Rating : 3/10
Pro Evolution Soccer has been an interesting game for a while now. It was once a football game called Winning Eleven that focused on its domestic Japanese audience. After finding itself a niche market in the west, it would be rebranded internationally as Pro Evolution Soccer in the early 2000s. For most of the PlayStation 2’s lifecycle, PES would dominate FIFA, and would often be considered the superior footballing experience.
After the switch to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 generation, Konami struggled to get PES up to par. Whilst EA would race away with their flagship football franchise, PES was stuck spinning its wheels in the mud. With a lack of licenses for official teams, outdated visuals and mechanics, the series was languishing and would continue to do so for the next fifteen years. Even when the series began to find form, the damage was already done. PES 2021 would be the final game before another rebranding. One thing that has held down the series since the end of the PlayStation 2 era was Konami’s inability to create a successful online infrastructure. Whilst other big sports games were integrating online play to get friends playing together remotely, Konami was stubborn and could never truly create a fun online experience.
Of course, at this point, the correct decision would be to rebrand your global franchise and create a new football game that relies completely on that online infrastructure. Konami’s move to rebrand PES as eFootball 2022 was short-sighted in many ways. Another poor decision was moving away from the Fox Engine to make use of Unreal Engine 4.
PES 2021 was a great step forward for the series, and it seemed Konami had finally got their head around the Fox Engine. Moving to another engine was just another set back, especially an outsourced engine that your team had never worked with before. It was an issue EA had when moving to the Frostbite engine and the kind of change Konami themselves had struggled with countless times. So it’s clear Konami has done everything in the lead up to eFootball 2022’s launch to ensure the game will be a complete disaster.
Unsurprisingly, it lives up to the billing of a complete disaster quite well. I usually start with positives in a review, but I’m not certain I can pull one out from the carcass of this game. I could say Konami has improved the menus, but it’s not exactly the kind of improvement that deserves a roaring ovation. Once beyond the menu screen that Konami have so kindly redesigned for us, players will be introduced to two game modes; online or offline.
eFootball 2022 hasn’t launched with any career, tournament or league modes, with those expected to come later (at a cost). It’s bare bones off the bat, practically confirming the game’s incomplete state. What I noticed before anything else is that the offline match only has nine available clubs, whereas the online mode seems significantly more varied. I’m not sure why the online list is so different, or why offline is so limited, but going online is the only way to get full access to all the teams in eFootball 2022.
Either way we dip into an offline game to see how it plays. It’s important to note at this point that eFootball runs at 1280p or 720p. There’s nothing beyond that for this game on PC, it’s one or the other. Every game starts with a strange cutscene where players step off the team coach looking like they’ve just shipped in from a rave fuelled by illegal narcotics. On the pitch, things don’t look much better. Players’ models look stiff, all whilst wearing kits that look like they were crafted with cardboard. Grass resolution is so low that the pitch just degrades into a green static blur when the camera moves. Admittedly, that’s an option that could be cured with a better resolution, but I don’t have that available to me.
Gameplay is a mess, seemingly trying to create a hybrid of arcade football and realism. For the most part, it just feels like you’re kicking a concrete slab around under water. Players feel like they’re constantly running through a thick porridge, yet the visuals on screen don’t match that at all. When holding down the sprint button, the players have an animation that shows that they’re sprinting, but they don’t actually go anywhere. It reminds me of those old football game arcade cabinets I used to play as a kid. Everything is far too slow, making for an unsatisfying experience. There’s no way of playing a game of eFootball that feels satisfactory to me, as a football fan. You can’t string together smooth passes to create goals to be proud of, long range shots are too timid to be worthwhile. Most goals just rely on the ball bouncing around and spluttering to a halt in front of your hapless striker.
Relying on the game’s physics to churn out chances is a key strategy, given the physics of the defenders. I’m not completely sure what the aim was with the game’s collision system, but if you told me someone shoved Mr. Blobby into a zorb and motion captured him running into things, I’d believe you. Players have no reaction, no real sense of awareness and they tend to just dawdle on the ball when they receive it. One of the game’s biggest problems is the players just stopping once they receive the ball, I imagine because they’re trying to process why their likeness was allowed to be used in this game.
After bashing my head against the AI, I hauled my concrete ball online to see what that experience was like. You enter an event and aim to win three or five games, and depending on results, you earn a certain amount of in-game currency. Seemingly pointless currency, I’m inclined to add. Going online is actually a fine experience when compared to Konami’s previous attempts to take their footballing games online. Connectivity is strong, and the game often feels more stable than it’s FIFA 22 counterpart. Given this game’s reception though, it probably doesn’t come as a surprise to hear that the player base isn’t too strong. Out of peak times, searching for an online game can take upwards of 10 minutes. On Steam, eFootball 2022’s daily player count is a fraction of last year’s game.
It seems obvious that Konami has placed all their eggs in the basket of eFootball 2022 being a long term game as a service. A lack of content on release hurts that longevity, with players given the option to play an offline match, or participate in the game’s bare-bones online where players play an awful football game and leave with nothing worthwhile. eFootball 2022 isn’t just a bad football game, it’s a bad videogame. It took Konami most of the 2010s to take Pro Evolution Soccer from a mediocre football game to something respectable, and can’t be expected to turn eFootball 2022 around quickly. Playing it sucked all of the enjoyment out of football, and I can’t help but feel it would have been better served being released as a digital pachinko game.
Given Konami’s commitment to gambling games over the last few years, you’d think they’d be averse to making poor gambling decisions.
Doesn’t talk about Persona to avoid screaming in anger