This year is one of the biggest for football games, as FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer are the closest in quality they have been for years, and having seen FIFA 18 a few weeks ago, we were extremely interested in what PES 2018 has to offer. At E3 this year our wish was granted, as we got a presentation from Robbye Ron explaining the changes coming to the game, as well as some hands-on time to see them in action.
To start with dribbling, we were told by Ron that animations had been improved, and that things such as running and jumping "look more natural". On top of this, players receive the ball with a number of different parts of their body, including head, chest, and even the stomach, depending on the situation, and if the player is particularly skilled they can receive the ball in individual ways like with the heel. This is one of the areas we actually don't think worked too well in the build we played, as players often came close to the ball either during a misplaced pass from the opposition or a pass from a teammate, but didn't receive the ball, instead letting it roll right past them, killing the flow and producing some frustrating moments where potential interceptions/passes were not capitalised upon.
Physicality has also been tweaked, especially in terms of shielding the ball. Ron said during the presentation that in previous games running into a player felt very unnatural, but in PES 2018 players dynamically place their body in between the defender and the ball to keep possession, rather than simply running into danger. This was one of the clearest new features when we played, and it not only helped us keep the ball when attacking, but also added a layer of immersion, as this is how players keep possession in real life football too, allowing you to hold up the play and assess your options should you need to.
We were told this realism will extend to ball bounce as well, with Ron using the example of a free kick when the ball will deflect off the wall and cause the keeper problems in the danger area, as deflections should now behave more realistically. We didn't notice anything especially obvious in this area, but nothing stood out as unrealistic either, so we'd need some more time with the game to notice whether deflections behave as you'd expect or whether they simply go to the feet of players.
Ron highlighted curved passes with the outside of the foot in PES 2018 as well, being part of the new ball physics he celebrated, and although these were clearly obvious in the matches we played, it wasn't that big a deal when you consider that FIFA has had these for a while. Regardless, the option to bend a pass around a defender is a welcome one, and helps produce unique and satisfying attacking opportunities.
Some PES fans have allegedly been complaining about the guidance arrows on free kicks and penalties, so these have been totally removed on PES 2018, meaning the screen looks plainer and you have to rely on your own skills to direct a free kick in. Although we didn't experience either of these set pieces in the matches we played, we can imagine this will make scoring all the more satisfying, although for newcomers this might make things a little more tricky without the arrows to tell you where to aim and how to make the most of things. Kickoffs have also been tweaked slightly, so that you can change between one- and two-man kickoffs with the click of a button.