PES2018: End Of Year Review

I usually do these End Of Year Reviews in late August, just before the arrival of the next new PES game.

This August, there won’t be a next new PES game for me. No PES2019.

So here’s my End of Year review for PES2018 now, in mid-March.

PES2018 is a very good football game. I have enjoyed most of the time I’ve spent with it.

But PES2018 is not a great PES game, and that’s the decisive factor. It continues the trend of recent years’ PES games. It betrays the series’ fundamental values.

Hmmm, what is it the ‘proper’ reviewers do? Oh, right, they list the essential things about a football game and talk about them. I’ll give that a go.

The basics felt good from the outset: passing, shooting, animations. The latter were perhaps too good. Every player seemed to handle like the most supple ninja ballerina on Earth.

I’ve always thought PES had good graphics, even back on the PS2 and PS3. Playing PES2018 on the PS4 was a visual treat.

Master League…. I have grave doubts that any reviewer actually played Master League, or not enough to discover its essential hollowness.

The point of Master League was always about growing your side inch by painful inch over time, and bonding with individual-feeling players throughout many seasons of drama and hardship.

It takes a lot of playing through half-closed eyes to see the old Master League magic in PES2018, or in any other PES since roughly PES2015 (individual tastes will vary; some would say PES2011 was the last good ML).

Shooting always came in for savage criticism on the forums, and here in comments. I have played enough recent FIFA to know how relatively simplistic PES shooting is, but here’s a strange thing: I like the restrictions of the more basic shooting mechanic. It seems to me that PES is always at its best when it limits freedom, perversely. If pretty much every player can do pretty much everything, core PES values are tossed overboard – and sad to say, that’s where we are with nuPES.

The appalling backheel mechanic on its own would be enough to condemn PES2018 in the PES equivalent of a Sharia court. Has even FIFA, at its very worst, featured anything more egregious that the PES2018 backheels? How can this seriously be called PES??

Then there’s no fouls. No penalties. No injury stoppages or substitutions in-game. (“But I’ve had lots of injuries in-game!” Video proof required of your player a) being injured in the flow of a live match, and then b) the game forcing you out to the squad screen to make a substitution – or it didn’t happen.)

The relentless churn of end-to-end, uninterrupted gameplay. Wonderful for the online brigade and the $$$$ flowing into Konami’s koffers. Not so wonderful for the offline player.

Long-rangers, my absolute favourite thing to do in a football game, are mostly absent from PES2018. This was one of only two or three.

I don’t particularly care about real football or real football players. PES is its own universe. Its own reality. Football players are not my heroes. I don’t care who they are or what they’re wearing (beyond their club’s kit) or how intricate their tattoos are. I don’t care to have photorealistic recreations of them in my football games. Faces were good enough even in the PS2 days. The current maniacal obsession with tattoos and boots and hairstyles speaks to a wholly different market.

I’d happily play an entirely made-up Master League with wholly made-up players. (In fact, doing precisely that, in some version of PES, is on my to-do list for the limitless, open-ended future.)

Wonderful moments of PES2018? Ah, a great many, too many to recount and enjoy here, but regular readers will know that I have enjoyed PES2018 as a solid football game of the current era. Among all the distressingly samey players, there were flashes of individuality over time.

Despite all the criticising I’m doing here and over the past 6 months, I say goodbye to PES2018 with good feelings about the game. If everything that came before 2015 had never existed, I would be gushing about PES2018 and extolling its virtues.

But everything that came before 2015 did exist, and I remember it. We used to have proper, measured gameplay that would often leave us awestruck at the intricacy of moves that could be stitched together using players that felt so different from each other that you knew this was the best possible football gaming there could ever possibly be.

Nowadays, every player has near-perfect touch, can rotate on the spot like a ballerina, and possesses practically infinite stamina. All of which, of course, is conducive to online play. ‘Balancing’ as it’s called by game designers – making sure that no one side can enjoy too much of an advantage and ruin the competitiveness. Excuse me while I climb up on the desk to shout a massive and unrelenting BOOOOOOOOOOO at that.

They took my PES away. Okay. Only one answer to that: take myself away from this pretend-PES, and back to real PES.

Enough. It’s all written down over the past 6 months.

Here are my scores.

First, the kind of score that the game would get if it was assessed purely as a non-PES, standalone footy game. On that basis, PES2018 is a worthy

8/10

The reviewers weren’t ‘wrong’, as such. Those 8s and 9s were fully deserved. PES2018 is a good generic football game that happens to bear the PES name. It gave me 6 months of value. 8 full seasons of Master League. Lots of enjoyment and exhilarating moments. Even plenty of that ‘fun’ we’re all supposed to think is the most important thing about a football game.

But that’s not the real score. I can only apply the cold, hard judgement of PES2018 as a PES game. Its score as a PES game is

5/10


I’ve finally accepted the truth. Barring a miraculous reversal of policy at Konami (which won’t happen; they’re a business), there’ll be no PES2019 in my life or on this blog.

I’m not under any illusion that this constitutes anything like a consumer boycott. I have no expectation at all that the series will return to core PES values. My 30-odd quid won’t be missed in the Konami Accounts Department. Other revenue streams and ‘user demographics'(groan) are now overwhelmingly the series’ focus.

This nuPES brand of watered-down-FIFA-with-a-garnish-of-PES will continue to be refined in the coming years. PES of today is a game that embodies its maker’s requirements of today. I don’t feel all that bitter and angry about it. It’d be like being bitter and angry about gravity.

If you don’t like something in life, you can always pick up your ball and go home. This is such a case.

“Well, if you’re a real PES fan, you love PES no matter what…” a familiar kind of voice often chimes in around this juncture.

I don’t listen to that voice. I don’t take anything it says at all seriously. That voice belongs to a different kind of PES fan to the PES fan that I am.

Call me a PES Fundamentalist if you like. I’d be happy and proud to bear that title.

Updated: 13th March 2018 — 11:44

65 Comments

  1. Another sublime FIFA session under the belt last night.
    Really liked this goal the COM scored against me, like how the player controlled the ball, pulled it inside on to his left foot and placed an inside foot curler postage stamp style in the top corner, you rarely ever concede goals from outside the box in PES, so this was nice to see.

    And this goal, 2 things, firstly in the build up you see Shelvey get crunched as he makes the pass, this led to him being stretchered off and being out with a fractured ankle for 7 weeks.
    Then the shot, a prime example of being able to choose when to hit a low shot, by powering up the shot then tapping shoot again before the ball is hit, rather than the game deciding in a contextual manner as in PES.

  2. Shed/Uncle Turf – re. the training options in FIFA, it’s nice to have something that can be skipped or utilised as you see fit. Even in the two best MLs – PES2010 and PES2011 – I often neglected the training options for periods, and ditto right up to PES2018, where the Skills Training was of dubious effect anyway. Placebo Skills Training it might as well have been called. Malicia my arse.

  3. Paul – Cracking couple of goals. I love that crunching tackle on Shelvey leading up to that second goal. West Ham’s London Stadium looks very authentic too – apart from the lack of disgruntled ‘Ammers brandishing corner flags of course.

    n-G – Having mentioned it yesterday, I put my Colchester squad through quite the training regime last night. On remote play via my MacBook, I took my time between season two and three of my CM scouting possible signings, sorting out contracts and training the junior members of my squad particularly.

    I still didn’t actually play the training modules but even on auto, training really does give your youth players a boost. I now have a recently promoted winger who has gone from 58 to 62 rated.

    Moving to the telly for match time once Mrs Shed had gone to bed, I started season three with a very scrappy draw at home in the league and a very enjoyable 3-0 win away to Burton Albion in the EFL Cup in which my new loan signing, James Tilley, scored twice. I’ve got Tilley on a loan with an option to buy from Brighton as he’s a young player a know from “real” footy. I thought it would be interesting to see if his promise carries across to FIFA 17. So far it has.

  4. Shed – you just never would have sewn a tackle like that in PES, the COM players just aren’t aggressive enough or intelligent enough to ‘take one for the team’ in order to break down an attack.
    The fact that it didn’t help as the pass was made anyway and I was able to pick out a bottom corner and hit it low and hard for the goal, made that phase of play all the more satisfying.

    I love the flexibility of Remote Play via the macbook.
    Being able to sort transfers, training regimes etc out whilst sat in bed, all ready for the next proper session of play on the big tv.

  5. I’m sticking with manual training for now as you can see the stats rise (you can see the potential rise before you start), so it is utterly unlike PES in that it is clear what will happen. I suspect at my lower level auto train would simply see I have a weak player and say he wouldn’t manage to pull off a higher mark. it can be annoyingly repetitive though, some may say grind. I note Paul doesn’t play many of the mini games before the action, still one or two he has a higher score than me on though. (cos we’re PS buds you know…we play online and talk about bloke stuff all the time…)

  6. Haha Turf, very rarely do i partake in the pre-match mini games. if its a shooting or dribbling one i’ll have a go now and then, but just don’t have time for them, or the manual training regimes.
    I might start doing a few manual ones with the high potential youths now though.

  7. Paul – Yeah, I’ve tried playing the odd match on remote play and while there is no lag, I do find the smaller screen makes things more difficult. Like you, I like remote play for tinkering with tactics and CM mode admin while Mrs Shed is watching whatever crap is on telly – last night it was Nick Knowles doing builder banter on DIY SOS.

    I’m looking forward to transitioning to FIFA 18 once the majority of footy gamers are picking up FIFA 19 and PES 2019 and feel absolutely no temptation to move from FIFA 17 right now.

    I’m assuming the current FIFA plays similarly but 17 using Matt 10’s sliders really does replicate the cut and thrust of real football. Teams tend to let you play it around fairly comfortably at the back but once you get into the final third, it’s tough to get past the flying tackles, blocks and high pressure defending. That win against Burton was only the second time in two season I’ve managed to score more than twice in a match.

  8. What difficulty and support settings is everyone using?

    I’m half way through season 1 in League 2. I’m finding it relatively easy but I use assisted settings for everything because i’m too lazy to learn new skills after years of PES. I’m 3rd in the table although 10 points behind Luton, out of all the cups too. I have 3 youth team players ready for January to meet one of the objectives and have been manually completing the training so I get top marks.

    One of the other objectives is to have £2.6 million in the bank at the end of the season and I have £200k so looks like that’ll be missed by some way, I’m hoping it doesn’t lead to the sack.

    Now I’ve learned Tactical Defending I’m having more fun, so far it’s a fair challenge. I’m loving the dodgy skills of the lower league players too, I’ve lost a few goals by trying blind passes or just simply a dodgy touch by the CB when trying to control it, row Z is necessary most of the time. I do miss the dribbling from PES though, how the hell are you supposed to take players on in FIFA? Do I need to learn the right stick skillz?

  9. You’re all doing a very good job of tempting me to play my £5 copy of FIFA17, I have to say. The PS3 environment is very unappealing for a football game after a few years of PS4-ing it. And I’ve got the Advanced Start bug to rectify, which is a pain. But I go on!

  10. Cook – I’ve now settled on assisted on everything but lofted balls and World Class using the popular slider settings posted on Operation Sports. I’m using Legacy defending.

    Like you, I feel its the PES player in me that’s made me tailor FIFA 17 like this but my worst sessions on the game happen when trying to play it like PES.

    I don’t try to take on defenders very much and I have no idea if this will be an option with better players. I’m finding a patient build up and quick one-twos the most effective. I’m also having to really fight not to keep rushing in when defending. FIFA really punishes you for trying to press the opposition and that’s without even spint-clamping.

  11. n-G – Stick to the plan, man! As much as I really feel like I’m in a good place with FIFA 17, I’m very aware that some positive and nostalgic PES 2011 chronicling could well have me swapping the modern comforts of the PS4 for the creaky old PS3 in the shed.

  12. Shed – Same settings and difficulty here except the defending type. I’m going to try to learn how to dribble past a defender using the tricks.

    NG – I know you dismissed this previously but how about old PES on PC? All modded, up to date kits, potential game play modifications…

  13. World class, slow, all other settings out of the box except for tele broadcast camera zoomed out to max

  14. It is kind of ironic that in the new layout of the blog PES 2016 is on the picture

  15. JS Hutt – it’s an old header image from the year of PES2016. I’m pushed for time at the moment and couldn’t make an all-new one (yet). It’s probably my favourite header image.

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