VIDEO GAME REVIEW: Pro Evolution Soccer 2018
On September 12th 2017, Publisher Komani released its 17th edition of its Pro Evolution Soccer franchise, released on Windows, Playstation, and Xbox formats. The Hype Train delves into Komani's latest offering of PES 2018, looking at the game's key features, its core game play, and the game modes available to play, before rounding off with our insight, rating, and thoughts about this year's game. All aboard.
PES 2018: Main Features
Konami's marketing of the game was tailored around the new in-game advancements that they had made, as well as an overhaul of graphical representation and design. Here's what we have taken away from Komani's seven major selling points, most of which come true to life in the game itself.
1) Gameplay Masterclass: A fine-tuning of the in-game dynamics, with the addition of Strategic Dribbling, Real Touch (different body movements and player touch style), as well as an overhaul of the game's set-piece taking.
2) Enhanced Visual Reality: New lighting, new player and in-game animations, new player models, and motion capture elements within the game.
3) Online Co-Op: A new mode dedicated to 2v2 and 3v3 co-op play, with support for local guests. You can finally include friends in your matches in multiple game modes, including McClub.
4) New Modes and Features: The main changes that you will notice is Co-op in MyClub, a graphical overhaul in Master League, PES League as an addition, and the return of 'Random Selection Match' which puts eleven randoms together in online or offline matches. You can also trade players, which might come of use when the transfer window opens.
5) Presentation Overhaul: New interfaces for all game modes, especially in MyClub and Master League.
6) PES League Integration: PES League is Konami's competitive gaming wing, and is taking places in stages throughout the season, before a big blow-out world tournament next year.
7) PC Improvements: You'll have to take Konami's word on this one, but they've said that PES's graphics on PC are now in-line with Xbox and Playstation players.
PES 2018: Gameplay
Pro Evolution has always been a game that has valued itself on the core in-game action, with Konami's reputation for the franchise going through the roof after PES 2015 really began upping the game on the field of play. After years of decline the game went from being stale and behind its competitors, to having a necessary overhaul, which brought a fresh and extremely enjoyable footballing experience to consoles and PC..
If you've never played PES before, or the last two editions in particular, the football is controlled, competitive, and has a heavy reliance on the pre-match and in-game tactics that you utilise. Formations, presets such as quick substitutions, and team chemistry play a massive factor in deciding the cohesion of your team on the pitch.
There are checks and balances to attacking too much, or parking the bus at the edge of the box. If you have too many small or lightweight players, you can be bossed by larger sides. If you have your defence too high you can be caught out by pacey forwards, and if you're sloppy in possession or don't weight a pass directly, there are consequences and you can be easily dispossessed. The point with these examples are that there are a multitude of playing styles that can favour each team, which makes the game less one-note and potentially scripted.
PES 2018's new in-game features aren't gigantic in nature, but small changes that become more noticeable with time. Performing skill functions have become more slick and easy to perform though it is not a dominant feature of the game, and just one way to outsmart your opponents.
What Konami wanted to achieve was a greater sense of realism in regards to how players react, move, and play with team mates on the pitch, and that element is certainly factored in this year, with PES 2018 possessing a fluidity that brings you back for more and more. Pass masters, and insurmountably strong midfielders each serve their purpose in cutting the lines of defence and midfield, whilst animations like players celebrating before a certain goal goes in is a joy to watch.
One noticeable change is that Goalkeeper animations have been redesigned, with many actions such as throwing, dropping, or kicking, widely different depending on the style of keeper. Last season Goalkeeper's were largely static and just did their job, but now Konami have added a layer of personality. Mainly the Goalkeeper's look ultra-casual when throwing the ball out like they don't have a care in the world. With kicking, if you watch how Kasper Schmeichel quickly distributes the wall out to his wingers at Leicester, it is nearly identical in PES.
The only negative that comes to mind is the out-of-date scripts that the commentary teams are using. The commentators are fine with most of their their delivery, but after 100 games you noticed that there is a significant level of repetition and scripted moments that feel out of place on a pitch that boasts great game play, and that is an issue that will need to be addressed for next year. The team will be talking casually and then Jim Beglin will scream wildly as a goal goes in, or a reckless tackle is made, providing inconsistency to the game's pace.
Below we've listed some common themes that we have discovered as we play PES, but on the whole we are very happy with the in-game content, with this year's edition proving to be fun, addictive, and worth the price you pay.
Noticeable Gameplay Notes
Headers are your best friend, especially if you have a tall target man.
MyClub's pacing is much quicker than the rest of PES's modes, with more speedy wingers and box to box midfielders utilised by players.
Using the D-Pad to move your defence back and forward is one of the most used feature in the game, especially as kick-off when you drop your defence off so you're not caught out by any potential early goals.
From playing experience, wingers and attack-minded full-backs are key to breaking down sides, especially in online competition.
The CPU is incredibly difficult to beat on Super Star and Legend difficulty, with each difficulty managing a different style of play.
First time passing is essential for defenders in PES. Sometimes it takes an age to control the ball and at times can be very easy ti dispossess a central defender in a vulnerable position.
The lighting on the pitch in PES 2018 is dramatically improved, and not as grainy as previous iterations.
PES 2018 Game Modes
MyClub, Master League, Become a Legend
UEFA Champions League, Europa League, AFC Champions League, League, Cup, and an online competition mode
Play Now, Online Divisions, Online Co-op, PES League, Quick Match, Online Match Lobby, Random Selection Match
PES 2018: Master League
For us, Master League is the bread and butter of the Pro Evo experience. It is the game mode that is most fondly remembered for nostalgic and current players, mostly because in years past Konami has struggled to fill its servers with online players. Master League is PES's career mode, and a highly rewarding and depth-filled mode for players who want to sink hours of their time at a time into the journey of managing a club.
There are two slightly varying modes, 'Challenge' mode for a more scenario-based campaign, which focuses on having a squad with high demands, low retention rates, and a board who aren't happy unless you're better than Barcelona.
The other mode, a favourite of ours, is the 'Classic' mode which sees you take control of a club of made up, and lowly rated players, in a bid to turn your club into a super-club. This mode is advantageous is you wish to start in the second division of a league.
A presentation overhaul is the biggest change to Master League, which is once again a worthy, and perhaps the best, addition to the catalogue of modes features by PES this year. We've outlined below the major changes to Master League this year, which have helped tinker with Master League's winning formula for the better.
Noticeable changes to Master League
The user interface has had a complete overhaul, with all the panels now sandwiched on the left of the screen, instead across the top. The news screen takes a more prominent role.
The new UI allows for your fixture list to be more clearly displayed on the right hand side.
In general, the darker, cloudy background, isn't as intense as last year's game and offers graphical stability in Master League's main menu.
The Chairman of your club has been bumped up this year and leaves you periodic messages throughout the season. The 'Team Status' tab, which is a new addition, allows you to view your owner's trust, the top scorers and assist makers at the club since your arrival, squad satisfaction, and your skill bias when creating your squad. It's a tab that you find yourself going back to again and again.
Transfer negotiations have also been upgraded for the better. Release clauses can now be added to a player you're looking at signing, and depending on the player and the ranking of your club, a clause might be a mandatory factor when signing said player. As well as a release clause, you can better negotiate to bring down the transfer fee or the player's wage, offsetting a potentially high weekly cost with appearance and win fees.
Best yet, when signing youth players to your team, in PES 2017 when you signed them they only had a contract until the end of the season, regardless of if you signed the player in the summer or January transfer window. You can now negotiate more effectively with youth players to have their contracts extended so you're financial predicament isn't so doom and gloom. The problem with one season contracts for youth players, was when renewing their contracts before January it ate up all of your club's salary budget, meaning making a signing in January was pretty much off the table. Having played multiple seasons of Master League this time around, that problem has been fixed with offering longer contracts to youth players to begin with.
In the 'Challenge' mode of Master League, there is a noticeable difference with the challenges of managing your team. More players want to leave and hold you at ransom over contract demands.
The 'Past Glories' tab has been improved, with honours listed in order of you winning them, which is greatly improved from the boxes that littered the screen in last year's addition.
Perhaps the most noticeable change, and not for the better, is when clicking onto 'My Favourite Players' tab within the 'Management Career' option. Last year glorious music would ring out to highlight your favourite players throughout your managerial career. In PES 2018 there is no grand music, with the screen overlaid with the game's soundtrack.
Tips on Master League
Return players will have a good grasp of how the transfer market operates, especially with retiring players who come back as sixteen year old youth prospects. There are a few gems out there who can turn into world beaters at a low cost if you prefer playing the Classic mode:
- Filtaozinho (left-back), who is available as a youth player in the youth team
- L. Giorza (right-back), who develops into a good first team player quickly
- A. Lobato (second-striker), a free agent who appears early on in the transfer window
Master League is greatly advanced if you utilise the 'Edit' tool on the top menu to edit club names, add league badges, and if you have the patience, edit the club kits, as these are are visible on the news screen that appears.
If you're a Playstation user, you can download all of the relevant kits and download a patch to automatically update club names and all the works.
PES 2018: MyClub
MyClub has become a growing presence for Konami and PES Productions in recent years, and of its renditions, despite not being the finished product, MyClub continues to head in the right direction and is a game mode that is definitely worth some time and attention, as there are a lot of competitions to get your teeth sunk into.
For those who have not played the mode before, it is essentially a take on FIFA's Ultimate Team, that has vast differences with how players are obtained. Instead of a transfer market, your 'GP' earned in games can buy you an array of scouts to fill your squad out. If you want to advance your team quickly you can also buy 'MyClub points' with real money to invest into your squad, or purchasing a better manager for your squad.
The 'Scout' market, where you can purchase different style agents, works as an active transfer market in a way. If you would like to have Messi in your team you have to buy particular scouts (for example ones that target Barcelona players, Argentinian internationals, and right-forward players), but with better players, these cards are not cheap. This does bring up similar problems with Ultimate Team, with a lot of scouts priced out by players with an irregular number of GP in their accounts.
That said, there is a fairness and randomness to MyClub's player acquisitions that makes it a more competitive rival, with even the best players feeling obtainable. If you want to chance your luck at players, you can obtain specialist position scouts, or Special Scouts (that are updated on a weekly basis) to chance your luck at success. You get different coloured balls ranging from white (non-rare) to bronze, silver, gold, and black (premium).
A obstacle for MyClub players in regards to acquiring new players sometimes the luck you have when initially building your squad. It can be heartbreaking to come up against so many players with Ronaldo, Messi, and Neymar, when your chosen few 'black balls' yield a Pique or a player lower down the ratings totem poll. At least the worlds best players are accessible and can be obtained via Scouts if you obtain enough 'GP' to bid for relevant scouts.
With Scouts helping to shape your team, they need to be put into a squad with a manager, with each one possessing different formations, attacking/defensive tactics, which alter how your team shapes up on the field.
Once your team is established a pattern emerges. Each player has to have their contract renewed after ten matches, and managers after twenty-five. Once you've managed a team that can compete online, or in the SIM mode, you find most your GP is eaten away by renewing contracts, which means your best way to obtain new players is by playing the weekly tournaments that MyClub offers, which most of the time offers a 'Special Scout' as a reward.
Competition rewards in MyClub are hardly ever financial, with Contract Renewal tickets the staple reward for completing a SIM or Divisions season, and Scouts obtained by winning online or CPU tournaments.
For regular players, tournaments are updated weekly, which offers a good return value for players who might find the game's other modes as potentially unappealing or laborious.
Actual game play for MyClub is a shade faster than other game modes, with squads harbouring a wealth of lightning-quick players that gel well with technically gifted midfielders, and hard-hitting defenders.
MyClub is an experience that is unique on PES this year compared to other modes within the game, and might just hook your attention if you're looking for fun and competitive online matches that won't have you wanting to break your controller into a billion pieces.
Noticeable changes and notes about MyClub
PES League is a major addition to MyClub this season. The competitive mode of fixtures do not affect your player's fitness or contracts, and acts as its own entity within the mode. You can earn weekly 'GP' prizes for participating in the online 'Trials' which can help you qualify for big tournaments in the future.
PES 2018: Overall Rating
This year's edition of PES is best described as having small but incremental changes that make the flow of the game, both in its in-game play and whilst navigating the many menu screens, smoother and robust when compared to previous releases. Rather than wholesale changes to a very good football purists choice, Konami have fine tuned an already solid game design to build upon in years to come.
Alongside an upbeat soundtrack, PES excels in creating a football game full of depth across varying game modes, with the game's replay-ability at an all time high for players who want to commit their playing time to a game whose Master League, MyClub, and Become a Legend mode, are highly addictive. Even the addition of PES League offers a new direction for players who want to have a taste at competitive action, though with plenty of modes to explore it doesn't matter if you're not interested in this one particular element of the game.
If you're not keen on club kits or names, due to a lack of licenses with some major European leagues, the Edit button in PES 2018 is your best friend. By utilising this tool, each team and league you edit becomes your own, with your own influences and creativity taking command of the game's graphical narrative.
At the forefront of playing the game is a wide array of tactical options that actually matter to your player's formation positioning, build up play, defending, and attacking, without making the game feeling scripted. You feel competitive in any match, which is a massive positive to have in a game which wants its players to enjoy the combat of game play, even if they taste defeat from time to time.
PES is a worthy football franchise that stands tall on its own merits, and ahead of the holiday season, is definitely a game worth considering, and most importantly, enjoying, whether by yourself, or with friends. All aboard.
@RealHypeTrain’s rating: 8/10
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The Hype Train is an entertainment website founded in 2015, specialising in the Fantasy Premier League (#FPL), providing beautiful graphics and weekly insight for hopeful players attempting to climb ranking tables. We are also occasional media reviewers, with a keen interest to review movies, live sport, and professional wrestling.
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The Hype Train were nominated and shortlisted for the 'Best Football Blog 2016' by the Football Bloggers Association at their annual Football Blogging Awards (The FBA's), with the final presentation held at Old Trafford in Manchester.