Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PlayStation 4) Review

By Tomas Barry 17.09.2017 2

Review for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 on PlayStation 4

Back in the PS2 era, there wasn't any disputing the fact that PES was the superior football franchise. While FIFA always had the licencing pull power, PES2 through to PES6 consistently offered a more detailed and authentic experience on the pitch, with a wealth of single-player joy to be found through building a Master League squad, not to mention endless sessions trying to beat your friends and score the perfect goal. It hardly seemed like suspending the illusion to play as Merseyside Red rather than Liverpool, because the experience on the pitch was what mattered. Fast-forward a decade or two, and one finds that PES faces the same challenges as before in relation to FIFA, but has found a more pragmatic way to satisfy the fanbase and make incremental progress. Of the Premier League, Liverpool and Arsenal are in luck this year, but for the rest, Random Selection and three-vs-three provide the incentive.

It's hardly a secret that when it comes to annual and iterative titles, that progress comes in stages. In fact, when speaking with Cubed3, Adam Bhatti, the PES Global Brand Manager, was very open about PES 2018 being part of a new cycle. Such is the way these development apparatus systems work, it's quite far-fetched to expect any franchise to reinvent or revolutionise itself in one iteration, and it was refreshing to hear someone in his position talk more candidly about the idea of franchise progression. This honesty reflects the more receptive and concentrated effort that the PES Team put in each year to win over new fans, but more importantly, to satisfy their hugely loyal existing fanbase.

Arguably, the latter is an idea that is quite far removed from mere rivalry. Comparatively speaking, FIFA fans get plenty of splendour, but seem a little unfairly treated. They get rinsed on player packs and extras, ignored repeatedly on specific requests for improvements, and the lexicon of every new trailer suggests a revolution in gameplay that is never quite delivered. It's not like both series don't face the same sort of challenges - neither are perfect and similar accusations could be made about how both lean on progressive cycles, but it's more about how the waters are navigated. In this sense, PES is rather that other potential partner who is never going to be well-off, but certainly seems rich in attentiveness. Perhaps, then, PES is the one you should have been with all along! Can you tell if this reviewer is currently divorcing FIFA and remarrying PES?

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 on PlayStation 4

Speaking truthfully, though - and perhaps pragmatically - there's little difference between PES 2017 and 2018 until you start really examining it. If anything, PES 2017 (which made more significant core changes) feels like the firm foundation that enabled this iteration to be more focused on a series of macro and microcosmic enhancements. These range from the standard, concentrated effort to improve and realistically rebalance the core gameplay, an area where PES almost always prevails, to the much more thoughtful and significant additional modes implemented this year. There's the Random Selection mode, which is a returning mode that fans have been rumbling for a while, in addition to the new and mightily impressive three-vs-three mode. This rather simple concept has huge potential mileage. The existing fanbase will likely get the most gratification for their loyalty out of it, since it's a genuinely new feature, and it's also ideal for drawing new fans in in groups.

Three-vs-three is both offline and online, and really does expertly accentuate the tactical qualities of PES, allowing three friends to operate from back to front with real fluidity, employing proper tactics and exchanging roles seamlessly, playing against either CPU or other players. There's no doubt three-vs-three is the sort of mode that friends drinking beer, while having a night in, will become instantly hooked to. Though adjusting to a team of three does take some time, and probably some proper football knowledge helps, it's never frustrating to co-ordinate attack or defence, and the football experience feels very authentic with this additional sense of team coordination.

Additionally, it's quite satisfying seeing your group tactics evolve as you discover each other's strengths and weaknesses. It's also a hell of a lot of fun to simply try new approaches, since it's unlikely everyone will want to play the same type of football. This is particularly true when you're playing three versus online opponents, especially as the stats players are presented with after the game provide a lot of useful input on who is doing what, with labels for certain roles being fulfilled, all the passing and interception stats, and a visual diagram showing how well-rounded or perhaps concentrated each player's general playing philosophy is.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 on PlayStation 4

That leads on to the core gameplay, which makes a series of improvements, with only a few retrograde steps taken, leading to much more varied passages of play and more ways to score. Firstly, the weight of the ball on a pass feels far more realistic, with players' balance being much more relevant to how the ball moves than ever before, as well as its spin. This means no more jarring moments when a midfielder struggling to keep on his feet makes a perfect and miraculously perfect through ball. Generally, there's a much better impression of weight on the ball, and players react to that with more dynamic, contextual touches.

Another big improvement is the way crossing works and how players attack the ball in the air, finally making it a useful tool once again. However, the clearest improvement must be the way players take the ball under control. They'll use the whole body now, adjust to dig the ball out from underneath themselves very realistically, and finally take a touch with their upper body if that's the obvious way to take it on (unlike previously) - which does wonders for the fluidity of matches. The big shame of these improvements is that they are slightly dulled by some questionable goalkeeper behaviour. All too often the keepers spill and parry basic shots that should be dealt with, usually at the worst moment, and whether it's a top class keeper or lower league, they tend to be a liability when rushing out, too. Swings and roundabouts!

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 on PlayStation 4

Elsewhere, it's largely the same story. Konami should be applauded for their continued work adding new club licences. Liverpool and Arsenal are the lucky ones from the Premier League this year, but there's no doubt that playing as a fully licenced team against one that isn't creates a slight disconnect, which may put some football folk off. However, the introduction of a much larger pool of legendary players is a nice addition that helps to alleviate some of these drawbacks. Disappointingly, the Master League hasn't quite received the attention it really deserves, with the online world clearly affecting how much attention it's provided with. This time around, there's a hard mode, and clubs are much more reluctant to sell, and the player's squad is more easily upset and unsettled, making it a greater challenge to hold onto the job. Beyond that, it's the same experience as before.

Online, things don't seem to be any different, and it still seems to take a long time to get a game when compared to FIFA. With that said, quitters are much less common, the general playing standard seems higher, and because PES's gameplay is so gratifying, it's an awful lot of fun, win or lose. The main thing is, unlike the rival brand's online experience, when you lose in PES 2018, it doesn't feel like that's down to someone spamming skill or pace, or just taking advantage of an exploit. In this respect, PES 2018 offers a much more authentic online football experience, if we're talking strictly in terms of the gameplay itself. There's also another PES League this year, an eSport competition where players qualify by playing online, and if ranked highly enough, could progress on to the tournament rounds - but this hasn't exactly been expanded, either, by the looks of things.

Screenshot for Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 on PlayStation 4

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

PES 2018 is a highly refined package, offering plenty of incentive for the existing fanbase and new fans alike, especially through the introduction of three-vs-three and Random Selection mode. The visuals and animations are much improved, with less jarring transitions, more animated players, and a far greater level of detail in the crowds and stadiums. All this raises the general presentation standard significantly, putting it on the same level as FIFA or thereabouts. While the gameplay has mostly changed for the better through a host of minute changes that add up to something more than the sum of their parts, the only shame is that rebalancing always seems to put something else out of whack - in this case the keepers' quite dodgy behaviour, which can ruin the fun. It's very 'two steps forward and one step back,' but still represents a big pragmatic leap forward, since they have thought outside the box about how to attract more football fans. Three-vs-three is a huge success, and there's no doubt it will be responsible for many converts.

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   

Comments

Great to see it's so refined! I really hope Konami gets its act together and sorts out a Switch version asap, and that sales start to catch up to FIFA again.

Adam Riley [ Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited ]
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

I adore PES 2017, a far superior game, I won't be buying '18 for it's incremental upgrade. I am actually relieved its not coming to Switch, I'd never stop playing it if that was the case! 

With the disgrace of FIFA 18 on Switch I doubt that we'd get FIFA 19. Either way, PES is the far superior game these days. I guess KONAMI aren't working on anything else these days anyway!

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