precise but also offer more details than the more streamlined FIFA. As a result PES provides far more information to build a team which functions on a tactical level, not just on a skill one. The players really seem like their real counter parts and the huge flow of information and field organization options offer a really compelling strategical level before matches. I always loved to experiment with the different options before playing against the AI or even real opponents, what is the focus of PES.
The fact it´s allowed to build an own team out of the dozens of players available, no matter their team, nationality or other things. Even playing with a randomly selected team is not a problem. The amount of customization options, based on tactical values provided for each player and freedom of PES 2018 is simply unraveled and truly stunning in every new entry. I really loved building an own team, testing how it will work out. Unfortunately, FIFA 18 is still the license behemoth, while PES 2018 can only offer a few ones with the focus on a few big ones, taking away the opportunity to play as every imaginable club or player. Nonetheless, it´s still great, despite the bad menus.
Last but not least, playing with the different players in the stadium is still fun as well. As previously said the players stats heavily impact their playstyle and feeling, meaning it´s not only necessary to build a good functioning team on paper but also to have a chance in the games. No matter how skilled someone is, if he´s given a poor team he´s at a major disadvantage. I always loved this tactical layer beneath the gameplay and it works as great in PES 2018.
Kicking the ball naturally is no exception. Every pass feels tight, fast and controllable due to the dozens little systems going on under the hood to ensure a realistic movement. The feeling every pass gives you is hard to describe but everything just feel right here, there wasn´t a single ball movement I couldn´t understand. The new physical reaction of player and ball at impact may help at producing a very natural feeling but that could be my imagination. Switching players is another great thing handled by the game which seems to understand what player would be the best to switch to, or so. The feeling to play PES 2018 is really hard to describe and not so different to 2017, yet it feels a bit tighter and better and pretty much nothing feels wrong.
At the end PES 2018 is pretty much what should be expected of an annually upgrade. Carrying the great things about the predecessors over to a new game while tweaking a few small things. If you liked PES you will like PES 2018, it´s still the same tactical game, just a bit smoother in gameplay and bit more realistic. Compared to FIFA 18 which is bursting with licenses and a cinematic campaign, PES 2018 seems like the smaller brother, offering deeper gameplay and debatable better graphics with focus on a realistic game. I like it a lot.
[A Review Copy was provided by Konami]