FIFA 18 is finally here – but is it worth getting? Or does Konami’s PES 2018 steal the crown?
We’ve broken down every facet of both games – from graphics to gameplay – to see which one comes out on top.
Let’s kick things off.
FIFA 18 – Graphics
FIFA 18 is once again powered by the Frostbite engine, only this year it’s been tweaked and refined.
Yes, it’s still prone to weird glitches and bugs, but on the whole, it’s tremendously impressive. Improved lighting and player models are the most noticeable improvements.
Star players such as Cristiano Ronaldo look almost lifelike in the replays, while an improved animation systems allows for more realistic movement across the board.
Stadiums are teeming with intricate details, too – whether it’s cameramen snapping away near the stands, or stewards containing the bustling crowds.
Speaking of which, crowds have had a huge boost this year – with more sophisticated models and animations.
The result is that you can now celebrate with them – watching as they scramble down the stands to try and reach you.
EA has subtly changed how the stadiums are lit – so if you’re playing in South America, a hazy, sun-kissed look helps it feel very different to if you’re playing in Manchester.
Managers have been given a much-needed spit and polish, too – now looking almost as good as the players themselves. They’re still not quite there, but it’s a huge improvement.
When compared with PES 2018, EA’s game holds up well. There’s more sheen and gloss in FIFA 18, but PES offers cleaner, more crisp visuals.
There’s no ‘one is better than the other’ this year regarding visuals, it just comes down to preference.
PES 2018 – Graphics
FIFA 18 may have Frostbite, but don’t write off PES when it comes to graphics.
Konami’s game is powered by the Fox Engine – the same powerhouse behind the likes of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
And how good did that look, right?
This year, the team have overhauled the animation and player models – making everything look and feel more realistic than ever.
Players move convincingly, with a real sense of weight – particularly when changing direction and tackling.
Up close, they’ve lost the ‘plastic’ look to their skin – with licensed team stars (Lionel Messi and co.) looking especially well detailed.
While there’s still some variation in quality – unlicensed team players don’t quite boast the same level of detail – models are generally of a much higher standard across the board.
There’s bags of detail in each stadium, too.
Stewards patrol up the stands, cameramen dart up and down the line – there’s so much going on, yet the game still retains a silky smooth 60FPS throughout.
Improved lighting effects, motion blur and depth of field help add a TV-style gloss to replays, while realistic crowds generate a real sense of occasion to every match.
To see PES at its very best, make sure to pick up on PC.
The graphical requirements have been notched up this year – off the back of widespread criticism over last year’s PC port. That means if you struggled to run last PES 2017, you’ll have your work cut out this year.
However, providing your rig is powerful enough, PES 2018 in true 4K resolution at Ultra settings is something special.
FIFA 18 – Gameplay
There’s a touch of input delay, which takes away from the sensation of control – so it doesn’t feel as responsive as Konami’s game.
Players feel heavier and so sprinting down the touchline and changing direction can take some getting used to.
There’s far more emphasis on passing the ball around and creating space than getting it to your best player and bombing down the wing.
Crosses have been reworked, allowing for whipped balls in, while through balls – although hard to get right – are incredibly satisfying to pull off.
New features such as quick subs (a press of R2 / RT when prompted can instantly swap a player in) are welcome and help stop annoying breaks in play.
Shooting is responsive and rewarding – although do be prepared to have plenty of shots blocked from the rather aggressive AI.
There’s no denying FIFA 18 is fun to play, but it doesn’t quite give players enough room to show off what they can do.
In PES you’ll often have a huge amount of space to make those darting runs with Lionel Messi, or charges down the wing with Neymar.
In EA’s game, space is a commodity and you have to work so much harder to create it.
PES 2018 – Gameplay
It’s here where PES really shines.
No other sports game in recent years has proven so addictive and well balanced.
Watching the ball deftly float into the path of your striker or glide through the air past the goalkeeper just feels so satisfying.
Some have complained the ball feels too heavy, but we’d disagree. It’s as perfect as it can be.
Passing is crisp and responsive, while through balls and crosses are easy to pull off but hard to master.
Plus, with the tap of L2 / LT you can have full control over direction, weight and power of passes and shots.
Playing FIFA 18 afterwards felt ever-so-slightly sluggish, largely due to an ever-so-slight input delay damaging the sense of control you have over the on-screen action.
One thing that can be hard, though, is scoring from outside of the box.
The power bar is incredibly sensitive, with just the slightest touch making a huge difference.
Many goals during our extensive play-throughs came from crosses and simple one-on-ones.
Thankfully, there’s a decent skills training section where you can hone everything from lofted through balls to free kicks and penalties.
Speaking of which, free kicks and set pieces are, without a doubt, better than FIFA this year.
Thanks to simple camera angles and execution, free kicks now genuinely feel like scoring opportunities, rather than an inevitable shot over the crossbar.
The only real drawback are the goalkeepers, which really struggle with crosses and high balls.
They flap unrealistically at even the most basic header, and often run around like headless chickens if the area becomes too crowded.
Konami must fix this with a ‘Day 1’ patch or else they’ll line themselves up for a hammering from fans.
Oh, and the commentary is truly awful.
Peter Drury does his best but Jim Beglin’s is an absolute joke (Sorry, Jim).
He regurgitates lines far too frequently and they often have nothing to do with on the on-screen action.
Cringe-worthy ‘rhymes’ are used to hammer home points and add personality, but these fail miserably.
‘Stoic and heroic’ is just one line of ‘Beglin banter’ that’ll have you reaching for the mute button.
The final straw came when he praised a keeper for almost flapping it into his own net. We advise you turn it off.
FIFA 18 – Package
This is where FIFA 18 really blows PES out of the water. From what we’ve played of The Journey: Hunter Returns, we love it.
You can check out what happens at the start of Alex Hunter’s new adventure here.
In short, expect more meaningful choices and the ability to shape how the young star looks.
Career Mode has been revamped to now use Frostbite-powered cutscenes, while Ultimate Team returns in full force – complete with new pack animations and refined gameplay.
PES 2018 – Package
PES may not have The Journey, but it’s still got a few tricks up its sleeve.
There’s a new mode supporting 3v3 and 2v2, allowing you to team up with friends or other users to compete against the world.
Random selection match lets you play with teams made up of players from different clubs, while a new UI lays everything out in a more accessible way than last year.
Master League and myClub return with pre-season tournaments, an improved transfer system and new presentation elements, including pre-match interviews and locker room scenes.
There are also a number of legends available to play with – including Diego Maradona (fresh off the back of an out-of-court settlement after claiming Konami used his image rights without permission).
Plus, you can play with Usain Bolt in the game… bizarre, but we’ll take him.
FIFA 18 is a far superior game than FIFA 17 – but there are still some issues.
Frostbite, for all its good looks, still brings with it numerous annoying glitches and errors. We hope EA patches these in the coming weeks.
However, when it comes to gameplay, the shift towards a more tactical experience is welcome – encouraging you to really think about the game, and rewarding you amply when you do.
We’ve haven’t had a long enough go on FIFA 18 on the Nintendo Switch, but from what we’ve seen, it’s an incredibly impressive package, too.
PES 2018, on the other hand, is vastly different – offering a faster, arguably more fun, football experience. In fact, it’s such a shame we won’t be seeing a Switych version this year – it would really lend itself to be played on the move.
It’s such a close call, but this year the better football game is PES 2018.
However, if you’re after a game that’s crammed full of features, and has an impressive story mode, then FIFA 18 is the way to go.
Well done, Konami!
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