The long-running video game rivalry between Fifa and Pro Evolution Soccer is every bit as partisan as Arsenal v Spurs or City v United. At least 90 per cent of football sim fans make their respective buying decisions long before either game hits the shelves: PES season ticket holders decry the opposition as all-style, no-substance, while Fifa disciples mock their foe’s licensing issues and off-key presentation. There’s little reasoning with either side.
The 2017-18 editions of the big two reveal those preconceptions to be built upon half-truths. PES 2018 does suffer from publisher Konami’s lack of riches comparative to EA’s, with Man Blue, Man Red and North East London duking it out for top-flight honours. Yet its on-field action is a touch more substantive, the smoothest passing system seen in a video game especially worthy of praise.
But in a sport whose very foundations centre on vanity and bragging rights, where Sunday League pretenders attempt stepovers in pro-aping luminescent boots, it’s snobbish to dismiss the stylings of Fifa. On the pitch it’s very good if not quite excellent, and off, it dwarfs all contemporaries, Pro Evo included.
The majority of fans really do care that all major top flight clubs are present and correct, with authentic faces, kits and – increasingly – stadia. La Liga and MLS join the Premier League in having TV-accurate presentation overlays. Devotees of Ultimate Team, meanwhile, share stories of spending 200+ hours in the mode building teams and completing squad building challenges, in addition to time spent playing matches. I know, because I did exactly that in Fifa 17. Fifa’s omnipresent card-trading mode is again bolstered this year with offline-only squad battles, where defeating celebrity- or community-created dream teams earns mammoth in-game rewards. At ￡50, the exhaustive depth of this mode represents more-than-respectable value.
For the purist who considers on-pitch action paramount, Fifa does look to resolve some longstanding gripes. From a player-control perspective, that means a completely reworked crossing mechanic; simplified to a single tap of the square button on fifa 18 coins PS4 for a default ball into the box, and a double-tap for a low cross. Default, however, is an understatement; players truly whip the ball through the area this year, causing havoc for defenders and meaning a fast-winger/strong-header combo is often devastating.
Also upgraded are off-the-ball runs, low shots, a new halfway-house standing tackle and goalkeeper awareness. After years of accusations that net-minders are broken, there are now times where they feel too strong, emphatically repelling deliveries into the six-yard box (likely a design call implemented to prevent that new crossing system from becoming too deadly) and palming low shots away with such ferocity that throws-in near the corner flag stockpile in record numbers. Better that than too many goals conceded through flaky glove work, although it won’t be a surprise if the first patch downgrades the Hulk fists.
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