The Sports Desk – This Isn't The End Of Pro Evolution Soccer
Konami recently announced it is ending its 10-year licensing relationship with UEFA's Champions League – a loss for the company's Pro Evolution Soccer versus its license-rich, rival franchise FIFA. On the surface this may seem like a big blow, but I actually think this isn't a huge loss for the series.
WHAT WAS THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BRINGING TO PES?
I'd rather PES have the Champions League license than not have it, but considering it was only integrated as a stand-alone tournament, popped up when appropriate during your Master League calendar, and was a basis for some MyClub campaigns, it wasn't a huge addition. Of course, you could argue that the license could or should have been more impactful within the game, but as it was, the loss of the license isn't ripping out the heart of the franchise. It'll no doubt be replaced with a generically named Champions Tournament, so the competition will still be in function just not in name.
Besides, for many supporters, winning their domestic league is the priority over the Champions League, anyway.
YOU CAN PUT THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE BACK IN
To make up for the franchise's missing team licenses (the real players are already in the game), PES fans have been importing files containing team kits and logos, as well as badges for competitions and leagues, for years now on PC and PS4. Users can certainly add the Champions League badge (and replace the default naming text) via this method to replace whatever generic term is used to represent the competition in the future.
THE CHAMPIONS LEAGUE WASN'T BUTTERING THE BREAD
We all know that Konami isn't committed to console games anymore, but that doesn't mean that the company is leaving PES behind. The series is profitable for Konami, and has a fantasy-based mode, MyClub, that allows real-money purchasing of an in-game currency. Could the Champions League license be part of that success? Sure, but in recent years positive changes have taken place that have moved the series forward that have nothing to do with the CL: 3v3 online co-op was added, random matches brought back, Master League tweaked, and gameplay solidified. All of these elements have been important in the series' success, while the Champions League license has not improved.
COULD THIS MAKE WAY FOR SOMETHING BETTER?
With Konami not renewing the license, perhaps that money will be used elsewhere in the franchise. I don't know how Konami works its budgets, but it makes sense that the team would be able to turn around and sign up more individual team licenses or put it back into development. With Master League in particular needing bigger changes, I personally would love it if this area of the budget could be increased. In fact, Adam Bhatti, PES international brand manager, recently tweeted about the loss of the license...
Always part of the plan. Sometimes you have to pass backwards in football to move forward.— Adam Bhatti (@Adam_Bhatti) April 18, 2018
The future is incredibly exciting, it won’t be long before you can see what I mean https://t.co/dGacAhffCA
Of course, if PES doesn't have the license then you have to believe that EA is seriously entertaining picking it up if the deal isn't already done. Being able to – at a minimum – add it to FIFA's The Journey story mode would be cool, and it would no doubt be used in Ultimate Team and the career mode. What could EA do with the license that PES couldn't? Apart from The Journey, I foresee the Champions League being used as a powerful branding platform for the FIFA franchise through esport events mirroring the real-life CL schedule. This will cement the series with its existing fans, but I don't foresee it taking away from the ones that PES already has. In this way, Konami's non-move could end up benefitting everyone.
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A BEGINNER'S TIME WITH CASEY POWELL LACROSSE 18
I know lacrosse when I see it, but that's my extent of knowledge about the sport. Therefore, I was curious what I would make of Casey Powell Lacrosse 18 (out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC via Steam). Thankfully the game is easy to get into, and conveys what I imagine is some of the allure of the sport.
The thing I like most is being able to pass and cycle possession of the ball, whether that's in the wing (the middle of the field) or attack areas. You can set up positioning strategies on the fly, but even if you don't, there's definitely fun to be had passing the ball around looking for a good opening to fire on goal. During this time you're also trying not to get your head taken off or dispossessed of the ball by the other team.
The game's speed is quick, but not so fast that you can't think or get a handle on the controls, and there's enough variance in your shots on goal that you'll have to work on when, where, and how you fire off the ball (there are a few different ways to shoot). Overall I was able to get into the game easily – even though I didn't know the rules before I started – but I also know that to master it would take some time, which is where you want to be in a game.
Like other Big Ant-developed titles, customization is a big feature of Lacrosse 18, from stadiums and players (no female players, however) to different parts of your stick. It also contains a career mode that lets you earn and apply skill points to your player, which is welcome. From game to game you can choose to play as just your player (you can tell your teammates when to shoot and pass when you're on the field) or as the whole team, and apart from a bug at the end of the regular season that prevented me from proceeding, it's nice to build your players skills up. Challenges such as throwing a certain number of body checks in a single game seem lofty, but perhaps they're doable as you get better in the game.
Lacrosse 18's basic setup is solid, but the gameplay itself isn't above criticism. Your A.I. teammates don't always get into the best positions (sometimes standing around on offense and defense), there are some errant passes or shots with weird release points, and the game can rely a little too much on canned animations when resolving body checks and evasions.
I'm sure there are other positives and negatives that lacrosse fans will pick up on more easily than me, but my initial impressions of the game are that it's a decent title that even a non-fan of the sport can find intriguing.