Last week, I said I was worried about eFootball. Now it's out, I'm afraid to say it's even worse than I expected.
eFootball is available to download now - for free - in extremely limited form. This bizarre launch for Konami's football game, which, let's remember, is two years in the making after PES took 2020 off, lets you play offline 1v1 matches against the computer and online 1v1 matches in a challenge event that expires in 10 days. And that's it.
There is so much that's weird about eFootball's debut. Konami had described this as sort of a demo, with updates set to flesh the offering out. But it's not called a demo on the store. This is eFootball 2022 - warts and all - and it doesn't even have all the kicks in.
Konami had also said only a handful of teams would be playable at launch, but this isn't true. If you play online you have access to over 200 teams - mostly with fake names. I played a handful of online games today with my beloved Chelsea B. Why Konami didn't signal this before eFootball came out is beyond me.
The first thing you notice is the atrocious menus, which, well, this is Konami and what was once PES so I'm not surprised. Then you get on the virtual pitch and notice all the other issues.
eFootball is not a looker. In fact, I'd go as far as to say it looks poor. The grass looks plastic. The people in the crowd look like cardboard cutouts. There's nothing here that screams next-gen to me. If anything, it looks last-gen. Oh, and I'm playing on PlayStation 5.
The player faces range from the ultra realistic for the super famous players on officially-licensed teams, such as Manchester United's Paul Pogba and Juventus' Giorgio Chiellini, to the hilarious waxworks effect for everyone else. And they do this astonishing thing with their mouths where they open to form a nightmarish square shape. God knows what they're trying to say to each other.
As for the gameplay, there are some significant problems, although I do think there's at least some potential. Passing feels extremely weak, and by that I mean the ball travels remarkably slowly, particularly across the ground, no matter how much power you put behind it.
The players can feel unresponsive as they shift their momentum. I can see where Konami is going with its dribbling system, which revolves around managing the pace of your sprint with different pressure applied to the right trigger. And I appreciate that there is a distinct separateness of feeling when it comes to player and ball. But the upshot is eFootball can feel frustrating to play. It's often excruciatingly slow, except when you get speedy players up to full speed, and dribbling is cumbersome. Players have a habit of losing track of the ball and letting it run out of play, or even just running the ball out of play themselves, seemingly in defiance of your desperate input commands.
I imagine eFootball's dribbling is something that will feel better with extended play - and I suspect it's where the skill gap will be found. There is some potential here, at least, for interesting matchups - or duels as eFootball calls them.
But the collisions are clearly just broken. Players throw themselves at each other as if in a mosh pit at a metal festival. I think this is because of the way the dribbling works, and how independent the ball appears to be within that system. Whatever the case, it's hilarious to watch Messi and co crash into each other, the ball a distant memory, the crushing of bones and the pounding of flesh all that matters in this brave new world.
And then there are the bugs. Yes, eFootball has launched with a lot of bugs. Your mileage may vary, but here's a snippet unearthed from the community just this morning. I confess, some of these had me in tears.
New Feature ;) from r/WEPES
Other maddening decisions: that horrendous eFootball logo, which is a dead ringer for the euro symbol, flashes on screen every time you enter and exit a replay. PES' excellent quick sub feature appears to have disappeared entirely, because why not? And you can't change the match time from the default five minutes each half, even when playing offline. All other match time options, from six minutes to 30 minutes, are greyed out.
I will say this: eFootball has a good continuous play system that sees the keepers take goal kicks without a break in play. Throw-ins, too, are continuous. Well done for that, Konami!
Bizarrely, the online event live now lets players earn "Chance Deal" contracts (loot boxes) you can't use in the game yet. These Chance Deals let you obtain "legendary" player cards, which can be used in Creative Teams (more on that later) in an update set for later this autumn. You get one Chance Deal after 10 games, another after 15, and another after 20. It's like earning bets for the future.
eFootball is a new beginning in the sense it's not really like PES at all, but not in a good way. Konami has insisted that eFootball will evolve over time with new updates and features in-line with its live service game status. The first major update is set for later this autumn, and adds the aforementioned Creative Teams, which sounds a bit like PES' myClub mode, new player types (Standard, Trending, Featured and Legendary), contracts (loot boxes), and a load of new modes, including the eFootball Creative League, Tour Event, Challenge Event, Online Quick Match and Online Match Lobby modes.
This upcoming update looks like the start of eFootball's launch proper, but here we are, now - and Konami really should have just waited until everything was ready before unleashing this game onto the world. Today's launch makes for an awful first impression, and there's no taking that back. I'm left wondering, even at this early stage, can Konami save eFootball from being a complete disaster?
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