Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 (PS4)
Always a soccer gamer’s delight despite the lacking the flash of EA Sports FIFA, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer is back on our consoles with its 2018 rendition. Here is our world exclusive review at what we think is a truly well done and entertaining affair!
Licenses and Option Files
Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 once again comes with three of the biggest soccer competitions in the world – the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and AFC Champions League. Each is well-packaged and rivals anything that is on offer in EA Sports FIFA in terms of presentation.
The French Ligue 1 and 2, Dutch Eredivisie, Campeonato Brasileiro, Argentine Primera and the Chilean Primera are fully licensed and present in PES 2018. The Italian Serie A is also there under the name “Italian League” with every club bearing its correct name except for champions Juventus.
There are also a slew of club level licenses including one for FC Barcelona for the second year in a row. Given Barca’s godlike status in world soccer their presence is ubiquitous in the game from its splash screen to the option to use their Tiki Taka playing style.
Other big name licensed clubs include Arsenal FC, Liverpool FC, Borussia Dortmund, Palmeiras, Flamengo, Corinthians, Inter Milan, Valencia CF and River Plate. In each instance the club’s stadiums and atmospheres, crowd chants, kits and player likenesses are reproduced in PES 2018 in astounding detail! Smaller licensed sides include Fulham FC (not sure why), Universidad de Chile and Alianza Lima.
On the international front the Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 includes 36 European, 18 African, 6 North, Central and Caribbean, 10 South American and 17 Asian / Oceanic sides. Most of the European and South American teams have actual player names with a handful of them (e.g. Brazil, England and Germany) bearing official kits and crest via licenses. Player names are hit or miss for teams outside of those two regions with notable exceptions being South Korea, Mexico and USA.
The frustration with the absence big name licenses can be fixed by either making manual changes in the “Edit” mode of PES 2018 or using a community-created option file from one for the Pro Evolution Soccer forums around. We were able to find a good pack that allowed us to use the game’s “Import Team” feature to pull actual team names, crests and kit for the Barclays Premier League, EFL Championship, Spanish La Liga, Spanish Liga Adelante, Portuguese Liga NOS, and Italian Serie B off a flash drive. The number of files that you can import is limited however. We found ourselves limited to being able to only import kits for five leagues before hitting the game’s limit. We didn’t have enough space to import manager and stadium pictures unfortunately.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 uses what is essentially the same three tiled mosaic menu system that was introduced with PES 2017. The intelligence aspect of the menu is back in that it shows you the last three modes that you played the game in after startup. This is a nice as it avoids having to navigate to find where you left off.
The menu system once playing in matches in PES 2018 is also near identical to that of last year’s game. It does include actual pictures of players’ faces in the gameplan and lineup screens now however. Setting up your team lineups, playing styles, marking instructions, uniforms and stadium before and within matches is similar to what was on offer in PES 2017. Hitting the menu button in the midst of match play to go to the now familiar screen to make substitutions and tactical adjustments.
The graphics in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 haven’t been overhauled following their brilliant upgrade in 2017. Instead they are refined to capture a number of finer elements around stadium lighting, shadows, crowds (who are quite diverse and realistic) and, most importantly player motion. The title’s big name licensed clubs get extra special treatment thanks to the graphics upgrade with their tunnel and home field details shown in incredible detail.
The improvement is player animation is seen in the realistic manners in which they move before, during and after matches. For gamers the in-match movement is, of course, the most important. The tweaks in PES 2018 are seen in via extremely realistic and fluid on and off the ball moves. The extremely lifelike is most evident for the game’s partner clubs such as FC Barcelona and Liverpool where player virtual versions of the likes of Messi and Coutinho move and play in the game similarly to in real life.
Once again Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 outshines FIFA in replays and goal and championship celebrations with a series of up-close animations that include realistic facial expressions and even the option of taking a goalscorer’s shirt off to reveal tattoos. The blur effect around players on replays that popped up in PES 2017 is now gone however. We’re ambivalent on Konami’s decision to remove it.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018’s soundtrack features twelve tracks that are a mix of 2017 big hits such as “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars along with a few up and coming artists. Classic rockers Blondie are even in the mix with their catch recent hit “Long Time”. All in all, the PES 2018 soundtrack is a good selection of tunes for navigating around the game. More than twelve songs would be welcome given how quickly they can become played out for a frequent Pro Evo 2018 gamer.
Peter Drury and Jim Beglin once again provide the play by play English commentary in Pro Evolution Soccer. Regardless of what you’ve heard or read elsewhere we think that they don’t do a bad job. Konami has tweaked their repertoire to continue the good streak that they started in PES 2017. They’re even less repetitive in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 and have a sprinkling of new lines that are never irrelevant to the match happenings. They are a tad bit delayed at time however.
We think that the commentary in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 is on par with what’s on offer in EA Sports 2018.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 includes most of the world’s major cup and league contests (see the Licenses section above) highlighted by its exclusive license of the UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and AFC Champions League. There are also contests that mirror the World Cup, Copa America, the Africa Cup of Nations, the Asian Cup and European Championship that can be branded with official logos and names through community created, importable option files. Sadly, the once licensed Copa Libertadores is absent again but can be created either manually or with option files given the plethora of big South American clubs in the game.
Pro Evolution Soccer’s long-running, addictive and well-loved Master League is an integral part of PES 2018. Part of the Football Life section of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, it has been fine-tuned this year to include pre-season tournaments that let you figure out the strengths and weaknesses of your new team. Owner objectives are also given to you at the beginning of the season with regular feedback from a faceless, bespectacled owner at regular intervals via on the screen updates. For the first time ever, you can now be fired from your manager’s gig in Master League.
The transfer system in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018’s Master League has also been updated to include player release fees, realistic player trading and enhanced scouting throughout the season that includes watch lists. The Transfer Deadline Day Countdown is back to create a sense of urgency at the end of the summer and winter transfer periods.
Pro Evolution Soccer’s myClub also makes a return in PES 2018. It’s not greatly changed from last year’s offering and remains an entertaining alternative to the other modes in the title. One noticeable improvement is the availability of myClub’s special agents to sign players from select groups known for their soccer prowess. Examples are classic FC Barcelona players and Argentina and Uruguayan stars. GPs to do so are usually easy to come by since Konami dishes them out for your first 10 myClub sign ons, for downtime and sometimes seemingly just for your loyalty to Pro Evolution Soccer.
The usual six levels that has long been part of PES are back in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 – Beginner, Amateur, Regular, Professional, Top Player and Superstar.
Beginner and Amateur are once again great for learning the game and its multitude of skill moves, formations and in match tactics. They can also be used for making one of those fancy dribbling with skill moves videos of Pro Evo footage that you see on YouTube. Seasoned PES gamers are best suited to start their PES 2018 adventure in Regular or Professional mode.
Konami has increased the difficulty setting of Regular Mode in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 for the better. While you could beat just about any opponent as a top rated European team such as Real Madrid or Barcelona in Regular in PES 2017 things are a bit more difficult in this setting in the 2018 version of the title. This is particularly noticeable in domestic leagues where even wins at home are not guaranteed. You’ll find lesser opponents playing smart counter attacking FA Cup style football and trying shots from expected places. We’ve seen our fair share of these strategies playing as PSG during a Ligue 1 Master League season and have had to share points with the likes of a stingy Stade Rennes while suffering a defeat to Lille.
Professional mode is similar to what it was last time out with each match requiring careful attacking and defensive planning. You also have to be an experienced Pro Evolution Soccer gamer to play at this level. This is where the COM starts exploiting any mistake you make (such as errant passes, missed tackles and losing the ball while dribbling) for vicious and effective attacks in the other direction.
A good example of losing out in Professional mode came with an embarrassing group state elimination as Brazil in the International (World) Cup. This included a 4-0 loss to Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.
Top Player and Superstar level in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 remain only for the best players with the latter being near impossible unless you play as one of the elite sides in the world. Positive results in Superstar level are even hard to come by against second tier teams from the European leagues in the game. It is always worth a shot though and help to make you a better PES 2018 player when you go back down to Regular or Professional level.
With gameplay excellence achieved with Pro Evolution Soccer 2017, Konami has cleverly tweaked several elements of what is the key feature of any soccer simulation. We’ll look at the biggest enhancements.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018’s attacking enhancements are highlighted by amazing array of in the box sequences characterized by realistic unpredictability. No two goal attempts or goals in PES 2018 are the same. Its advances in attacking intelligence, support and control result in attacks that are as real as we’ve ever seen in a soccer simulation title. We’ve found ourselves looking at replays of shots, saves and goals over an ever again in awe of what just happened.
By the same token, opposing attackers are now very clever and crafty. They are now capitalizing on the smallest mistakes of your defense to pounce on the ball for counter attacks and scrappy shots. This is very prevalent with lower rated teams in domestic league and cup action whose strikers will take any shot they can must from outside the box and certainly in it when they have a chance. Think the adventures of the impressive Burnley FC in the Premier League this season. We have had the embarrassment of being held 2-2 by Stade Reims at home as the talent rich Paris Saint-Germain thanks to what can only be called a couple of opportunistic sucker punches.
Konami continues to improve upon one area in which it has recently held the edge of EA Sport FIFA – dribbling. It remains a full 360-degree experience like in PES 2017 but is now more responsive to minute movements with the joystick allowing players to make small, decisive moves that can see them get past defenders, make space for passes and execute shots at goal in crowded penalty boxes.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 introduces a physical component in dribbling that sees stronger players being able to better shield the ball than slighter ones. For example, Chelsea big man Olivier Giroud can hold off a defender when in possession of the ball than the much smaller Neymar of PSG.
The one attacking area that PES 2018 needs some improvement in is in the awarding of penalty kicks. They are extremely hard to earn even when players are recklessly dropped in the box. There are good animations of them sitting and complaining but referees are overly lenient and let defenders get away without warning in most cases.
For the first time ever defending in the Pro Evolution Soccer series may have bettered what is currently on offer in FIFA.
While defending in EA Sports FIFA 18 is very much centered around a team effort with less emphasis on one on one defending Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 has improved the latter. The frustration of missed tackles in FIFA 18 isn’t there as you can win the ball easily with well-planned man on man tackles using the X button. Slide tackles work just a well when timed correctly and can leave attackers in the dust as you build counter attacks in what essentially amounts to an 11 vs. 10 situation.
Team defending is buttoned up also in PES 2018. The level of anticipation for poorly judged, risky or errant passes is seemingly higher in the title this time out. Simple passes reign supreme for effectiveness. Defenders will readily pounce upon and intercept longer passes into the midfield or attacking third of the field just about anytime that they amount to 50-50 balls. A good rule of thumb that we found in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 is that if you won’t try the pass in real life then don’t try it in the game.
Dramatic, last-minute and daring defending is present in a big way in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018. Defenders are now more agile and will make blocking and interceptive slides or stick their legs out for shots seemingly destined towards goal. We’ve also seen our fair share of goal line clearances that we’d love to have a Video Assistant Referee review.
PES’ goalkeeping has been taken to another level in Pro Evolution Soccer 2018. Netminders are now more anticipative of any shot that you will throw at them particularly from outside of the box. They’re also better in one on one breakaway situations and seemingly always require manually placed shots to be beaten.
As in real professional football, you’ll occasionally run into an in-form goalie saving every shot like David de Gea and absolutely frustrating your team. This is sometimes the case for the goalies for underdog sides in domestic cup matches where unknowns become supermen goalkeepers for the day.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 can readily be a two-year gaming experience. Its brilliant, intense and utterly lifelike game play will have you going back for more on a daily basis. You’ll find yourself delving into the addictive Master League and UEFA competitions time and time again as you look to repeat or better past glories on higher difficulty levels. Get the option file of your choice to add your favorite domestic league or international competition to the game and the experience is augmented to rival the bling and big budget licenses of EA Sports FIFA 18 but with a different grade of gameplay.
Konami’s finest soccer simulation offering to date, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 maintains the franchise brilliant run of the last few years. Tweaked, tightened, splendid gameplay is the crown jewel of PES 2018. The inclusion of well-done UEFA Champions League, AFC Champions League and partner clubs such as FC Barcelona, Liverpool FC and Borussia Dortmund in extreme detail make it an even more in-depth representation of our beloved Beautiful Game. Domestic league licenses for the likes of the Premier League and La Liga are again sadly missing but easily remedied via easy PES community-created option file imports. Well done once again Konami!
Gameplay: 9.8 /10
Graphics: 9.6 /10
User Interface: 9.3/ 10
Realism: 9.7 / 10
Longevity: 10 / 10