Two colossi locked in an eternal struggle of sphericity; both vying for power over the masses. They control thousands of souls, packed in to their colosseum, all of which just really, really want that ball to go in that little bit of the grass. The bit marked by those posts, yeah.. that bit there. Nailed it.
PES or FIFA, FIFA or PES, it’s the question that’s been rattling around my head (at least) for about 20 years now, with Pro Evolution Soccer being the de facto choice way back when. Every year one promises to do what the other cannot, but both end up being pretty much the same in the grand scheme of things.
The FIFA franchise has always prided itself on being the prettiest and most loyal to the football brand, whatever that is. With it’s fully licensed product giving us realistic kits, players and teams the presentation here is second to none. You’d be forgiven in to thinking Accrington Stanley really were in the Champions league final, were your concentration to waver during a friends playthrough.
PES however has always been the purest’s choice; the product that offers the most creative and honest gameplay, with passing and creating space the raison d’être of the Japanese developers. It certainly fell by the wayside for many years as FIFA gained popularity and has never really come close to the polished product that EA offer… Until now?
I was invited to Anfield recently to get hands on with PES 2018. We were afforded a few hours with a stripped down version of the game, a handful of teams and a basic exhibition mode. It’s quite fitting that most of the bells and whistles had been taken away from the demo, as it allowed me to concentrate on exactly what they’re bringing to the table this year, and not does it look great.
The first thing you’ll notice is the staggering amount of detail on the opening match sequence. Being in Liverpool’s ground at the time I thought it was only proper to give the virtual Anfield a whirl first; the interior leading up to the player tunnel has been recreated down to the most minute detail, and the actual stadium looking resplendent in the sunshine when the camera moves outside.
The crowds are by far the best I’ve ever seen in a game like this, with the rabble looking like a bunch of individuals rather than a mass of indistinctive blobs all wearing the same colour. The home fans wear their own clothes while their away counterparts displaying their club strip with pride. During Liverpool’s walk out ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ blasts out of the PA, only to be drowned out by their own scarf-wielding fans singing along.
I think you’ll notice quite quickly after playing a few games of the new PES that the pace is much slower than we’re all used to, but the matches ebb and flow like they haven’t before. Rather than pinging passes around like gunshots I was taking much more thought about the build up to an attack. Rather than hammering through-ball I was setting up and pouncing, utilising the refreshing new movement system to fake out a defender and the go for the killer blow when I had the advantage.
It’s all a bit hard to explain in words those split decisions you make with every movement, pass and shot, but there’s something here that just feels right. The gameplay does seem slower, but the games themselves absolutely flew by.
The way each player controls also feels way more distinctive than ever before, with PES or FIFA for that matter. Quick flair players feel genuinely dangerous on attack, while defenders can feel a bit more cumbersome to control, although this is offset by their strength and power in the tackle. This all sounds quite obvious but it’s something that not everyone gets right, sometimes it feels as if all the players are just slight variants on the same template.
A lot of people are heralding PES 2018 as a return to glory for Konami, with the developers inching closer towards their former selves the past few years. From what I’ve seen, it seems like they’re on to a winner.