How PES 2018 can beat FIFA 18

© Konami
By Adam Cook
With the groundwork from 2017’s game already laid, Konami’s long-standing football game has the potential to be king this year.
Football is life to many people. Those of us that watch every result, scour the leagues all over the world for future stars that our team might sign, or play nothing but football games on our consoles all year round understand how important it is. Like real life, choice is good, and having two football games that are at the top of their game is a great thing – FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer’s rivalry over the years (well, decades) has been every bit as epic as Messi versus Ronaldo.
What about this year though? Before we get started, we want to make one thing very clear: FIFA 18 isn’t going to suddenly drop out of the charts, disappearing from view forever more. PES never sells as well as FIFA, we know that, Konami know that, everyone knows that – in fact, FIFA 17 broke sales records and had the biggest launch week in its history. But where it matters, on the pitch: how it plays, and the feature set? That’s a debate that has been raging for decades, but we think that PES 2018 could very well be the one to beat this year. Here’s why.

Three years in the making

Konami has been out there talking about how PES 2018 is three years in the making. The team has been getting to grips with FOX Engine for the past few years, making the visuals look better and better, but this year, early teasers are suggesting new, unparalleled realism in how players look. Take one of the biggest stars around right now: Griezmann. PES global and brand manager Adam Bhatti recently tweeted a teaser of the (currently) Atletico Madrid forward and it’s frightening looking. Virtual Griezmann hasn’t so much crossed the uncanny valley as strolled right over it without noticing. In fact, if you weren’t told it was a picture from a game, we’d wager you’d have to look twice to make sure it wasn’t a photo.
Meanwhile, of course, EA are courting Ronaldo (CR7) and rendering him as lifelike as is possible, while taking a few other players (Raheem Sterling is another) and making them look and feel lifelike. This is great for FIFA fans, and bodes well for the future, but Konami’s PES has been doing this for a few years already. PES 2017 was no slouch when it came to visuals, but 2018 looks set to raise the bar, and that’s the benefit of something that’s been allowed three years to mature. But more than that, players in PES feel how you imagine them to. Messi is impossible to tackle, but plays like a dream, Coutinho cuts in and bends the ball into the top corner, Bale feels like a powerhouse: it feels amazing.
PES 2018 in game
PES 2018’s in-match presentation is improved
Elsewhere, EA are embracing the success of the story mode from FIFA 17. The Journey will continue in FIFA 18, while Konami are looking to the PES community and doing daft things that add life and vibrancy to the sport we love so dearly. Here’s a sentence we never thought we’d say: Usain Bolt will be a player in the next PES. Bolt is a massive football fan and has long talked about moving into football when his athletics career comes to a close, and the whole thing came about naturally via a conversation between the PES team and Bolt’s people, probably about the benefits of money. Still, it makes sense. This feels like a move from Konami that says “Look, we know we can’t have all the licenses, we know we can’t reproduce the TV broadcast you are used to in FIFA, so let’s have some fun!”. Instead of bemoaning the lack of official licenses, we’re seeing creative licence being taken instead.

Making things look right

PES 2018 is also focussing on getting the presentation right. Gone is the weird, archaic looking presentation; instead we’re faced with a more familiar, modern look to how the beautiful game is presented. Real player likenesses are present when you’re setting your team up, and these small changes make a big difference when it all adds up. Sure, FIFA 18 will always have the better presentation thanks to the deals EA have with TV companies, but it’s good to see PES finally reacting to the small issues fans have always had.
But of course, it’s the gameplay that matters. When all's said and done and you’ve been playing a football game for the past six months, the presentation becomes something you barely notice, and it’s the gameplay that keeps you going. With more tactical freedom than ever before, new modes and better implementation of existing modes, PES might well be the one to play this year.
Full 11v11 online, a new 3v3 mode, co-op MyClub, and a cheeky swipe at EA’s FUT Draft mode via the return of Random Selection Match (basically FUT draft without the requirement to pay for it) – these are the reasons to keep playing.

Ultimate Team is still the mode to beat though

We’re not telling you PES 2018 will be perfect. MyClub still needs a lot of work to get it anywhere near competing with FIFA Ultimate Team, and even announcing Maradona as a Legend isn’t going to be enough to pull people away from FUT. With EA moving Legends away from the Xbox exclusivity and onto all consoles, that means where Konami may have had PlayStation and PC players enjoying them previously, now they’re broken out for all to play on all formats in EA’s FIFA 18. We’d also love to hear PES 2018 announced for Nintendo Switch, too, because FIFA 18 is coming to Switch along with Ultimate Team.
But where it counts, on the pitch, PES 2018 looks set to be exquisite, with new animations and full control over the ball and player. Now, with improvements and tweaks to gameplay, new modes, returning favourites, fun additions, and a presentation overhaul, it’s easy to make a case that PES is going to be the one to beat; the trendsetter, and with FIFA reacting to the Konami Barcelona partnership by going out and getting rival Real Madrid’s Ronaldo, we’re wondering if FIFA is suddenly following rather than leading.
The tagline for PES this year is “where legends are made” and given that this may well be the start of PES’ very own legend (though some will argue it never went away), it’s very much a case of “over to you, FIFA”. One thing’s for sure, football games have never been better; we’re living in a golden age of virtual kickabouts.
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