What Now For eFootball 2022?

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To say that the recent eFootball 2022 launch was a disaster is quite possibly the understatement of the decade. It was a catastrophe from the off and I’m sorry to say, but Konami only has themselves to blame. Konami has a track record of doing some dubious things when it comes to their much-loved football series over the years but there was always that hope that one day, we would see a game in the franchise that would bring back the glory days of PES but with the name change of eFootball 2022. This dream and everything along with it died on September 30, 2021.

Konami revealed after the release of PES 2020 (and also revealing that PES 2021 would be a season update) that they would be taking time off to focus on bringing a “next-gen focused” title to the new hardware in the form of the PS5 and Xbox Series consoles with the announcement that the series would be moving from the heavily used Fox Engine to Unreal 4 and that it would be, and I quote “taking PES to a whole new level” with a teaser trailer featuring a very impressive looking Lionel Messi. In typical Konami fashion and after the release of eFootball 2022, we now know this vision of where the series would be heading was about as far off as seeing Super Mario on the Xbox.

Konami didn’t help themselves with what can only be described as one of the worst ever gameplay trailers ever released when they announced to the world at Gamescom 2021 that the PES name (and what it stands for) was officially dead and buried and that eFootball was the name moving forward. The trailer was an absolute mess and nothing even close to the claim that Konami was taking the series to a whole “new level” like they previously claimed. A washed-out colour palette, stiff and rigid animations, terrible choice in its audio track and a voice-over that had as much of an impact as a solar-powered bat. Don’t even get me started on that garish and damn right ugly bright blue and yellow overlay. The whole announcement trailer was a disaster and the negative feedback from not just the hardcore PES community, but also the more casual PES player showed just that. Wherever you looked online, it was awash with complaints and negativity with fans essentially saying “Konami, what have you done?!”

And that brings us to launch day and after playing the eFootball 2022, it’s a launch day that not only I want to forget, but I imagine Konami do as well. Ive been quite vocal in recent months about my experience with PES (now eFootball) and how Ive lost interest in the series and how the passion I once had has now vanished quicker than Lord Lucan in a Bugatti Veyron, but there was always that hope that one day Konami would release a game in the series that would bring back the passion and sheer delight that I had back on the PlayStation 2 days. Unfortunately (and you have probably guessed by the tone of this opinion piece), eFootball 2022 does not do that and if anything, it pushes me even further away from Konami’s football series.

After settling down and loading up the game on my PS5, I was greeted with that god awful yellow and blue hue overlay that felt like my eyes were about to bleed into the back of my head. I was then greeted to what can only be described as a mobile friendly (ironically) menu system that gave me two options and the choice of 9 teams (offline) and an array of fake teams within its online match mode. That’s it. To put it bluntly and frank, it’s a glorified demo whichever way you look at it. Konami has said that new modes and additions will be coming down the line, but nobody knows when as the road map they released is as confusing and jumbled as the direction that Konami are taking with eFootball.

Jumping into a game, I was shocked as to what was put in front of me. How can a game that Konami was touting as a big leap for next gen come out looking worse than the game it replaced in PES 2021? It still shocks me at how bad this game looked. Weird physics which in turn showed players arms going through other players torso’s, arms flapping in the wind like they are made from linen, creepy facial expressions that would feel at home in The Conjuring and just an overall half-finished look and feel to it. It felt all over the place and clearly even with such a small amount the game has to offer, the game is far from finished and should’ve never been released to the masses in the current state it is in.

Besides from it being graphically broken, the gameplay didn’t live up to expectations either. It was sluggish, unresponsive, bland and broken in so many ways. Weird AI glitches and players feeling like they were running through treacle being two big issues I had. I respect Konami for always wanting a more realistic speed to their football titles, but this only works when the animations are fluid and respond how they are supposed to but unfortunately, they don’t in eFootball 2022 as it just became choppy and a bland experience to play because of it. It pains me to say this, but it’s a mobile game at its core being made for a home console. You can see it straight from the get-go and as soon as you dive in, its evident. Mobile gaming looking menu systems, bland textures, odd and awkward animations and an indicator below each player that is as mobile friendly as it gets.

It feels like Konami have gone back a decade rather than pushing forward with its revolutionary new football title that they claimed PES/eFootball would be on new hardware. To me, this feels and looks like a mobile title that is trying to be a console title at the same time. A lack of vison and clarity as to what Konami want eFootball to be is a major issue here as its half of one and half of another. It really does feel like somewhere along in its early stages of the development cycle, they shifted gears away from a more console like experience that the hardcore fans want (wanted) to cater to the more causal and mobile focused gamers out there. We know that PES on mobile has made the shareholders at Konami a lot of money, but they should never forget that if it wasn’t for the hardcore community that has stuck with them for decades, they would never be in the position that are with the series from a financial standpoint like they are today. Some of Konami’s decision making over the years has been nothing but laughable and sad in equal measures but they have nobody to blame but themselves.

Did the decision makers at Konami tell the development team to go in a totally different direction with the series? Early reveals certainly back that up after the initial launch trailer that stated the series was still going to be called PES and the fact that they were pushing for the next-generation hardware to evolve the series on to another level. It’s an interesting take that I feel as though there is a lot of truth in it. How can a game go from one extreme to another in such a short amount of time and end up coming out like it has? Something happened but we’ll probably never know. One thing we do know though is that eFootball 2022 in its current state is top of Steam’s Hall of Shame list with a measly score of 1.04%. Brutal, but not surprising as that’s how much of a damn mess this game is in right now.

We’ve seen launches that have had rough time over the years (looking at you No Man’s Sky) with the most recent one being CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. I originally said on social media that I thought that the launch of eFootball 2022 was the sports video game equivalent of Cyberpunk 2077, but I think it’s worse than that. Cyberpunk 2077 is a game with complex design and processes along with a story and characters that all live in an open world alongside a vast array of intricate systems all moving at the same time whereas a sports title is for the most part a lot more simplified in its delivery. It’s never going to be an easy thing to code (no game is) but comparing both launches is so far away from each other that it becomes incomparable. Konami already had the experience and the base to build on yet here we are with what can only be described as a very bad launch for Konami.

We have all seen the negativity online and Konami has essentially turned their most profitable and one of their most loved series into a meme. Twitter has been awash with eFootball memes, the game is trending for all the wrong reasons and thousands of negative comments alongside more dislikes than likes on YouTube is never a good start to a new direction for a series. The damage that the disastrous launch has done to the brand name and Konami’s share price itself could become devastating in the long run if they don’t fix it asap and that’s a big problem. Fans trust in the publisher is at an all-time low and I fear that this could be the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Us gamers are a fickle bunch, and it doesn’t take us long to move onto the next thing and that’s something thousands have already done. Our time is limited for gaming at the best of times and with the vast number of options to choose from on the market, a game must do something special to keep us entertained.

What can Konami do moving forward? Well, they have two options really. The first is to remove the game from all digital platform stores and cancel what they already have and to go back to a more traditional PES style way. I can’t see this happening (although for me, it should) personally as it’s something that the higher ups at Konami would be reluctant to do and its very rare in gaming to see this happening especially when it’s a game that has such a low budget but a potential windfall if they get it right. The second option is to listen to fans feedback and work hard to improve the game vastly on a regular basis and be consistent with their messaging and content drops. Its going to take a lot of hard work and dedication to get it back to where it should be in terms of quality, but this is really the only viable option for Konami at this point. The key here is communication and that’s something that Konami has been very hit and miss with over the years but since the announcement of eFootball 2022, a lack of comms seems non-existent throughout social media and worse than it ever was during the days of PES. As I mentioned above, the road map that Konami released was very vague and at times, confusing and that’s a big issue moving forward and it’s something that needs to change for the game to have a vision and to be successful. Transparency is key here and without that, it’s a slippery slope for the game in my opinion.

The one elephant in the room though which I think is a big issue for the development team is just how much work that needs to be done. The fundamentals of the game are broken and if you can’t get the core gameplay elements down from the get-go, then it’s a disaster waiting to happen. Football is a sport that isn’t complex in its rawest form, and neither should a video game version of it be either. The game really does seem to lack an identity and it seems like it doesn’t really know what it wants to do moving forward which is never a good sign. Is it a mobile title? A fully-fledged console release? A mix of both? Video games that don’t have a vision end up in a worse way than what was hidden under Fred West’s patio.

Konami really have dropped the ball in how to approach what they wanted to achieve and its sad to see a company go from making the greatest football game series of all time to what we have now in the form of eFootball 2022. The game has potential as it does a few things right (how the ball feels detached from the player and also going down the FTP route with the right content), but with the amount of problems and its current state, even this early on, it could be too little, too late.

 

 

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I'm a huge fan of the PES, MGS and Uncharted series', and anything else in between. If you love a good gaming discussion or want to talk about anything else, then feel free to get in touch.

@GariClark

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