eFootball 2022 Season 1 review – too little, too late

Despite added substance and structure, eFootball’s good ideas are still buried under matchmaking issues, weird decisions, and major gameplay bugs.

Poor Ciro Immobile. He barely has to process his national team’s absence from the World Cup after winning the Euros last year. The last thing he needed was me picking him for my Dream Team campaign in eFootball 2022 Season 1 Update. and impotent rage. We have that in common, Ciro and I.

This was to be the artist formerly known as PES’ Big Redemption. The launch of eFootball 2022 could hardly have been worse for Konami last fall, featuring an incredibly sparse amount of content, lousy on-field football play, and the kind of critical reception typically reserved for Activision movie tie-ins. of the 2010s.

This first substantial update had a lot going for it, and the feature list looked promising – among the hilariously named Stunning Kick commands and licensed Japanese and Korean leagues, there was a substantial mode to sink your teeth into. Finally, in Dream Team, we have something to do.

Here’s a trailer for the eFootball Season 1 update.

Which brings us back to Ciro Immobile donning a Parma shirt and taking to the pitch with 10 league players on Sunday. Like an old-school Master League campaign, Dream Team gives you a team of fictional players who are unhappy at the start, with a decent selection of licensed and unlicensed leagues around the world to choose a team from. Unlike the Master League, you build your squad here by earning GP by winning matches (or using Konami’s generously generous daily login bonuses) and spending them on player cards. It’s not like signing a player in the old sense – once you have that player card, you’re free to grow their stats as you see fit.

For example, you could acquire the unremarkable Serbian Dušan Vlahović and decides to spend all of his XP on air ability stats, making him a monster target man capable of finishing any cross. But you can also take it in wildly different directions, focusing on its overcoming or defensive awareness. This is the core of an excellent idea. Football matches tend to turn into pretty boring clashes between the same 22 players after a while in online multiplayer, but with this player development system every Messi, Ronaldo and Mbappe you play against in eFootball 2022 will be slightly different. I suspect everyone will just choose to grow their pace stats regardless of player or position, but you can’t blame the game for that.

eFootball review: A view of the edit player stats screen where the player has two points to spend on Ciro Immobile, putting them into his dribbling stat.

eFootball report: Led 5-0 in the 72nd minute, the Parma goalkeeper made a tense diving stop on his left.

eFootball review: Screenshot from a match of an all-yellow team entering the opposition's penalty area while attacking an all-black team.

eFootball review: A replay of a goalkeeper saving a shot from close range with his body, camera facing the goal from the front, with the shot down to the bottom right of the goal.

The player XP system is definitely an interesting idea, and the moment-to-moment gameplay has improved in some areas – but it’s still not a “stunning kick”.

There are, inevitably, quite a few things preventing you from taking advantage of this new feature. The first and most crippling is matchmaking. For a very long time, I was afraid that I couldn’t write what happened at the end of an online match because I had simply never reached that point. On PC, connection dropouts are commonplace, and since they often happen while the opponent is winning, they probably don’t give up in anger. I also had a bona fide rage quitter who didn’t appreciate my 92nd-minute winner, nor my luxurious unjumped celebration. That one is on me, but the fact that the game offers me nothing as a reward for playing this far and stopping an opponent’s rage is on eFootball 2022.

Third in the triumvirate of connectivity troubles is the scarcity of online adversaries. At the time of this writing, the game is not in the top 100 games on Steam, which means there are less than 10,000 concurrent players per day. All that bad press at launch obviously had an effect, and the result is that it now takes ten billion years to find an opponent and when you do, their team is often vastly superior to yours. I don’t want to be a bad loser but when you look at the rosters and you notice that their worst player is Barcelona legend Carles Puyol and you only have one player rated over 45 you know that you are going to be abused.

eFootball review: A screenshot of the simple screen

And in case you were wondering, here’s what happens when you complete an online match. All players lined up earn XP which can eventually be turned into improved stats, and your ranking in the online league system increases or decreases depending on the result. You also earn a small amount of GP for competing, which of course buys better players. If your match was part of a limited-time challenge (of which there are currently two), you’ll earn extra GP for completing goals, like getting three wins out of five matches.

Structurally, this is enough to make building your Dream Team interesting. Player ratings are also affected by their teammates, similar to FIFA’s chemistry mechanic, which adds another difficulty in choosing the right XI for your style of play. But the rabbit hole goes even further. – Tactically, eFootball 2022 offers massive customization of formation, pressure, and counter styles, and lets you configure multiple tactics like macros that you can switch between mid-game depending on the situation. It’s not completely new to the series, and the last few days PES was almost as tactically capable, but now there’s a more complex set of menus.

What could not be achieved by a theoretical PES 2022, which only this free-to-play model could? Why was it published in such small, unpolished fragments? What’s the point of all this?

Sadly, no one seems to have informed the players on the pitch about all this new us tactics. The reworked and much-vaunted AI gets into all sorts of positioning issues, with players sometimes leaving their spot to cover another and ending up awkwardly running four feet from their teammate regardless of your control. The back four leave huge gaps for the forwards, and in those moments after a tackle or misplaced pass when the ball is not in anyone’s possession, everyone looks deeply confused. It almost seems like everyone is too polite to come in and claim it. When it comes to defensive controls, putting a shoulder barge or a foot on a rising attacker is like trying to pop a balloon with another slightly more deflated balloon. Challenges have a way of spinning the ball from shin to shin, and when that happens everyone stops and waits a moment, just staring at the ball.

It’s all the more frustrating because there’s so much subtlety to the movement and passing controls. There really is a great game of football here somewhere, waiting to be pulled out of the doldrums of half-implemented changes, and that’s most evident in the sheer variety of dribbling you can pull off. Short accelerations, sudden stops and turns. Feints, hard sprints, deft sidesteps and cutting one-twos are all in the shifters, and when you spray a pass into space you truly believe the ball is following a realistic physical trajectory. For its part, the stunning new kick offers a new weight and rhythm to shooting and passing, further expanding your arsenal. In that sense, it still flows more freely than FIFA and feels so much less mired in pre-baked animations.

eFootball review: Three players in all-black Juventus kits celebrate Dusan Vlahovic's third goal in an 87th-minute 5-0 win.

eFootball review: A TV-style wide shot of the pitch and stadium before a match, viewed from the side from the halfway line.

eFootball review: Two players in red and black vertical striped kits celebrate a goal.

eFootball review: A player in Parma's black and white home kit passes the ball from a cinematic, sideways angle.

Nice celebrations are nice and good until an opposing player leaves right before you see your reward screen.

But this great soccer game is still buried too deep even with the arrival of this major update. There’s a lot more to play and do in eFootball now, but still no clear answer as to why Konami blew up a massive sports franchise and pitched it as an alternative. What could not be achieved by a theoretical PES 2022, which only this free-to-play model could? Why was it published in such small, unpolished fragments? What’s the point of all this?

It’s certainly not a matter of lack of talent at PES Productions. I don’t believe for a second that developers don’t know how to make a better game than this – we only have to look at the latest PES games to prove otherwise. They are extremely talented, experienced and passionate people, working as best they can on a deeply flawed concept with a spectacularly poorly communicated plan. They don’t deserve to be punished on social media, although they will inevitably get it. But also, eFootball 2022 is still not worth your time.

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