Pro Evolution Soccer 2018: review

  • Format: PS4 (version reviewed), Xbone, PC, PS3, 360
  • Unleashed: Out Now
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Developer: Konami
  • Players: 1-2 (offline), 2-22 (online)
  • Site:
  • Game disc provided by PR

Our review of Konami’s latest kick-the-ball game was delayed slightly, as we wanted to spend a decent amount of time seeing how the servers – which were only switched on the day before release – would cope. Before we get to that though, let’s spend some time looking at PES 2018 in a more general sense. Will you keep coming back to shout, as hardcore football fans like to say, “I did a goal!”?

Though the experience has been sharpened and tinkered with in several areas it is, of course, still the same game at its core. Although many authentic team names are still notable by their absence (Man Blue FTW), it’s easy enough to dig up a fan-made edit file on the interwebs to fix this if it’s important to you. Also left relatively untouched are the main menus (still a little clunky) and training lessons (some of which are of questionable value). Dig in to the actual play, though, and your apprehension will disappear faster than Wayne Rooney’s driving license.

There was a lot of pre-release talk about how digital players will now move and act more like their real-life counterparts. The visible impact of this is, to be honest, minimal. Nonetheless, the change in AI behaviour in the grand scheme of things is almost immediately noticeable, and very much for the better. Playing against CPU opponents feels more like a real game of football than ever. The series had long ago nailed incidental details, such as strikers expressing frustration at missing a shot, or goalkeepers angrily shoving a defender who scored an own goal. More important and dramatic changes are at play here, though. If the CPU is losing with time ticking away, they’re likely to push forward with dramatic and risky attacks. Conversely, if they’re enjoying a tight lead, you may well find that they hold back, and even time waste a little by passing amongst themselves in their own half. You’ll now and again run up against behaviour that is surprising but very much realistic.

The graphics are quite good, but can get Messi sometimes.

As for control over your own team, things are the best they’ve ever been. Passing felt just a little off last year, but is fixed again now (with pass assist tweaking and manual passing both still available). Dribbling has been tightened, and goalkeepers – if left to their own devices – are less easily duped. It can sometimes seem as though your teammates aren’t quite aggressive enough when it comes to winning the ball back, but that’s where tactics come in. The impact relatively small decisions you make can have – a change of formation, application of on-the-fly offensive or defensive manoeuvres – can be huge (for better or for worse) depending on how you and the opposing team are playing. That’s not always necessary, but is well worth exploring if you’re struggling.

There’s plenty in the package to keep you busy. The UEFA license is still present and correct, so you can toddle your way through the virtual UEFA championship. Then there’s MyClub, which again allows you to put together a superstar team of your own and lead them to glory both online and off. It requires a lot of off-the-pitch work (and quite a bit of luck) to get the exact players and setup you want – not to mention microtransactions, if you want it sooner rather than later – but if you have the time to invest, you’ll get the feeling of a job jolly well done.

Elsewhere, ‘random selection match’ is back, offering a team made up of… er… randomly selected players. A revamped Master League meanwhile provides you with an in-depth management sim, and even allows you to make yourself manager of any team in the game. Arrange and accept (or deny) transfers, manage salaries, of course decide formations and whatnots, and lots of other managerial stuff. You can play the matches themselves too, or… not. Or perhaps you’d prefer to return to Become A Legend, and control a single player throughout his career (still no story, in case you were wondering).

So, online. There were significant bumps in the road initially, with matches being killed without warning due to poor connection. At time of writing, we’ll tentatively say that this issue seems to have been addressed, though there is a small risk of brief ‘hitching’ due to connection hiccups (although most matches seem to be perfectly fine). There are plenty of people playing as usual, but it takes a while for the game to match you with somebody. Quick Match is anything but.

Online Divisions allows you to play ten-game ‘seasons’ (you can choose a new team for each match) in a chase for online bragging rights. If you’re feeling friendly, you can opt for co-op. 2V2 and 3v3 matches allow you to work alongside one or two other players within the same team, trying to avoid getting in each other’s way.

Online or off, PES 2018 is very much top of its game. Controls are tight, victories well deserved, and content plentiful. Back of the net!

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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