Konami has announced the launch date for eFootball, which will be available on PC on September 30, along with a rather unnecessary re-branding of the game as eFootball 2022. eFootball itself is a re-branding and re-imagining, with this free-to-play 'football platform' being the publisher's major attempt to breathe some life back into the hallowed Pro Evolution Soccer series. The question is whether it's ready for kick off.
You'll be able to download and play eFootball 2022 at the end of the month, but several aspects of it will follow after this date in a major update which is scheduled for sometime in Autumn. The game at launch will include the eFootball World hub, from where players can play in offline or online matches (including tournaments) with a choice of nine clubs and six stadiums. There are some big-hitters among the teams available—Barcelona, Juventus, Manchester United—as well as Arsenal. But nine clubs? That seems a positively anaemic selection to launch with.
The saving grace, in theory, should be the team customisation that was always at the heart of this series, here a mode called Creative Teams. That's not coming until the Autumn update, which is a bummer, though what the developers are promising does sound like it has potential: "Sign footballers and coaches that match your favourite formations and tactics, then train and strengthen them to play against players from around the world. In eFootball 2022, players will be able to target the signings that they covet the most, making team building more accessible. Choose a Base Team from one of over 600 licensed clubs/teams to use their authentic crest, kit and stadium, before building out your dream squad."
I'm slightly confused as to why eFootball is launching with nine clubs and then seemingly dropping another 591 in a month or two's time. Only Konami knows. The team you create can then enter the Creative League mode, where you play against others and rank up and down online leagues, earning rewards.
If the description of Creative Teams had you thinking of FIFA Ultimate Team and worrying about the monetisation, eFootball is at pains to emphasise that its new model is "re-balanced to ensure that all players can reach the same potential, regardless of how they acquire in-game items." It'll have a standard 'match pass' for all players and you can pay to unlock one with more and fancier rewards. This stuff will also arrive in the Autumn update, and as ever we'll have to see how the promises shake out.
It is unclear which of eFootball's modes will be live at launch and which are following in this mythical update. Among the modes will be online quick match, an online lobby for arranging matches with mates, challenge events where you play games and try to meet certain objectives, and some sort of tour mode against AI teams where you can grind out 'event points', whatever they are.
The announcement descends into jargon around the various in-game currencies. Players can be signed for your creative team "with eFootball Coins (Chance Deal item) or GP (Nominating Contracts item)." Sorry what? On top of this there are eFootball points. The coins are the premium currency, while GP and points are what you earn by playing. Players themselves are categorised from standard to featured to legendary, which does sound a little FUT-ish but we'll see how this works in practice soon enough.
The announcement ended by outlining future plans, which presumably go beyond even our Autumnal update. These include an edit mode for complete customisation of teams, kits, and players, various gameplay updates (including 'special kicks!'), and cross-platform matchmaking across PC, consoles and mobile.
"With ‘eFootball’ being the name of our overall platform, ‘eFootball 2022’ is the official title for our first season of content," says Seitaro Kimura, eFootball's producer. "Platform updates bringing new functionality, such as cross-platform matchmaking and mobile controller support, will happen frequently over the coming months and will always be free. Future content updates and game modes will be offered to players as either free or premium options. We look forward to getting players on the pitch and receiving their feedback."