I’ve been reviewing PES and FIFA games for such a long time now, yet every year I find myself really excited for the next iteration in the series, could PES 2018 topple FIFA this year?.

This year, the team at Konami have got the jump on EA – They were quick to put out an online beta & demo, we’re still waiting for any sort of demo from EA. Clearly Konami are confident about tis years title and from what I have been playing, they are really onto a winner.

Let’s get my annoyances about the game out the way first, there aren’t that many. Normally, I would take a swipe about the lack of licenses in the game, it’s much better, but I’d still love to have proper names and kits for all teams. Only Liverpool and Arsenal seem to have had that treatment in the Premier League. There are still the three main competitors, Champions League, Europa League and Asian Champions League and a host of foreign leagues so you are likely to come across plenty of officially licensed teams as you play.

I’m also going to moan about the commentators, it feels like every game you play in is a cup final, or every chance you get is the most important moment in the match, it would be great to have seen a more realistic approach to what is actually going on, a bit like in the Madden titles.

On the pitch PES 2018 is something special. You can see the work that has gone into improving player animations and off the ball movement. Players are much more intelligent, attackers are always looking to move into space while defenders are much tougher to get around. Even if you have a player with blistering pace, you’ll still need to think about your next move otherwise a good defender will make sure you don’t get past. Tackling is satisfying, assuming you time it right, the referees seem pretty fair this year.

Each game flows well, and the natural movements of the players gives you a better sense of control, dribbling is tight and it really feels as though you can pressure a defender into a mistake thanks to the clever controls to performs tricks and flicks. More experienced players will take advantage of precision passing, and assists turned off, but if you are more of a casual player, you’ll still feel like you are able to ping the ball around with ease. Players are now able to control incoming passes with different parts of their bodies more naturally depending on the height and speed of the ball, which means we see less odd looking moves from them.

Goalkeepers unfortunately still seem to be a problem. They are great at shot stopping, but they have some terrible mistakes in them and it happens too often. Routine balls suddenly become a real problem, with the keepers reacting in odd ways leaving your defence in a mess. They spend too long on back passes and then distribute them terribly (which is realistic if you are Joe Hart). It happens enough to be noticeable but considering the rest of the on pitch improvements, it could be worse.

Set pieces have also been reworked to be simpler to execute, especially penalties, which is something for EA to take note off for FIFA 18.

Konami have always been keen to promote how realistic each player looks and some of this year’s likenesses are incredible, thanks to individual partnerships with clubs, you’ll even see tattoos on players, I’d still rather see fully licensed leagues though (I know I said I wouldn’t mention it again!). Presentation wise, the stadiums all look fantastic, thanks to the upgraded lighting, and the audio really adds to the atmosphere in matches, something I felt PES titles have suffered from. There have been a couple of times where I though a team had scored and the fans of that team had thought the same only to hear the collective groan when they realise it hadn’t gone in. It’s the small details that can really make a difference in sports games.

Master League makes a welcome return, with some great improvements such as Pre-Season tournaments, a transfer system that I can actually understand and the excellent pre-match interviews. I found the scouting to be a but hit and miss, but it feels like Konami are on the right track. Be a Legend is back for another year, which gives you a chance to create your own player and lead them to become a huge football store. I suspect it’s only in place because FIFA have the Be a Pro mode, It’s not a mode I particularly enjoyed playing.

Unfortunately, because the Live Servers aren’t available until launch we weren’t able to test the online features of the game, such as MyClub and the full 11vs11 – but we will update the review to let you know what we really think. You can however play local 2v2 and 3v3, it works better than I thought it would, I had a great time playing some games with the family.

PES 2018 is the best football title around and I’ll be surprised if FIFA is as good this year. The attention to detail with player animations and the realistic control of the ball make this a great title to play. If the online modes work well it will only add to how much you’ll have with this game. Based on how well the online beta went before the game’s release I can only be hopeful.

EA should be worried.

Thanks to Konami for supporting TiX