When it comes to soccer video games, most gamers in the United States are more familiar with the FIFA franchise. Most casual gamers, anyway. But if you talk to hardcore football fans or competitive sports gamers, Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer franchise is where it’s at, and where it’s always been at.
The latest offering in the series, Pro Evolution Soccer 18, is not for the casual fan, and not for anyone who doesn’t have a whole lot of time to sink into getting into the nuts and bolts of the game (and there are a LOT of nuts and bolts to this game). But that’s far from a flaw; that’s the whole point. PES18 is designed to wring maximum enjoyment out of scores of hours spent developing a team, or raising your stock and profile through extensive online play.
This is the most comprehensive and in-depth management simulator you could want from a soccer game, and it will take you multiple hours just to check out all the different little doodads and levers you can pull in pursuit of maximizing your team, finding players, adjusting strategies, signing, scouting, and so on.
And oh, yeah: there’s some exceptional soccer gameplay in there, too. Unlike FIFA, where you can pretty much just take the ball and run with it (literally), PES requires a whole lot more finesse, even on the easiest difficulty settings. There’s a serious focus on sticking to your lineup’s strategy and actually playing a game of football as intended, based on how your team is constructed.
Passing and defense is all-important in PES. Sort of like real football! The pace of play has been reduced from previous installments, to more closely mimic the real product. Just like everything else in the game.
It’s clear why there’s a massive culture of dedicated PES gamers; you can wring maximum enjoyment and immersion out of PES 18, and if you’re a soccer diehard, there’s no better way to lose yourself in a simulator.
For casual fans, the deal-breaker might be the lack of officially licensed teams and leagues. There are a good number of fully licensed teams and players in the game, from FC Barcelona and Atlético Madrid to Arsenal and Liverpool, as well as Borussia Dortmund and the Brazilian and French national teams. But we don’t have the sheer breadth of playable team options that FIFA provides.
Anyone who is just looking for a soccer game to pick up and play and scroll through the Premier League and La Liga and MLS and knock out some games: this one probably isn’t for you. There’s a fun UEFA Champions League mode where you can try to make it to the top of the table and win the whole league, but the heart and soul of PES is myClub mode. As it should be.
If you’ve got oodles of time to sink into a soccer game, this is definitely the one you should pick up. Until the next installment arrives, anyway.
This review was written using a review copy of the game provided by Konami.