Even non-soccer fans love to play EA Sports’ “FIFA” video game franchise. The series usually produces one of the better sports games in a given year and is a big seller during the annual fall sports game blitz.
But “FIFA” isn’t the only soccer game in town. Konami’s rival “Pro Evolution Soccer” series has consistently been hailed by critics in roughly equal measure since the dawn of the latest console generation in 2014.
According to GameRankings.com, the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One versions of each franchise’s last four entries cumulatively average around an eight out of 10. “FIFA” rates at 82.5 percent, while “PES” is slightly better at 83.9 percent.
This year’s editions are, once again, close in quality. For anyone looking to drown their sorrows after the USMNT’s failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, or those who simply haven’t made up their mind on which soccer game is worth their money, here’s a look at the pros and cons of each title.
With three quality, time-consuming modes available, EA Sports’ franchise reigns king in the digital soccer world in this regard. FIFA Ultimate Team (FUT) is boosted by new Squad Battles, which caters to those who prefer AI opponents. Career Mode adds the drama of transfer talks, while Pro Clubs remains solid despite few notable changes.
The Journey, a narrative story mode, returns for a sophomore effort that continues to follow Alex Hunter’s professional career in Europe. It’s solid, if unspectacular, but “PES” offers nothing like this.
In terms of presentation, “FIFA” remains unrivaled in its sport. Teams, players and stadiums are authentic, feeding a level of immersion that’s on par with the finest modern sports simulation games.
If there’s one area “FIFA” stands to grow, it’s the actual in-game action. Gameplay is by no means broken; it’s pretty sound, really. But, a few elements require refinement. Standard passes feel weak and slow, yet too often wind up successful compared to how they look. Additionally, the balance between offense and defense as swung back toward the attack thanks to more new tools available.
Note that Nintendo Switch owners’ only option among the two franchises is “FIFA.” While the on-pitch action plays nearly identically to the other consoles’ version — although perhaps more similarly to “FIFA 17” — it lacks The Journey and Squad Battles modes.
‘Pro Evolution Soccer 2018’
The strength of “PES 2018” is, far and away, what happens between the lines over 90 minutes — OK, it’s much shorter than that with the standard accelerated clock.
This game achieves a heightened level of realism in terms of how matches play out, thanks to more believable speed of movement. It may not play at lightning speed, but watching someone play a game of “PES” will look more like it does on TV.
The key gameplay buzzword feature, called Real Touch+, goes a long way in making little things like using various parts of a players’ body to corral passes and set up shots create authentic action scenarios. It all adds up to a more accurate simulation of The Beautiful Game.
Unfortunately, the rest of “PES” still lags behind its rival. Its FUT counterpart, MyClub, can’t hold a candle to EA Sports’ tried-and-true Ultimate Team formula. The same can be said of Become A Legend career mode falling short of the “FIFA” version. Master League franchise mode is acceptable, at least, for those who enjoy being a manager.
The most critical shortcoming of “PES” is its lack of most licensed content. While the star players people love like Lionel Messi are there, his FC Barcelona club is one of only a few authentic team names in the game. This is typical of the franchise, which just cannot keep up with “FIFA” in this regard. It’s one of the few quality, annual sports titles with such a drawback in 2017.
For some, the lack of licensed content in “PES” always will be a deal-breaker. Those with an open mind who can overlook the shortcoming and most often play their digital soccer against friends are likely to be more happy with “Pro Evolution Soccer 18.”
For the rest, “FIFA 18” offers so much more to do outside of couch or online multiplayer. The in-match play is perfectly acceptable, and this game has enough to offer that it could realistically keep gamers occupied consistently until next year’s release.