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Hands on: eFootball 2022 Review

First Impressions

By picking up right where PES left off, eFootball 2022 feels like a far more accurate football simulation than FIFA. The focus on realism won’t be for everyone, but it’s still a promising free new game for football fans that will depend largely on post-launch content in order to see success.

Availability

  • UKRRP: £0
  • USARRP: $0
  • EuropeRRP: €0

Key Features

  • Platforms:Will be available on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, Android and iOS
  • Free to play:You don’t have to pay anything to play eFootball, with seasonal updates adding more content after launch.

Introduction

In a move that’s just as divisie and seismic as the Super League proposals, Konami has benched PES in favour of a new free-to-play football game series called eFootball. 

It’s a brave step for Konami, chasing financial models such as Fortnite and Apex Legends rather than the more traditional annual purchase that FIFA 2022 remains loyal to. But while all of these head-spinning changes are certainly intriguing, it will be on the football pitch itself that will determine whether eFootball will end up a flop or a world class champion. 

Konami invited me to its UK headquarters to try out the new gameplay that’s been built on Unreal Engine 4. I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to try out new modes such as Creative Teams or the online tournament, but I was able to play a few matches against both the AI and another player. Here’s what I thought: 

Gameplay

My immediate thoughts when taking to the pitch to play eFootball is how similar it feels to recent PES games. Konami has emphasized that, despite the rebranding, it’s still committed to creating a football game that’s as close to the real sport as possible.

This is a contrasting approach to FIFA, which targets a more arcade style of play that makes it easier to score a screamer or play free-flowing tiki-taka football. 

I picked Manchester City for my first few matches, and despite having the likes of De Bruyne in my side, I initially struggled with the passing. Assisted passing isn’t activated by default, so you really need to have accurate aim to get the ball to your teammate. An arrow will pop up on-screen to show exactly where you’re passing, which is problematic for couch play. You can fortunately turn off this visual indicator, but that will make if more difficult to see who you’re pinging the ball to.

Tapping the X button won’t result in much power either, so you’ll have to make sure you have enough space to hold the button down for every pass. This means it’s very difficult to spray the ball around the pitch like Trent Alexander-Arnold, especially if you’re being tightly pressed by the opposition.

Fortunately, you can pick from a number of tactic pre-sets (such as long-ball counter and possession play) that will tell your teammates what kind of structure they should take up on the pitch, allowing you to finetune the tactics if you’re not getting enough freedom in midfield. 

Konami also told me it’s done a lot of work to improve one-on-one duels between attackers and defenders. You can knock the ball past a player or pull off some slick tricks, but they’re not easy to pull off successfully. Trying to break down a defence often felt like bashing my head against a brick wall, even if I was playing against Arsenal. 

Defenders seem to have the advantage in duels, especially with the increased focus on physicality. The likes of Upamecano could easily knock Sterling off the ball, and then guard the ball with his body. You’ll really want a strong and tall defender in your backline, as it really does make a big difference.

As a result, most of the matches I played during my two-hour session ended with tight margins. You probably won’t be getting the silly 6-7 scores like you do in FIFA, but it did make every goal I scored feeling more rewarding – I punched the air and yelled out in glee after one particular goal. 

That said, it was common for both myself and the AI to make silly costly mistakes. Most of the goals I scored were created by closing down the opposition in their own half – a tactic Jurgen Klopp would be proud of. It felt a little too easy to score from this tactic, especially when pulling off a killer through ball or an inch-perfect cross is so difficult in comparison. 

eFootball 2022

As a long-time FIFA fan and occasional PES dabbler, it took me a long time to adjust to eFootball’s more slow-paced football. Those looking for a realistic football simulator will likely find a lot of joy here, but I’m still sceptical it will have broad enough appeal to secure the fanbase Konami is hoping for with the free-to-play model. 

Graphics and presentation 

With eFootball heading over to the PS5 and Xbox Series X, many fans have been excited to see what kind of next-gen improvements the new game has to offer. However, I think it’s a bit of a mixed bag on this front.

The character models look fantastic, with players being instantly recognisable. Zooming up close to the players shows off the incredible detail that has been added here, from the stitching of the shirts to individual strands of hair. 

However, this high visual detail was not shared elsewhere. The pitch looked a little flat, while it was very obvious from a distance that Konami has reused assets and animations for the crowd of fans, with one person appearing several times in one row. I obviously don’t expect Konami to make 76,000 different character models to fill Old Trafford, but you’d expect the duplication to be a little less obvious in a next-gen game. 

eFootball 2022

I don’t think the lack of detail on the pitch and crowd hampered my enjoyment of eFootball, but it’s still worth being aware of if you were hoping that the PS5 and Xbox Series X would boost the immersion to new heights. 

Konami has also introduced some cutscenes at the beginning of a match to make it look like you’re watching Sky Sports. You’ll see your chosen team walk off the bus and then get ready in the changing rooms. I appreciate this has been done to improve immersion and build the hype for each game, but I personally found it annoying to repeatedly hit skip in order to jump straight into a match. 

eFootball 2022

On a more positive note, I really liked the new dual-camera system which will seamlessly zoom and out during a game. This means you get a close-up view when you try to skillfully dribble past a player, but will still be able to hit a large chunk of the pitch when you’re ready to cross it into the box.

I was also impressed with the seamless transitions for corners and throw-ins, as the boyball can toss the ball over quickly to restart play, helping to maintain momentum during a dominant spell of play. 

Overall, eFootball doesn’t feel like the next-gen leap many had been hoping for, but that’s not a huge surprise since it will also be playable on PS4 and Xbox One. 

Initial Verdict

Konami may have changed the name and embraced a new game engine, but eFootball will still feel very familiar for those who have played PES. The focus on realism won’t be for everyone, but the improvements to player physicality should result in some enthralling contests between attackers and defenders. 

That said, eFootball feels more like a demo than a fully featured game in its current state. We’ll have to wait until the Autumn update to see whether the free-to-play model has any chance of knocking FIFA off its perch.

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