Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (Wii)
Posted 28 Apr 2008 at 02:15 by Mark Lee Adam Ducker
N-Europe's Mark Lee and Adam Ducker both weigh in their opinions on the Wii version of Pro Evo 2008! First off, it's Mark:
|"...for all of the irritating omissions it will be the astoundingly good football which will draw you back long after the initial confusing elements have past."|
Amongst the elite football gamers, Pro Evolution Soccer is like painting a delicate picture on an empty, grassy canvas. At times it's akin to a physical game of chess with players picking apart defences and winning games on the edges of their seats. Yet to the uninitiated Pro Evo appears dull, slow paced and butt-ugly. Instant euphoria has never been Pro Evolution Soccer's game in both gameplay and graphics. If you want those kicks go play football in the back yard with EA's FIFA. Pro Evo is the connoisseur's choice. Rarely does a forty yard screamer hit the back of the net. Rarely does your goalkeeper drop the ball like David James. No, for all of the graphical splendour and PES imitation that FIFA has developed, Pro Evolution Soccer is as finely tuned as a Beckham free kick – being as close to a true simulation of football as humanly possible.
But play the game on Wii and even the hardest Pro Evo purists will choke at the sheer wealth of hardcore footballing on display. This hardened gamer loaded up the title on his Wii, boasting with the confidence of one Christiano Ronaldo, yet minutes later was running scared to the changing rooms by the (much needed) start-up tutorials.
Point and click isn't traditionally associated with sports titles, and coupled with twenty-two players on screen with clicks, points, swipes and dragging actions going on, this isn't one for the casual gamer. Yet delve into it with an open mind and spend the time learning the controls and you will come to understand a new way of playing. A way in which, once understood, will potentially lead you to more joyous, appreciative footballing moments. Moments crafted far more personally than in previous football outings.
Want to control multiple player's dribbles? Use the analogue stick on the possession holder and as you point, click (with 'a') and drag others around the turf they will make runs. Point and pass (with 'b') to a player or pass into space and the nearest man runs into that space. Simple. On paper it's confusing, yet in principle it works astonishingly well. This simple control set-up offers immense depth as you develop the play and drag players from markers, push defenders up the field and dabble in strategy far more than previously imagined. Not only does this work well in free play, but during dead ball situations the new control mechanics really shine. Want to bring your tallest player to the near post for a corner? Want to use him as a decoy as two defenders come screaming in? The choice is yours. Effortlessly. And when you score it's all the sweeter. You did that. You played that decoy. You pin-pointedly placed three players at once. Again effortlessly. It's like the replays you see at half time on TV with arrows and swirling lines of intricacy drawn over the turf. But here it's on-the-fly and never less than perfect. And although it's not as graphically (or aurally) stunning as it could be (running on an enhanced version of the PS2 engine) it gets the job done and is as smooth as butter even when it all gets scrappy around the penalty area.
So breathe easy football fanatics, it's safe to say that on the field Konami have got everything right with even the much maligned defending situations being mastered over time. Nobody expects pointing at defenders (or attackers for man marking) to draw a challenge to be easy, yet it's the way in which another player can be dragged into a position to make that attacker loose possession or move into a less-threatening position which makes it work. Yes, that's right, football gaming just took a huge step towards realism without better graphics. In fact, the notion that defending isn't about physicality but all about positional awareness and timing results in a refreshing change from "just getting a boot in". You may miss the old versions defending mechanics but eventually it starts to show its own merits. And once mastered, defending becomes a joy in itself.
"Ref! Red card!"
For every goal the game scores on the field, it's surprisingly off the field in which it starts to show signs of going off the boil. First of all the user interface is a breath of fresh air with IR functionality used to navigate menus and the white Wii 'sheen' is a welcome change from previous iterations. Yet for all of the steps toward an easier user interface sadly the omission which hurts the product the most is the Master League's disappearance. In its place sits the young, plucky Champions Road which, in contrast is a sub-standard replacement with neither the legs of the Master League or the intense personal reward it offered.
Starting off with a team of nobodies you play in small competitions and work your way into bigger ones – on the way acquiring players from the teams you beat. It's an original idea granted, yet somewhat crazily, you cannot see the player you want to acquire. Instead players are represented as blank cards with a title of "Pacy Winger" or "Midfield General". There is depth and a certain charm to it yet it doesn't quite match up to dabbling in the transfer market and building your own team. Gladly your team will still earn experience points from matches (like they did in the Master League) and thus there is more depth to the package than initially appears. But it does seem like a wasted opportunity. You can take the controls out of Pro Evo, but the Master League? Dodgy move Konami.
Other 'traditional' modes are all (thankfully) included, including domestic cups/European championships etc and there is even an excellent online mode which is (during extensive testing) pretty much a lag-free effort. Hooray!
But then for all the good work Konami do in one half, they score an own goal by putting in a slimmed down edit mode. No in-depth strip editing or player transfers? That means Defoe will have to play for Tottenham forever more. For shame Konami!
And yet for all of the irritating omissions it will be the astoundingly good football which will draw you back long after the initial confusing elements have past you. And that is what really matters.
- Mark Lee,
N-Europe Staff Writer
Head to Page 2 for Adam Ducker's thoughts and opinion, plus N-Europe's final ratings...
N-Europe's Adam Ducker adds his thoughts on the title...
|"...the game provides one of the greatest conversions of an existing third party franchise to Wii."|
Pro Evolution Soccer has long been the held up as the premier football title - whilst it may have lacked the glitzy license of the FIFA series it has long been held up as the football purists game of choice. However the "next-gen" versions on Sony's and Microsoft's latest consoles left a lot of fans disappointed and despondent. From the off set there is clearly a shift in the way this title has been presented. Gone are the flashy FMV opening cutscenes from previous titles, and in with a bright, brash and bold movie showing various flashing coloured footballs and arrows. The menus also have a Wii feel to it with the use of Wii Menu style lozenge buttons.
However this Wii styling does in no way mean we have been given a dumbed down version of the game. If anything it could be argued that a wealth of depth and diversity has been added to this version that the next PS3 and 360 updates struggle to keep up with. Rather than just controlling one player at a time, your Wii-mote now helps you to conduct sweeping attacking moves like an orchestra conductor. Now every player can be controlled by dragging them into position, whilst still controlling the player on the ball. All kinds of moves can be created, space can be created in set pieces, dummy runs can be pulled off and through balls can be expertly played, no longer having to rely on the computer to time the runs for you. The attacking options are so numerous you have so many ways to play and as a result so many different styles that players can adopt. At its best, players can create such fluent attacking play it will feel like you are watching the Manchester United and Barcelona's of this world. The only place where the controls fall down is defensively, where players can be dragged off the ball much like when attacking. It can however be hard to keep up with skilled attacking players. Tapping the A button when pointing at an opposition player will cause them to move in towards them, once a player has a red circle under them meaning a tackle can be carried out by shaking the Nunchuk. It can feel imprecise and mad flailing can become common practice, however patience and practice can help offset these problems, though not enough to dent the feeling that this game has been tilted towards attacking play.
The main single-player mode is Champions Road, which replaces the Master League mode that has become common place. Whilst at first it may seem inferior it actually has a very important role to play in helping players learn the game. After either selecting an original team or creating your own you set about playing in a series of competitions across the length and breadth of the world. After you beat a team you will acquire one of their players, so as you get more skillful at the game you will acquire the players to help use your ever increasing skills. Also in between each tournament you will have training sessions (by a trainer who looking eerily similar to Sven Goran Eriksson) which further supplement your footballing education.
The online mode is really where the game comes into its own. A similar system to Mario Strikers Charged is used where once adding friend codes, you will appear on each others lists ready for invites for match. It makes good use of the Wii's decidedly last-gen online infrastructure. There is also an option for Free Matches against random opponents, with the game keeping track of your record and allowing them to be viewed in the user data menu. The game also lets you decide whether you have a preference for just finding a game or searching by connection speeds to help get the best game possible. Most importantly perhaps, compared to the recent PS3 and Xbox 360 versions lag-fest, things are as smooth as a bowling green so where it may lack in options it makes up for in sheer fun and durability as an online experience.
Editing is not the only feature that has seemingly been left out with future iterations in mind. Online has suffered a few omissions from the PS2 version. Players are able to edit the team names and player names but nothing else. The function to edit players appearances has been cut as are options to move players to correct teams. This wouldn't be a problem if the team rosters were actually up to date, but unfortunately there has been no January transfer update and even transfers from last September are missing, making out for some very out of date line-ups.
Heh, good old Northern Rock...
The sound as usual with the series leaves a lot to be desired. Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson provide the insipid commentary this time round. As is usual for the series, the commentary can occasionally fail to keep up with action and contains a bizarre range of comments. The ground sounds are exactly the same as the PS2 version and people can expect very little change it that respect.
Baring all of this in mind, there still can be little argument that Pro Evo Wii provides one of the greatest conversions of an existing third party franchise to Wii. It is a near faultless package that only falls on a few points, namely the lack of Editing and Master League modes and the sometimes bewildering defensive controls. However without a doubt Seabass has successfully shifted the goalposts and you won't hear anyone complain. They have created a refreshingly free-flowing footballing experience that will leave footy fans struggling to know what to do of a weekend, play Pro Evo or watch real football?
- Adam Ducker
N-Europe Staff Writer
N-Europe's review scores follow below...
N-Europe Final Verdict
This generations best version without a doubt, and the finest sports title on Wii to date. If you're a fan of football or the series, buy it now.
Amazingly innovative controls
Excellent online mode
No Master League
Lack of editing options
Defensive control confusion
Commentary can grate