"When it comes to purchasing football games these days, youíre limited to a choice between this or EAís FIFA series. With both series settling into next-gen, PES 2008 is truly revealing Konamiís complacency towards their product and a failure to deal with matters that are a constant thorn: laggy online play, shoddy presentation and limited options, but instead make more subtle changes to the gameplay. On plus points licenses are gradually improving, plus the introduction of a new team of commenta..."
When it comes to purchasing football games these days, youíre limited to a choice between this or EAís FIFA series. With both series settling into next-gen, PES 2008 is truly revealing Konamiís complacency towards their product and a failure to deal with matters that are a constant thorn: laggy online play, shoddy presentation and limited options, but instead make more subtle changes to the gameplay. On plus points licenses are gradually improving, plus the introduction of a new team of commentators (Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson) shifts the commentary from questionably mediocre to average and acceptable. Despite the recurring flaws Pro Evolution remains the football game of choice on the PC platform as we now have the next-gen version to enjoy. FIFA 08 on the other hand is once again the same old PlayStation 2 port but still boasts better features.
Although it does take a sharp eye to really appreciate the improvements of PES 2008, they do exist: the flow of the game feels more cohesive, the animations feel more dynamic than last-gen incarnations with superior physics, players are more brutal and tackles have more of a crunch to them. Headers feel much easier to execute than before as they can actually be won (I actually scored for the first time with a header), you no longer have to rely on passing every goal kick as long rangers always get intercepted, but to be honest gameplay improvements are certainly not revolutionary and remains conservative to the traditional PES formula. As for the heavily promoted Teamvision, itís hardly noticeable (or VERY subtle) and even if the opposition team does change tactics, surely didnít the computer do that anyway?
The important thing is that Pro Evolutionís gameplay hasnít got any worse, but still lives on the foundations of the formula spanning back to PES3. Succeeding releases have since focused on either being fast and easier to score (in which case people fans would complain about it being unrealistic) or realistic (making it too hard to score). Nonetheless, PES 2008 is still the default choice for realistic yet fun gameplay. FIFA feels quite spongy and the skill and tactical movements alike donít integrate into the game so well, feeling like individual pieces of play than a coherent flow. Although both games on the PC format provide fast-flowing action, PES feels like fast realistic football whilst FIFA is all end to end action with superhuman goalkeepers keeping down the score. For this reason you wonít be indulging in 5-4 scorelines every game either, in fact youíll find that as you learn to play the game much of the attacking will be against you when youíre defence get torridly torn apart in the Master League.
Compared to the PlayStation 2 version of the game PES 2008 is distinctly lacking in features, as the options as the challenge and community mode are dropped, less stadia are available and the editor is cut-down. The signature Master League returns and retains the classic satisfaction of taking a team Blue Square Premier quality to Champions League glory. It hasnít taken a huge step forward but now both divisions feature 20 teams, gimmicky weekly fan snapshots and also itís a whole lot harder; coasting every game 0-0 is now a thing of the past. The opposition will make it impossible to regain possession as they frustratingly play a cool passing game, and unless you start bringing in some new signings youíll be rooted to the bottom of the table. Unfortunately the ML doesnít replicate real-life football leagues well at all, with a very shallow and unrealistic league infrastructure, getting from League 2 and upgrading your stadium is still very much FIFA territory.
So why has it taken me so long to mention online play, surely the best thing to ever grace the series? Thatís simply because itís unfortunately a total mess here. Even after the release of two patches to date online matches are horribly suttery, with erratic actions such as the ball teleporting without the player or being mysteriously tackled can seriously affect games. For game modes as well, youíre limited to conventional ranked one-on-one solo-matches, a shadow to the online leagueís FIFA offers. Although PES online can be just about tolerable when you get used to it, itís a major step backward for playability.
In terms of licenses, you wouldnít notice if I used the same paragraph ranting about it from my PES5 review. Itís still an evergreen problem, four licensed leagues European leagues and a handful of other clubs are only a fraction to whatís available on FIFA, a few national sides still use pseudonyms for the players. The editor is fairly comprehensive for players but the team editor arbitrarily only allows up to eight kit images to be imported and you canít even edit the badge. Fortunately, due to the PC formats nature, there are plenty of fan-made patches to rectify all this, credit to those who made them.
PES has never been famous for presentation, but it has actually notably improved. The menuís no longer look like washed-out TV-resolution images, and an overhaul in commentators with Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson finally provide PES with half-decent, non-cliched commentary. Despite it being slightly repetitive itís a huge improvement, but menu music is mostly cheesy electronica trash that you listen to at your peril, although now you can manage the playlists! Or not. The next-gen visuals are a huge welcome with impressive close-up player-likenesses and expressions, but generally look like shinier PlayStation 2 graphics than 360ís finest, but widescreen play is now fianlly in the house for those with, um, widescreen monitors.
PES 2008 still remains PES as we know it, stubbornly sticking to a well used worked formula when this would be a great time for a revamp. For fans itís essentially more of the same, the Master League is the same formula of transforming a team of boozers to cruisers, but feels like a very good PlayStation 2 game rather than true next-gen. The improved visuals and commentary provide an overdue smooth move upwards and is the only option for those who want next-gen football on the PC platform, but thereís little change for seasoned players. For those who want everything authentic, have a casual bash, and have some functional online play then FIFA is your best bet; but if youíre looking for the best pure digital football action on the PC then you should probably buy this anyway. 7/10
Community review by bigcj34 (February 03, 2008)
Cormac Murray is a freelance contributor for HG and is a fanboy of Sega and older Sony consoles. For modern games though he pledges allegiance to the PC Master Race, by virtue of a MacBook running Windows.
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