Over six months since a dismal launch that was barely more than a bug-infested demo, eFootball 2022 has taken steps in the right direction, albeit tiny ones, with its long-awaited 1.0 update. Most noticeably, the bugs have all but disappeared, but what remains is still a hollow shell of a football game that lacks depth, modes, and any real reason to play it consistently. In truth, it’s still hard to recommend playing eFootball, even if it is completely free to do so.
It’s all a bit sad really. What was once a series considered the pinnacle of its genre in the glory days of Pro Evolution Soccer has devolved into this soulless impersonation. It’s reminiscent of those awful pandemic months when football took place in empty stadiums. Yes, technically football was being played but it was nowhere near the same spectacle without fans, a similar fate eFootball may suffer from sooner rather than later if big changes aren’t made soon.
Overall, the presentation on the pitch looks pretty good – player models are largely accurate and the stadiums, while limited in number, look authentic. It’s a vast improvement over the hilarious and sometimes frankly frightening faces being pulled in the early access version. The same can’t quite be said for the atmosphere inside the stadiums, which often falls flat, not aided by some lifeless commentary. On top of that are menus and UI, which, although more colourful than we’re used to from Konami’s football games, are still awkward and unintuitive to navigate.
Having had to play a lot of eFootball’s earlier versions, it may just be Stockholm syndrome at this point, but there does seem to be a freer flow to general play as players feel a lot less stiff to manoeuvre. They are also more reactive, no longer ignoring balls outside of their immediate radius, although controlling them neatly can often be a bridge too far. There is an increased sense of control in attack and defence, too – eFootball no longer feels like it’s simply happening to you.
Defence is by no means fully refined, but improved shoulder charges and manual tackles definitely help you deal with opponent attackers with greater ease. AI defenders do appear to wander off out of position on their accord though, allowing for long through balls leading to goals happening way too often. It’s unclear if this is down to a bug or not, but something that clearly needs addressing either way.
The ability to now press as a team and put pressure on the ball brings an edge of modern tactical play to eFootball that it desperately needs. Calling teammates for extra pressure and stealing the ball high up the pitch has led to goalscoring opportunities more often than not. It’s obvious that this, as well as a couple of other gameplay additions, were meant to be in eFootball from the start, but instead it was released in a completely unfinished form. These new additions don’t completely solve the problems that initial release had, though.
“Stunning kicks” are a new quirk that allow you to hold down the right trigger and apply extra power to passes and shots. Although these do occasionally result in a spectacular goal, you are far more likely to get the ball pinched from your toes as your player takes half a century to wind his leg up. If you do get a shot away, though, there’s a decent chance of it going in as goalkeepers seem more balanced now, no longer reacting like Daredevil hearing a brick smash through a window.
From time to time there are flowing moves to marvel at, but they happen all too rarely, with satisfying passing coming at a premium. Some passes will be laser-focused and threaded through the eye of a needle, while others slowly roll along the floor begrudgingly towards a teammate – without feeling clear about what caused the difference. In fact, the only real consistency with eFootball’s gameplay is its inconsistency. One moment you’ll be jinking past a defender and curling one in the top corner, the next you’ll be trying to dribble only to find your player has a turning circle more at home in Euro Truck Simulator.
Further proving this point are the referees, who were tragic in the initial release. While they now seem to be able to differentiate between a foul and clean tackle, they do still enjoy giving out both yellow and red cards for the most trivial of offences. Maybe I’m being rude, but overall the AI just seems pretty dense – both for officials and opposition players – meaning playing against the computer is largely dull, no matter what difficulty setting you choose. They play in predescribed patterns that are very easy to work out, and at a pace that I’d be able to keep up with in real life – and I haven’t played an 11-a-side match in over a decade. That predictability has resulted in me scoring carbon copies of the same goal three times in a row from kick off on more than one occasion.
Playing online adds to the excitement, providing welcome spontaneity to proceedings. Your options in where to do this are limited, though, as are most of eFootball’s modes. For a 1.0 release there’s still a baffling lack of ways to play available, with a long list of omissions that you’d expect as minimum:
- There are still no online lobbies in which you can choose to play against a friend.
- You can play against a friend offline, but are limited to only nine licensed teams to pick from.
- There’s no online co-op.
- There’s no edit mode where you can change players and teams (a staple option in past eFootball/Pro Evolution Soccers).
- And crucially, no Master League. That’s a PES fan-favourite career mode where many (including me) have historically found their enjoyment – and it would’ve been welcome here even if that would mean playing the anaemic AI endlessly.
It really is disappointing that none of this is available, especially when considering it’s been six months since release, and over two years since development began on eFootball 2022.
One mode that has entered the fray with Update 1.0 is Dream Team, eFootball’s take on FIFA Ultimate Team in which you use both currency earned in-game and real money to build your ultimate squad of players and climb the online rankings. This is done within Seasons, two-month-long events that challenge you to get promoted as high as you can through 10 online divisions, earning greater rewards the higher you climb along the way. Season 1 – the snappily titled: New Gameplay Approach, Team Building and Licenses – is currently live, alongside special players available in loot boxes, such as Pep Guardiola or Guti.
Yes, at least eFootball does now have a fully-fledged mode to take it past the point of being a demo, but it’s still lacking so much more than you’d expect from a 1.0 version of a game. Instead, it feels like one that is still very much not ready to have been released.