Just over a week ago, in the midst of one of my frequent bouts of loathing for the latest FIFA imitator to bear the name of PES, I picked up a second-hand copy of FIFA17.
PES2018 has increasingly come to seem like nothing more/less than a PES-flavoured version of FIFA. My thinking was: well, if I have to play a version of FIFA, why not just play FIFA?
I have since played FIFA17, off and on, over the past week or so. I’m about a quarter of the way through a season in Career Mode.
Much of my reaction to the game has been documented in my comments on the previous post, but here are the highlights – in list form, in keeping with this time of year:
- FIFA17 is a professionally-produced package that meets my expectations for the content of a football game in 2017.
- Career Mode has many surprising and welcome customisation options. I was able to move Coventry City into the Championship, and play with them from there. What a fillip this was! I knew I wanted to start in the Championship, but wasn’t relishing starting with ‘Birmingham City’ or whatever they’re supposed to be called.
- I was profoundly shaken by the gameplay. Not because it’s bad. It’s not – it’s very good. FIFA gameplay has been consistently playable and interesting on various levels ever since FIFA08 on the PS3, which I strongly championed at the time, all those years ago. What shook me was just how similar FIFA17 feels to the current family of PES games. The same lighter-than-air feeling. The same urgent, insistent, back-and-forth rhythms. The same feeling that almost any player on the pitch could be on the ball and it’d make no real difference. This is the major eye-opener for me of the FIFA17 experiment. PES has moved more towards FIFA than FIFA ever moved towards PES. I suppose when you set out to make a football game for online multiplayer, something like FIFA/PES as they both are today is just where everything has to end up.
- Career Mode deserves an accolade all on its own. Hell, it deserves a game all of its own. It is exactly what Master League should have evolved into from PES2010-PES2011 onward. Those two PES games contained the seed for what Master League should have become. Why was this seed plucked from the ground and tossed away? You tell me. I couldn’t possibly even hazard a guess… (Imagine here one of those cough-cough aside things, and ONLINE MULTIPLAYER writ large.)
- FIFA17 is not a better game on the pitch than PES2018. There. I have said it. PES2018 is better than FIFA17. PES is still better than FIFA to play, for me anyway. The pitch really is PES’s. Still. Even now. But not by much.
- Critics of this judgement might point to lots of refinements in FIFA17’s gameplay engine that are roughshod or missing in PES2018. Shooting, for one. And admittedly, the shooting variety is wonderful in FIFA17. The goal replay at the end of this list satisfied me no end.
- Football games are more than just the sum of their parts. PES2018 is better than FIFA17 in my judgement – but they are so similar that the gap is not much at all, and that is the most shocking thing. PES2018 is only marginally the better of two almost equally good games.
- Neither game is anything special. In the year 2025, if man is still alive, nobody will be getting misty-eyed about either PES2018 or FIFA17 (or any other football game since 2014-ish). The experience just isn’t the same anymore. What am I saying? Am I saying that PES was better in the old days? Yes, I am saying that, because it objectively was so.
- I’m not sure how much longer my FIFA17 spell will continue. Traditionally I run back shrieking to PES after a week, and it’s been a week. I think I’ll give it a bit longer yet. I have had the distraction of Christmas, and continuing to play with the new PC I got a few weeks ago. One of my projects is installing all the old PES games onto it – and I mean all of them. This week I started on the PS2 versions, via emulator. The PS2 era of PES games were the best that PES ever was, and the best that PES likely ever will be.
- Can I award rough review-style scores for FIFA17 after one week? Not really, but I will anyway – I’ve still played it more than any reviewer probably ever did. Off the pitch: 9/10. On the pitch: 6/10. No, the fast-flowing-fun style of football gaming really isn’t to my taste. I can see good in it, but I am congenitally incapable of appreciating it for long. It will always be a lesser product to me. Always.
- For comparison, how about a review-style score for PES2018? This will anticipate my End of Year Review somewhat, but what the hell. It’s Christmas. Off the pitch, PES2018 gets: 1/10. On the pitch: 6.5/10. Master League is an abomination that’s running entirely on fumes and nostalgia. There are about a million AMF/SS/CF hybrid players in PES2018. They are all exactly the same as each other.
- The above scores, playful or not, indicate the lie of the land. FIFA17’s Career Mode is worth persevering with for at least half a full CM season, to see if the game overall ‘takes’.
- I’ve been installing all the PS2 PES games on a PC, and playing them upscaled to quasi-HD graphics, and the experience is just incredible. Off-the-scale excellence. Unbelievably high quality, proper footballing PES values. And yes, their Master Leagues were something of a cartoony joke, but look at the rock-solid 10/10 environment they existed around, and weep. Weep…
- I have called nuPES (the current ‘family’ of PES games) a poor FIFA knock-off. Because that’s what it is.
Here’s a goal from FIFA17 that gave me pleasure:
So what’s the conclusion? Other than ‘the old days were great and everything now is rubbish’?
I will play on with FIFA17, but I will inevitably drift back to PES2018 sooner rather than later, I think, there to ‘complete’ my Master League.
Then I will count myself done with all modern football gaming.
I will dive without any apology whatsoever into the glorious past of Pro Evolution Soccer, where I will probably live for the rest of my natural life.
That whole dismal summertime preview/demo/release cycle can proceed without me. PES2019 can swivel. I’m not doing any of this shit again.