Opposition AI, meanwhile - powered by the vaunted TeamVision system - is smart, spotting obvious runs and passes before you even make them, forcing you to consider every move. The game has a more methodical feel than before, and the slightly weaker shooting - you'll score fewer 30-yard blockbusters - means you've really got to pass the ball about to unlock defences, and said slick passing means you can avoid those gritty midfield battles that often cropped up previously. We're not sure to what extent the AI really learns your playing style, as claimed - when we played well, we never noticed it counter our tactics to the degree that we've felt the need to make changes. But a shift in tactics on your part - tactical options are as myriad as ever, and you can spend hours tweaking them - can make the difference between success and failure.
To unlock those AI defences there are new tricks. As you jog down the wing there's a control to make your player look across the line at potential targets, meaning that crossing experts - Beckham, Giggs, Nedved and the like - can deliver even more precise balls than before, while control combo makes players shape as if to cross, before carrying on their run. You can even pull off a drag-ball stepover, and then pull opposition shirts. And if all else fails you can have your player hurl himself to the floor. This tends to result in cards far more often than it wins free kicks, mind, but it's worth a go.
However, there's a chance you won't need to do any of these things - PES 2008's keepers are the series' worst yet, palming shots into the goal or straight into the path of opposition strikers. This does lead to a lot more exciting, heart-in-mouth goalmouth scrambles, but we're not entirely sure it's worth the trade-off. Perhaps, then, it's a good thing that the low, drilled cross is a lot less effective now - PES6's keepers were known to shove these directly into their own net, so who knows what these pan-handed goons would have made of them. Their distribution from throws, too, can be awful.
Still, none of this changes the thrill you get from scoring a 35-yard wonder strike, the satisfaction of finishing off a slick passing move, or - yes - the joy of watching the opposition goalie palm the ball into your top goalscorer's path for a simple tap-in. But goals are far too easy to come by this year - corners and crosses are stupidly lethal, while defences are likely to crumble into dust at the drop of a hat.