|System: X360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-4; 2(Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 is a failed attempt by Konami to improve upon their 2007 offering. A few minor additions this time around have not significantly advanced the title and don't offer a compelling reason to re-purchase it. Thankfully, gameplay is still the best available for soccer titles. However, Konami's gameplay-centric model has grown tiresome. There is literally not a single "wow factor" in the entire game. The visuals, sounds, and overall quality of presentation are seriously lacking. To top it all off, the online component is not only devoid of features, it is at times somewhat lag-laden. If you own any of the previous versions of the franchise, then there is no reason to buy PES 2008. If you need a soccer title, then it will serve you well enough, though I'd hold off and demand much more from Konami.
The beloved Winning Eleven franchise of the last generation has been rebranded in North America in order to take on its European name: Pro Evolution Soccer. Pro Evo has always been the best playing soccer title out there. Unfortunately, it seems as if the franchise is resting on its laurels. The sounds and commentary are acceptable, but not great by any means. The commentary is not only repetitive, but too canned to bring about any sense of excitement. Also the music selection in the menus is awful. They've tried to take a page out of EA's book, but the end result is an utter failure. The crowd noise, on the other hand, does stand out. The fans lend a good deal of atmosphere that the game is otherwise sorely lacking. The poor graphics and overall presentation, while previously excusable, are unacceptable to the contemporary gamer and have left soccer enthusiasts like me scratching our heads. We demand high quality visuals and serious attention to detail in order to transport us to a world of football where we're the stars. Sadly, Pro Evolution 2008 never gets it right, which is a real shame considering the uphill struggle the developers face due to the lack of licensing.
For starters, the menus are as plain and as boring as those found in discount fishing titles. This wouldn't be so bad except when you combine it with the rest of the ugly package. The pregame introductions are buggy and slow. The fifteen stadiums included are fuzzy and only passably detailed. The cheering fans are far too repetitive and uninteresting. Thankfully, the likenesses of the relative handful of true professionals are very well captured and the action animations look realistic, though this doesn't stem the bleeding. Games made specifically for current gen consoles simply must do a better job graphically. All in all, the game is as visually impressive as a polished turd.
Not surprisingly, gameplay is as good as ever. The inclusion of the Teamvision system has been added this year in an attempt to improve opposition A.I. I didn't notice much of a difference over previous versions, but it does adjust slightly to your playing style. In other words, if you continually try to cruise down the flanks and cross the ball into the box, then the A.I. will begin to compensate and shut that option down. However, it takes a long time for this on-the-fly adjustment to be realized. However, I can say that the A.I. is quite good whether the Teamvision feature works or not; it will provide players with a stiff challenge on the higher difficulty levels and lasting appeal. Additionally, friendly A.I. is head and shoulders above EA's soccer franchise. Your teammates will actually make intelligent runs off the ball. As a result, defenders will track them and open up space for you or your teammates will lose their mark and provide you with a perfect opportunity to get in behind the defense with a searching ball.
Moreover, passing and shooting are extremely realistic. Unlike the FIFA series, hitting through balls with the perfect weight is an absolute joy. At higher difficulties this becomes much more difficult to perform without the defense cutting it out, but it is still a very useful feature. It allows you to provide game changing direct service with quality holding midfielders instead of always resorting to simple short passing, wing play, and dribbling. Equally great is the ease of shooting, especially in mid-air. If a top striker is able to run onto a curling cross from the wing, he will pounce on it and bust the net with clinical precision. On the flip side, if you try to hit a volley first-time with a destructive marking back, you'll go high and wide every time. This bit of realism goes a long way to supporting tactical changes.