Dead ball specialist
One of the most noticeable changes is the new system for dead balls. Gone is the ghostly indicator that showed the general trajectory of the ball, meaning its final destination is much more about guesswork.
To help, at goal kicks the camera defaults to a higher vantage point, although finding a man wearing the same shirt seems to be almost pure luck unless you pass out from the back.
Corners have a similarly low success rate, although that’s in line with the real-life stats, and while the free-kicks have lost the angle indicator too, it doesn’t seem so hard to get them on target anymore. In fact, giving them away in dangerous areas is not a good idea at all.
Visually PES 2018 is almost identical to last year’s game. The box-based interface is a game of spot the difference, the pre-match team selection and tactics screens haven’t changed a bit, and graphically it’s a case of marginal gains. It’s a good job they’ve changed the music or it might be difficult to tell whether you’d put the right disc in.
Player likenesses were already impressive and that hasn’t changed. The Agueros, Pogbas and Hazards of the world look every bit the part, with Olivier Giroud’s beard a thing of exquisite beauty and Kevin De Bruyne’s ‘grown-up child star’ look absolutely spot-on - but you don’t have to delve too far into the squads of lower Premier League sides before Johnny Generic’s face starts appearing.
There’s still little going on in terms of facial expressions, too, so things can get a bit Thunderbirds during close-ups, although to be fair, not even the world’s most powerful supercomputer could replicate the gurning face of Phil Jones in full flow.
No more Neymar
That brings us to the thorny issue of kits and teams names. Konami have thrown almost all of their eggs in the Barcelona basket again this year, although that means Neymar is all over the menus and intro sequence wearing the stripes of the Blaugrana rather than the red and blue of his new club Paris St Germain. Awkward.
That almost feels representative of the game as a whole: it’s nearly there, there’s just something glaringly obvious that’s not quite right.
Team licensing hasn’t improved from last year, so only Arsenal and Liverpool have their correct kits in the Premier League, Fulham are the lone Championship team with the right kit and aside from a smattering of clubs the Bundesliga is entirely absent again.
France is fully licensed across the top two divisions, as is the Eredivisie from Holland, but Spain only has Barca and Atletico Madrid, while only the three major teams in Portugal are all present and correct. Italy fares a lot better but the glaring omission is Serie A’s most famous side and current champion: Juventus.
There are plenty of fully licensed South American sides but Gremio, Racing and Palmeiras just don’t hold the same appeal for most people as Chelsea, Bayern Munich or Real Madrid.
Editing the club names is easy enough, if a bit of a pain, but you’re still left with a load of teams wearing the wrong kits. Sure, it doesn’t affect how the game plays but kits are such an emotive part of football - why else would Cardiff fans be so fussed when their crazy owner tried to change their shirts from blue to red?
It won’t be long before some enterprising PS4 players on the internet will upload option files that’ll allow you to overwrite the kit designs and ensure all teams are wearing the right colours, but not everyone has the time or inclination to do that. For more casual fans, the fact is that it’s off putting and will only make FIFA 18 look like the better option.