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Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 REVIEW

Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 Review (PS3)

Read the reviews about Winning Eleven games over the past years, and you’ll see a repeated theme, something along the lines of, “Konami has tinkered/slightly upgraded its already great product, leaving the same great gameplay.” Each new incarnation of Konami’s famed football series evokes familiarity yet releases a vague scent of dissimilarity, as if your girlfriend got a 2-inch haircut, or if a classmate switched to dark-rimmed glasses. The same…yet different.

But with the jump to the PlayStation 3, with all its additional graphical power and online capabilities, many Winning Eleven (wait—Pro Evolution Soccer) fans have high expectations for this year’s game, set for release on March 18. So what should you expect? Living in South Korea, I have explored PES: 2008 now for nearly four months, and here’s the verdict: The gameplay upgrades are, as always, subtle, while the graphics outfit the game in its prettiest, crispest virtual home & away kit to date.

Don’t expect 10 goals your first game
Like a Wes Anderson film, PES has delivered a product that packs a steep learning curve at first, but rewards gamers the longer they indulge, as never-before-seen details and pleasant surprises emerge. It’s not unusual 5 or 6 months into the game, you stumble upon an undiscovered step-over, or a nifty, over-the-head ball flic animation. In this regard, PES:08 is no different.

In my first month, I noticed how the game pace was slower than last year’s 2007 version. The ball seems to pass slower, as if the pitch weren’t trimmed for weeks. Even the players running speed seems to be slower. Perhaps the reason for this is the game’s upgrade to high-definition, allowing for a wider view of the pitch, despite using the same camera angle (wide view). Yet, the slower pace allows for a more managed, less sprint-and-run game. Players, especially brutes like Inter’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Chelsea’s Didier Drogba, seemingly can ignore two or three defenders kicking at their legs and advance forward.

Still, as I adjusted to the game’s speed, the game’s tried-and-true elements were revealed: the controlled, quick passing in the midfield; the ability to instantaneously call upon the myriad of dribble, one-touch, and shoulder fake animations to evade a defender; the intelligent CPU off-the-ball movement. These basic components are where the PES fans and FIFA fans show the biggest contrast in preference: FIFA’s gameplay core seems to start with generating space via the dribbling tactics summoned upon by the Right analog stick; PES relies more on team play, with concise passing. To illustrate with a basketball example, PES seems to be a great mid-major basketball team steeped in team fundamentals, while FIFA is more like a Memphis or Kansas, relying more on flash and individual play.

New A.I. reads your mind…sort of
The biggest improvement, as touted by PES producer Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka, is the so-called “Teamvision AI,” which is a feature where the CPU tracks your attacking and defensive tendencies. I think this new feature has effects both in-game and throughout a season. For example, you will notice if you attack down the wings, the defense will creep up, forcing you to charge down the middle instead. Also, in a season playing as Valencia in the Liga Espanol, I toppled FC Barcelona 3-2 in the first game, then struggled in the ensuing 10 matches against lesser teams, as the opposing defenses and offenses adjusted to my style. Other small, new touches include: the ability to dive (simultaneously press L1+L2+R1), and to take free-kicks without the screen going momentarily black.

Not the prettiest girl on the soccer block
In terms of the graphics, the game certainly looks much better, as one buddy of mine during his first game exclaimed: “Wow, you can see the grass blades!” The facial expressions, while still a bit too “emo,” are more human, even expressing angst and happiness at correct times. The crowds are all 3-D, and you get close-ups of a few portly fans in the pre-game introductions. That said, the faces, stadiums, and jerseys all look considerably worse compared to FIFA. However, in the animation department, PES’ subtle in-game movements, as mentioned above, are more diverse and realistic than in FIFA. One major difference is PE’s long-established “Super Cancel” feature, which allows defenders or attackers to cancel the computer’s pre-destined direction mid-run; in FIFA, however, players plod along as if they were on tracks.

Like previous versions, the English commentary is sub-par, though more enjoyable and lively in any of the foreign languages, be it Spanish or Japanese. The crowds chant team-specific chants, even for the national sides, and boo more frequently. Sadly, I have not seen any flares tossed among the crowds yet.

Who is Rigaloose?
PES packs a number of game modes: Exhibition, Master League (the game’s Franchise mode where players age, retire, etc.), League (players don’t age; you can choose among the French, Spanish, English, or Dutch leagues, or create a super league of various club nationalities); Cup; Online; and an extensive skill-by-skill training mode. The Master League allows you to either start with a current team, or build up a team from the 2nd division with fictional players. Either way, you accumulate cash by winning games, placing high in tournaments, or finishing first in league goals or assists. With that cash, you pay your players and bid for new ones. The system is adjustable based on the frequency and difficulty of transfers, player development, and whether to include Classic Players (Pele, Maradona, etc.). One new addition is the inclusion of a Fan Popularity grade with individual players, which determines how difficult it is to buy a player. But because there is no economic factor to the game, i.e. no tinkering soda sales or monitoring attendance, there are no real ramifications for selling your club’s Steven Gerrard-esque poster boy.

With the access now to PS3’s hard drive, it has never been easier to upload user-created kits and updated rosters. And trust me—you’ll need to upgrade, as the English Premiership, outside of Tottenham and Newcastle United, are unlicensed. The players are all there, but weird kits and team names appear, like Arzegum (Arsenal), Rigaloose (Liverpool), and McCresta U (Manchester United). The menu screens, decorated with sleek blues and grays, are a bit difficult to navigate—for example, finding in-season results was a pain—but little touches, like a global map as the backdrop during team selection, complete with a shiny dot showing the geography, are nice touches. The game’s music is a mix of grunge, hard, and soft rock that you’d hear on any FM station.

As for the online play, you can always find a game, given the game’s international popularity, as PES, naturally, boasts most of its sales in Asia and Europe. Still, like any sports gaming experience online, there are cheap players who fancy up weird team formations to cheat the CPU system. Lag is always a problem, though not anymore than other sports games. Also, you can only play head-to-head, or two human players against the CPU, but not 2v2 games.

Konami sticks with the if it ain’t broke theory…
In conclusion, PES produced what many of us should have expected, given its recent track history of baby step improvements. If you’re a die-hard fan of the series or football, you will be treated to the best blend of graphics and gameplay to date, though don’t expect to be overwhelmed with improvements, especially if you’re not new to the series.


Graphics:
The best-looking PES to date, but pedestrian compared to FIFA.

Sound: Commentary and in-game music are bland, but team-specific chants ramp up authenticity.

Entertainment Value: If you have the patience to learn the nuances, PES will reward you with a realistic football experience. Master League is solid.

Learning Curve: Not as approachable as FIFA, given the game’s authenticity. If you only think “offsides” is a 5-yard penalty, you’ll struggle at first.

Online:
Some options on last year’s PS2 version didn’t make the cut for the PS3 version; still, PES has a very active online gaming community.


Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 Score
Same great authentic gameplay
TeamVision AI feature ramps up difficulty
Best-looking PES yet
Lack of league and team licenses
Steep learning curve
Not overwhelmingly better than last year
7.5
out of 10
Member Comments
# 1 Gamecocks625 @ 02/29/08 12:41 PM
Are there still framerate issues on the PS3 version even after the patches?
 
# 2 Bahnzo @ 02/29/08 01:33 PM
Can I ask....how sure are you that this is the same version that will be released here in the US? I would hope that after 4-5 months after initial release there would be some differences between that version and the one offered here in the USA.
 
# 3 mgoblue @ 02/29/08 02:16 PM
Weird to see slower gameplay but I remember it being more fast and ping pong like when I played the demo. I don't have the demo downloaded still though, so can't comment.

Bahnzo, yeah, Konami screws us over like that, get used to it. We get the same exact game as Europe and Asia, just half a year behind. They don't give a flying fark about the US market or something.
 
# 4 mercalnd @ 02/29/08 04:00 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgoblue
Weird to see slower gameplay but I remember it being more fast and ping pong like when I played the demo.
That's pretty much how I felt when I imported the European version as well.
 
# 5 BrianFifaFan @ 02/29/08 04:31 PM
Super-cancel is in Fifa08. RT+LT. But I will go along with the part about flashy dribbling being how you create space in Fifa.
 
# 6 JRod @ 02/29/08 04:35 PM
Slower...that's odd.

Could it be they've taken this time to slow down the game.

Or it has to do with the NTSC/Pal conversions?

Odd.
 
# 7 mgoblue @ 02/29/08 05:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by JRod
Slower...that's odd.

Could it be they've taken this time to slow down the game.

Or it has to do with the NTSC/Pal conversions?

Odd.
Yeah, I don't want to call the reviewer into question, but I just have no clue who this guy is and I don't know what his thoughts/opinions have been long term. I don't know whether the "slower gameplay" aspect is really something that'd have me interested in PES again, or if his "slower gameplay" is really still the pinball speed existing.
 
# 8 ChaseB @ 02/29/08 05:18 PM
I'll have Timmy come by and clarify perhaps when he gets a chance. The whole living in Korea thing kind of throws that off though haha.
 
# 9 mgoblue @ 02/29/08 05:22 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slizeezyc
I'll have Timmy come by and clarify perhaps when he gets a chance. The whole living in Korea thing kind of throws that off though haha.
Yeah, that'd be cool...it was a good review, just this version of PES has been either liked or hated...tough to gage sometimes. Definitely understand the distance issue haha.
 
# 10 Bahnzo @ 02/29/08 05:24 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slizeezyc
I'll have Timmy come by and clarify perhaps when he gets a chance. The whole living in Korea thing kind of throws that off though haha.
Which again I don't understand why we have a review for a game that isn't offered here in the US? It's great that he's played it, but then there's been a thousand other reviews for the same game. If you have something new to tell me about the USA version, then that's something I'm interested in.
 
# 11 ChaseB @ 02/29/08 10:25 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahnzo
Which again I don't understand why we have a review for a game that isn't offered here in the US? It's great that he's played it, but then there's been a thousand other reviews for the same game. If you have something new to tell me about the USA version, then that's something I'm interested in.
Well we did put an import label on the review for that reason, and it will be reassessed once the US version comes out obviously. But really it was done because it was one game that wasn't in the database, and as a sports site it's important to be a hub for anyone, whether it be an American or otherwise.
 
# 12 devilsjaw @ 03/01/08 11:14 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mgoblue
Yeah, I don't want to call the reviewer into question, but I just have no clue who this guy is and I don't know what his thoughts/opinions have been long term. I don't know whether the "slower gameplay" aspect is really something that'd have me interested in PES again, or if his "slower gameplay" is really still the pinball speed existing.
I have the European version for my PS3, and the game speed is not an issue imo. I played the demo on my 360 and felt the same most did, in that the game played two fast. With the recent patch the game received, the speed is not an issue, as the passing to me is almost too slow, you really have to hold down the pass button to get good pace. I feel the speed is along the same lines as FIFA.
 
# 13 devilsjaw @ 03/01/08 11:15 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahnzo
Can I ask....how sure are you that this is the same version that will be released here in the US? I would hope that after 4-5 months after initial release there would be some differences between that version and the one offered here in the USA.
Konami never changes anything for the American version. They are as lazy as EA. They can't even bother to update the transfers.
 
# 14 noles_acc @ 03/01/08 08:58 PM
Sorry for my late response guys. The time difference does make things unnecessarily complicated.

Now onto the questions:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gamecocks625
Are there still framerate issues on the PS3 version even after the patches?
I believe this vagueness in the word choice in my review led many to believe when i wrote "slow" gamespeed, it meant "lag." There have now been two patches, and really none were ever necessary. The lag only came if you were running the game on standard television, like the 480fpi (I'm not a techie, sorry if that's the wrong acronym), and not HDTV. I've had the game on HDTV and have the patch and notice very little lag off-line, and just a bit online, though whether the game itself is to blame is debatable.

Again, the game speed issues were literally gamespeed. I deleted this from my first draft of the review (maybe I shouldn'tve), but dating back to the PS2 version, Winning Eleven 7 was slower, WE8 was very fast, WE9 was much slower, while WE10, with all its automatic strafing, felt like it was a different speed as well. Compared to WE8 and even WE10, the PS3 version just feels slower--and the reason might be the bumped up screen resolution. Imagine if someone looks faster on a basketball court, courtside or in the nosebleeds. That's what I tried to get across in the review--is everything happening slower because of the gameplay engine or is it because the camera is pulled farther back?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahnzo
Can I ask....how sure are you that this is the same version that will be released here in the US? I would hope that after 4-5 months after initial release there would be some differences between that version and the one offered here in the USA.
I have not been in contact with Konami, so I apologize that I do not know. I believe a very similar version will import over to the States. In fact, Konami often gives the best versions to Japan and Korea, even giving more player attributes, little small menu interface features (like in WE8, I think, the game had headshots of players long before this became common in the US version). I think the menus get a bit weird sometimes because Konami is trying to adapt its "Japanese" interface to tailor to Western crowds.


Quote:
Originally Posted by JRod
Slower...that's odd.

Could it be they've taken this time to slow down the game.

Or it has to do with the NTSC/Pal conversions?

Odd.
I have no idea what NTSC/Pal means, but according to Wikipedia it means something to do with the color-encoding system of my television. Again, please read above for my clarifications on why I wrote the game seemed "slower."


Quote:
Originally Posted by mgoblue
Yeah, I don't want to call the reviewer into question, but I just have no clue who this guy is and I don't know what his thoughts/opinions have been long term. I don't know whether the "slower gameplay" aspect is really something that'd have me interested in PES again, or if his "slower gameplay" is really still the pinball speed existing.
Who the bloody hell am I? (hey, it's a fair question...haha). Well, I've reviewed games across all platforms for the better part of 10 years for various Web sites (search my name and some of the older Winnings, and you'll find numerous reviews of mine). I have owned every Winning since it came to the PS2, most FIFAs ('97 version was the greatest), and my soccer game playing experience dates back to "assasinating" opposing players (remember this? after like three tackles the players would go limp and lay on the field?) in World Cup on the NES. I was also a defensive midfielder and captain of my high school soccer team. I worked as a journalist for a while as well.

But to more directly address your comment: when it comes between FIFA and PES, you have to determine what is "pinball" speed. Because if you watch the EPL or La Liga, and imagine that in a video game, you'd probably expect the pass speed to be even faster! Haha. Unless you're one of those elite PES gamers who can net those amazing 60-yard shots, one-timing it from a backline pass from your centreback, I don't know if the game, frankly, has ever been too "pinball." I think that it is just normal.

***
Anywho, thanks everyone for your great feedback so far, and I'll do my best to keep the responses faster than what I've done so far.
 
# 15 CaptainZombie @ 03/02/08 01:04 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bahnzo
Can I ask....how sure are you that this is the same version that will be released here in the US? I would hope that after 4-5 months after initial release there would be some differences between that version and the one offered here in the USA.
Quote:
Originally Posted by mercalnd
That's pretty much how I felt when I imported the European version as well.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Slizeezyc
I'll have Timmy come by and clarify perhaps when he gets a chance. The whole living in Korea thing kind of throws that off though haha.
Slizeezyc, good to hear that the review will be reassessed when the US version releases, because the demo we played was different gameplay wise from the Euro release.
 
# 16 therizing02 @ 03/02/08 04:05 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by candymanGT
Slizeezyc, good to hear that the review will be reassessed when the US version releases, because the demo we played was different gameplay wise from the Euro release.
Different in a good way?

I recently re-installed the PC version and installed a patch (not the official patches) with an updated option file and this game is by far the best of the year. By far.

Still thinking about picking up the console version though.

If I get a PS3 can I import a copy from Europe?
 
# 17 devilsjaw @ 03/02/08 05:09 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by therizing02

If I get a PS3 can I import a copy from Europe?
Yes, that's what I did. Personally, I would wait until October for the next version, Konami have admitted that this years version was not what they wanted.
 
# 18 Intelx @ 03/03/08 01:18 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by devilsjaw
Personally, I would wait until October for the next version, Konami have admitted that this years version was not what they wanted.
They also said the same thing lastyear.

Intelx
 
# 19 clean-sweep @ 03/04/08 11:03 AM
the thing with this year is that one pass can totaly break a whole 4---4 wall and play a pin ball style of football wich they play in the epl but certaintly not for the whole 90min.
 
# 20 forensicd @ 03/10/08 10:37 AM
In the review, it states 2 people can play online vs the computer. Is this true, can my friend on another 360 play with me on my 360 over live on the team vs cpu?
 

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