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
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
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.