We’re about three weeks away from getting our hands on the eFootball 2022 demo, which drops on September 30. Up until this point, all we’ve seen are two poorly made trailers that, if we’re being honest, have done more to hurt the game than help it. As certain members of the press are getting closed-door access to the game, two gameplay videos have emerged. Now, it’s important to note that there are often fake videos that leak around this time of the gaming cycle. Just last week we were privy to one which was obviously some PC-modded version of an older PES game. However, these “leaked” videos seem to have gotten the okay from Konami as they are still up on YouTube. There are three games to take a look at:
- Manchester United (Human) vs. Arsenal (AI)
- Manchester United (Human) vs. Arsenal (Human)
- Manchester United (Human) vs. FC Barcelona (Human)
Before we get into what I like/don’t like, it’s important to note a few things. First and foremost, this footage looks to be captured on the PS5 as you can occasionally see one of the guys holding a DualSense controller. This isn’t surprising considering Konami’s long-standing relationship with Sony. Second, these two guys aren’t very good PES players as you can clearly see a lot of incorrect button inputs for instances where they should hit “shoot” but end up hitting another button.
I won’t comment on graphics much because the footage was obviously not a direct capture from a capture card, so it’s hard to properly ascertain how the game will look on our screens. There are a few areas where I will briefly touch on the graphics, but for the most part we’ll give Konami a pass there. Lastly, there’s no telling how recent this build is as the rosters seem outdated. That said, the teams involved are wearing their 2021-22 kits.
What I Like
New Match Screen Intros
Apart from the horrible color scheme choices (blue/yellow for starting elevens and pink background behind the club logos) the new pre-match screens look pretty cool. There’s a good balance between stadium shots, players warming up, dressing room scenes, and the tunnel entrances. I’m sure these will get repetitive after a while and most players will skip over them, but they do look nice and the players are easily identifiable as they walk into the stadium donning suits while carrying their toiletry bags.
Player Models Look Realistic
Apart from goal cutscenes where all the players are the same height, the player models look good. There are details such as tattoos and there’s a noticeable size difference between players. Kit textures look fairly good and face scans seem to be fairly recent, possibly from when Konami updated eFootball PES 2021 Season Update for the 2020 Euros.
It’s worth mentioning that these are two partner clubs, which normally means they receive the full support of Konami’s art team. In other words, the real test will be the generic players that make up the majority of lesser leagues across Europe and South America.
Old Trafford Looks Good
Piggybacking off the player models, Manchester United’s Old Trafford looks really good with the Stretford End looking realistic. Even the pre-match scene with the pitch being watered is a nice touch as it’s something most major clubs do before matches to help create slick passing surfaces.
Ball Looks Really Free
Apart from when dribbling at speed, the ball looks really free and not attached to players. This is one area that is showcased very well, albeit unintentionally as a result of how bad the two players are. Passing error looks good as the ball is frequently played behind players in all three videos. The game looks to punish those blind 180-degree passes that drive us hardcore fans insane in FIFA.
And while it helps to muck up the game and create 50/50 balls, it does create some issues we’ll discuss later that look really bad.
Keepers Look Solid
One of the biggest unknowns going into eFootball 2022 centers around what’s using the old code (Fox Engine) and what’s using the new engine (Unreal). Konami has been using the Unreal Engine as its base for the mobile version of PES for a few years now, but us console and PC players were primarily playing Fox Engine builds. Most of the community, myself included, tend to think that there will be a lot of old code migrated over with the visuals being sorted out by Unreal.
I feel even stronger about this opinion after seeing some old familiar animations and AI. Keepers, which were once an eyesore in PES, have been drastically improved over the past few years. While there are still some instances where they look poor (particularly some diving animations where they catch the ball), they look fairly strong in this game — even stopping a few in one-on-one situations.
What I Don’t Like
The first thing I notice when the players take the pitch is how poor the grass looks. We know that this was captured on the PS5, but the grass looks PS3-like. It was a common theme we saw across the trailer videos where within the course of a video the visuals would range from looking next gen here and mobile there in the span of a few seconds. Perhaps this is the cost we have to pay to have a truly cross-play experience, but if that’s the case it might be something Konami wants to reconsider — if they even can at all.
A lot of community fears circle around what corners will be cut to make cross-play viable. Grass, which has been poor for years, looks to be one of those things.
Player Cursor & Vision Cone
Perhaps this is an option that you can turn off, but for the experienced PES players this is a huge eyesore and something that’s not needed. Similar to the FIFA Trainer, this player cursor looks like a tool to help folks get familiar with the passing/shooting directional input. But instead of being helpful, it comes off as distracting.
There’s also a few moments where you can see what looks like a vision cone, similar to what we saw back in the day for Madden. Don’t get me wrong, I loved that feature as it really helped to reduce pass accuracy for throws outside of your line of vision, but in a fast moving soccer game like eFootball it appears to be distracting and better left for under the hood. All of this just screams “mobile” and that scares most of us console/PC players who are looking for a more simulation experience.
Pace Of Play
SLOW DOWN! Player vs. player matches are always a tad quicker than offline matches versus the AI, but everything from the ball speed to how players run looks fast here, which creates a lot of instances where foot-planting is thrown out the window:
Again, it seems like a mobile game. And while it doesn’t help that the two guys playing appear to be PES noobs, there’s just no realistic pace of play. This means there’s no midfield and resistance here, which is primarily in and around the 18-yard box.
I touched briefly upon this moments ago, but the weight and momentum of the players that made PES feel a little more realistic when compared to FIFA is gone. As EA embraces responsiveness over physics, Konami seems to have followed suit with players that just glide all over the pitch with not an ounce of foot-planting visible. I’m always critical of FIFA in this department, so when I see eFootball follow suit I have to be consistent and voice my displeasure. For me, foot-planting is one area that next-gen sports must get right, and eFootball looks to be all wrong, which is discouraging because PES 2021 was fairly strong in this department minus the occasional warping when animations blended.
This may or may not be an issue if Konami gives us multiple options, but at this point who knows. We’re getting “sharp kicks” patched into the game at some point, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this default camera is the only camera in eFootball 2022 at the time of release. It’s not a deal breaker by any means, but it’s still not ideal considering that there are still moments where the camera lags behind a well driven ball — not to mention the pan zooms in and out, which can be disorienting at times.
Again, it’s just another area that looks “mobile” and not truly next gen.
This area deserves its own special section. Those of us who have played PES for years now know that there are some serious legacy issues that have plagued PES over the years. It’s human nature for us to immediately focus on these when new games are released, and sadly for us, there are a bunch of legacy PES issues on display here.
Historically, player awareness in PES has varied from year to year — and even Data Pack to Data Pack. Players who instead would rather run back into their position instead of closing down a misplaced pass, 50/50 ball, etc. have been commonplace over the years, and from the looks of this video that element is still there. Super Cancel has always been your best mate in PES, but if the game releases like this you’re going to have to take that relationship to a new level. Right from the start of one match, Man United’s right back Wan-Bissaka completely ignores a rather routine pass to him as he watches it go out of play.
There are other numerous examples that play out during the course of these three matches where AI players either completely switch off or just stand still, ignoring the ball which come fizzing into their area. Now I don’t know what level these guys were playing on, my guess would be closer to Amateur than Superstar, but it’s disappointing to see this vital legacy issue still not addressed.
Out of all the issues I saw in this video, and there are quite a few, the collision system is hands down the worst for me. Maybe the collision engine isn’t in the game yet or turned on, but there are tackles in the videos that would make the Madden team proud:
Not only do the collisions look incredibly bad, they’re also not punished by the referees who instead go full Premier League FA ref and call phantom fouls, even going to the extent of showing yellow cards for non-existent fouls. The collision system looks so poor that it influences how these two guys play, where they don’t even attempt to press the tackle button but instead opt for old-school “full-on shoulder barges” into the attacker as their primary defensive tactic.
If the game releases with this collision system intact, the amount of fail videos on YouTube will be exponential.
Poor AI At Times
Again, it’s worth noting that there’s no indication of what level this was played on (perhaps someone fluent in Japanese could help), but there are moments of AI idiocy only rivaled by FIFA‘s Pro Clubs. From standing still and letting attackers run by them to stopping runs, the AI looks to be a step down from PES 2021.
Next gen shouldn’t be limited to just better graphics and loading times, we should be seeing the best AI to date as game developers have more power at their fingertips than ever before. Perhaps the games are too complex or the desire to appeal to stakeholders in turning profits is too strong, but I have yet to play a next-gen sports title where I thought the AI was strong. eFootball is not giving me any different vibes.
What makes this even more concerning is the fact that these are strong teams with players who will be rated higher than a lot of the other teams in eFootball. If this is on a decent difficulty level, then we could be in for a disappointing year.
Player Ratings Still Limited To “.5” Increments
In the grand scheme of things, this is rather small but it’s been in the game for years and it’s something that has bugged me since day one. Look, player ratings are subjective, with the scale varying by league and even person, but one thing that’s common is that in real life the ratings aren’t restricted to a “.5” scale. You can have a 7.1 or 8.9, except if you’re playing eFootball. The player ratings might average out over the course of a year, but even scoring a few goals still won’t get you over a 7.0 very often as I’ve scored hat tricks and received a 7.5 rating.
Again, it’s minor but still annoying that Konami hasn’t addressed this yet.
The hype train for eFootball 2022 seems to be going in reverse, with many fans getting off well ahead of the planned September 30 stop. Even though tickets for this train ride are free, everything that has been released thus far screams “we’re not ready” and it shows. The poor trailers, confusing messaging, and disappointing early game video leaks have done nothing to ease our fears when it comes to eFootball.
It’s been two years since we’ve had a new PES game, so it really begs the question, “What was Konami doing all this time?” Many sports gamers have clamored for a two-year development cycle, but after this potential debacle from Konami maybe the pressure to innovate yearly is something that the gaming companies need.
In fairness to Konami, we’re living in interesting times with challenges that have affected a lot of businesses, but we’ve seen some of these affected companies adapt and pivot to new models and processes while still hitting their targets. Right now, eFootball appears to be a huge Raheem Sterling missed sitter.