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Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PS4)
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 in the game database
Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PS4)

PES 2018, like every other game of the series does yearly, is standing against FIFA in an unequal fight. Konami doesn’t give up and once again releases a game that’s better in some aspects, and in others it’s worse than PES 2017.

With reviewing football games there’s the same problem as with watching football matches – there’s no single rating criteria. There are people who are delighted by the tactical nuances of the game, for which a boring 0: 0 is a dream come true, as far as both teams followed tactical guidelines. There are also groups that crave the show and fireworks, so they will be in awe by a match when Legia Warsaw loses to a BvB (4:8 in case you didn’t watch this parody). There will also be people focusing on one player, statistics, and so on, and so on.

In football games we only have two competing series for quite some time now. FIFA and PES, after slaughtering their competition, fight each other. What does PES have to offer? In several last entries – definitely more simulative approach to the match, better animations and physics of the ball. FIFA, on the other hand, is a brand, it's massive marketing, FIFA Ultimate Team, match effects and licenses. At the moment when EA selected their path of developing FUT (step by step) and plot mode with Alex Hunter, Konami decided to focus on perfecting the physics of the ball and making PES more realistic. Did it work? Fortunately – yes.

Would I call PES 2018 the best football game I’ve ever played? No. After all, I liked the last year’s entry a little more, although honestly – the best thing to do is to merge PES 2017 and 2018 into one production. What do I like about the latest entry? A completely new approach to ball physics, which is an extension of the ideas introduced in PES 2016 and 2017. Finally, the ball and the player don’t get into interaction "either he’ll recieve it or not, but if yes – then always". Here you can see huge differences when a competitor is technologically advanced. The ball now jumps randomly, is played in many different ways, and moves more smoothly around the pitch when kicked far. Thanks to the, at last good, physics we can move it for a very short time or make better use of the rivals’ unsuccessful actions, which translates into realistic meetings. Obviously, like every year with Konami, it's not perfect, and sometimes the ball goes into such a pinball in the penalty box that it's hard to explain – unless you’re the connoisseurs of the grassroots football matches, in which case you’ll not be surprised. This has its charm, but here comes the question that everyone will answer for themselves – do we want the exact reflection of football with its imperfections, or just an idealized image of the sport, with errors eliminated by the developers?

They also took care of physical of players, which was pretty much always a problem. Yes, we’re finally able to shield the ball with a striker and defend it as long as needed. Wall pass next to the penalty box finally makes sense, as does the tackles in defense and attack. Improved collision detection, which also allows for a more meaningful defense, although there’s something else wrong with it, but that’s for later . In attack it’s much better to play with your head. Strong and tall players are better in pushing around in the penalty area, they’re better with fighting for the ball and, thanks to improved physics, the match isn’t automatically won after a goal. The ball can slip over our head, badly bounce or get thrown far away if we’re pushed by a defender – which I like very much. Relative to the demo version, goalkeepers are more effective, they don’t play so willingly in unnecessary dribbling, don’t wait when we’re attacking them, and they stopped being untouchable, since it’s far more easy for us to foul them. Of course, once in a few meetings they show off in a way that makes us want to strangle them, especially when they run for the ball when no one asked them to and simply pass it by. But after all, they make a positive impression when compared to several previous entries (excluding the 17).

Changes in Konami’s approach have followed changes in physics. The “to wing, throw-in/ground cross into the penalty area and goal” tactic is now much less effective than in the previous entries. The developer slowed the gameplay down, devoting more attention to short game with lots of passes, which I greeted with great joy as a fan of this kind of combination game. Finally, it makes sense to try to neutralize the opponent's defense or pull the defender aside to make room for a player from the second line. We also have more freedom in through balls, but ... yeah. I feel that Konami went a bit too far. As far as upper through pass has been weakened, mostly by well-positioned defenders and the aforementioned pushing, the through balls on the ground are incredibly strong. At least two or three times in a match I was able to play the ball halfway the pitch to the striker on offside line – on the highest level of difficulty with the second-league Bastia, where the biggest star was the bought Vietto (i.e. no biggy). It doesn’t irritate when the rival team eagerly approaches our half chasing the score, because then the counters are a natural consequence, but in a positional game such actions happen very rarely in the best leagues. This is something to keep in mind, especially when playing online. 90% of people play there that way. One mistake and we’re one goal short...

...especially since PES 2018 suffers from another irritating problem – switching players, whether manual or supported by the console. Sometimes we’re not able to switch to the player that’s the closest to the opponent, regardless of how many times we hit the button on the pad. There are situations in which we go through six players, and the one we aim for is just standing there and adorably looking at how the striker approaches our penalty area and scores. It’s also annoying that the opponent, even at the highest difficulty level, doesn’t want to foul us. And it's not like the referee is blind and whistles only when we do something wrong. No. It’s just that the rival will do anything not to foul. For almost two seasons in the Master League, only three free kicks for my team were whistled – and that was when I was running around the penalty area line, provoking a slide tackle in the leg. Konami supposedly knows about having this problem since the demo version, but initially they tried to make it look intentional, so I wouldn’t expect a change in this entry.

As far as new things go, the return of co-op online games is worth mentioning, as well as Random Match, which is perfect for parties in front of the console. We select the appropriate restrictions and the console randomly assigns us the players, then we can exchange one of them. We get the option of playing matches that you can’t get tired of (how many times can you play against Real or Barcelona?), but that’s just a small novelty when we look at PES 2018 as a whole. The rest of the changes are pure cosmetics to simulate these changes. In the Master League it’s the transfer system that got to be improved, and the tournaments played with CPU were kicked out of MyClub. Why? Officially – nobody knows anything. Unofficially it’s known that it’s all about buying game currency for real money. In the tournaments we could, if we really wanted to, stash GP for so long that buying premium currency wasn’t an option. As you can see – Konami didn’t like it, so it was decided to take care of those who don’t want to pay with real money. You can still collect a lot of GP, but... step by step, in 3–4 entries you won’t do without paying.

As far as online gameplay is concerned, I’m aware that with my exceptionally good Internet connection I’m not very reliable for the whole country, but I haven’t witnessed a single lag in the course of the game. Partially it’s a result of a pretty good matchmaking that connected me only with people available in my region, where 90% of matches I played with my compatriots. But even when I happened to play with an Arab – there was no problem and the players reacted well. However, rival search time is a separate thing entirely. In fast play it’s at least a minute, the norm is unfortunately two, sometimes three minutes. Why? I have no idea. I specifically waited for the game’s release and server startup, giving them a few days to populate. Then I checked the lobby of online games and MyClub – it wasn’t any better. European rooms have 12 people on a Saturday night. In less convenient hours – they’re empty. I’d like to believe that I was unlucky, or that over time the servers will just fill up. However, if you have a group of people ready to play with you, then the subject of empty rooms at the lobby can be ignored.

Okay, I know. I haven’t mentioned the licenses, but ... is there any point? Writing the same thing every year, that Konami still doesn’t have a lot of them and we’re dependant on the work of fans through the Option File, it's a little tedious. Yes, loading OF is easy and convenient (without the bugs of the PES 2017 release), but most people are lazy and will not want to play with it. The work of fans can’t in any way be an excuse for Konami. Although honestly it has to be said that in the case of several leagues, license problems are much more complicated than ordinary "Konami doesn’t want to pay". But why there’s no Bundesliga – I have no idea. The stadium presentations of the meeting were also left where the last year's entry is. I don’t even want to mention the commentators, because I’ve had enough of them. They are tiring, and their curiosities are a set of fifteen lines that make us vomit after two hours of playing. Listening to Jim Beglin and Peter Drury I want to drown myself.

The visual design is another matter. Some of the faces have improved significantly and new stars have been personalized, but quite a few players haven’t been touched and at the very least have undergone minor changes to their hairstyles. PES 2018 also offers better looking t-shirts that “behave” a bit more realistically, but ... it’s a detail that one person in a hundred will spot (although when compared to FIFA 18 Konami beats the heck out of its competitor, but who gives a damn?). The turf looks worse. It never looked great, but here Konami took a step back or even two. PS4 Pro owners will be happy with how the game works. 4K in 60 fps is no success in football, but... full support of the stronger console lately isn’t as obvious as you may think. When we play on regular PS on a 1080p TV, we get a clearer picture and higher quality graphics (especially when it comes to shadows).

Is PES 2018 worth our money? In general – yes, because the changes in physics and slowing down the game have made the Konami series the direction which should draw the fans of a more simulated approach. But the developer's tactics to ruin something only to fix it a year later and tell the world how many improvements have been put in the game is in the long run tiresome for anyone who deals with subsequent entries of the Pro Evolution Soccer series every year. However, if you had at least a year-long (or preferably two–three) break, then the amazement will never end. Otherwise, you may feel a bit tired... unless it's just the old age that’s gotten to me and it's worth to go on a football holiday after all.

The game was reviewed on PS4 Pro

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
Out rating: 8.5/10
PES 2018 is an exceptionally successful simulation of the football match. Better physics of the ball, the better physics of the players and slowing down the match came out to be a good idea. Unfortunately, it's Konami - the company had to break something.
  • Pros
  • Much better physics of the ball
  • Slowing down the gameplay
  • More pressure put on the combination game
  • Better physics of the players
  • The return of Random Selection Match
  • Addictive as hell
  • Cons
  • The commentator duo
  • Switching the players
  • Long (but efficient) matchmaking
  • Licenses (yaaawn)
konami playstation 4 Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 review

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