Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 Hands-On

We snatch some game time in Australia with the next in the Pro Evolution series to see what changes Konami has in store.

by

The Pro Evolution Soccer series--which is known as the Winning Eleven series in the US--has long been revered by football fans (that's soccer fans, stateside) for its engaging and realistic gameplay. That trend looks set to continue in the series' latest version, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, if our extensive preview time with a quite polished Australian PlayStation 2 version of the game is any indication.

Pro Evo's strict adherence to realism has always made it a more difficult game to master than some of its competitors, and PES 2008 looks likely to be no walk in the park either. One of Konami's key additions to this year's game is a new artificial-intelligence system they've dubbed Teamvision, which supposedly allows computer-controlled opponents to learn and adapt to how gamers play. What this seemed to translate to on the pitch was a higher level of aggression from opposition players. We played numerous games on Pro Evo 2008's default regular difficulty, and the defensive pressure piled on by opposition teams is certainly much greater than last year's offering.

Opposition defenders will immediately run at whoever of your team members has the ball, shutting down the free space and restricting the amount of time to pass. They'll often work in groups as well, with two or more opposition players ganging up to help force a turnover. Defenders also seem much more adept at reading the play this year, and will readily move off their marked player if there's a loose pass to be swooped on. Quick passes--and accurate ones at that--are now more than ever the key to breaking down a computer-controlled Pro Evo side.

Offensive AI also seems to have been ramped up from the previous game, with opposition attackers more adept at passing the ball around to catch defenders on the hop. Attackers also seem more willing to run with the ball and take your defenders on. All of this results in a generally tougher experience, something which long-term fans of the series will surely welcome.

This higher difficulty could catch many off guard initially, and our first few run-throughs certainly turned up some surprising results (like when we played as Brazil and got walloped 3-1 by minnows Costa Rica). But thankfully the series' core gameplay mechanics and control scheme have stayed generally the same from previous iterations. The X button is still used for short passes, circle for long, triangle for through-balls, and square for shooting at goal (although this is still as touchy as ever). In defence, X is still used to pressure a player, while circle makes your player slide tackle an opponent. There's also a range of advanced attacking and defending moves that can be busted out through a combination of the D pad, shoulder buttons, and right analog stick, but the bottom line is that experienced players should adapt quite quickly to the new difficulty on offer.

Pro Evolution has always led the way when it comes to realistic ball physics, and the 2008 version similarly showcases the same levels of finesse. If anything, the physics seem slightly improved in this outing, and it's particularly noticeable in the way the ball moves in different playing conditions. Player animations are once again high-quality, and in some cases they're eerily realistic. Goal celebration animations, player tackles, gestures to the referees, and more are all fluid and lifelike, making it a great game for spectators to view over your shoulder.

As for gameplay modes, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 still offers a wide variety, including the returning Master League mode where players can choose a lowly side and take it all the way to the top divisions. Each game won and achievement unlocked will also earn you PES points, which can be used to unlock classic teams, players, stadiums, and more.

PES has long been behind the FIFA series in terms of official licences, and this latest version is no different. To be fair, there are still plenty of real-world players, leagues, and teams included, such as the entire French Ligue 1, the Italian Serie A, and dozens of national sides. But UK gamers will be disappointed to read that no Premier League sides are included this year, a step back from last year's PES, which at least featured Arsenal and Manchester United (although with months to go before the game's official release, Konami may still be working behind the scenes to grab some of those licences). Fans of star player Ronaldinho also miss out, with the Brazilian omitted from the game. And for Aussies, the still-young A-League is nowhere to be seen. That said, this latest version of Pro Evo once again gives you the ability to change existing team names and even logos, so true football aficionados can in some part get the accuracy they crave.

While Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 doesn't offer any major leaps from its predecessor, our preview time with this build seems to indicate that Konami has tweaked the right areas to ensure long-time fans of the series will come back for more--namely, bumping up the challenge even further. As well as the PS2, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 is slated for release in the third quarter of this year for the PlayStation 3, PSP, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS, and PC.

Discussion

17 comments
masterhannibal
masterhannibal

I adore PES and WE definitly much more than most of FIFA's , but to be fair , there are some bad and good points abt the game... Good Points : 1- Many players were recalibrated and their levels became better: ( DROGBA, KAKA, SEEDORF, RIU FERDINAND,....) 2- Most of teams are now playable which wasn't the case with PES 6 , where u can play with some teams & ignore the rest ( better Real Madrid, Valencia, AC Millan & Bayern Munchen), mean while some teams became beasts :D ((Barcelona , InterMillan)) 3- Strong and Tall defenders are better than in PES 6 4- U don't see a lot the bug of PENETRATION (( a player penetrates or pass through another player :D)) 5- Different & nice game balls.. 6- Goal Keepers are great and not easily defeated probably more than PES 6 (( Casias, Check, Toldo, Dida, and the recalibrated Julio Cesar)) Bad Points: 1- On PS2, doesn't differ than PES 6 or WE10 in graphics cause these are the limits of PS2 ... (( but on PC, it's extraordinary according to next generation gaming effects , much much more better than any released fifa, and also, they fixed the frame rate problems)) 2- Some became more invincible (( Ibrahimovic, Rooney, Saviola,....)) & still u feel it strange cause u don't think that this is Ibrahimovic of the reality... And surely, Ronaldo still keeps his levels although, in reality this is not true... I wonder, when will they lower his a levels a little bit ? :D 3- Worse and worse, defenders may stop suddenly while they are running after someone, so don't be astonished if u see the opponent's player suddenly also alone with ur goal keeper, probably they have secrets to tell :D... 4- Some bugs which are solved on the pc version, aren't solved in the PS2 version, like for example the idea for running in a direction , then returning back in the opposit one... This had been fixed in PC cause a lot of times when u do this thing, u find that the strong defender stopping in ur back and cutting the way between u and the ball & catching it . Also, in the PC version u have to be careful while using the R1 , cause if u don't control the direction, u may not have the time to catch the ball again and the opponent's player may do it before u react . But on PS2 , u can still run as if in a endless farm :D like the the first parts of the famous japanese Manga Captain Tsubasu:D)) 5- Team management menus in the prematch or while the stoppage are still the same , except for the colour change... 6- Although defenders are better, but i don't why somehow the balls is sometimes hard to be cut ...? 7 - for the PS2 version, if u play it , u ll feel that it's not nearly different than PES 6, which isn't the feeling that grab u when u see the external interface after the game starts... 8- It seems that they don't favor any players this year at contrary with what they said :D cause although OWEN and C R are on the DVD cover, but none of them or any other player is present at the background of the initial game Menu (( sure not the black one of the language & TV settings :D ))

mixalisg1
mixalisg1

PES 2008 "ROCKS" and its the best football game on any platform!!!!

DannyBoyVai
DannyBoyVai

Guys, calm down. Just create Ronaldhino and stick him in the Barca squad. Isn't editing fun ?. Heh. As for the Prem clubs, I am used to sitting for an hour renaming and doing all the strips for he premiership clubs as soon as I load the game up. No biggy, with gamepay as fluid and enjoyable as this, who cares about spending a short hour editing a few things ?. FIFA is getting good, but it's movement has a long long way to go to catch Pro Evo.

hgabriel
hgabriel

What about the graphics? and the licence thing is still annoying . . . but PES will be the best football game around!

aquamah
aquamah

PES 2008 will rule again ... FIFA 2008 will try again

Arkle
Arkle

I, for one, will be getting this on PC because I love how easy it is to edit on there. Although it's possible to edit other versions too, it's as simple as drag and drop on a pc in most cases. People who are concerned about the licenses, just wait a month or so and I can bet you there will be patches available to put them in. Konami know how big a scene they have in terms of editing.

cyw1988
cyw1988

This is gonna be interesting... Winning Eleven 11 lol... anyway with the jokes aside, I think at the end of the day, it has to go to licenses. I mean what's the point of good gameplay when you don't know any of the players.

donwoogie
donwoogie

Damn, this looks to be shaping up to be another Pro Evo 5 style cockup

Foolz3h
Foolz3h

Who cares about licenses? That's what the editing section is for. Doesn't sound like a huge leap from 6 though.

bob_geldof221
bob_geldof221

meh the usual stuff no real advancments..still first thing on my shopping list thou this will be ace on ps3

Irve
Irve

seems like this is shaping up to be a poor yearly update this time .. hopefully it will at least be more of a full product on 360 over lest years cut down version ! Konami should be including more and more unlicenced teams so you can build as many leagues as you want .. some people mich want to play the CC championship or even league 1 football . One of the biggest things Fifa has in it's favour is the ability to take a 3rd division side right to the top of the premiership and europe .... PES needs that depth too !! it's always had the meat .. not it's time for the gravy

blackgolds
blackgolds

this is worse , than what i expected , no premiship clubs , no ronaldinho , it seems there going backwards , and not fowards, im no fan of fifa , but it looks like its right next to pro evo.

jammakane10
jammakane10

looks like fifas finally going to take over pes. fifa 07 made fifa nearly as good as pes on pitch, and now fifa 08 will have more modes, and fixing the issues. looks like konami is just ignorring the many complaints about master league, and not fixing many other things. il be getting this and fifa 08 anyway.

macacd
macacd

sounds hugly dissipointing, PES always better than FIFA when it comes to on pitch gameplay but the Masters league format is outdated and the lack of 100% accurate nanes distracts from what should be the pinicle of football games. PES2007 Was the poorest pes in the games estabished life but this doesn't sound to have rectified the problems. Very dissipointed.

Greg_888_v8
Greg_888_v8

damn i wish it had way more official teams etc. once it gets that FIFA series has NOTHING shame there is no a-league

galerian86
galerian86

with fifa 08 improvement, it will be good to see which game is better? at least more choice