Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 ★★★★★

It’s that time of year again, when the latest FIFA and Pro Evo entries are both on the shelves, and the most die-hard fans of each fight one another like drunk toddlers. Right here and now though, I’m here to talk about Pro Evolution Soccer 2018. Yes, it’s still an odd mish-mash of real and fake team names due to a lack of full licensing but, indeed, you can still easily find and download a player-made file to fix that.

Did you see all that pre-release guff about how players will now act just like their real-life counterparts? Inevitably, that’s not quite how things turned out - it’s still possible to pass effectively and score with Wayne Rooney, for example - but there’s still a noticeable difference in player movement and AI. Speed, inertia, and AI decisions are all more realistic than ever. As a result, cheap scoring tactics are much less likely to work, and the flow of each game feels exactly as it should; even if the commentary is as poor as ever.

Dribbling has been tweaked, and definitely for the better. The ball doesn’t stick to your feet like bubblegum, but nor does it run away from you at the slightest nudge. You’ll need to time and angle your runs well to get past defenders, and knocking the ball on (double tap sprint) is often essential. Shooting, meanwhile, is harsh but fair. If you panic in the heat of the moment, it’s all too easy to send the ball sailing over the crossbar and into the car park. That makes each time you hit the back of the net all the sweeter; and, needless to say, chipping the ball over a helpless keeper is as immensely satisfying as it’s ever been.

As for when you’re on the defensive, things remain largely unchanged. But then, if it ain’t broke, don’t match-fix it. A careful mix of anticipation, timing, and calling in AI help will see you win the ball if you do it correctly. However, the importance of tactics appears to have been increased dramatically. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to fiddle about in the menus before each match (though some people are happy to do this regardless). However, if you’re constantly struggling against a certain team or when playing online, it’s worth taking a close look at your setup and on-the-fly tactics. Would your play style benefit from a different formation? Do you call in teammates to apply pressure too much, or not enough? Do you need to start making regular use of the offensive and defensive plays available with a quick tap of the D pad? A single bad decision can throw the game against you, while a good one can give you a sudden advantage.

The same game modes return. Play an exhibition match, roleplay as a manager, play through your career as a single player (still with no The-Journey-style story), that mode that’s totally not copying Ultimate Team, try to win the UEFA championship… chances are, you know the drill. That said, the option to play with a team of randomly selected players makes an unexpected and welcome return after a long absence.

What of online? Well, initially, things were pretty dodgy. Matches had a tendency to suddenly end without warning due to a sudden lack of connection, and the dreaded lag made an appearance now and again. After the first week or so however, these problems seemed to have been ironed out. Online games now run smoothly, and you can even play them to the end! Presuming your opponent doesn’t rage quit, of course. There’s still a ridiculously long wait for the game to find and connect you to another player, unfortunately, but at least it works once it finally happens.

Online or offline, the latest Pro Evo is a fantastic football game that will keep you coming back again and again. And, indeed, again. It’s a dream to play; everything just feels right. If you want to pretend that England still has a chance of producing a decent national team, this is the game to live out your fantasy. Many more pros than cons.


Luke Kemp

PES 2018 at CeX

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