Learn to embrace change and you won’t be disappointed
Football season has begun, on the pitch and on our PlayStations. Could this be this year’s winner?
Are you ready to get angry? Because it’s that time of year again, when all PES fans look forward to a new release with a sense of excitable trepidation. The love it/hate it first few weeks with a new PES are ones of gritted teeth, adulation, and loved ones asking, “why do you play that silly game?” every time you throw the pad in frustration, only to pick it back up again and carry on regardless. You’re desperate to love this year’s PES despite itself. Playing a new version of PES is like going through a gaming detox. You need to unlearn all the tricks, tactics, and nuances of the last 12 months and grasp how to play this PES. Despite first impressions, you know deep down the initial pained anguish of failing to string passes together or tackling a marauding midfielder will fall away with practice and extended play.
So what’s new this time around? What subtle changes will make us clutch our DualShocks under tightened white knuckles until we’ve learned the new tricks of this year’s playing style? We have two big changes to get to grips with, ‘strategic dribbling’ and Real Touch+ control. They both aim to put dribbling and deft touches front and centre of PES 2018.
In play this means the pace of the game has been dramatically slowed down from PES 2017. Both players and the ball feel weighty and under pressure from an unseen force. As always, first impressions will make you shrug and bemoan the loss of PES 2017’s superb arcade-like pace and pinging end-to-end matches. But put in the hours with the new game and PES 2018 begins to show its true colours.
First, strategic dribbling essentially means we have greater control over our players than ever before. They’re still governed by underlying stats, so Jordan Henderson won’t have turned into Isco overnight, but fundamentally these players handle
with more accuracy than in any PES that’s come before. And with greater control comes greater responsibility to perform. Whereas in PES 2017 I would launch a strong through-ball up the pitch for a pacey winger to latch onto, now I’m more confident to pull inside and try to dribble past a defender with a flick and a quick tap of the sprint button.
The fact the AI is slower to close you down means there’s always more space to find on the pitch, encouraging mazing runs and dribbles. That, and we’re not so impressed with the tackling this year, which feels underpowered and clumsy. Perhaps Konami realises this, as now a sliding tackle in the box doesn’t always result in a penalty, but often strikers are booked for diving. PES 2018 takes away, and then gives.
The slower pace and greater control means the tricks and feints available on the right stick, which I’ve often overlooked in favour of more direct passing, are now more accessible. The responsiveness you feel now, with the ball at your feet, is mesmerising.
The measured pace is heightened by the new weight of the ball – it’s slower than in PES 2017. At first it feels sluggish, like you’re playing on a waterlogged pitch, but as is the way with PES, persevere and you begin to retune to how Konami wants you to play, with shorter passes, more one-two combinations, and a greater emphasis on playing through the middle of the pitch rather than spamming balls out wide to runners.
When it comes to the Real Touch+ control, this is largely cosmetic. Players will now use any part of their body to control the ball; contextual trapping sees them dab a passed ball with their heels or flick the ball on with their hip, chest, or head. It’s great to watch and showcases the multifaceted animation we have this year – you’ll be constantly surprised at the small touches that make the game feel alive, such as players ducking from long and low passes so a teammate can collect the ball further up the field.
PES 2018 throws in some literal curveballs too, with its dead ball system. The directional guides from PES 2017 are gone; instead you see the pitch from a wide view above the player and simply push a direction, add power, and affect the ball’s spin on the sticks. The change means goal and free kicks are more controllable – you can pass from the whistle to defenders with accuracy, which means more tactical choice. Speaking of which, the D-pad strategy options PES 2017 introduced for corners have now been added to free kicks too. However, corner kicks feel detached, as trying to pick out players and direct the ball with finesse is a losing battle.
There are also question marks over the strength of some passing options – lofted
“YOU’LL BE SURPRISED AT THE SMALL TOUCHES THAT MAKE THE GAME FEEL ALIVE.”
through-balls are an absolute godsend now. Tap one of these over the defence for a runner and they always connect. Conversely, crossing feels lightweight and heading the ball is now a hit-and-miss affair.
New controls aside, there are doubts over how much new content is actually in PES 2018. The only new game mode of merit is 3v3 co-op, a footnote addition but hardly essential.
There are some changes to the game’s presentation; during match stoppages player stats ping onto the screen – passing, distance travelled and possession stats offer insight into how well you’re doing. It’s a great couchplay addition as the bragging rights are up there for all to see.
But we don’t come to PES for its deep game modes, we’re here for the sublime gameplay and in this respect you won’t be disappointed. PES 2018 does demand you rethink how you play, and in doing so when playing myClub and Master League you’ll come to favour players you never believed you’d like – strong midfielders and old-fashioned forwards who can hold the ball up have become my first-choice picks.
The fact you will come to feel an emotional attachment to these players is proof this year’s edition is working. At its best PES makes us feel connected, we build our own narratives around the players we unlock, and this year’s game consistently delivers, even if who we’re now connecting with, and how we perform, has changed. Give it time, and PES 2018 will win you over.
It’s as good as PES has ever been, but with enough tweaks to feel different with the ball at your feet. As always, give yourself time to get used to the new iteration. Ian Dean
INFO FORMAT PS4 ETA OUT NOW PUB KONAMI DEV KONAMI
Left The new corner kick system means it’s harder to pass the ball to your players.
Right Goals feel more varied this year, with less reliance on crossing and cheap headers.
Above You’ll often miss the tricks and flips in-game. Good job the replays highlight them.
Right Penalty kicks have been refreshed with a new dynamic camera angle.
Above Kane signs for Barcelona… and Callum Wilson wins the Golden Boot.