Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Online Beta) (PlayStation 4) Preview

By Tomas Barry 03.08.2017

Review for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Online Beta) on PlayStation 4

Cubed3's PES 2018 build-up coverage began with a hands-on impression of exhibition mode from Anfield, and this was followed-up with a Glass to the Wall PES Special, including an interview with Adam Bhatti (PES Global Product Manager) and further commentary. Now, the team turns its attention to the online beta, which ran from 21st July to the end of the month, for PS4 and Xbox One owners. This online open beta gave the public its first chance to sample PES 2018 for itself, with the new three vs. three being the one mode on the table. While Adam Bhatti and the developers have stated that the main purpose of this open beta is to stress-test the servers and online functionality, pre-season hype and/or scrutiny is something nobody can escape. Eager PES fans populated the beta heavily all week, and while there were some connection issues at times, which were to be expected, there was also plenty to reflect on.

PES 2018 has looked very impressive so far. Both from a gameplay and presentation point of view, everything seems to be much improved, but one of the most intriguing additions has to be the three vs. three mode that allows for three human players per side in an online environment. This places a much larger emphasis on genuine team play, organisation, and positioning, as well as just playing to the strengths and weaknesses of the players around. Whether playing with personal friends, and hence being able to anticipate their play-tendencies, or paired with random folk, where there might be a period of adjusting to what they show in that regard, each match feels distinct since every player's style affects the ebb and flow of play.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Online Beta) on PlayStation 4

One thing is for sure, whether you are the goal scorer, the player with the assist, or making build-up contributions elsewhere, scoring a well-crafted team goal in three vs. three is extremely satisfying. Since the ball feels suitably looser and players move so much more realistically this time around in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, it's easy to understand the value of a team-mate's actions, whether they contribute with an overlap down the flank, or stay in space to keep the safe option open. Even more impressive is that, for the most part, those participating in the beta have been more than eager to be team-players. This provides a much more dynamic game, arguably with more distinct 'phases', as in a real match, owing to the collective chain of human contributions that make up a successful move.

While there were some who held onto the ball too much, and made ridiculously over-ambitious runs when in control of the stars (only France and Brazil available, so the likes of Griezmann and Coutinho were prime candidates for link-up play), those people quickly learned that team-mates will start to avoid giving them the ball at all. It probably hurts to realise they are being shunned but, in the long run, that helps them to get to discover how this is really meant to be played.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Online Beta) on PlayStation 4

The inverse of being shunned because you are not co-operating is a much better feeling; it will sometimes become apparent that a team-mate has recognised your abilities in some way. One rather one-sided 6-1 victory for Brazil, for instance, was achieved because the most clinical attacking player recognised a team-mate's uncanny knack for lobbed through-balls that landed perfectly at the receiver's feet every time. Hence, he began to make that run every time it was possible, and the other team couldn't deal with it. Meanwhile, yours truly, who has a knack for 'proactive defence' and 'defensive positioning,' thwarted their weak response to the cascade of goals. It was a victory that felt properly shared, with each player fulfilling their respective role - as organiser, play-maker, or finisher - throughout the match. Additionally, with so many human players, there is a feeling of being truly accountable if making a mistake when the margins are tight, and, at the other end of the spectrum, truly ecstatic when a last-gasp screamer pulls your side clear.

Individual player's stats are also available, with an extensive set of post-match details to be sifted through if so inclined. One thing that was appreciated an awful lot, personally, is the visual trait heat map that shows, after each match, where each player's core playing traits and interests reside. Points are awarded after each in-game action, for shots, passes, dribbles, passes received, attacking runs, proactive defence, and defensive positioning. Furthermore, it is possible to see what each person scored within each of these categories, and it seems that the heat map and the total points scored are the most relevant and useable aspects of these post-match stats. It's pleasing to have all these things available to reflect upon after the match, especially for those that like to address weaknesses, as exposed quite clearly by the stats.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Online Beta) on PlayStation 4

Overall, then, the three vs. three mode is shaping up rather well. The emphasis on more concentrated co-operative play certainly seems to have paid off, especially since the gameplay of PES 2018 itself seems to be so dynamic and intuitive this year. The one thing that wasn't on show during the beta, which would make quite a significant difference to interaction, would be a Rocket League-style communication system. It seems quite feasible that certain instructions or requests could be filtered through such a chat system, which would keep things simple but effective. It was a little frustrating not being able to communicate easily with team-mates in-game, especially if the game plan wasn't working for anyone. Considering how frequently managers and coaching staff throw out instructions and advice in proper football, it's the one aspect of the mode that seemed a little restricted. That said, some reaction data did appear on-screen at times, indicating that systems of this type may be in the works.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Online Beta) on PlayStation 4

Final Thoughts

With less than six weeks to go until Pro Evolution Soccer 2018's release (on 12th September), the wait is almost over. The new three vs. three mode is certainly a breath of fresh air, and it is an addition that is capable of bringing fans over from the rival series. PES fans will now, no doubt, be turning their attention to Gamescom in late August, where plenty more details, particularly about online, MyClub and Master League components, are likely to be revealed.

Developer

Konami

Publisher

Konami

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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