The football simulator genre in video games has been synonymous with the battle between FIFA and PES for a long time. But the divide between the two has been closing down with every PES release. They have been making good progress in making the overall gameplay better, and the new game boasts of doing exactly that. PES 2018 still has licensing issues, something which FIFA doesn’t have any problems with at all. However, licensing is only a cosmetic issue, the only downside being that you won’t be able to play with the official team names. Man Red vs. Man Blue anyone? But they have been quite active on partnering with clubs for an official representation from them in the game. We’ll be exploring several aspects of the game including gameplay, game modes and graphics.
PES 2018 – Gameplay
Navigating through the menu is simple. It’s easy to find any particular setting or game mode. Autosave isn’t automatically enabled, so you’ll have to enable it manually in every mode. The practice mode is exhaustive and although you can skip the entire training session, you might miss some of the combinations that are possible in the game. Apart from familiarising yourself with the game’s mechanics of long passes and free kicks, you also get to try out a few tricks. The pace of PES is rather slow as compared to FIFA which gives you some headroom to perform tricks while dribbling. Of course, you’ll need some practice to successfully pull them off. PES 2018 introduces RealTouch+ that enables you to control and dribble the ball with different parts of your body, including your chest, stomach and thighs, and not just your feet. This brings in more depth to dribbling, letting you perform satisfying finishes. Once you’re familiar with two or three techniques, you can easily outperform your opponents without twisting your fingers over the controller. There was hardly anything to complain about with the practice mode. The one anomaly that we noticed was that the timer continued running even after a particular trial failed. All training sessions have a limited time which starts ticking the moment you move or touch the ball. The timed sessions include several trials to cover different angles and/or situations, and some of them also have marked zones. If you press the wrong button, an opponent intercepts the ball, or if the ball crosses the marked zone, the trial fails. The timer pauses when a trial has ended and starts again with the next one from the appropriate starting point. What we found annoying was that sometimes the timer wouldn’t stop even after the trial had failed, resulting in even less overall time to complete the entire session. Simply put, you’re losing out on time during those few seconds where the ball is simply rolling away.
Once you’re comfortable with all the trials in training, it becomes a little easier to play the game. Possession is important, especially when playing against human players, and at higher difficulty settings against AI. At higher difficulty, the AI can get pretty aggressive with interceptions, saves and mild tackling, but they hardly commit any fouls. After a couple of days of gaming, we never witnessed the AI receiving a yellow or red card even once. Ball and player collision was depicted well when you control the player but sometimes during replays, they seemed off. Sliding tackles were realistic enough and it all depended on timing. If it was too early, you ended up with a foul and if it was too late, you would be hiding your face because of a silly-looking slide.
The game involves a lot of short and quick passes between players (duh, it’s football). But aiming for short passes was a problem, especially when players were close to each other. Every now and then it would end up going to someone else near or behind the intended target. However, this was only the case with short passes. We didn’t face any problems with long passes, crosses or through balls.
Higher rated players might seem overpowered in their positions while playing with or against the AI. So, if you are to pick Cristiano Ronaldo and try to dribble your way across the opponent’s defence, you will be able to most of the time. That is unless you come across defenders of an equal level who might just intercept and deny you passage. Commentary was a bit underwhelming because after playing 10-12 matches, it sounded repetitive. Crowd noises were done quite well. The commentary and cheering from the crowd helps to boost the overall experience of playing football sims, which wasn’t up to the mark in this game. Lastly, this would be nitpicking but touching and kicking the ball didn’t have the satisfying and realistic reverb on contact, something which is present in FIFA.
PES 2018 – Game Modes
There are three basic modes in the game including myClub, Master League and Become a Legend. The first mode, myClub, allows you to build your own team from scratch and compete against others online. Master League is the regular Manager mode as seen in FIFA. This is one mode that you will find yourself playing offline and in fact, continue playing for several seasons. Raising the difficulty setting does impact how difficult it is to sign players and make better decisions for your club other than just the team mechanics. Become a Legend mode lets you play as a single player where you can either select an existing player or build your own player in whatever position you’d like. We spent most of our time in this mode and progressed until transfer season came up. This mode is similar to the Player career mode in FIFA. Random Selection mode is fun since the final team you play with is completely randomised across teams, leagues and even regions. Essentially, you have to choose a base team then select four parameters from where you want your players to be populated from. If the randomisation is in your favour, you can end up with a pretty strong team. Don’t worry about your opponent because it ensures a fair match, unless your skills are worse than that of the AI. You can then trade one player with your opponent while protecting one. Once the trading is done, you can continue this as a normal exhibition match with the AI or with a friend. The most interesting mode was 3v3 co-op where three human or AI players control players from the same team. So, you don’t have to worry about controlling all the players and instead keep switching between players who aren’t being controlled by your teammate. This mode is available for both online and offline, where if an online player isn’t available, it matches you with AI players.
PES 2018 – Graphics
Konami has worked really well in creating the environment, especially of the stadiums which are official partners. Camp Nou, FC Barcelona’s home ground, looks fabulous with the colours of the Spanish giant spread across every corner of the stadium. The audience doesn’t look like a swarm of the same individuals jumping and waving their hands but more diverse. The faces and stances of certain players have been kept true to their originals. For example, most of the players in FC Barcelona are easily identifiable, Messi being the best one. But those faces look good only when they aren’t moving. Face animations aren’t the best in PES 2018, ending up looking weird and glitchy at certain times. There isn’t much detailing done to reproduce expressions, which seem limited to the major portions of the face. We’ve seen micro-expressions implemented in current-gen console games already to an extent, but they look basic in PES 2018. Considering that there are several parts in the game where close-ups are shown (celebrations and award ceremonies), these tiny details should have been given importance. The Become a Legend mode allows you to select an already existing player or edit the physical details of a completely new player. For custom players, granular depth has been given to edit facial details. Another aspect in graphics that we paid attention to was the level of detail in the grass. Almost in every camera angle, the grass looks flat and the length is only distinctly visible during celebrations, free kicks and penalties. You will frequently notice blades of grass thrown into the air when the player passes or shoots the ball, but coming off from a flat surface, it looks weird and unrealistic. Presentations are big when it comes to delivering the full experience of a sports sim, which is underwhelming here compared to their rivals. The basic presentations such as pre-match ceremonies, celebrations, game mode specific presentations and other little clips are limited and could do with way more.
PES 2018 – The Verdict
PES 2018 misses out on minor things in terms of graphics and game modes. There aren’t massive bugs that would be a deal breaker for football simulator enthusiasts out there. Having played both FIFA and PES, you are bound to compare the two, holding FIFA as a standard for this genre. Although this is true to an extent given FIFA’s legacy of developing their version for so many years, PES builds over the groundwork done by them. As mentioned earlier, you get more control over the ball, making it more fun and easier to carry out tricks that have resulted in some amazing solo goals. We are yet to play the upcoming version that FIFA has in store for us, hence it would be unfair to make a direct comparison of what the two rivals have been able to achieve until now. Graphics are disappointing at certain aspects but there weren’t any major visible glitches of a character model gone wild. Gameplay was easy to catch up with and once you’ve learned the tricks (which will take about an hour or two to master if you’re a beginner), you will surely perform them in combinations in every game. At this point, you wouldn’t even bother about official names not being a part of the game and stay hooked because of the ease of zooming past through the defenders and pushing the ball into the net. If you’re just here for the love of playing a football sim, you will definitely enjoy PES 2018.
Platform: PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One
Price: Rs. 3,499 (PC, PS4, Xbox One), Rs. 2,499 (PS3, Xbox 360)
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Abhijit "BabuMoshaaye" Dey
This ape-descended life form believed that coming down from the trees was a bad idea until he was introduced to video games. Has spent endless hours playing Prince of Persia, Hitman, Assassin's Creed, Unreal Tournament, Half-Life and Left 4 Dead. This makes it three sentences, Half-Life 3 confirmed.