Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 Review

By Dave Horobin, 29 days ago
With the 2017/18 football season now underway around Europe and in other parts of the world, it’s time for each team to see if their hard work off the field during the transfer window can make a difference in the coming months. For one of gaming’s biggest rivalries that is also the case, with Konami and EA bringing the latest iteration of their annual releases to eager fans within a few weeks of each other.

Kicking things off this year is PES, which made some big steps forward last year to become a genuine match for the FIFA juggernaut. This time around, the changes in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 are much smaller, building on what made PES 2017's gameplay feel great, but sadly ignoring elements off the pitch that have needed addressing for a while.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018Pro Evolution Soccer 2018

PES 2017 provided us with some of the finest footballing action we’ve seen from a game, and thankfully PES 2018 still plays great on the pitch. However, unlike last year’s iteration which took a giant leap forward in terms of quality, the changes this time around come in the form of smaller additions and tweaks that really refine the core gameplay.

On the pitch, the pace has dropped slightly, which really complements the overall feel of PES 2018’s fluid and intuitive gameplay. Passes feel like they have some weight behind them, players shield the ball to hold off opponents, dribbling mechanics feel tight and responsive as you dance around lunging defenders using feints and tricks, and improvements to how players control the ball with different body parts based on the height and pace of a pass using the new Real Touch+ system all add up to make PES 2018 an exceptional experience that feels closer to the real thing than ever before.

Each players’ individual strengths and weaknesses also play a major factor in the gameplay. Skillful players show a defter touch when controlling the ball and their dribbles are more effective than other players, while stronger players can easily shield the ball with their bodies. This makes playing with and against different teams feel varied and extremely fun as you’ll need to adapt your tactics to come out on top in the game. Playing as Manchester United, or Man Red as they are known is PES 2018, you can use Paul Pogba’s passing range to launch quick counter-attacks to exploit the speed of Lukaku, Rashford and Martial, while playing as Barcelona (one of the officially licensed teams in the game) is more suited to their famed “tiki-taka” style with patient build-up and quick dribbles to find space.

PES 2018

Of course, as with previous releases in the series, PES 2018 doesn’t include the vast array of league and team licenses that FIFA holds, and while it doesn’t take away from the actual gameplay there is clearly a loss of immersion when you’re playing as Man Red vs London FC, or when you have all of Italy’s Seria A teams to choose from except Juventus who are called PM Black White. It wouldn’t be so bad if there was an attempt to make kits in-game look similar, but having Man Red playing in black seems like an odd choice, forcing players to spend even more time in the editor to adjust things. On the PC and PS4 versions of the game, that’s not so bad as you can add community updates, but unfortunately, that option isn’t available on the Xbox One.

Areas of PES 2018’s appearance on the pitch have also been stepped up for this year’s release. Lighting, motion-capture, and over 20,000 components from turf to tunnels and items surrounding the game’s various stadia have all seen improvements that help to make the match action look stunning. PES might not have all the pre-match presentation bells and whistles like its competitor, but on the pitch, where it really matters, the attention to detail is noticeable.

While it’s mainly a positive showing on the pitch for PES 2018, there are some annoyances that cropped up. Goalkeepers seem to have the ability to make stunning saves at times but then struggle with simple shots, pushing them back into the middle of the penalty area instead of holding onto the ball, and on more than one occasion I witnessed comical own goals where players would run into the ball and let it bounce into the net rather than attempting a clearance. Those things pale in significance, however, to the abysmal commentary from Peter Drury and Jim Beglin, which is riddled with obscure clichés and an inconsistent tone. After hearing some phrases repeated three or four times in one game, I had to draw the line and turn the commentary volume down to zero.

PES 2018

Off the field, PES 2018 hasn’t really seen much change, with many of the series’ past issues returning. Visually menus are as unappealing as ever, looking like they haven’t been updated since the PS2, with key features hidden behind dull square blocks and plain text that do nothing to tempt people in.

There’s also a real sense of déjà vu with most of the game modes on offer, with very little in the way of new features or innovation to help breathe new life into them. The staples of Master League, Become a Legend and myClub, along with the licensed Champions League and Europa League are all here as you’d expect, allowing players to experience different aspects of the beautiful game, but if you played last year’s release there is very little here to make you switch outside of the updated team line-ups and the small gameplay tweaks.

The one saving grace comes in the form of the much requested return of the Random Selection mode, which gives players the chance to play with a team made up of randomly selected players, based on a set of parameters that you can choose before the match. You can set the parameter around teams, leagues or nationality/regions. For example, you could create a team made up of only Spanish players currently plying their trade in the Premier League. Once your team has been assembled, a draft mode follows where you can steal a player from their squad, while at the same time attempting to protect your best player from being traded the opposite way. And then it’s up to you to try and field the best team possible and adjust to their strengths and weaknesses in a match.

Random Selection isn’t the only new mode on offer. There’s also online 11 vs. 11 matches and co-op 2-v-2 and 3-v-3 matches available, but sadly it’s been hit and miss accessing any of those modes due to the limited number of people that appear to be playing them.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018

The achievement list in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 is as lazy as it gets, with an almost identical list to the one from last year, and the year before that, and so on. The only differences are the inclusion of some co-op and Random Selection achievements. Most of the achievements will come naturally for anyone who is willing to work through the game’s various game modes. The only exception being for winning two matches in a row in myCLub against the AI on Legend difficulty, which hasn't been unlocked by anyone on TA yet.

Summary

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018's gameplay offers an exceptional and authentic experience. It’s not a massive jump forward, but this year’s new additions and gameplay tweaks do a good job of refining what made last year’s game so good. Sadly, all the good work on the pitch is let down by tired and dated looking menus, game modes that are desperately in need of some innovation, shockingly bad commentary and the continued lack of licenses. It's a solid jumping-on point if you're new to the series, but seasoned veterans may find too few improvements to justify the price.
4 / 5
Positives
  • Gameplay is exceptional
  • Players and stadium look stunning
  • Random Selection mode is a welcome return
Negatives
  • Shockingly bad commentary
  • Lack of licenses
  • Game modes lack innovation
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent approx. 30 hours playing each of the game's different game modes, unlocking 31 of the 51 available achievements. A review copy was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Dave Horobin
Written by Dave Horobin
Dave is the TrueAchievements Social Manager and has been a Newshound since 2010. When he's not chasing developers and publishers for early review copies, he can usually be found on the TrueAchievements social pages discussing all things TA related.