Friday, October 01, 2021
Remember PES? Perhaps you knew it better as Pro Evolution Soccer, or maybe even ISS if you’re a bit older? Konami’s premier football series is no stranger to reinventing itself, and this time around, it’s back as eFootball, a full free-to-play football game, the kind that fans have been asking for for years now. Except, well, it’s not a full game at all - not yet, anyway. What it is, instead, is a bit of a disaster.
eFootball’s launch on Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S feels more like a beta test than a real, full-blown release, and Konami has said as much itself, admitting that its September arrival was “basically a demo” earlier this year. But the problem is, eFootball 2022 doesn’t have the words “beta” or “demo” or “early access” next to it on the Microsoft Store. No, it’s just come into the world like any other video game release, even complete with an (admittedly small) achievement list and everything. For anyone just deciding to try out this free-to-play football game, this is eFootball, and it’s not a pretty sight.
We’re not just talking about the visuals here, although we’ll get to them later. But even opening up the menu for the first time, it’s easy to be taken aback by just how stark everything is. There’s a lag to simply changing selection, and there’s no real way to tell which option you’re highlighting. It looks more like a menu for a mobile game, and let’s be real, that’s probably because it is. It’s a bad first impression, and things only go downhill from there.
At launch, eFootball has a miserly handful of options - playing online or locally as one of nine fully licensed clubs, or taking part in a ten-day event where you can pick one of those classic Aldi-style knock-off clubs (Newcastle WB for life) and try and win a game or two, with three chances to do so. Even here, once you’ve picked your club of choice, you’re stuck playing with that team, and only that team, for the full ten-day duration of the event. I’m just lucky Allan Saint-Maximin is as good in eFootball 2022 as he is in real life, or I’d really be struggling.
Once you get out onto the pitch, things aren’t much better. The development team at Konami took a year off from PES last year, offering only a small squad update rather than a full game for PES 2021, giving itself two years to build eFootball from the ground up using a new engine. The switch to Unreal Engine hasn’t been a smooth one, that’s for sure, and the seams begin to show when you’re in a match. Defenders and attackers jostle for possession in a bizarre, twitchy dance that sees both players sliding and vibrating next to each other. Players frequently remain static as a pass sails past them, running away from the ball or just slowly turning on the spot. More than any football game in recent memory, you can see the gears turning as the game decides who won the battle for possession. It just makes for a football title that isn’t all that fun to play.
You alright keeper? #PS5Share, #eFootball2022 pic.twitter.com/DGyEgXHXEG— Matt Lorrigan (@MattLorrigan) October 1, 2021
You alright keeper? #PS5Share, #eFootball2022 pic.twitter.com/DGyEgXHXEG
The visuals, too, leave much to be desired. Player faces are pretty shocking, and while you’d maybe expect lesser-known footballers from smaller teams to have the same potato faces that plagued PES in previous years, you’d expect that at least Messi, the man on the main menu, to look somewhat human on the pitch. Spoiler: he doesn’t. Player movements and animations are a bit rigid, and you know how I said the seams were showing behind the scenes earlier? Well you can literally see the seams where a player’s forearm attaches to their upper arm.
The worst thing, though, is that while there are plenty of problems, it’s not terrible. Konami has been making good football games for a long time now, and you can still see that talent lurking just beneath the surface. A new dribbling system is smartly introduced, and crosses feel pretty good, whipping into the box for strikers to connect with. If this was the debut football game from a third party, coming into the market to compete with FIFA and PES, it would be fine. Not great, not up there with both of those franchises, but it would be fairly impressive for a first effort. Of all the sports games, I’ve always thought that football games must be one of the hardest to make. With 22 players on a pitch, each having to move and act in a way that’s both realistic and fun, it certainly can’t be easy. eFootball seems to confirm that it’s not.
eFootball 2022’s lacklustre launch is all the more disappointing due to how much potential the game has. This is a new football game from the people who have developed FIFA’s greatest competitor, PES, a series that was once the king of virtual soccer for most of the noughties. Even in more recent memory, you could argue it bested EA’s juggernaut in quality for a few years in the mid-to-late 2010s. The potential for this team to create a new PES game, given two years rather than the usual one, and disrupt the annual release schedule by making it free-to-play, is huge. It could have piled the pressure onto FIFA, as players moved away from paying £60-70 a year on a new football instalment, choosing to play its free-to-play competitor instead. It had the potential to disrupt the market for sports games, which has always relied on annual full-price releases, in a big way.
That potential is still there, in a way. Konami has promised further updates to eFootball 2022, with more modes, more teams, and more gameplay options - there’s even certain types of shots and passes that haven’t made their way into the game at launch, but will arrive later this year. At some point next year, the game will launch its second season, eFootball 2023. And between now and then, the game will be regularly updated, not hidden away until the reveal of the next version as before, but in the public eye.
But eFootball’s disastrous initial launch may have tainted the brand a touch too much before it’s even managed to properly kick-off. eFootball 2022’s barren beginning has alienated a lot of old-school PES fans, and it is, incredibly, the worst-rated game on Steam right now. Not one of the worst - it’s right at the bottom of the pile. eFootball still has the chance to make things right, but it’s gonna take a miraculous comeback to turn things around.
Important info for #eFootball fans pic.twitter.com/Tp9RFhmXp9— eFootball (@play_eFootball) October 1, 2021
Important info for #eFootball fans pic.twitter.com/Tp9RFhmXp9
Friday, October 01, 2021 @ 03:43 PM
Friday, October 01, 2021 @ 09:44 PM
Friday, October 01, 2021 @ 10:41 PM
Saturday, October 02, 2021 @ 03:04 PM
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Sunday, October 03, 2021 @ 03:23 AM
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Monday, October 04, 2021 @ 09:40 AM
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