Nov 8, 2007
Anticlimactic. That's how it felt when, having craved next-gen PES since the dawn of PS3, we finally got to play a finished (or supposedly finished, but more on that in a minute) copy. PES 2008 just doesn't feel like a bold step into the future. At first, it feels like little more than a shinier version of PES6.
But the clue, as ever, is in the word 'evolution'. PES 2008, like each new addition to the series, has evolved - it's just that this year's evolution isn't as obvious as usual. In PES6, for instance, it was immediately apparent that passing was far crisper than in PES5, and that it played a much slower, methodical match. PES5, equally, was slower than PES4, with a new physical emphasis on gameplay, bringing the brute strength of the likes of Drogba to the fore. But in PES 2008, the first change you'll notice is the slowdown.
Yes, sadly, you read that right. We were promised by Konami that this would be ironed out before PES hit the shops, but, just in case, we're obliged to say that the supposedly-complete review code we played got very juddery. It was at its worst in four-player mode, when the game had some kind of seizure whenever we headed into either of the corners of the pitch towards the front of the screen. In solo or two-player it wasn't so bad, and worse on some pitch types than others, and PES being - still - the great game it is, you can sort-of learn to overlook it, but it never quite stops grating. The framerate on the replays was rotten too.
Still, there are plenty of other, more beneficial changes too, and the more you play the more you discover. First, fewer passes go astray through no fault of your own than in PES6 (bar cross-field balls, which can be bafflingly inaccurate). The same applies for long throws, which previously we refused to even attempt because we knew they'd go nowhere near their target. Knock-down and flick-on headers are easier to place accurately as well, while your teammates make sensible runs into space that, in prior titles, they might not have. And one of our favourite tweaks of all is the ability, via the Setplay menu, to send your defenders up-front for corners.
PES is that bit more physical this year, too - tackles crunch louder (with less predictable outcomes) and players grunt when they collide - send Tevez running directly into John Terry, say, and you'll almost feel the breath being sucked from his tiny lungs.