It’s that time of the year again, chums, as the smell of fresh-cut grass, drink-driving scandals, early managerial sackings, and fair-day's-work-for-a-fair-day’s-pay all combine to create the lopsided world of professional football. The new season brings with it the age old autumnal conundrum: FIFA or PES? We’ve gone in two-footed to bring you back a real piece of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 to help answer that trickiest of questions.
From our first moments on the pitch, the sumptuous weight and control of the passing system wooed. Simple, slower balls across the back feel grand, one-twos speed play up beautifully, and crosses whizz off the boot of fair wingers and fullbacks. Holding down the left trigger also engages the full manual passing option, where every completed through-ball will fill you with sheer bliss.
You can add the glorious shooting to the celebratory pile-up, too. Just like the passing, the length of your button press provides control or power to your shot perfectly. Long range drives are Phillipe Coutinho levels of wonderful, side-footed strikes into the corners provide maximum satisfaction, and cheeky glanced headers raise a smile every time they hit the back of the old onion bag. Honestly, FIFA doesn’t even make the Europa League places in passing and shooting compared to PES’ title-winning efforts.
Defending is a slightly different matter, mind, as the simplistic pressing system prevents the more aggressive defensive tactics that we like to employ during our FIFA sessions here at PTC towers. Holding the pressing button down often leads to attackers easily waltzing around our midfielders and defenders, which proves frustrating. It’ll come as no surprise then that we prefer FIFA’s turn-and-face, show him down the touchlines defensive configuration.
As a result the gameplay is flawed, though still mainly great, but what about the breadth of options on offer? Those that have played any of the last few iterations of the game will be pleased to see familiar favourites like Become a Legend (take one player from amateur to super stardom), Myclub (PES’ attempt at FIFA’s all-conquering Ultimate Team mode) and online divisions return. Legendary single-player campaign, Master League, is still an enjoyable timesink, even if the AI are easier to beat than that of EA Sports’ game (we’ve found 4-4-2 and lots of crosses into the box wins most games). It all comes together to provide a varied and sumptuous banquet of gameplay, easily supplying you with your money’s worth.
This year’s instalment looks pretty good to boot, with mostly accurate facial models for the biggest stars moving splendidly across the pitch. Goalkeeping animations have notably improved too, which importantly also boosts the actual quality of the stoppers.
If Konami pull their finger out and sort the presentation of menus, kits and logos, tighten up at the back, and fix that rancid commentary, we can see PES 2019 mounting a real title challenge.
Perhaps the real winner here though is the lighting, where gameplay is put well before realism. We can’t tell you how many times we’ve struggled to pick up the ball because of stadium shadows, weather, or clashing kits in FIFA, as EA strive for Sky Sports-like presentation, but, thankfully, that never happens here. Whether you play during the day or under lights at night, you’ll see every bit of action clearly in PES 2018.
As the stoppage time boards go up, we find ourselves focusing on the positives from PES 2018’s performance. If Konami pull their finger out and sort out the presentation of menus, kits and logos, tighten up at the back, and fix that rancid commentary, we can see PES 2019 mounting a real title challenge. This year though, they’ll just have to settle for a Champions League place.