While Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 was a disappointment on nearly every other platform, the Wii version offers a genuinely new take on the series. Developed by a completely different team within Konami, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 takes the game's solid heritage and adds a control system specifically designed for the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. The online mode is generally excellent, as well as lag-free, and the game-finding system works well. It's still a little too short on game modes and unlockable extras, but as a bold first appearance on the Wii, it's an innovative new game that football fans should definitely check out.
PES 2008 starts with a lengthy but necessary tutorial. Even if you're familiar with the series, this game is a fundamentally different experience on the Wii, and while purists may baulk at the prospect of controlling players with a cursor, it's actually a very natural way to play. You use the Wii Remote to point at the screen and draw out the moves you want to make, whether it's a run in a certain direction or a pass to another player. You can still move your players using the Nunchuk's analogue stick, but you have to pass by aiming the cursor and pressing the B button. Likewise, if you want your player to make a run, you point the cursor in the direction you want him to go and press the A button. These are just the basics, however, and you can move off-the-ball players by tapping the A button twice, perform feints by swinging the Nunchuk, or make chip shots by swiping the Wii Remote. At first, it feels like you're performing a complex juggling act of button combos and controller movements, but it's a well-designed system that allows you to perform all the same moves that you're used to in previous games.
The most immediate thing you'll notice is how much the new controls change the flow of the game, making it feel more fluid and lifelike than before. That said, dealing with all the onscreen action can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, and we couldn't help but make the occasional passing error as a result. Thankfully, the AI-controlled players are adaptive and will immediately come to collect a loose ball, but processing all the information you need can be a serious challenge until you've mastered the game. The biggest problem, though, is that it's very difficult to make effective tackles using the Wii Remote, and you're never really in control when playing in defence. You can pressure the opposing player by holding the A button or lunge in with a sliding tackle by holding down the Z button and swinging the Nunchuk. However, drawing out running paths at the same time means that neither option is particularly accurate, and you'll frequently mistime tackles or just fumble them completely.
Local matches can only feature one or two players. Although it's a shame that there isn't four-player support, the number of cursors and lines that would entail onscreen action would probably have resulted in a very confusing game. There are also Cup and League modes; you can replicate your favourite competitions or leagues using both domestic and international teams. Like the DS version, PES 2008 on the Wii ditches the series' much-loved Master League mode for something quite different, and in this case, it's the strangely titled Champions Road. In addition to the normal challenge of winning matches as you guide your team through, this mode offers challenges, such as making a certain number of passes or scoring a minimum number of goals during games. It's a fun game mode, but we can't help but yearn for something a little less contrived and more in-depth.
Although the Wii's Internet service has come under fire in the past, it proves to be the best platform yet for playing Pro Evo online. While it was sometimes difficult to find other people to play, once we found an opponent, the action held up incredibly well, with practically no lag or slowdown and an excellent online interface. You can either play with friends whose codes you've registered or with other random players looking for a game, and you can choose to sort players by their connection strength or availability. While it is a fairly simple online service--with support for only two players per game and a lack of voice communications or online rankings--it's nonetheless a joy to play. When you compare that to the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 versions of Pro Evo, it's nothing short of a miracle.
Presentation has never been a strong point of the series, but the Wii version makes an acceptable showing in this department. The menu system is laid out logically, and it's easy to navigate your way through all the information on offer, whilst the matches themselves prove pleasing to the eye. That said, the menu music is still generic and repetitive. The commentary from Peter Brackley and Mark Lawrenson also offers little insight into the action. The graphics are a little bit better than the PlayStation 2 version of the game, particularly when running in 480p, and the same animation system endows players with a real sense of physicality. Team licensing is still a problem though, with the majority of the English league boasting such titles as London FC, Man Red, and Teeside. The players themselves are fairly up-to-date and feature the correct names however; so, correcting these issues is relatively easy.
Konami took a risk with the Wii version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, and it's one that has paid off. It's a completely different experience from every other version of the game because the control system offers a more flowing game of football and one that's incredibly rewarding once it's mastered. While there are still some teething problems--most notably in defensive control--moving players and making passes around the pitch is incredibly natural using the Wii Remote. We're also pleased at how well it plays online, so much so that we'd recommend the online mode above all other modes offered in the game. The lack of a Master League mode is disappointing, but Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 offers a novel approach to playing football that works well.