Pro Evolution Soccer was too good, too pure for this cruel world, and after many years of coming a very distant second to the all-conquering FIFA, Konami decided to try and make a fresh start. This is eFootball, conceived as an ongoing 'football platform' rather than an annual franchise, and part of that is that it's launched in a, well, slightly incomplete form.
eFootball is now available on Steam, it's free-to-play, and it is already the worst-reviewed game in Steam's history. At the time of writing it has 4842 reviews, 91% of which are negative, leading to an overall 'overwhelmingly negative' rating. Whether this is a fair reflection of the game or simply an outpouring of player anger is an open question.
I played a couple of games and, y'know, eFootball isn't half bad. I'm not sure I quite 'get' the new systems yet, and keep on fumbling the ball away when I'm trying to dribble, but it plays a decent game of football at the very least. One thing it does not do well, however, is player faces.
Here's Cristiano Ronaldo looking like he's sucking off an invisible corn cob.
Here's a bloke from the Argentina team enquiring about who spilled his alcoholic beverage.
The faces have obviously been picked up on social media and there's no shortage of posts like the below, showing that... well, there's clearly just something not quite right with whatever eFootball's doing. The players look alright from a distance but anytime the camera is zoomed, and particularly during the rather formulaic celebrations, you can't help but notice how off the faces are. Which is particularly weird because this was arguably one of PES's strengths.
We've all had a night where we look like Messi here.
Konami: * drops #eFootball * https://t.co/5WwChBPHGCMe: are you high? Konami: pic.twitter.com/ALXCXovDxASeptember 30, 2021
Konami's made a calculation with eFootball that may not pay off, which is that it could launch the game in a pretty barebones state and then build it into the all-conquering shiny football platform that it should be. But perceptions are hard to shift and, however unfairly, this initial impression is going to stick to eFootball. No amount of patches will tempt back players who've already made up their minds.
FIFA remains in rude health, with the only black mark the ongoing controversy over how it monetises FIFA Ultimate Team. EA's flagship sports franchise has never been stronger. Arguably that's why Konami needed to hit the reset button on Pro Evolution Soccer. And I'd love to see a world where eFootball can genuinely give FIFA a run for its money. At launch? It feels like eFootball is incomplete, rushed, and not up to the competition.