Pro Evolution Soccer has been improving since a slow start to this console generation. Last year's game was superb, but the development team at Konami is not taking anything for granted. For example, PES 2018 does not feel like 2017. Considering the quality of that game, this is no small risk in the name of progress. So far the team's desire to push forward feels like the right move.
There is still more news to come for PES 2018 – including what licenses are being added – but for now, there's quite enough to contemplate and get excited about regarding its gameplay. Here are a few things I noticed.
Dribbling & Feel
PES 2018 ups the ante in the series' longstanding quest for making gamers feel like they're in total control. Watching players dribble, it seems like you can see more touches of the ball and there is a corresponding level of fine control when moving around with just the left analog. Players feel like they're appropriately addressing the ball with both their feet, as if you're watching them move as people and not collections of animations.
Perhaps to accommodate this control, the game as a whole is slower than last year. Overall, it's more deliberate – but not clunky. While you feel your player's movements more, the tradeoff is knowing when you can or cannot take an extra touch (and with which foot) or have the time, space, and ability to dribble your way out of a situation. There were times when I simply would lose the ball because I was being too ambitious or took too big of a touch of the ball that forced it to roll out of my possession.
I'm not sure what it's a factor of, but shorter passes feel a little slower as well, but in my time with the game I didn't notice a big difference in how shots, corners, or free kicks felt.
One new aspect of the game that goes hand-in-hand with ball control is how seamlessly PES 2018 integrates its new auto-shielding. This means that players are constantly dribbling while fighting off other players. The best part is that it all feels natural and not like you're just watching this canned sequence or that everything's already been pre-determined. This is a huge feature that doesn't sound earth-shattering, but is one that is an important step forward.
Going along with the new way that players feel when they move and dribble, players overall show new animations in how they handle the ball with parts of their body other than their feet. I've seen new traps off the chest, pulling the ball down with a leg high in the air, and other ways to try and snare the ball. There were a couple times when I honestly wasn't sure how my player was going to control the ball, and then I 'd see a new animation that made total sense and allowed me to corral it.
I enjoyed my time with the game, and still have much more to comb over the next time I play it. One of the things that I want to check out next time are ball pickups. There were times when my player was very close to the ball without another player near – close enough that I expected my player to gain possession of the ball – but it rolled by instead. Not sure if this is due to the slower pace of the game and that I expected my player to get there in time or if it's due to something else. It didn't happen a lot, but it did a few times.
For more on the game, check out its initial features announcement as well as my wishlist for this year's game (written before E3).
PES 2018 comes out on September 12 for PS4, Xbox One, PC, PS3, and Xbox 360.
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