The world - at least for football gamers - has been cut in two pieces: those who love FIFA and then there are those who swear by Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). The battle lines might not be as severely drawn like how it is with Android vs iOS but there are clear preferences. Konami's PES has always been the "purists' choice" while EA Sports' FIFA has distinctly been the popular choice.
Every year both franchises come with their annual upgrade with better features, gameplay and exciting additions. PES 2018has a lot riding on it as it has big boots to fill as PES 2017 was certainly an excellent game. We spent a few - more than a few actually - hours playing PES 2018 and here's what we think of the game:
The most pleasing aspect in gameplay of PES 2018 is the game's pace. The game certainly feels more realistic and it appears that Konami has deliberately slowed it down. When playing against the AI opponent you feel that tactical intelligence comes in to play more than ever before. In previous versions, the AI opponent was slightly "boring" but PES 2018 rectifies that. Players' real-life traits are retained in the game and it relies more on skill and speed - which is always more fun to play.
PES 2018 is extremely realistic in terms of tactics and style of play. Someone like Lionel Messi or Neymar's movements are terribly sharp whereas speed merchants are extremely quick. As we said earlier, it is an extremely realistic gameplay.
What Konami also gets right is that it adapts to the quality of the league you're playing in. So, if you choose a team in the English Championship, you will notice that the style of football is more robust and direct. Tactical strategies come into play more often and you have to adapt according to the team or league you're playing in. While such features were there in previous versions as well, PES 2018 feels like the most complete version of the game so far. It's an impressive game where you will be continuously be challenged - a feature that makes it exciting to play.
The other standout feature of PES 2018 is that it makes you think and strategise before every game. You have to be tactically astute and can't just go with the frame of mind of attacking and scoring goals. It just won't happen in PES as you have to tinker your tactics according to the opposition.
PES 2018 has Become A Legend Mode - a direct take on FIFA's Journey - but it isn't as good as its counterpart version.
The one flaw which most gamers find with the game is that you can't play with too many official teams. In PES 2018, you can choose Barcelona, Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Liverpool as Konami has licensed them. The renders of these players are done remarkably well and they look real life-like versions. The close-up shots of players are detailed but the look of stadiums is a bit sketchy.
The other drawback is that the commentary is really terrible and is often repeated. FIFA scores really high on commentary at least as it gets it spot on. PES 2018 has got Jim Beglin and Peter Drury - Premier League fans in India are familiar with them - to do the commentary but they fail to bring the excitement to the game. Commentary is an integral part of a football game and unfortunately PES 2018 scores a negative in that aspect.
Also, the menus on PES 2018 seem archaic and it's high time Konami does something to improve them. These are, however, flaws which get overlooked once you immerse yourself in the gameplay.