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PES 2018 Review

  • First Released Sep 12, 2017
  • Reviewed Sep 15, 2017
  • PC
  • PS4
  • PS3
  • X360
  • XONE

A game of two halves.

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Developing a series for a yearly release must be a tricky business. In the space of just a few months, you need to make everything look nicer and produce meaningful gameplay strides (and even think of some new buzzwords to put on the back of the box). With PES 2018, Konami's annual soccer game looks and sounds a little too similar to last year's edition--the presentation is flat and its lack of licenses is an ongoing problem--but some excellent on-pitch tweaks are enough to make PES 2018 the most satisfying football game ever made.

The most noticeable change is a distinct reduction in the game's speed. That applies to both the ball and player movement, meaning matches have an altogether more methodical pace to them. Players sprint and turn more slowly, and therefore do so far more realistically. Crucially, however, everything feels just as responsive as before.

Combined with a number of new animations, the slower pace lends each kick a greater sense of weight. It also means, when you lose the ball, it usually takes longer to get it back, which can frustrate--especially when defending has not improved meaningfully in a couple of years now. Individual tackles can feel clunky, and opposition strikers are given too much space by their markers when receiving the ball to feet--Mourinho would be having none of it.

Despite PES shifting down a gear, however, its mechanics still allow you to pull off some spectacular maneuvers. Passes feel more satisfying than ever, rising and curling and dipping oh so beautifully. They're aided by better positioning of wide men, allowing more opportunities to pick out players with pinpoint cross-field balls--too often in PES 2017 I would try a million-dollar pass to a winger that would inevitably get cut out by the full back. Now, rather than being a delightful shortcut to losing possession, these Hollywood balls are a legitimate tactic. Ground passes are now executed with greater variety, meanwhile: your players will contextually change from spraying the ball with the outside of the boot to curling with the inside to punting with the toe to tapping to flicking to threading.

Passing's versatility allows you to produce some beautiful football: play with Barcelona and you can actually play like Barcelona--but it also means you can lump it to the big man up top or play it wide and get crosses in if a particular match or situation demands it. Changes to your attacking intent level, for example, affect how deep your team sit more than ever--set it to maximum and your biggest defender will act as an emergency striker. This then allows you to play direct if you're losing in the final stages of an important match.

This is especially helpful from set pieces, which have been reworked to allow you to pick different tactics depending on the situation. You can now choose to send your center backs forward for long free kicks, for example, and hope for a knock down. Or, from corner kicks, you can ask for two players to come short or for your entire team to line up on the edge of the box before making a late dash to the back post. Direct free kicks have been improved, too, and they now feel more intuitive and more fluid--and I'm finally able to score from them.

Players also shield the ball and stumble past opponents more realistically, not only helping you hold on to the ball but also making them feel more like players, not just dots on a screen. This makes it all the more disappointing, then, that goalkeepers still act like robots: their static animations and inconsistent saves might be a little better than last year, but they still shatter the illusion that you're controlling a real-life team and serve as a reminder that you're playing a video game.

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However, that's a minor sticking point compared to the licenses--or lack thereof. Of the world's major leagues, only the French and Italian leagues are licensed in PES, with the Premier League, EFL, and the Spanish leagues only included in make-believe form. As is traditional with Pro Evo, teams are replicated with fake kits and pretend team names like Man Blue (Manchester City), London FC (Chelsea), and MD White (Real Madrid), while the German league is not present in any form. Worse, the kits are often wildly different to the real-life versions they're meant to be imitating. The Champions League is licensed, but the magic of reaching it with your favorite team is killed if, rather than playing as Manchester United, you're actually controlling Man Red--playing in black. Thankfully, it's relatively easy, with the help of the community and a USB stick, to mod in authentic kits on PS4 and PC--and this can help mitigate many of PES's gripes as it appears when you insert the disc for the first time. Xbox One users, however, are stuck with the likes of West Glamorgan City and Merseyside Blue for good.

The Champions League is licensed, but the magic of reaching it with your favorite team is killed if, rather than playing as Manchester United, you're actually controlling Man Red.

The lack of attention paid to how kits look is reflected in the game's presentation as a whole. While PES's main rival, FIFA, replicates the experience of watching soccer on TV pretty closely, Pro Evo 2018 looks somewhat flat by comparison. Player models look largely fine (and some obscure players have surprisingly accurate faces), but crowds appear like cardboard cut-outs and sound almost as fake as they look--cheers when you score and moans when you miss sound muted, while chants are just a cacophony of noise with no discernible tunes or words. Peter Drury and Jim Beglin's awful, stilted, disjointed commentary returns, with a cliche-ridden dialogue library that contains few new lines and zero extra excitement. These complaints are not new to PES 2018 of course, but as EA continues to make strides in these areas with FIFA, PES's continued poor sights and sounds are put in starker contrast with every passing year.

The same is, to an extent, true of PES's online offering. MyClub is Konami's answer to FIFA Ultimate Team, and this year its big new feature is 3v3 co-op online play, a mode in which you sacrifice most of the control in return for some laughs with your friends. You and your teammates each contribute a few players to a combined squad, which the three of you then control in the match, sharing the rewards at the end. However, far too often PES is unable to connect enough human players to the lobby, meaning rather than simply giving me full control or searching again, I was dumped into the worst-of-both-worlds option of controlling one third of an otherwise AI-controlled team. It's not quite the fun addition it should be, especially when I was occasionally subject to some egregious input lag when playing online.

Far too often PES is unable to connect enough human players to the lobby.

The offline, single-player-focused Master League, meanwhile, makes strides in some areas while remaining infuriating in others. The new menu layout is a welcome change that makes the mode easier to navigate, but Master League as a whole still contains a number of glaring oddities that need to be addressed next year. Youth teams are still littered with unknown players whose names were seemingly assembled by a monkey on a typewriter (those well-known Liverpool prodigies Fighejlani and Tzarqamilov are my favorites); wage budgets and salaries are still displayed in yearly terms rather than weekly; and transfer budgets are still criminally low--while PSG were out spending £150m / $200m on Mbappe and £200m / $270m on Neymar in real life this summer, I was restricted to just £50m / $67m in total with them in PES 2018. Thankfully, a couple of neat touches such as customizable training regimes and release clauses in players' contracts do add some depth, and the new Challenge Mode keeps things interesting with unexpected scenarios like players wanting to leave.

Thankfully, I think I have a new favorite way to play PES. Random Selection Mode returns from Pro Evo 6, and if--like me--you can't remember all the way back to 2006, it shakes things up wonderfully. You and a friend (who has to be in the same room, as the mode is local only) are each handed a squad of random players from a selection of leagues or countries you choose, so you might end up with a weird hybrid team of players from across the world of varying standards. What follows is a psychological battle of attempting to steal your opponent's star players while protecting your own. Up to three trade rounds allow you and your friend to pick a player from the other person's team who you want to pinch. You then pick a player from your own squad who you want to protect, and one you want to get rid of. Crucially, at no point until after all three are chosen do either of you know who the other person has picked, leading to a tense moment at the end of the round where it's revealed if you've successfully robbed that 92-rated striker your lucky friend got dealt. Manage to steal their top player and the bragging rights are all yours--at least until they manage to win the following match against the odds, that is.

It's a small addition that some people may never even see, let alone try, but it's the best silly party mode I've seen in a soccer game since FIFA 12 unceremoniously ditched Lounge Mode. Along with (slightly) improved player stamina and (also slightly) improved goalkeeper animations, it's one of a few unglamourous but nonetheless important changes Konami has made this year. Another of these, a simple gray marker that shows which player you'll switch to next when you press L1 / LB, is a tiny masterstroke, and one that seems so obvious I'm now kind of annoyed I didn't think of it sooner myself.

When you get onto the pitch, no other football game feels as good as PES 2018.

PES 2018, then, is the proverbial game of two halves. Off the field, it's sorely lacking; online modes and server issues leave much to be desired, and the game's presentation as a whole is lagging behind the competition--even if the PES community produces some sterling work in recreating the unlicensed kits every year.

And yet, when you get onto the pitch, no other football game feels as good as PES 2018. The slower pace is a definite improvement, helping tread the line between realism and fun near-perfectly. There's just something about the players' movement and the kinds of arcs the ball makes in the air that's just so pleasant to control--every pass, header, and shot just feels right. And when it clicks, and you score a thunderous strike from the edge of the area or finish off a slick passing move or even when you launch an ugly long ball forward to grab a last-gasp winner, it's the closest feeling you'll get to being out there scoring yourself.

Back To Top
The Good
The slower pace makes PES 2018 feel simultaneously more realistic and more fun
Random Selection Mode is an amazing new way to play
On the pitch, the most satisfying football game ever made
The Bad
Presentation is still lacking, and the lack of licenses continues to grate
Online play remains temperamental, and MyClub is no Ultimate Team
About GameSpot's Reviews

About the Author

Oscar is a Bristol City fan. He's looking forward to modding them in to PES 2018 so he no longer has to play as South West Red. GameSpot was provided with a complimentary copy of the game for the purpose of this review.
114 Comments  RefreshSorted By 
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Avatar image for nerri10

Konami & PES would have the best of Fans if they can at least (Please) fix online gaming. The slowness, lag, is really annoying! Please its better to fix different aspects of a game than bringing in New Game Modes and features etc.

Avatar image for nerri10

Why are you guys arguing over nothing??? even Messi in Real Life is a Big Fan of PES, go on instagram and watch Him play against thiago, but anyway its all based on what you stop criticizing other opinions.

Avatar image for AndyTSJ

As sure as night follows days, PES will be given a lower score than FIFA. No matter what.

Avatar image for Gbullet

@AndyTSJ: Surprise, FIFA 2018 got a 7.

Avatar image for AndyTSJ

@Gbullet: I'm glad to be wrong.

Avatar image for tiringpillow

@AndyTSJ: As sure as night follows day, FIFIA will be better than PES. No matter what.

Avatar image for deactivated-5aafce418120b

@tiringpillow: as sure as sh*t, your wrong. i used to love fifa but they just churn the same sh*t out year after year. pes has improved loads the last couple of years. sorry but pes wins again.

Avatar image for AndyTSJ

@tiringpillow: FIFA 18 actually scored lower because it really isn't as good. Far too much focus on Ultimate Team at the expense of gameplay is catching up with EA. I like FIFA, I will buy FIFA but I prefer PES. Simple as that, it's the better game.

Avatar image for reviewlies

slow like FIFA. why you need a pass bar? leaves everything like it was KONAMI DUMB.

Avatar image for oo7feynmann

So we have a FIFA kid doing a PES review.

Avatar image for TruSake

What people don't understand is that a considering the game comes out yearly developers tend to the following when it comes to sports:

2016 game is something different.
2017 they are working on two titles. One team works on the 2017 which is just basic improvements, and a second team is already working on 2018 version which is something completely different.
2018 game is something different.

And the cycle continues. People always complain though "oh is the same thing as last year" well of course it is! Is not easy to program a whole new game in just a year's time! This is why you should wait at least 2 or even 3 years before buying a new version. The developers would love to just come out with a new version every 2 or 3 years to fully work on it, but they can't do that because of competition. And they can't call it an add-on or else sales would be low.

Avatar image for xplatjedi

@TruSake: Agree.

Which is why i'm getting Fifa 18 this year after getting PES 17 last year. I figure there is enough of a difference between the two titles to justify alternating between the two each year. I went with the on the pitch play last year even though I hate the OTHER team AI as well as the sim AI in PES.

This year, if I need the on the field fun I'll continue to play PES 17. I'll get FiFA 18 for the franchise mode this year (plus the on the field...based on the demo...ain't that bad)

Avatar image for truepowerslave

"And yet, when you get onto the pitch, no other football game feels as good as PES 2018" and "On the pitch, the most satisfying football game ever made".

How can a football game that has the best gameplay ever released get a 8/10? The reviewing criteria is seriously mixed up as it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Unless you spend you're time looking at the menus and not actually playing the game. Lets not act like the different game modes in PES are crap either. As to the licencing, once the option file is installed PES actually has a pretty sweet set of licenses as it has the top leagues and teams plus kits and includes all the top competitions like the Champions League and Europa League, FIFA does not no matter what you do.

Bottom line is that gameplay is king and nothing else comes even close. If you do not agree you are not a hardcore gamer but a casual.

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico

@truepowerslave: How can a game where you play as Man Red get any more than an 8 ... PES has always had good gameplay but the off pitch stuff can get really annoying ! - Anyway if you like the game the score doesn't really matter does it ! why don't you give it a 10 .. there .. feel better now ?

Avatar image for cvetkovic333

@ltjohnnyrico: Man Red?!After installation, i instal small patch and everything is perfect.You need few seconds to do that and enjoy for months best football game,but you cant make fifa gampley better.

Avatar image for xplatjedi


This isn't true. Does PES have realistic lineups for each game? Do the opposing teams play like they do compared to their real life counterparts?

Having amazing control is ideal, but if there are no fouls, and the goal keepers still let too many balls through that De Gea never would let's easy to see ow a game might get 8/10 even when the control feels the tightest.

Avatar image for Celiomsl

@truepowerslave: "THE BADPresentation is still lacking, and the lack of licenses continues to grate; Online play remains temperamental, and MyClub is no Ultimate Team. "
"MyClub is no Ultimate Team", well, we got a fucking Fifa fan to do a PES review, congrats GS!
Barely can wait for FIFA 17 errrr... I mean Fifa Madrid 18** to be release and got a 9 or 8,5. Can`t wait!!! So predictable!

Avatar image for truepowerslave

@Celiomsl: Better yet, will the FIFA 18 review mention that the gameplay is clearly a step below PES 18? Most likely it will get slapped at least a 8/10 score and there will be no mention that it is worse than its competitor in the one are that makes or breaks a game.

Avatar image for xplatjedi



PES on the ball control gameplay = 9 out of 10

FifA " " " = 7 out of 10

What if EVERYTHING else on FIFA is better? Do you discount that?

True question. And no, I'm not a FifA fanboy. I play PES 17 when I want to feel like I'm a footballer, but I play Football Manager when I want to play a franchise/manage a squad.

I'm hoping FIFA is the perfect middle ground.

Avatar image for kingcrimson24

@truepowerslave: it's Important to have the latest Squads , All the stadiums , All the leagues , Details in Career modes or Good user interface . Specially if you are playing as a football fan these things are Important .

Avatar image for truepowerslave

@kingcrimson24: So stadiums, leagues, details and an interface are more important to you than gameplay?

Avatar image for ltjohnnyrico

@truepowerslave: He didn't say that .. but they are important ! Its no good the gameplay being good if you can't play as your fave team in their own kit at their stadium .. that makes a big difference !

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@truepowerslave: If the atmosphere sucks and there's no incentive for you to play, then the gameplay can be the best ever, the game is still crap. It might be good for a hardcore basement dweller that just wants to challenge himself and his skills, but not for someone that actually wants to enjoy a video game football experience.

Hence why this received an 8.

Avatar image for truepowerslave

@livedreamplay: " If the atmosphere sucks and there's no incentive for you to play, then the gameplay can be the best ever, the game is still crap"

Why do we play games? Because it is fun, and what makes it fun? Gameplay. Yet you downplay what PES has accomplished and claim that even if the gameplay is the best ever it isn't a big deal, even worse it still sucks. Name me one great game with average gameplay, just one.

You ever thought that gameplay also elevates the atmosphere? Pes 18 has the best graphics, animations, physics, AI and gameplay of any football game and its not really even debatable. If that does not create a footballing atmosphere then so does no other game on the market.

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@truepowerslave: "Pes 18 has the best graphics, animations, physics, AI and gameplay of any football game and its not really even debatable" - It's not just debateable, I think it's also completely false. Never label your opinion as fact, it always makes you sound like a person that doesn't know what he's talking about.

"Name me one great game with average gameplay, just one." - Uncharted, one of gaming's most renowned and well received franchises, was never considered outstanding when it came to gameplay, it was always considered outstanding when it came to story and graphics however. And this is one example out of many.

Gaming is an experience. Indeed gameplay is the most important factor, in the sense that if it's bad, the whole game is instantly bad. However if it's not backed up by the other aspects, then the game is not excellent. At least not for me.

Avatar image for deactivated-5aafce418120b

@livedreamplay: "at least not for me" there you said it. pes is a better game than fifa this year. at least it is for me:)

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@kevone0123: Even though opinions are implicitly subjective, I found that adding "at least for me" makes people less offended by the opinion in case it doesn't align with theirs. :)

Avatar image for deactivated-5aafce418120b

@livedreamplay: and that's why i said it:)

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@kevone0123: Yep, me too...

Avatar image for nero86

Licensed kit excuse only really makes sense if you're playing on XBox. Anyone on PlayStation is just regurgitating an excuse that no longer holds weight due to option files. As far as the number of leagues goes, how many do people play in the first place? Go online and you'll find that everyone plays either with a Spanish, German, English or Italian team. Besides the Bundesliga, the rest PES has. And the Bundesliga can be obtained via option file. So again some of these reasons for not playing PES just really don't make sense but rather come from idiots that act like parrots, repeating what others say. I'm dead certain some haven't even played PES. If they did, probably got put off by the fact that they had to work for goals. But hey, if you want to play an inferior product in terms of gameplay (the most important part of any game) like FIFA just for presentations and kits and whatnot, knock yourselves out. Far be it from me to interfere with stupidity. If someone said to me they avoid PES due to poor online play, I'd completely understand. All in all, PES may not look that good to the eye, it may have awful commentary, presentation may be lacklustre however it excels where it matters. FIFA looks like football but isn't anywhere close to playing like it. Feel free to hate my comment...

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@nero86: Personally, I don't like PES for the cheap feel of everything. The gameplay is good, but everything else around it seems poorly made and it drags my experience down a lot.

Avatar image for nero86

@livedreamplay: If cheap really matters that much to you, it's amazing how you put up with FIFA's cheap gameplay. But hey, enjoy it if you will. If playing a game that LOOKS like football is what you're after knock yourself out. I'll go for the cheap alternative that plays and feels like football...

Avatar image for andyng211

@nero86: FIFA's gameplay is way more realistic. It has the feel of real football, if you ever played reallife football, you'll get it. When you tackle, you dont just put your foot out and you get the ball, it is much more complicated than that. I've decided to buy both this year, having spent around 20 hours on PES and I'd say it still feels arcademic. I'd prefer the way players have to struggle with the ball in FIFA, you struggle to get the ball, you struggle to keep the ball, you struggle to kick the ball... all the drags makes it much more like real life football than PES.

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@nero86: FIFA's gameplay is pretty good, it's not as good as PES probably, but it's good enough to make me have fun. With PES, even though the gameplay is good, everything else sucks. So yes, I'd rather have fun than continuously be bothered by how the game looks and feels.

Avatar image for topcorner666

The license issue can be easily sorted with an option file by the amazing community out there. There is rarely any mention of the fact that FIFA doesn't include the Champions League, Europa League or the Super Cup. This cannot be edited through an option file and therefore PES feels a more licensed game once the team, player and kits have been edited in (this takes about 30-60mins to achieve). I'd much rather being playing a season mode where I achieve Champions League qualification, than have a game that doesn't allow this but has the correct team and player names from the off. Gameplay wise there is no competition.

Avatar image for dsd27

No video review?

Avatar image for VooDooPC

How many hours were spent with the fidget spinner?

Avatar image for Musharasur

I bet EA spent a ton of money to obtain the FIFA license. FIFA basically has EA by the balls until 2022.

If you want soccer/football games to truly improve I believe supporting PES is the better thing to do. Show EA that licensing does not matter and hopefully the money saved can go into actual development rather than lining the pockets of the corrupt FIFA organization...

Avatar image for cvetkovic333

@Musharasur: EA can put her license ... We need only a couple of clicks and a few seconds to insert all licenses into PES,and enjoy best football sim ever.

Avatar image for livedreamplay

@Musharasur: For me it's not a matter of supporting one company or the other, I buy whichever game I like best that year, the one I fell I'll have more fun with. And lately it's been mostly FIFA...

I could care less about the licenses, just make the game fun and I'll get it...

Avatar image for gotrekfabian

I can understand why people play this but this needs saying:


Avatar image for deactivated-5aafce418120b

@gotrekfabian: well i hate to tell you this but....

**** EA!

Avatar image for gotrekfabian

@kevone0123: lol

Avatar image for goatboy77

Does anyone remember the tackle/stumble animation on pes 2017? It happened regardless of the tackler/tacklee stats. It became a game breaker for me. I've noticed it's still in the 2018 demo albeit to a lesser degree. Please tell me they've corrected this for the full game, I'm not hopeful as many forums for last year's title never mentioned it.

Avatar image for bez1212

Can you really licenses as a negative. It isn't like they can just go out and get them. Ea made that option impossible. Pes should be praised for still be8ng in the game. Seeing as nearly every other sport ea has in its pocket they have no competition. Nhl ?? Or Madden?? Shame though they can't sort the menus and other things the gameplay is spot on sort the rest out. If I was them I'd go on into a 2 year cycle. Push EA back

Avatar image for livedreamplay

Definitely better gameplay than last years, but I still can't get into it due to the atmosphere. Even though the models and textures are not bad, it still feels like a game from around 2008 when it comes to the atmosphere on the pitch. Also the game modes, I can't get excited for either of them, and just playing kick off isn't always the solution. They need to polish it a lot more to make me play it more than I do FIFA.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 More Info

  • First Released Sep 12, 2017
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • + 3 more
    • PlayStation 4
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    Average Rating72 Rating(s)
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    Sports, Team-Based, Simulation, Soccer
    Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.
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