While this installment isn't as significant as last year's game, it's still a big step forward in the evolution of the franchise. The controls are better this year than in past games, based on what Konami calls "Real Touch+," which includes more intuitive dribbling, deking, passing, and striking on the pitch. It's not just the direction of the ball and choosing the amount of force; the player's body gets more into it, including his chest, shoulders, thighs, and parts of the foot (front, sides, and heel). Some of it feels automated, mind you, but by playing with the analog sticks, the control seems tighter, more responsive, and lifelike, utilizing real physics. And watching the players with these new animations and controls makes it feel like you're watching a real match on TV. Along with regular game modes, some new additions are worth calling out, including the new three-versus-three online co-op option to pit teams of three players against one another (or you can opt for two-on-two if you can't find anyone else). And then there's Random Selection Match mode, where your team is made up of randomized players, but you can set variables, such as teams, leagues, and nationalities to choose from. Back from last year are online competitions (play against others in short seasons). Those who are really good at this game should opt for the uber-competitive PES League. There's also PES 2018's MyClub, which works both off- and online. You'll meticulously draft new players and build your dream team. Management types will love Master League and Challenge mode, for dealing with matters off the pitch, while Become a Legend is a deep, single-player career mode.
There's not much to complain about this year. There were a few issues in matchmaking online, but more often than not it works fine. Fans of Real Madrid won't be able to see that logo on the jerseys because of a licensing dispute with FIFA, so instead you'll see "MD White." Goalkeeper artificial intelligence isn't the best, but it's passable (such as letting no-brainer saves squeak past the goalie). Menu screens aren't as slick as their competitors', either. But overall, this is a stellar soccer sim that bests its predecessor. If you didn't buy last year's game, picking up PES 2018 is a no-brainer for fans of the series. If you invested in last year's version, there's less of a reason to shell out the cash for the new disc or download, but it's still the best in the series to date.