It’s always a tough task to bring something new to a game that has an annual iteration, a dilemma that often surrounds sports games. This year, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 marks the return of the football season. The nemesis to FIFA, Pro Evolution Soccer or PES has long been considered a better game by loads of professional gamers and football enthusiasts alike. While FIFA has been around for a longer time than PES, PES has proved its worth in the past couple of years and has shown the world that official licensing isn’t necessarily everything. Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 promises to bring tons of changes and improvements to the ever-great football simulator. This year the major changes are mainly related to the presentation side of things which if you ask me really needed a facelift.
So, some of you might be wondering what exactly is so great about PES 2018 that it allows it to go head to head with the widely preferred FIFA franchise? Well, I’ve had the chance to play this game for quite some time now, and in this article I will try to answer this question too. So if you’re wondering whether to buy the PES 2018, read on, as we bring to you our in-depth review of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018:
Note: We reviewed the Standard Edition on our PS4 Pro. The features and gameplay, however, remain constant across all the editions and platform, with the little differences mentioned in the Pricing and Availability section of this review.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 Review
The gameplay is where PES 2018 excels the most, something which it has done since its first launch. Though, to be very honest, when it comes to gameplay, not much has changed since the launch of PES 2016, as the gameplay follows the same level of perfection and control it had in the previous two iterations. The game features RealTouch+, that allows users to control the ball with literally any part of their body. Players move much more freely, and the user can customize each and every player’s roles as well as playing style. And once you get used to this level of control, you actually realize that the game’s controls are actually tailor-made to ease out the player’s control. For example, dribbling on this game is actually so much fun, and it all happens so seamlessly, that it comes almost naturally. To be honest, it took me a while to get used to it though (~25mins, more or less), but once I did, I found the controls to be much easier than the previous iterations of the games as well as its competitors.
In any sports game, I feel that it is the game that usually dictates your playing style. For example, in earlier iterations of FIFA as well as PES, crossing the ball from outside the box into the box seemed to be an easier than actually dribbling and sprinting your way to the box. This, in turn, resulted in the user actually adopting this method of gameplay. With PES 2018, things are different. The user has complete freedom to dictate his gameplay, and the game shall adapt to the user’s playing style. The Fox Engine that powers up PES 2018, provides realistic physics to the movement of the ball, and adds on to the real-world feel of the game. For me, PES 2018 is easily one of the most tactically rich and varied football game out there.
In my experience with the game, I could easily say that while attacking, the game feels supernatural, offering the users with so much control that you have a plethora of options to deliver the ball inside the box. That being said, defending in this game is rather a mixed bag. There are times where the player will just dive instead of issuing a proper shoulder challenge, and more often than not, I found myself rushing the keeper towards the striker’s ball, for that was the only way to stop the goal.
The game speed of the PES 2018 has actually improved and the gameplay feels much faster and realistic now. Yes, one could change the game speed from the settings as well, but I am referring to the overall game speed. The ball moves much faster, and so do the players. A feel of realism is salient, and all the little aspects of the game have been given proper attention. Timing your commands has never been as crucial in a game as with PES 2018. A slightly off-timed tackle and you’ll find yourself heading back to the dressing room with a red card. A microsecond delay in heading the ball and the opponent’s defense will just steer the ball away. While many people out there might be looking for animations and presentation, for me, what matters the most has been the gameplay that takes place on the ground. And on that note, PES 2018 scores a complete 10 out of 10, delivering possibly the best gameplay I’ve ever experienced in a football game in the past couple of years.
While PES 2018 offers various multiplayer modes to play with your friends and rivals (which we’ll be discussing further), as always it allows the users to play with the computer AI as well. The overall difficulty of the gameplay while playing is sort of tough, especially when compared to its rival FIFA. If you’re playing as an attacking striker or midfielder, the opponent’s players are almost certain to come running towards you in search for the ball. The defenders, rather than sprinting alongside you and blocking a shot later, would instead charge directly for the ball. Physical challenges are quite realistic in the game, and for any user picking up the game for the first time, the game would be relatively hard to play. Also, the players act according to their ratings as well as the league they are playing in. For example, playing against West Midlands Village (Aston Villa), a team of English 2nd Division (The Championship), I noticed that opponents gave up the ball comparatively easily. The saves were rather mediocre and the attacking from their side was poor as well. On the other hand, playing against East Dorsetshire (AFC Bournemouth), I was easily able to notice a bump in the rather challenging gameplay. This is quite astounding considering both the teams comprised of players that have a nearly equal rating.
Also, even though the AI is generally quite smart, there are some cases where I felt there was some scope for improvement. The biggest flaw being the goalkeepers. Yes, the ever-persistent problem with Pro Evolution Soccer is present in the latest iteration as well. To be very blunt, the goalkeepers in this game absolutely suck. You’ll constantly find them bouncing the ball off their hands in the easiest of situations, allowing for a second striker to score from an easy tap-in. And don’t get me started on how easy it is to actually nutmeg a keeper, as they stupidly charging towards the ball with their legs wide open. Apart from the keeper, the other players also do miss out on a couple of spaces. And not just from the opponent’s team, from my own team as well. Though it wasn’t that often, there were times where the players would be off the mark, and would not be keeping up with their proper positioning.
Another thing that is quite prominent and noticeable from the get-go is the special traits of each player. The players seem to exhibit these traits quite realistically, and more often than not, bring out a sense of ecstasy. For example, for a player having a special trait of great passing such as Luka Modric or Tony Kroos, one could easily notice the special trick passes that the players automatically do without the need for any user involvement. Or if you’re crossing inside the box using Neymar Jr, more often than not, he’ll be delivering the ball with a rabona pass. This does end up adding a taste of flamboyancy to the entire gameplay. The same stands true while taking penalties. Players having higher shot power had a advantage over other players. Furthermore, top dogs such as Ronaldo, Messi, Suarez, Dybala, Neymar, and more have extra special traits added to match their playing style.
As always, PES 2018 comes with local as well as online multiplayer modes. This year, PES 2018 has an added feature of 3v3 co-op multiplayer mode, something which is one of their biggest announcements in the franchise. The truly multiplayer mode allows you to team up with 5 more of your friends and together enjoy the wonderful game. I tried playing the game with my office buddies, and to be honest, in the end, it all boils down to the chemistry you have with your teammates. In other words, if your teammates support you, the game actually provides you with a great platform for gaming.
But for me, the 3v3 co-op wasn’t the highlight, rather, I was spellbound with the return of the Random Select Match feature. Newer PES users might not be aware of this mode since it was last seen back in PES 6, more than a decade ago. What this essentially does is randomly selects the team members for you and your opponent, and then you move on to play with them. How this effectively works is that initially you are asked to pick a team. The team you select will apply the team name, strip, emblem, formation, and strategy to your final team. Next up, you’ll be given 4 spots to fill up, where you can select a team, a league, or a nationality from which players will randomly be selected. Once done, the system will automatically pick out a team of random players for you and your opponent.
But wait, the fun doesn’t end there. Next up you have trade rounds, that allows you to trade players from your competitor’s team. How this takes place is that first, you select a target player that you’d like to occupy. Next up, you select one player that you’d like to protect from your team and another player that you don’t mind losing. Finally, the trade round takes place, and players are exchanged depending upon the selection criteria. For example, in my case, the final team that I ended up was Dortmund, having an attacking front that included Ronaldo, Suarez, and Neymar. What luck, right?
Other game modes include the myClub, Master League, and the Become a Legend mode. If you’re a FIFA fan who’s unaware of the terminologies, the Master League and Become a Legend mode are comparable to FIFA’s Manager and Player Career Modes. Though, that would be a very slight comparison, for the modes included in PES rather make you start from square one, building your team from scratch and taking it to new heights.
The myClub mode, on the other hand, is PES’s answer to FIFA’s Ultimate Team. And to be very frank, it is still lacking behind. The mode is great, allowing you to build your own team, and compete in online matches against other players from around the world. You can get star player cards for match loans, or you can even purchase them using real money. In the end, it does offer an immersive experience that’ll make you play the game for a lot of hours.
Lastly, the way PES has always been, it is a UEFA licensed product, so we do have the official UEFA Champions League as well as the UEFA Europa League within the game. Though, as a football fan, I must say that it is quite suspicious of a gaming featuring FC Barcelona on its cover page and being the UEFA Champions League’s official game, both at the same time. (If you don’t know what I mean, just Google ‘Uefalona’). Also, if you’re looking to create your own custom competitions, there are options for custom tournaments and cups, alongside other online competitions.
Online gameplay, in general, happens to be great. The matchmaking process works relatively well, matching you with players similar to your playing style, thus giving you a fair competition. That being said, like every other game, online multiplayer highly depends on your region as well. For instance, since I was reviewing this game here in India, I had to stay up late to actually play with the majority of the world online. Secondly, since most of my matches took place with players far away from my region, there were slight regions of noticeable lag. To be honest, it was nothing that would spoil the gaming experience totally, but then again, the slight lag was there.
While all this is great, the game does lack a cinematic gameplay mode like The Journey on FIFA. That being said, it did take FIFA decades to finally include that feature in their series, so maybe, just maybe, we might see a similar mode in PES 2019. But for now, the users will just have to suffice with the modes present in the game.
Graphics and Presentation
Graphics play an important role in determining the overall feel of a game, and I must say, PES 2018 has improved on the graphics front vastly. For years, Konami has been presented as a company that focuses more on the gameplay rather than its presentation. Loyal fans of Pro Evolution Soccer have requested the devs for years to start focusing on the presentation as well, and it appears that their prayers have been answered. Well, more so than not.
The graphics in this year’s PES have improved vastly, offering rich and in-depth changes. The stadiums feel much more lively, and fan celebrations add to the feel. The player models of the top players are quite detailed, while the lower league players, well, not so much. I feel there is a relatively better balance amongst the graphics though, especially when compared to the previous iterations. The Fox Engine is a rather powerful engine as we all know, thanks to the Metal Gear franchise. Similar to that, the weather transitions feel highly realistic, and the one does feel that he’s actually on the pitch. Though, while we are on the topic of the pitch, let me be brutally honest that the grass feels unnatural, and it seems as if the players are running on a green mat. Don’t get me wrong, while everything else is immersive, the pitch’s detailing is a noticeable miss.
Probably the best experience of graphics of PES 2018 is when you play the game on the Player Camera mode, which basically switches your frame of reference to each player individually who’s in control of the ball. The switching animations are seamless, and the entire camera motion is quite realistic. Even though the camera is in a third-person mode, you do get the feel of a first-person experience. Well, sort-of at least.
The official soundtrack of this game is also quite appealing. While having a list of merely 12 tracks, these are all from high rated artists such as Bruno Mars, The Chainsmokers, Coldplay, John Legend, Linkin Park, and more. Though, to put things into realism, if you’re a casual player, most of your time is spent on the pitch, so you wouldn’t care much about the background tactics and other customizations. But if you’re a power user like, who spends equal time on and off the pitch, digging deep into menus, customizing the tactics, formations and other stuff; having an engaging soundtrack playing in the background makes a whole lot of experience.
Now while all this is good, let us get to the negatives of the presentation. To start off, let me begin by addressing the elephant in the room. Yes, most of you who’ve been long-time users of PES must be aware of crappy commentary it packs in. Also, another prominent issue with most users is the lack of licensing of teams, with almost all the teams having weird names and even weirder jerseys. Well, to be honest, the latter one will most probably never change, considering FIFA is the official governing body for the game of football, and so the preferences to the official licensing will undoubtedly be given to EA Sports’ FIFA. That being said, I have curated a list of the real team names for your convenience below:
|League Name||Real League Name||Team Name||Real Team Name|
|English League||Premier League||East Dorsetshire||AFC Bournemouth|
|English League||Premier League||East Sussex||Brighton and Hove Albion|
|English League||Premier League||Lancashire Claret||Burnley|
|English League||Premier League||London FC||Chelsea|
|English League||Premier League||South Norwood||Crystal Palace|
|English League||Premier League||Merseyside Blue||Everton|
|English League||Premier League||West Yorkshire Town||Huddlesfield|
|English League||Premier League||East Midlands||Leicester City|
|English League||Premier League||Man Blue||Manchester City|
|English League||Premier League||Man Red||Manchester United|
|English League||Premier League||Tyneside||Newcastle United|
|English League||Premier League||Hampshire Red||Southampton|
|English League||Premier League||St Red||Stoke City|
|English League||Premier League||West Glamorgan City||Swansea City|
|English League||Premier League||North East London||Tottenham Hotspur|
|English League||Premier League||Hertfordshire||Watford|
|English League||Premier League||West Midlands Stripes||West Bromwich Albion|
|English League||Premier League||East London||West Ham United|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||West Midlands Village||Aston Villa|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||SY Red||Barnsley|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||West Midlands City||Birmingham City|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||NW White Black||Bolton Wanderers|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Hounslow||Brentford|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||SW Red||Bristol City|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||ST Yellow||Burton Albion|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||South Wales||Cardiff City|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Derbyshire||Derby County|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Yorkshire Orange||Hull City|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||East Anglia Town||Ipswich Town|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Yorkshire Whites||Leeds United|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Teesside||Middlesbrough|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||GL Blue White||Millwall|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Norfolk City||Norwich City|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Notts Reds||Nottingham Forest|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||LN White||Preston North End|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||North West London||Queens Park Rangers|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Berkshire Blues||Reading|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||South Yorkshire Blues||Sheffield Wednesday|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||YH Red Black||Sheffield United|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||Wearside||Sunderland|
|English 2nd Division||The Championship||WM Gold||Wolverhampton Wanderers|
|Spanish League||La Liga||PV Sky Blue White||Alaves|
|Spanish League||La Liga||PV White Red||Athletic Bilbao|
|Spanish League||La Liga||GA Cyan||Celta Vigo|
|Spanish League||La Liga||GA Blue Whites||Derpotivo La Coruna|
|Spanish League||La Liga||PV Blue Red||Eibar|
|Spanish League||La Liga||CT Blue White||Espanyol|
|Spanish League||La Liga||MD Cobalt Blue||Getafe|
|Spanish League||La Liga||Ct Carmine White||Gorona|
|Spanish League||La Liga||CN Yellow Blue||Las Palmas|
|Spanish League||La Liga||MD Blue White||Leganes|
|Spanish League||La Liga||ED Blue Burgundy||Levante|
|Spanish League||La Liga||AN Cyan White||Malaga|
|Spanish League||La Liga||AN Green White||Real Betis|
|Spanish League||La Liga||MD White||Real Madrid|
|Spanish League||La Liga||PV Blue White||Real Socedad|
|Spanish League||La Liga||AN White Red||Sevilla|
|Spanish League||La Liga||ED Yellow||Villareal|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||MD Canary Yellow||Alcorcon|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AN Scarlet White||Almeria|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AN Yellow Blue||Cadiz|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AN Viridian White||Cordoba|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||ED White Green||Elche|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||CT Red||Gimnastic|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AN Red White||Granada|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AR Burgundy Blue||Huesca|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||GA Red White||Lugo|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||IB Red Black||Mallorca|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||CL Red Black||Mirandes|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||CL Red||Numancia|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||NC Red||Osasuna|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AS Blue||Oviedo|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||MD Scarlet White||Rao Vallecano|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||CT Red Black||Reus Deportiu|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AN White Red B||Sevilla Atletico|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AS Red White||Sporting Gijon|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||CN White Blue||Tenerife|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||MC Navy Blue||UCAM Murcia|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||CL Purple||Valladolid|
|Spanish Second Division||Segunda Division||AR White Blue||Zaragoza|
|Italian League||Serie A||PM Black White||Juventus|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||MA Zebra||Ascoli|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Alvegiaro||Avellino|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Bagnaroni||Bari|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Brutie||Brescia|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||ER White Red||Carpi|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||ER Black White||Cesena|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||DL Crimson||Cittadella|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||LB Red Grey||U.S. Cremonse|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||TO Blue||Empoli|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||PL Red Black||Foggia Calcio|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||TI Yellow Blue||Frosinone|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||PM Blue White||Novara|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||SI Pink Black||U.S.C. Palermo|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||ER Yellow Blue||Parma|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Prastogna||Perugia|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||AB White Light Blue||Pescara|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Pailamundoveli||Pro Vercelli|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||CM Burgundy||Salernitana|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Spremonese||Spezia|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||Teccarina||Ternana|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||DL Green Black Orange||Venezia FC|
|Italian Second Division||Serie B||LR White Blue||Virtus Entella|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||BJ Red||Academica de Coimbra|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Blemotao||Belenenses|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Borfecao||Boavista|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Bresigne||Braga|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||TM Blue Red||Chaves|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Estralpao||Estoril|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||DL Azure Blue||Feirense|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Maseadeira||Maritimo|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Meraszilho||Moreirense|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||AL Black White||Olhanense|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Podefteza||Pacos de Ferreira|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Rovaneche||Rio Ave|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||BA Yellow Green||Tondela|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Visicutao||Vitoria de Guimaraes|
|Portugal League||Primeira Liga||Verfolcao||Vitoria de Setubal|
That being said, if you’re one of those who was hoping for a better set of commentary this year, get ready to be disappointed. Peter Drury and Jim Beglin’s commentary literally sucks to the core. Forget comparing it to any other sports game, the commentary in itself is absolutely rubbish. While the gameplay has not changed much since PES 2016, the commentary hasn’t changed since the last decade. You’ll constantly find dead spots in the commentary, and whenever these two communicate, it’s more or less pointless. Yes, I respect both of them, and they’re great commentators in real life. It’s just that they absolutely suck in the game. To be honest, I had a better experience of the game while playing on mute rather than listening to these two talk.
Now, while all the little aspects of the gameplay have been ticked, most of the checkboxes in the presentation have been left out. The simple aspect of menu animations is so displeasing with lag being prominent amongst all the menu switches. Even the glitch animation of PES that props up once you’ve scored a goal or any other highlight is just so long that you’ll constantly find yourself annoyed with it. Yes, it might not seem like a big issue at first, but play the game for a few times, and you’ll understand my emotions.
On the whole, while a lot has improved on the graphics and presentation front with Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, it still has room for improvement. For someone who prefers the visual appeal, or gives it equal importance to the overall gameplay, you might have to reconsider your options.
Pricing and Availability
Pro Evolution Soccer is available in 2 different editions, the Standard Edition and the FC Barcelona Edition. In addition to the normal features, the special edition will include an FCB Special Agent, an FCB Legend Special Agent, and 1000 coins for the myClub mode of the game. Also, PES 2018 features the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, as a playable character in the game. Though in my opinion, it is simply a marketing gimmick, for other than being rated 99 on speed, the player offers nothing that impacts the football game. Adding on to the marketing gimmicks, Konami has promised to include Diego Maradona as well as David Beckham in the upcoming months. As far the PC requirements are concerned, we’ve seen a bump in the requirement for the graphics component, which is quite obvious considering the fact that PES 2018 looks similar across all platforms, unlike the previous iterations where the PC game was simply a low-res port of the console editions.
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, PC
Purchase Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (Starts at $39.99)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 Review: Should You Buy It?
So should you buy the latest in the line-up of Pro Evolution Soccer? Well, the answer for that is quite easy. It all comes down to what you actually prefer. If you want a realistic and immersive experience on the pitch, and would love to take control of each and every aspect of your players and team alike, then PES 2018 is just the game for you. But if you’re someone who values online multiplayer more, and wants to enjoy the look and feel of things, it might be best for you to wait till FIFA 18 comes out on 29th September. For a real football enthusiast, I dare say that Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 is the game you’re looking for. Plus, since the emphasis is on the gameplay, I would suggest you try out the demo before purchasing the full game since the gameplay will always remain the same. For me, PES 2018 has carried forward the same level of perfection it always had and proves to be a perfect football simulation game where the user has the prima control, rather than the system automating things for you. “And with that, the final whistle”.
While people consider PES to be an underdog, I feel this is simply because FIFA has been around for a long time and has licensed products. In reality, if you're simply looking to play with your friends locally and/or online, PES is way better than FIFA. The overall gameplay is much better. There's more control and advanced physics. Everything feels much more natural. The graphics are great, and the emphasis is where it matters the most.