Offline is the new online
These are all criticisms that were levelled at the game last year but the fact that you can play an officially licensed version of the Champions League but the current holders of the trophy are only known as MD White hasn’t got any less preposterous.
Elsewhere Master League is the same time sink it always was and if you play as a team from one of the fully licensed leagues it actually does a pretty good impression of FIFA’s career mode, with in-game graphics specific to the competition.
The transfer market within the Master League universe is a little unrealistic but no more so than FIFA’s, and who wants to play a game of fantasy football that doesn’t allow a bit of escapism anyway?
There are also Europa League campaigns, ongoing leagues that allow you to play without worrying about transfers or contracts, and various domestic cups, but it’s the online modes that most people buy football games for.
Pro Evo’s online seasons give you 10 games to earn enough points for promotion, but it’s not as simple as three for a win and one for a draw. The better the team you pick the more points you receive for a victory, so East Sussex (aka Brighton & Hove Albion) will earn you a maximum of 630 points per win, while Man Red (aka Manchester United) only bag you 355.
It then matches you up against a player who has won a similar number of points to you overall but doesn’t take your choice of team into account, so unless you pick one of the game’s best sides, you’ll often find yourself playing very mismatched encounters.
The team of choice for Pro Evo players with no imagination this year seems to have switched from Barca to PSG, which we’ll attribute to the Neymar effect. Getting a win against the odds is hugely satisfying but it also results in a fair number of predictable defeats where the standard of the opposition’s players is just too high.
It’s a real shame, because when you come up against a player of a similar skill level, with a well-matched team, PES 2018 has offered up some of the most enjoyable online football matches we’ve ever played: absorbing, exciting and most important of all, competitive. It’s just a shame they’re all too rare.
Like last year there’s so much to recommend about PES 2018 but it comes with significant caveats.
Anyone buying it does so in the knowledge that it won’t be like playing an interactive version of Super Sunday and if you’re not prepared to at least edit the team names it’s hard to recommend. Even the most hardcore football hipster will only get so much out of playing as Eredivisie and Ligue 1 teams.
If you’re willing to accept its flaws, on the pitch PES is a football game with real depth, that recreates the patterns of play you see on real pitches every Saturday afternoon more closely than ever before. It rewards teamwork, vision and patience rather than pushing people towards individual skill, although the most talented players can still do damage on their own.
That makes its offline options more appealing than they might otherwise be but unless its multiplayer mode has been fixed you might find yourself craving new challenges before next season starts.
Anyone unconvinced by PES before won’t find anything new here to tempt them now but those who had submitted to its charms won't be disappointed.