PES 2008 Review

Dan Webb

Ahhhhhh, October, great for many things over the years. It gave the Canadians Thanksgiving, the Americans celebrate Columbus day, who can forget Halloween, but it more importantly for the football fans, it brings the new Pro Evo title to the Europeans. This year is set to be different... Different name, as it drops the numbers it’s been adopting for the past half a decade plus and adopts the year in the title instead. The burning question is after last year’s poor effort, has Pro Evo redeemed itself this year by giving the football fans exactly what they want? Simply put... Damn straight it has.

Ronaldinho's look and style is spot on

Pro Evolution Soccer, or PES as we’ve all come to know it, has been seen as the football title for years and years. It doesn’t rely on fancy licensing gimmicks to get it through, it relies on solid, realistic, addictive gameplay. The feel this year is tweaked on so many levels from last year's edition. Most notably, the dribbling has been improved and has been made a lot easier in actual fact. You can really notice players with higher dribbling stats and it really encourages the player to use that to their advantage. Some of the more skilful players like Messi, it truly feels like the ball is literally stuck to their foot as they weave in and out of traffic. Unrealistic some may say? I say hardly, players with true dribbling skills ought to stand out of the pack and this year's Pro Evo mostly definitely gets it right here. On top of the dribbling, this year, Konami have really improved the shooting; in previous editions of years gone by any sort of touch by an opposing defender in your region whilst you were pulling the trigger and WHAM, the stewards were collecting your ball from the top tier of the stadium. This year however, the shooting has been totally revamped and we are reaping the rewards on this one. The shooting is a lot more refined and the arc on the final shots is as realistic as it probably ever has been on the Pro Evo series, and I’m going back to when it was ISS here as well.. It actually allows you to recreate some classic goals from years gone by which is a breath of fresh air. All in all, as far as the actual gameplay goes there is no huge overhaul in anything really, but the tweaks to the shooting and dribbling offer the gamer the best football simulator that money can buy.

This year's edition is most notable for a few things; the game welcomes back the ability to save replays (whether it be of goals you have scored or comical in-game moments which is welcomed with open arms). We also see another welcome return of the in-depth editor features which were sorely missed last year. They've even taken advantage of the Live Vision Camera by allowing you to put a sponsor on the kits which is highly effective (in a matter of minutes I had the Liverpool kit looking as if they were a licensed team in the game) and the ability to add your face to the player; the less said about this the better, but at least they are trying to use some innovation. These all may be welcome additions, but the main new addition by far is the newly praised inclusion of “TeamVision” which allows the computer to adapt and read any patterns in your game... Running down the wings too much? Well, prepare to be stifled by your AI opponent as it fills in the gaps and organises its defences accordingly. This can also work to your advantage however, because as you change your style of play you can stay one step ahead of the AI, as they are still trying to adapt to your old game. Classic football and a genius addition. Oh, how could I forget the ability to dive which Konami threw in to the mix this year; it’s not a mistake to include in all honesty as it is a problem with football in this day and age but very rarely (if ever) does it work, which is how it should be! Controversial? Hardly, but it is good to see Konami attempting to keep the experience as close to the real thing as possible.

Woah! Woah! One at a time!

The game falls short on a few things this year however, it’s not all rose petals and champagne. There are a few small things that can bug you; take for example the camera angle when you have to take or save a penalty. Whoever decided upon that camera angle must have been on some form of hallucinogenic, because, well, it simply doesn't work... At all! The fatigue system also seems to be severely unrealistic; use a player for more than two games in a row and they are pleading for the oxygen tanks and a rest. If it was to be realistic, yes, squad rotation is an important part of today’s game, but come on, two games? D12’s Bizarre could manage more games than that in a row! Where would we be reviewing Pro Evo without mentioning the licensing, or should I say lack of? It seems as if we have taken a step back this year on some levels; yes there may be more licensed teams than last year because of a few random small European clubs and a few select South American clubs, but when they replace the Chelsea and Manchester United licenses with Newcastle and Tottenham licenses, something must be questioned. If it wasn’t for the highly useful editor system in this title, the game would be hampered beyond repair. The lack of stadiums, or should I say recognised stadiums seems a bizarre move this year as well. You won’t unfortunately find yourself playing on English soil in this year's title which is a disappointment. Yes we're welcoming back the usual suspects from the Amsterdam Arena to the Nou Camp, but whatever happened to some originality? These are all small hitches on a pretty flawless title but we’re all perfectionists these days when it comes to Pro Evo.

The game is a visual improvement over previous instalments although the player likenesses are very hit and miss at times. You wouldn’t be able to distinguish between Pro Evo Ronaldinho and the very man himself, but a lot of the lesser players are a little off; why Gerrard has blonde highlights I’ll never know. The actual character models on the whole look and move fantastically. There are some new animations included this year which are welcomed of course and they definitely add a newer sense of realism. Konami have also tried to bring the crowd to life which shows mixed results; on the one hand, you have the close-ups on the crowd when you either pause the game or in the background between halves which show some great detail, but other than that, they look very cardboard and something that would look more at home on previous generations of consoles.

The audio of the game has a very "Jeckyll and Hyde" feel about it, Jeckyll being the god awful music in the menus and what not, Hyde being the great commentary that us Pro Evo fans aren’t really used to. The in-game music is so bad that you are actually better off muting it in the menus before you do anything else on the game. The techno trance stroke African jungle beats are some of the worst attempts at turning noise into music I have ever heard and I found myself turning them off after a matter of hours. After you’ve got over the terrible music and got into a game, you are actually blessed with some great commentary. Gone are the days of Terry Butcher and Chris James of yesteryear and welcome the ever wise Jon Champion with Mark Lawrenson as his ever cheesy side kick. This is what commentary should be like and kudos to Konami for finally sorting out this usually poor aspect of a usually great title.

No change to the actual setup of the game whether it be the simple menus or in the same old master league setup. They have added a new popularity meter to the master league along with a few aesthetic improvements; of which are merely nice touches than life changing revamps. Take for example the snapshot of a previous games highlight in the menu between games or even the fan snapshot that sometimes may be there, all nice touches, but nothing major.

The online portion of the game is pretty much the same as last year's. Simple versus games are all that is on offer, nothing too creative, not that there could be with the online portion of a football title. As last year, games can tend to be quite laggy and the response time of the players is a fraction of a second slower than the single player which means you really have to reassess your game and change your style of play, none of which is ideal.

Watch Ronaldo dazzle you with his skills

The achievement list on the whole is a true veteran Pro Evo player's dream. Plenty of variety and lots of different things to work through. Let’s get one thing straight, anyone with a 1000 Pro Evo 2008 points on their card would have to put a lot of hours in to the game, possibly even 100 plus hours. In order to get the main achievement, “Top Player”, you have to win all the cups; let me put that in to perspective... So that’s full league titles in 5 different countries, plus an international league, the master league divisional titles and cups, all the smaller cups, the world cup, the European cup as well as playing 500 games and scoring 1000 goals. Thats some work right there. The rest of the achievements will probably be achieved on the way to that one achievement, whether it be the 5 hat-tricks, the 100 assists or the percentage achievements which monitor your stats. Although the list is a great one, it will not be a five minute job and being a huge Pro Evo fan over the years, I commend Konami for such a fantastic list. One thing must be added though; we've had quite a few reports from players mentioning certain online achievements can only be attained by the person hosting the match. The technicalities are not really known, but just heed this small warning.

To sum it up, Pro Evo 2008 is vintage Pro Evo and should not be missed by anyone who calls them self a football fan. Not many football games can create a warm buzz inside when you score an amazing goal... why, you ask? Well simple, the game feels like football, it plays like football, hell, sometimes you can actually forget that it is actually a game as you get sucked in to a great footballing experience. No question about it, Pro Evo is back to its best and we’re so psyched about it. When October comes around next year, chances are, you’ll still be playing this one, right up until the release of the next.

If it wasn’t for the terrible background music, Pro Evo would have scored in the high 90s for audio because the crowd and the commentary is so on the ball, it’s damn impressive. We’re at least thankful we can turn the menu music down.

The players look great and move realistically. The crowd and some of the player likenesses are a little off at times, but that is in the minority and never takes it away from the experience.

What can I say but perfect. Plays like a football game should. The shooting and dribbling revamped systems are a fantastic improvement over previous editions.

Simple menus, easy navigation, great. Lack of Premiership and the odd national license is a shame, but that’s only a fraction of the full line up. On the whole, excellent delivery.

Perfect list let down by a few unlocking inaccuracies. The online achievements seem to be suffering at the moment, but plenty of offline achievements that the true Pro Evo addict can work towards.

Pro Evo is back to its best after a disappointing debut on the 360. Immersive gameplay which is backed up with crisp graphics, smooth animations and some great commentary. Football has never been so sweet.

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