Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 is the latest entry into Konami’s popular football sim franchise adding updated rosters and refined visuals.
I’d like to begin by saying that I have never played a football game in my life. I’m not a football fan and I really don’t understand the rules in any way, shape or form. I was once taken to a football match in Brazil to watch São Paulo play another local team but the entire experience was lost on me. Needless to say that booting up Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 for the first time was a pretty daunting experience. The menu is filled with terms and words that I was oblivious to and I felt it was a little tricky to navigate. All apart from the training section; a great place to begin I surmised.
The training section of PES2018 is filled with exercises designed to teach your novice football player how to dive into the game and play the best they can. And for the most part, I have to admit that it works very well. The game guides you through a number of scenarios gradually upping the difficulty of each level as you progress and grading you from bronze to gold on how well you performed the task at hand. From stationary training aids to computer controlled players the scenarios are varied and prepare you for the main game.
While I felt that having a core understanding of the sport would help, it wasn’t actually needed. The game teaches you about dribbling, passing, lofted shots as well as the varying techniques involved in gaining control of the ball from the other team and intercepting passes. It doesn’t assume that you’re a footballing pro but at the same time rewards you with more points if you do well in each exercise.
Translating what I had learned in the training grounds to the pitch, however, wasn’t as easy as I had thought. Taking on three or four computer-controlled opponents was one thing, but an entire team of simulated professionals? Surely, this is where I’d fail.
Control wise, PES2018 is pretty simple to get the hang of, though I imagine it would take much longer to truly master. While in-game face and shoulder buttons each have their own functions; tapping or holding a button when passing will determine the amount of power behind a kick while holding or tapping certain shoulder buttons will make your player sprint or dribble the ball. It was certainly easy for a complete novice like me to get the hang of.
Fresh out of training I decided to give one of the main game modes a try. Jumping into the UEFA Cup mode was fairly simple and transferring what I had learned was pretty straightforward. There are a fair number of teams to choose from, some I recognised, some I didn’t. It’s worth noting that not all teams are available due to licensing agreements but Konami have done their best to fill up on the roster with fictional teams to fill the voids. Liverpool FC seems to be the prominent squad in PES2018 so this is the team I settled with.
The match opens with both teams walking out from the player’s tunnel onto the pitch and lining up. I must admit, Konami has done very well simulating the atmosphere of the stadium; the crowd roars, the telltale whine of vuvuzelas can be heard while the commentators do their bit. It’s all fluid and you can’t help but get swept away with it all.
Once the match begins your team act as a well-oiled engine working in unison, like a swarm of ants all running for the ball. The physics engine is impressive and brings the players to life. Moving your selected player isn’t as simple as moving left or right; they’re humans – well, sort of – and they move like real people. Running and changing direction swiftly requires some effort and this is all reflected in the movement animations. The game allows for this realist movement but without the sacrifice of responsiveness which is important for a game where timing and accuracy are crucial. I noticed that players will also stumble when trying to regain control of the ball, it’s a small touch but it makes the players feel even more human.
While the dialogue pool of the commentators seems to be somewhat shallow I was impressed by how well it flows during a match. The commentator’s observations don’t feel disjointed or robotic and have genuine energy injected into their vocal performances. Something of which I imagine to be fairly tricky while in a recording booth. Their performance alone almost forgives the repetitiveness of the lines.
Graphically speaking, PES2018 isn’t one of the most visually stunning games I’ve experienced this year. Focusing on the stadium’s crowd shows a number of low-resolution crowd members with jittery animations while panning the player’s during the pre-match anthems feels jumpy. In an age where framerate is one of the most important factors to players, I can’t help feeling a little disheartened. With this being said, however, the likeness of the players is spot on. While I’m not a huge supporter of the sport I’m able to pick out a few of the more famous faces.
Overall my experience with PES2018 has been overly positive. Baring in mind I’ve not played a football game before, I found it easy to get into and actually, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time with it. Would it make me rush out and buy PES2019? Probably not, but I can certainly see why hardcore fans of the series return year on year.
If you’re a fan of the sport and follow the ever-changing roster of teams then I can see why you would pick up the newest version of the game year after year and Konami has done a great job in making what would be considered a fan only game accessible to complete novices like me. While I’ve not played the other games in the series, I can’t help but think it does little in the way of offering anything new to the genre as a whole, but with this in mind, I think PES2018 is a pretty solid game.