Pro Evolution Soccer 2008

When a video game series gives up on an old numbering system and chooses to adopt the year of release instead, you instantly begin to fear that you're about to be provided with a tired sequel lacking useful new ideas. Pro Evolution Soccer returns with the 2008 banner attached, arriving this time on Playstation 3 in the next generation. You could argue that it's a fresh numbering system for a brand new generation of great games, but what's new for PES2008?

In PES, the football gameplay has always been the key to success. Despite overwhelming domination from EA's FIFA series in licensing, graphical prowess, presentation and commentary, Pro Evolution Soccer has rarely failed to come out on top for most reviewers, through superbly balanced football action that somehow recreated the sort of enjoyment people get from the real thing. However, since PES finally started to outsell FIFA over the last few years, it could be argued that FIFA has started to close the gap in gameplay quality. Perhaps Konami were too reliant on previous success, or maybe EA were given a jolt at having lost their dominant position; either way, the difference between the games has closed in that respect, while PES has done little to make up ground in licensing or graphics.

PES 2008

There are a few differences in this iteration, with improved through-passes, and a generally slower game that promotes more physical play, but the formula remains largely the same. For anyone new to Pro Evolution Soccer, this is no bad thing, since the football action is extremely enjoyable, but for those that were there for any of PES1-6, it'll be immediately familiar. Since player names aren't a strong point for PES (many will remember playing as famous Dutch footballers such as Van MistleBoum, for example), the update for each year must rely on gameplay improvements and so, with those largely absent, the main thing going for PES 2008 is simply that it arrives in high definition, now on Sony's PS3. Though it's not as visually impressive as FIFA, it's certainly sharp and colourful. Player resemblances (where applicable) are reasonably convincing, and all the items on the pitch are decent enough (players, goals, lines, referees etc.), but the game still falls down slightly in terms of the peripheral details, such as crowds and stadium flourishes. It's probable that budgetary constraints mean that Konami can't spend anywhere near the amount of time that EA do on presentation, and that's a disappointment.

For those keen to get licenses, uniforms, names and players looking exactly as they should, there is a flexible player editor on hand to assist. It requires tremendous dedication (or a download from an internet site) to get everything right, but the scope is there. Many will simply be keen to focus on the real draw in PES games: multiplayer versus matches. Playing with a friend and battling through World Cup tournaments in Pro Evolution Soccer is an unforgettable experience. Picking 16 teams each in a 32-team tournament, so that every match can be played with a friend is particularly good fun, mostly because every match can be so close. While it's true that Brazil will almost certainly dominate over a large number of other footballing nations, two well-matched players will find that any game can go either way, depending on who makes that magical break or responds best under pressure. The emotions you feel as a player, conceding or scoring a goal, are very strong and, impressively, seem to be matched by the players on your team. After going a goal behind, many teams respond strongly, and can counter almost immediately, while many other lose motivation and concede more, with the difference being immediately noticeable to the player. The team flows with the emotion of the game, just as it might in real life.

PES 2008

Breaking away from this positive, and reverting to some more negative points, the commentary is as bad as ever, with phrases being repeated more than green and red lights in a month's worth of traffic signalling. It often also seems to be placed poorly as well, with commentatators often appearing to be viewing an entirely different match. There's also very little music to speak of (except a few slightly-rubbish menu songs). The one decent sound element is perhaps the crowd atmosphere, with relatively convincing chants and whistles that ebb and flow with the action.

With PES arriving on PS3, it's not just high definition that should be advertised. Online play is another of Sony's key aims in the current generation, and PES would be an ideal candidate for brilliant online matches. Sadly, the online play is absolutely shocking. Firstly, there is only the option for 1 vs 1 online games, and despite this limitation, there is still incredible lag that cannot be due to poor internet connections. When you consider the amount of players and effects hurled around in Resistance: Fall of Man, it's very had to understand how PES struggles with 2 human players and 20 AI. Even with patches to address the issue, the online play is still largely uninviting, and certainly not a showcase for PS3 online gaming.

The truth is, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 ticks all the basic boxes, and still succeeds where it should. For anyone new to football games, this would be an ideal place to start, with an excellent multiplayer game for PS3. However, the game has pushed the genre very little, and adds almost nothing beyond previous iterations. If the online play had been better, this could have been an instant success, but instead it is a "good" football game, where virtually every PES game up until now has been a classic.

Game details

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Review summary


Perfectly tuned football action


A bit dodgy next to FIFA


The usual bad commentary


Tonnes of replay value with friends


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