eFootball 2022: analysing the disastrous launch of the new PES
eFootball, the successor to Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer, was released on Thursday - and its bugs and graphics issues mean it was far from being a hit among gamers.
The launch of eFootball, Konami’s free-to-play replacement for the long-running football sim Pro Evolution Soccer, has been a disaster.
After two years without an all-new instalment of PES - what we got last time out was no more than an update - the Japanese video-game developers decided to take their football project in a new direction. A game for everyone, free of charge, with updates and cross-play. On paper, a brave approach that sought to understand the formats that currently hold sway. A way of moving away from Electronic Arts’ FIFA and embracing something accessible, always available. But even before it was released, there were doubts about the idea of launching such a basic initial version, with major updates months away. And when it was published, it proved a catastrophe. What have Konami been doing for the past two years?
This week, we were finally able to download the game, on devices ranging from PlayStation 5 to mobile phones. And it wasn’t long before major foul-ups became apparent. Bugs, ranging from those that might merely raise a chuckle to those that lead to utterly ridiculous scenes, in addition to problems such as poorly-rendered crowd shots and players whose faces suggest they’ve just got back from a particularly bruising night on the tiles (the images of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi quickly went viral). A CPU that doesn’t tackle, erratic reactions that cost you goals… Within 24 hours, a statement from the developer acknowledged the game’s issues and pledged to “improve the current situation”.
The simple truth is that, over the past 12 months, everything about Konami’s series has been weird and worrying. In 2020, we were restricted to a PES season update, while the developers worked on a new project that would take the game firmly into the next generation. And it must be said: it remained a fantastic game to play. Sparing when it came to modes, yes (and even more so when it came to licences), but with the kind of touch at the controls that had won us over several instalments back. So we took the wait on the chin. Months later, however, an online demo arrived - no-one actually said this was the new PES, just that it was a Konami football game - and boy, did the alarm bells begin ringing. This looked way worse than the last PES!
Then, finally, came the announcement of eFootball. We talked about it on La Taberna, MeriStation’s YouTube show, and my feeling was that this seemed like an interesting move. You can’t compete with EA on licences or budget, so you look at what’s happening around you. Fortnite, Warframe, even Halo: Infinite. A model that fits a new reality and that can be an escape route. Things looked rather less promising when we took a look at the small print, though. Two years after the last game, the new title would arrive with few features and just a handful of teams, and we’d have to wait months for added content. All a bit strange.
And now, here we are. The newly-released game has the worst rating in the history of the online gaming platform Steam. And so we once again wonder: what have Konami been up to for the last two years? What happened to all that talk of the PES to eFootball transition yielding a result even more awe-inspiring than we could ever have imagined?
Some of the familiar PES sensations are there, but...
When you play eFootball, there are very familiar sensations. The ball physics, the rhythm of the game, certain dynamics and movements. The crisp shooting. The goalkeepers. The control over situations. Things that we really liked about the latest instalments of PES. But you’re also hit by graphics errors, CPU issues, that crowd that isn’t worthy even of a free-to-play game, technology that isn’t a next-gen advance, the clear lack of content (as I say, we understand the overall direction, but not that this should be the initial version after a two-year wait). Is this really the best you could do, Konami?
MeriStation is one of the few sites which, over the years, has given PES some higher ratings than the all-powerful FIFA, because playability was everything to the series and we have sought to recognise that. And that’s why it’s particularly painful for me to see that not only has Konami brought out a product that doesn’t even get close to living up to what has come before it, but, on top of that, the genre is now bereft of competition for FIFA. That’s significant.
I can only hope that, over the coming months, eFootball will develop into a decent, playable bet for gamers, all the more so given it’s F2P. Because the basis of playability is there; you can feel it. But its launch has been a bitter blow, worse even than the announcement that PES would be no more.
Salva Fernández is a writer for MeriStation, a gaming news site that is part of the AS family