Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 Hands-On: Master League and Edit modes

We check out the improved Master League mode in the next Pro Evo, as well as try out the new player edit features.

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Last year's Pro Evolution Soccer 6 was the first Xbox 360 appearance of the venerable football franchise, and while it boasted similar gameplay to the PS2 and PC versions, it featured a relatively stripped-back Master League mode and strictly rudimentary editing features. Konami's aiming to fix that in Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 with both the 360 and PS3 versions introducing a new sandbox to play in with Master League and a comprehensive editing suite which will allow you to tinker with teams and players to your heart's content. We recently got to play with both, and we're pleased to say they will be welcome additions when the full game ships later this year.

As you can read in our PS2 and PS3 gameplay previews of Pro Evo 2008, the series' trademark attention to realism and sweet ball physics looks set for a return. You'll get all the usual gameplay modes as well, including one-off exhibition matches, full league seasons, and of course, the ever-popular Master League mode. In the 360 version of Pro Evo 6 last year, Master League only allowed two options--to take an existing team through the ranks or to take the "original" Master League list of players through. This year's Pro Evo offering adds another option--the ability to create your own custom teams. And this doesn't just mean creating a squad out of the players included in the game, as Pro Evo 08 will also allow gamers to create their own players and even design their own strips.

First things first--the Master League mode in Pro Evo 08 looks to be in essence the same as in previous years. Master League remains Pro Evo's career mode, in which players are tasked with bringing up a team through lower divisions in an attempt to become the best in the world. Along the way, gamers have to make decisions on squad development and player purchases and transfers to ensure their footballing dynasty. Pro Evo 08's Master League has undergone a menu facelift but remains the same underneath--gamers can still track their individual player's development progress via nifty graphs, set team formations, and initiate transfers and player buyouts. The amount you can spend is tied to your team's success, so there are obviously limits to the number of stars you can recruit in the early seasons.

Limited funds will also make sure you don't automatically start out with a team of superstars should you go down the path of creating your team from scratch in Pro Evo 08. When you first create a team, you'll be asked to base it off an existing team template, from which you can then change the name, strips, and players as much as required. The low fund base from which you'll start means you won't be able to have a Ronaldinho, Crespo, or Rooney all in your team at once thanks to the high value assigned to these superstars.

The level of team customisation available is impressive--as well as items like the team name, home stadium, and even crowd cheers, Pro Evo 08 allows you to tinker with the team strip to a high degree. That means fine detail such as font spacing, colour, and positioning, as well as alternate strips. What's particularly exciting, however, is the ability to insert your own team logos by taking snaps using the Xbox Live Vision Camera.

The Xbox Camera can also be used to add your own face (or your friends) to player created characters. Pro Evo's face mapping tool is one of the best we've seen on a console game, resulting in players which look eerily similar to their real-life counterparts. Once in the game, the scanned faces are endowed with some nice movements, such as mouths opening in excitement after goals. Pro Evo 08 allows you to max out your created characters' skills right from the word go, although higher skills obviously translate into a higher value when you want to put your player into your own created Master League team.

We know plenty of Pro Evo fanatics out there, and we're sure that the added customisation features set to ship with Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 will be something they'll readily latch onto. Check out GameSpot for more previews and a full review of Pro Evo 08 soon.

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