With no major international tournament to fill the long summer ahead, football fans are staring down the barrel of a barren couple of months.
But the new Pro Evo isn’t far off, so to break up the barrage of preposterous transfer rumours (“Yaya Toure to Bakewell Town? Well, he does like a cake”) and seemingly neverending will-he-won’t-he saga that is Arsene Wenger’s future, here are five things coming in the next version of Pro Evolution Soccer that we’re pretty convinced will make it better than FIFA.
That’s something to look forward to, right?
1) A first touch to make Messi blush
In PES 2017 we loved the way passes zipped about the pitch, and the sense of satisfaction when a perfectly weighted through ball scythed open a defence and sent your striker through on goal, but there’s always room for improvement.
Konami has fine-tuned the pace of the game, adding better dribbling skills and Real Touch+ to increase the ways your player can take control of the ball. There’s also ‘contextual shielding’ that should make it easier for your big number nine to hold the ball up. Of course, you’ll need dextrous mastery of the analogue stick to put it all to good use, but the potential’s there if you can unlock it.
2) FIFA-baiting visuals
It might not have as many real-life arenas as FIFA but Pro Evo’s reproductions of the Camp Nou and Borussia Dortmund’s mighty Signal Iduna Park are certainly impressive. How much of them you can see when you’re concentrating on breaking down a stubborn back four is another matter, but with more than 20,000 pieces of data collected from the grounds themselves (even from inside the players’ tunnel) they’ll be even more intricate in PES 2018.
It’s not clear whether Anfield will return, or if any new grounds will join the real-life roster, but those that do appear will have more realistic lighting and turf, so you can’t blame your bad performances on poorly rendered grass anymore. The players have had a spruce-up too, with a reworked animation system, plus true-to-life in-game tattoos. Finally.
3) An interface that wasn’t designed by the work experience kid
If we had to choose between a fancy menu system and a better game of football we’d take the latter 11 times out of 10, but there’s really no excuse for Pro Evo’s interface to be so meat ‘n’ potatoes. It’s the UI equivalent of a typical Sam Allardyce team – functional but not very pleasant to look at.
PES 2018 has promised the kind of overhaul that would turn Big Sam’s Palace into a slick-passing machine of a team, giving the game what Konami calls a “broadcast feel”. In both cases, we’ll believe it when we see it.
4) New modes
The Master League alone gives Pro Evo players plenty to keep them playing from one year to the next, with newly added pre-season tournaments and a better transfer system aiming to steal away even more hours of your life.
Outside of that there’s a new online co-op mode that’ll let you have guest players sitting on the sofa next to you, plus the return of the Random Selection Match mode, a kind of randomly selected fantasy football that first appeared in the PS2 era.
5) A better PC version
Last year’s PC version of PES 2017 was criticised for being a bit of a bodge job – a bit like when an outfield player has to go in goal, but not as fun. Konami has promised that this year’s version of the game will be on a par with the console edition, which is the least you should expect really.
If all of the above changes work as well as Konami says they will, it'll make PES 2018 quite the game. But still not quite perfect, unless they also fix these three bugbears of ours...
1. Online matchmaking
If aliens were to land tomorrow and we decided to teach them about football using PES 2017’s online leagues, they’d think there were only two teams on the planet: Barcelona and Real Madrid. The game’s non-existent matchmaking means there’s no incentive to choose a weaker team and it’s a problem that fact which ruins the online modes, forcing many people to FIFA for their multiplayer football hit. Fix it, Konami.
2. The awful commentary
If we hear Peter Drury bellowing “and the comeback is complete!”, or an incisive daisy cutter of a pass being described as “spooning it forward” one more time, we’re going to set Robbie Savage on Pro Evo’s tediously repetitive commentary team.
3. Some better licenses
Expecting Pro Evo to suddenly start competing with FIFA for official licenses would be like expecting a team like Leicester to win the Premier League – it’s just never going to happen. But when you’ve got a Champions League licence but can’t reproduce the final without having to resort to an unofficial edit file from a fan site, there’s something seriously wrong.