Most people are almost as loyal to their football game of choice as they are to the team they support.
But what if Cristiano Ronaldo’s face peering out from the cover has put you off FIFA 18? Or you fancy seeing whether Pro Evo really has recaptured its glory days gone by?
We’ve put both games head-to-head in a battle for soccer supremacy. Man City vs Chelsea's got nothing on this one.
The thing about authenticity is that it only really works if it’s across the board, so while Pro Evo has Barcelona, Liverpool, PSG and a few dozen other teams all present and correct, if you have to play against London FC, MD White and Man Blue the illusion falls down, even if the official Champions League theme tune is blaring.
FIFA, on the other hand, has real kits for everyone from Real Madrid and Arsenal to Carl Zeiss Jena and Forest Green Rovers, which softens the blow of losing out on that Europa League licence somewhat.
But it’s the sheer scale of what EA has replicated that’s so impressive about FIFA 18. While it might only be the Premier League that has a full complement of stadia, with the Camp Nou notably absent due to Barca’s deal with PES, there are enough iconic grounds from around the world to please any football tourist.
FIFA 18’s vibrant, writhing recreations of Boca’s La Bombanera and River Plate’s El Monumental are particularly thrilling, giving the game a real sense of life, where Pro Evo can still feel a little robotic.
EA’s commitment to creating a believable world runs through everything in FIFA 18, from the pre-match graphics to the commentators. Pro Evo, however, generally looks a little old-fashioned, while Peter Drury and Jim Beglin often either talk over each other or spout bizarre lines such as: “It might be flowing one way but there’s still time for some ebb.”
It’s an emphatic win for FIFA 18 here.
Winner: FIFA 18
FIFA 18 is a very handsome game, particularly in 4K on a PS4 Pro, but you don’t have to look too hard to find some cracks in its overall sheen.
Player likenesses can be a bit hit and miss, although the good ones are very good, but it’s a shame to see they don’t even run throughout the entire Premier League. When one of the game’s biggest strengths is its breadth of teams, it’s about time that its catalogue of real faces started to reach a little further down the pyramid.
PES suffers from the same issue. Its players perhaps aren’t as expressive as their FIFA counterparts but they’re often a touch more recognisable, with less artificial-looking skin tones.
Pitches in Pro Evo often come across a bit too much like carpet and their crowds aren’t as alive as FIFA’s but we do like the way the players adapt their bodies in order to best control the ball. In fact, the way players are animated in both is highly impressive, particularly in slow-mo replays.
This one’s close but overall FIFA nicks it with a late winner.
Winner: FIFA 18
Johan Cruyff once said: “If I start running slightly earlier than someone else, I seem faster,” and that pretty much sums up the difference between FIFA 18 and PES 2018.
While both games offer a slower, more considered style of play, you’ll spend a lot more time in FIFA with your finger holding down the sprint button. In contrast, success in Pro Evo comes down to knowing exactly when to catch out your opponent with a sudden burst of pace, whether it’s on the wing or looking to open up avenues in midfield.
Speed isn’t the be all and end all for either game, though. FIFA’s crosses now actually present some sort of danger, rather than just hanging there waiting to be headed away or plucked out of the air by the opposition’s goalkeeper, although they’re still nothing in comparison to Pro Evo’s whipped-in balls.
In general we prefer the tactical variation allowed by Pro Evo’s slower pace and more natural approach to physicality. Defending in particular just feels right, with good shape and structure essential to making it difficult for your opposition to find gaps in your defence.
FIFA might offer more high-scoring games, but if you’re looking for multiple ways to score, PES comes away with a deserved victory here.
Winner: PES 2018
In our PES review we wrote about how the main thing holding it back was its inadequate online matchmaking, which routinely pairs you up with players controlling teams far better than the one you’ve selected to play as.
That shrinks the pool of competitive teams down to a handful and, if you don’t support one of Europe’s elite, makes playing online as your team a frustrating experience.
That said, when you come up against a similarly talented team and player, PES 2018 has given us some of the most enjoyable online matches we’ve ever played.
On the other side, FIFA puts far too more emphasis on its attacking play and there’s very little tactical variation as a result. Far too many Seasons players pick teams with a lot of pace up front and just spend the whole match sprinting directly at your defenders, many of whom don’t possess the necessary agility to cope. It can get boring very quickly.
Both games really suffer if there’s any lag too, as delays between your button presses and the players’ responses can easily put paid to your high-tempo one-touch passing.
FIFA will no doubt attract more players but we’re going to have to call this one a draw.
Talking about longevity on the day of release might seem a little odd, but it’s easy to see which game offers more ways to play.
Pro Evo might have various leagues and cups to compete for but they’re all minor variations on a theme (although perhaps we’ve just described football itself).
If you look beyond the presentation there’s little to split FIFA’s Career mode and Pro Evo’s Master League, right down to the slightly silly transfer activity that often occurs. But, hey, this isn’t supposed to be real life. It’s a game.
Pro Evo’s MyClub does a decent job of imitating Ultimate Team but it doesn’t really get any closer than that. A large part of what makes FUT great is its community and on that front PES just can’t compete.
It’ll never get a mode like The Journey either - the necessary budget just isn’t there. You might be unlikely to play through it more than once, if at all, and our full FIFA 18 review goes into more depth on our reservations with it as a concept, but it’s undoubtedly an interesting way to add variation and drama to a genre that usually relies entirely on the player to create their own narrative.
It’s another fairly comfortable win for FIFA.
Winner: FIFA 18