[Disclosure: A review copy was provided for the contents of this article]
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (henceforth, PES 2018) is a popular sports simulation game. Developed by Konami, it is is a major rival of FIFA 18 and the Football Manager series that offers the player the chance to play soccer, with several leading licensed club sides as well as many national teams, although not all of these teams are fully licensed like in FIFA games.
PES 18 also offers the opportunity to manage teams, even while playing on the pitch as a team or member of one, and there is the opportunity to take the coaching role further in tournament and league modes such as Master League and myClub, while in another mode one lives out the career of a single soccer player of whom they take charge. As usual, when updated this new installment, includes up-to-date squads and online play including online tournaments.
After my first exhibition match, it was clear that the presentation was improved, including its brighter colours, but was unsure if anything of great significance had changed, except, maybe, the pace of the actual gameplay.
After several matches with the new game, it only became clear by reading the press release, and not by actually playing, that the speed had supposedly changed. However, returning to PES 2017 after playing 2018, things definitely felt different in some way as well as looked different, although the reasons aren’t always obvious. Those are not the only changes here — there are, in fact, a fair few more according to the press release — but they are the only ones that were both noticeable and really significant, even for someone who has played the series’ 2017 incarnation quite a lot, especially recently. The lack of alterations is very disappointing.
There are several areas for improvement here, probably too many to think of. One which stands out is the fact that the quality of AI, at least during exhibitions while on Super Star difficulty, is too equal. This means that a match against Italy (one of the game’s better sides) in which you play as North Korea (one of the worst, awarded with a one-star rating) ends in a narrow defeat, while a game where you control Spain (who are better than Italy in the game) against the same opposition also ends in a narrow defeat. Yes, in one of those games one probably had to play very defensively, and in the other you most likely didn’t, but things still shouldn’t be that equal between CPU-controlled opponents, even if the goalkeeper for North Korea is clearly inferior to De Gea of Spain.
Furthermore, the changes to presentation in Master League (a mode in which you act as a manager that is similar to Madden 17’s Franchise Mode) could be improved upon. You have opportunities to view the manager’s half-time team talk and his press conferences, but, annoyingly, have no opportunity to change, at the time, what is said, even if you perhaps influence those things on the pitch. This is a big opportunity, exploited by a very old FourFourTwo management game but missed here.
Then there’s the typical problem that PES lacks many licenses. It’s a shame because it means that the game lacks some of the star power that comes with a recognized franchise like FIFA. There’s also a few other minor nagging issues with the game, such as the ones that were on the technical side, where the game would briefly freeze or commentators seemed to literally talk over each other. However, most of those issues were fixed after a day-one update.
That said, despite the lack of creativity, in terms of improving the game, and other flaws too, PES 2018 does not seem to contain any detrimental changes that would severely inhibit the overall gameplay experience, and is still a great game, offering a very good (though imperfect) simulation of soccer.
The game gives its audience smooth but challenging and varied gameplay that offers a clever mixture of detail and tactics (which can be taken care of by the computer if one desires) combined with emotive, immersive fun. These are put together with decent visuals and an okay soundtrack of popular music (but one still yearns for better accompanying songs like those of FIFA 06 or FIFA Street 2). The extended game modes offered, such as myClub and tournament modes, also add appeal.
Therefore, PES 2018 still scores many goals despite conceding some, missing a few clear chances, and having few changes up its sleeve to entice new supporters. Is it worth the asking price? If you have PES 2017, then probably not at the moment, but if you’re a soccer fan who has not played a simulation of the enduring sport in years, buy a ticket to this match made somewhere not too far from heaven. If PES were one of its teams, it would deserve a rating of four out of five.
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