It only feels like yesterday that I was writing about the PES2018 beta and asking many questions about how the game would change once the demo arrived…. well here we are! The date was the August 30th (the 29th for those who ‘went to New Zealand’ for a day!) and we were blessed with the PES 2018 demo dropping across our laps like an early birthday present that you get sent by a distant relative in the mail. So here I am to review the centrepiece of the Konami crown to see what the demo code has to offer and what differences it has against the Online Beta.
Now as promised by Adam Bhatti, PES 2018’s demo showcases the largest team selection in PES history, featuring 9 of the most world-renowned clubs from around the globe. Ranging from Premium Partner FC Barcelona, to new partners Colo-Colo, a full spectrum of football’s great and glorious are represented here. Not to mention the welcomed addition of 3 National heavyweights in Argentina, Brazil and Germany. Now the recent transfers have not taken effect on this demo, so my review of club teams will be shorter than the nationals, but I’ll do the best I can:
Barcelona of course head the rankings for the clubs, being the only 5-star club. That is to be excepted, seeing as they are still one of the best clubs on the planet. Liverpool, Borussia Dortmund and Inter Milan are rated 4.5-star, which I think is fair considering the successful seasons that all 3 teams shared last season, not to mention with new signings and stat increases to be finalised, that could potentially change. Between Flamengo, Corinthians, Boca and River, they range from 3.5 to 3-stars, I’m not all that up on my South American football, so let me know in the comments if you feel that is fair?
The National Teams are a different story. 3 thoroughbreds of International football who are all equipped to rule the world. For me, I have my own personal nicknames for these teams, which I’ll explain as we go along. We’ll start off with Argentina, who I’ve labelled as the ‘Tank’ of the demo. They have all the firepower to blow opponents away (we’re talking Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Dybala), but their defence at the back is where their real weakness lies. On the demo, I find that they have a ‘we’ll score more than you’ approach, which is great…. if you can break down the much-improved AI defence (more on that later). Their defence would have to be improved before I could truly consider them a viable option this year.
Germany are the ‘Metronome’ of the demo. These guys just tick along at a pace that can very rarely be disturbed. With a midfield that boasts Ozil, Draxler, Muller, Kroos and Khedira, these guys are the masters of possession football (sorry Barcelona fans!). They almost have the opposite issue to Argentina in the sense that they have never been able to fill the Miroslav Klose-shaped hole up front. Sure, Mario Gomez can do the job, but not to the ability of a Klose (or to take it back further, Oliver Bierhoff). They need a recognised No.9 in my eyes for their puzzle to be complete. 3 world class Goalkeepers, a very strong and flexible defence as well, Germany will certainly be top of my list of teams to use this year despite a lack of a No.9.
And finally, Brazil, who to me are the ‘Phenoms’ of the demo. These guys can destroy you in the blink of an eye. Breakneck speed in attack, a midfield that can physically control a game as well as keep the ball and a backline that will bully and harass your strikers for 90 minutes. Their team appears to be built for all occasions, although a thorough test is needed on full release. Between Coutinho, Neymar and Gabriel Jesus, it’s frightening enough as it is, but factor in Firmino, Willian and Douglas Costa and the headache just gets much worse. All are game changers and with dribbling being a key aspect of this year’s game, expect these to be high on the matchup list. Their goalkeepers aren’t half bad either, not since the days of Taffarel and Julio Cesar have Brazil had a goalkeeper to rely on, but Ederson Morales looks to be shaping up to be that guy. Their stonewall defence of Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Dani Alves and Marcelo forms to be a great unit, both going forward with overlaps and set piece threats, and defensively with being able to get behind the ball in numbers.
As I tend to do with my articles on PESUniverse, for this section, I reached out to people within the community for a sample of their thoughts. Here, I asked Craig Barclay (also known as Precision on Twitch) for his thoughts on the visuals, here’s what he had to say:
‘I’ll talk about the visuals in the stadia we had to work with in the demo – Barcelona’s Nou Camp and Borussia Dortmund’s Signal Iduna Park. You can see the level of detail Konami have put in to creating these famous stadiums with the lighting within the stadium itself, it immerses you into the world of football unlike any other PES titles in the past. The crowds also put on a great display as the teams emerge from the tunnel – another great touch we have seen before, but combined with the lighting and the crowds being loud and vocal, the game looks and feels really life like before we have even kicked off.’
I happen to agree with Craig’s appraisal of the stadium. For someone who has been in the tunnel of the Nou Camp, PES 2018 has the most accurate depiction of a stadium I have ever seen. Between the handrails and pictures on the walls, to the glass wall at the back adorned with the Barcelona crest. Dortmund’s level of detail is brilliant, to see The Yellow Wall become a mosaic pre-kick off for Dortmund is superb and adds a level of immersion that I didn’t think was possible with a video game. Likewise, with the Barcelona ‘12th Man’ mosaic, this had me watching the cinematics all the way through to kickoff. The animations and facial expressions really capture the emotions contained within a 90-minute football match. From seeing a disgruntled Luis Suarez waving his hands in frustration of not scoring past his old employers Liverpool, to watching Gary Medel screaming for more help at a set piece, PES has kicked it up a notch for realism. The visuals on a whole appear to be sharper than the Beta, which was to be expected. Gone are the blurry lines on the flags in the crowd, replaced with crisp lines and a smooth finish. I’m particularly fond of the blades of grass moving from below your feet when a ball is kicked, much like the raindrops on the cameras when replays are played through the rain.
It’s not without its faults though. Clipping seems to occur when in specific situations, particularly in the celebration animations, where a player’s arm would inexplicably pass through a teammate while celebrating. While only a minor flaw, it’s something that could certainly be looked at. But looking at visuals on the whole, it’s one minor criticism I’ve noticed in the demo.
Now a lot has been said across the internet with regards to the gameplay of the demo. We’ve seen videos, gifs, pictures, the whole lot. For me, to get the best possible experience of the game, start the game on ‘Superstar’ and turn off any Advanced Instructions for your team and see how the game plays from a pure standpoint. To play against, the AI is vastly improved and if you are to take an early lead, you can almost feel the AI starting to panic, which is a strange but welcomed sensation. It may even sway me to start playing Master League again!
What I can say regards to my own personal experience is that the game plays superbly. The very first thing I noticed was the defending feeling A LOT different. It’s not as simple any more as holding a button and letting the AI do the work. Expect to be actively marking runners and picking the correct time to tackle. As a great man once said, ‘Timing beats speed and precision beats power’, in this instance, pick your time to tackle and not be afraid to let someone have a run at you. One of the huge positives to come out of the demo is that they have retained the methodical pace that leant itself to the Beta so much. In versions of PES gone by, different codes have had different speeds, but this feels exactly as a game of football should. Build-up, ball retention and possession are now a major focus. This isn’t a sprinter’s game and it’s certainly not the game for heading enthusiasts either. There’s very much a focus on keeping the ball, and if you lose it, prepare to wait a while to get it back. Balance feels critical to the game, as I’ve mentioned in previous articles, so if you are looking to play a pass, make sure the player is ready to do so, as you could easily find an opposition player with it, shooting the same. If your player is off balance, expect to pick out a fan in the cheap seats with your shot. Shooting itself has come under scrutiny since the demo’s release, with that though, Adam Bhatti has again stated that changes are going to be made on the final release with the feedback that’s been given. So, there is hope for the negatives to not become an issue, but as always, I take a ‘let’s wait and see’ approach. Crossing appears to have been nerfed, making it a far more enjoyable game to play. The days of Traore appear to be behind us, so expect more of a possession based game this year!
In terms of other negatives, I think responsiveness still needs a little bit of work as there’s times where it feels that my intended pass target doesn’t register the ball at his foot. Likewise, there’s the odd chance that I feel that the goalkeeper can do better with. For example, having a 40-yard shot that could just be harmlessly tipped over instead involves an animation which from the goalkeeper, parries it into his own box and has the keeper on the floor for a prolonged period, making it very easy for a responsive player to knock a tap in. Although a lot of work has been put into the game, there’s always more that can be done (which I’m sure the development team would be the first ones to say). Passing itself, or at least the types of passes are somewhat easy to allow chance creation. An L1+Triangle (LB+Y for our Xbox colleagues) for example, seem to provide a very high success rate in terms of finding a cross..
So, in summary, for me the game is heading in the right direction. The demo represents a major improvement on PES 2017. Yes, it’s not perfect and yes, there are things that could be improved upon, but I think Konami should be commended for taking steps to reach out to communities for input and even more so for taking that feedback and incorporating that into their game. You can tell the work and love that has gone into improving this game. The gameplay feels weighty and it makes for a compelling sports game. For what Konami have to work with due to EA’s monopoly on licenses, they have pulled in the right teams for licensing in my opinion and I’m hopeful of the 3 new partners (yet to be announced as of this article’s writing). There’s a day one patch to come for PES 2018, to fix ‘minor issues and bugs’, which I hope ties up a few other loose ends on the demo. I’ve not gone particularly hard on the demo, as there are still changes to be made, but expect a robust and thorough review of the game upon full release.
My final point here is simply this, these types of articles aren’t here to knock anyone, it’s more to provoke discussions. These are my views and opinions on the game, they are not right and they are not wrong. If you agree or disagree, let’s have the discussion! You can @ me on Twitter (@TheWezzatron) or comment on this article below!
For now, I’ve been TheWezzatron, special thanks for Craig’s input on visuals and I’ll see you next time for my comprehensive PES 2018 review!