It’s another year, another Autumn, and another football season! That means we get another rendition of the only two football games in town. I can remember when there were tons of football games in town. In fact back in the days, when I played on my Amiga, I recall a ton of games including Kick Off, Player Manager, SWOS, Total Football, Mircroprose Soccer and even Fifa! Nowadays the choice is down to two. PES and FIFA, and it’s been like this for a while.
There is no doubting that FIFA is the game of choice for many, but that hasn’t always meant it’s been the best. In the past FIFA had been accused of being more about fancy presentation than great football, whilst PES was the opposite. However over the years they have criss crossed, in terms their focus on the experience. As developers have jumped from engine to engine, or chased what they thought were what the consumers wanted they have switched sides over and over in terms of what the games offered and their level of quality.
So FIFA this year is an evolution of FIFA 17. I did not enjoy FIFA 17. I felt that the clever animations were making the game too cumbersome, with a disjoint between the overall tempo of the game, and the time required to carry out certain actions with our players. In addition, defending was near on impossible at times. Sometimes I just stopped controlling my players and let the AI control my defence. I just did not enjoy it at all, and felt the game was broken.
FIFA 18 fixes a lot that was wrong with FIFA 17. The tempo is better balanced, I think the players move a little slower, and the animations are possibly a little faster. Yet faster or not, they are now better balanced with the overall speed of play. Passing is exciting and strategic, and the movement of the ball seems improved. It’s almost ballet-like at times, with the ball movement seemingly impacted in a way I hadn’t noticed in previous versions, by the player using different parts of their foot or by putting spin on it.
Other improvements in FIFA 18 include even better lighting. The Frostbite engine, supposedly excels at lighting and this is clear from the improved visuals. Not all visuals are great, some players still lack detail, and their eyes are a continual give away that this is a video game we are playing and not a live broadcast. GTA has an issue with people’s hands and FIFA people’s eyes…. However, overall the graphics are amazing, and I cannot wait to see how they will look on the Xbox One X (we tested the game on a regular Xbox only). I’m sure the PS4 Pro version will look very good too. The pitch is gorgeous, and it seems to deteriorate during the game. Whilst the crowd is very active, and from a distance adds a lot of atmosphere, the one downside is that the same few character models are used over and over. It breaks the suspension of disbelief, and is a shame.
The rest of the game is typical FIFA. One off games, quick games with your favourite team against their next real life opponents, careers, the ever popular Ultimate Team, and Online games/seasons and what not. FIFA 17 introduced a story mode, and chapter two is included here. I never really got into it, but many did, so it’s a plus, and it’s nice to see a company like EA trying to bring something new to what has become the Microsoft Word of video games.
So let’s look at PES 2018. I’ll be totally honest, I have not played a PES game for many years. I used to play PES with mates, on PS2, using a Multi-Tap. PES to me was a strange combination of a more ‘realistic’ game than the old skool FIFA (back in those days the ball was stuck to your footballer in FIFA, and there was no physics to speak of!) yet with typical Japanese arcade machine presentation. So PES 2018…. how does it stack up? Well once again, it’s about game engines and I read that this version of PES is based upon a new engine. New engine, new game.
I found the game to be very playable, with nice player movement. However I felt the game a little more arcade-like than FIFA in it’s feel and tempo. FIFA 18 on the Switch (which I’ll cover in another article) is actually also more Arcade-like than FIFA 18 on the Xbox or PS4, but even that seems more subtle than PES. Now, I know that many PES fans talk about how it is less arcade like than FIFA, with great passing etc but I think the issue isn’t the player movement but the ball movement. The ball in PES moves in a less nuanced way, which for me took me out of the feeling of controlling a real game and made it feel like an arcade machine.
However, let’s be clear, it’s enjoyable. It’s football and it is probably personal preference whether you enjoy the FIFA interpretation of the game more or less than PES’s take on the game.
The graphics in PES 2018 are fine, with some of the facial detail on the players better than FIFA 18 on occasions in my view. However, the general graphics cannot touch the Frostbite engine. It’s that lighting I mentioned earlier. The pitch in PES lacks the depth of field that FIFA has. It’s just less alive. The crowd is not the same, and the overall richness of the visual experience is lack lustre compared to it’s competition.
Away from the in games graphics, it has to be said that the presentation is awful. Whilst FIFA has a lovely UI, PES seems stuck in the world of Arcade machines. Everything from the fonts, to the selection boxes seemed basic, tacked on and underwhelming. I mean they work, and do as they should but PES, like FIFA, is an expensive purchase (when new) and this is sub par content. On top of that the localisation, which seems like a strange thing to A) pick out in a review and B) pick out in the review of a football game, is dreadful. The language used for menu options is ‘awkward’ and not how football fans would express themselves or talk about the sport between one another.
Something else about PES, which is an ongoing issue, is that you still have this strange mixture of licensed teams, against non-licensed teams. Again, if you want to feel you are reliving the real season in an alternative digital world PES isn’t going to deliver as well as FIFA. Not only that but PES, like FIFA now has player ratings, but of course the real licensed players, get much better ratings than the general sound alike players, which can unbalance some games.
So you can tell I’m more of a naturally FIFA guy, BUT I’ll be honest, I would take the actual football game experience of PES 2018 over FIFA 17 any day. It’s just that EA have stepped up their game with FIFA 18, and ironed out, what were for me, game breaking issues. FIFA 18 is a great game – not perfect but excellent, and for the money it is currently the best football game you can buy when it comes to the complete package.
This review and comparison is by Steven Gurevitz. We want to thank Xbox for the review codes of both games.