In recent years the “Pro Evolution Soccer” series has delivered arguably the best pure gameplay experience within the sports video game genre. Its drawbacks however have been inadequate licensing and an absence of innovation in the features and modes that support the experience on the pitch.
“Pro Evolution Soccer 2018” is no different in that regard. An effort has been made to close the gap with its competitor “EA Sports FIFA” but it remains well behind in terms of depth and variety. Those who prefer the gameplay of “PES” however may still find it good enough to compensate for the areas in which its lacking.
What was already a brilliant playing game on the pitch has been made even better, with improved ability to retain possession and the ability to utilize numerous different body parts to control the ball. Changes to set pieces have also enhanced the ability to capitalize on corners and free kicks. A slightly slower gameplay speed has also proven beneficial, as it allows for more strategy to be considered and build-ups to materialize organically.
While the gameplay is incredibly satisfying and leads to some spectacular moments it still has a few flaws. CPU controlled players have moments where they lack some awareness of where they are on the pitch resulting in some puzzling decisions. More alarming is the lack of fouls committed by the CPU – something the developers have already stated they’re working on adjusting in a future update to the game.
“PES 2018” is a game that looks great, especially when examining many of the player faces, particular stadium environments and the lighting engine. The crowd is also impressive, both visually and in reaction to the events as they take place.
In last year’s review I expressed the belief that “PES 2017” was easily good enough to overcome licensing shortcomings, but if it proved unable to do so then “no sports video game can.” Once again the series is faced with having to justify itself in a way that no other major sports games have to by getting past a major sales hurdle first.
A number of prominent leagues and teams are left without their authentic licensing in “PES 2018” and while they can be replaced with created representations by applying an option file on PlayStation 4 and PC it’s a process that many may be unfamiliar with, and those on Xbox One don’t even have the option to do. On the flip side the 15 clubs with “PES” exclusive marketing partnerships are represented incredibly well.
Online play is one area that has lagged significantly behind the competition and despite a big new feature this year it remains a weakness of the series. Online co-op is the big addition, providing the ability to play with three users connected together on a team against another team with three users.
There’s no doubt online co-op is a fun way to play especially when together with friends, but delay due to lag and inconsistency in which player you’re being switched to makes it hard to sustain that enjoyment. A seemingly low online player base also makes it difficult to find full 3-on-3 matches. This is a problem for standard 1v1 online as well, which can go several minutes before the matchmaking is able to locate an opponent.
Probably the best new feature with “PES 2018” is one that returns from the earlier days of the series. Random Selection Match provides the opportunity to get handed a roster of semi-random players (there are a number of parameters to be set first) and then even allows for an attempt at making a single trade with the opposition before the match begins. This provides some interesting variety that is generally lacking otherwise as the top clubs are utilized by most especially online.
The core modes of the “PES” franchise and even areas such as the menus remain sufficient but lack some real flare. Whether it’s Master League (managing a franchise), Become a Legend (career as single player), or MyClub (team-building) they’ve started to feel dated and don’t offer much new over the previous edition. Commentary is another aspect of the series that desperately needs to be upgraded.
All the pieces are there with “Pro Evolution Soccer 2018” but it feels as though many fall a little short of their full potential. “PES” is still a champion on the pitch where it matters most, but the series continues to fight an uphill battle in terms of licensing and feature set.
“Pro Evolution Soccer 2018” was reviewed on PlayStation 4 and is also available on Xbox One and PC. A digital code was provided by publisher Konami for the purpose of review.
Bryan Wiedey posts sports gaming news and analysis daily at Pastapadre.com, is co-founder of the sports gaming site HitThePass.com, hosts the “Press Row Podcast” and can be reached on Twitter @Pastapadre.
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