IGN Review of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
There's no denying soccer's worldwide appeal, but it wasn't until we received our copy of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 for Wii that we actually spawned a larger interest in the most popular sport on the planet. Up until now, our free time has gone to Madden, MLB, and a little bit of Wii Sports, so it would need to take a serious game-changing experience to really win us over into the wide world of soccer.
That experience has arrived.
Seemingly out of nowhere, videos and tidbits on Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 started showing up on our own UK site, and across the Net. It became obvious very quickly that Pro Evo 2008 wasn't a standard soccer experience, as the seamless use of the Wii remote for IR control, as well as the complexity and depth that the Pro Evolution Soccer series (also known as Winning Eleven) already brings to the table made for one of the most innovative and rewarding design changes we've seen on Wii thus far. For the first time in a long, long time, we're going crazy for a soccer game on a Nintendo platform.
So what makes Pro Evo so different from the other versions (or console soccer games) out there? It's simple really, and it all starts with the Wii IR. Using a quick click-and-drag system, players can conduct live tactical actions across the entire soccer field, using the A button to send teammates around the field on offense, or mark players on defense for single or double coverage, or deliver more complex tactics such as the offside trap (with a quick lift of the Wii remote) or pass guarding for fast interceptions. Think of it as the Madden Telestrator – allowing you to draw on-screen – if it was happening live, and the players were following your drawings.
The system is both simple and deep at the same time as well, since a quick tap of the A button will send any player to any position on the field, while a pull of the B trigger passes to them. Everyone on the field uses complex AI systems that lets them know instantly that they are the intended receiver of the pass as well, so a quick tap of B will not only send a ball out for a pass, but automatically start the nearest player running towards it. The end result is easily the most fluid and enjoyable soccer experience we've ever played.
As a vital piece of the game, however, the depth of soccer stays, so you'll still be able to do the absolutely vital give-and-go, you can specify an on the ground or in the air pass with one or two taps of the B trigger, shift the aggression between offense and defense on the fly with the d-pad, link specific defenders to attackers for on-the-fly mismatches, and – more importantly – control not just one player, but everyone on the field at once. You no longer need to bring the ball up the field solo, praying to the soccer gods that divine intervention moves a currently blocked teammate into a specific passing lane. Just control your character with the analog stick while you click and drag your support exactly where you want them.
Offense is a bit more direct than defense though, as you've got the ability to directly control the ball-handler at any time using the analog stick, or by holding A and pointing the cursor in the direction you want him to go. On defense, however, it isn't quite as easy, as you'll never actually take direct control of any single defender. You can mark players and move anyone on the field with the click-n-drag design, but in the end there's no way to select one specific player, and attack full-force on an opponent. Instead, you'll need to use the cursor to click on them with A, hold Z to put pressure on them (which will make them run towards the ball handler), and then flick with the nunchuk to slide tackle. It isn't exactly the most intuitive way to play defense, but given the emphasis on global play rather than player vs. player, it makes sense why it works how it does. All the other actions in the game are extremely simple to grasp though, as penalty kicks are done with IR aiming (simple, but effective), and regular shots, headers, or mid-air redirection are all done with a quick flick of the nunchuk.
And while the new control style of Pro Evo is the most impressive aspect of the Wii version, we're also very surprised to see as much depth in this package as there is, seeing as it's a first year Wii title. Included in 2008 is a full-fledged online mode with friends or random players (one on one), a player transfer system that lets you save unlocked character on a Wii remote and trade them with friends locally, and an active Wii Connect 24 download system where you can randomly face off against a friend's computer controlled story mode team at any time. This is all worked around a new single player mode called Champions Road where you create a team, win tournaments, level up your team's attributes and special player abilities based on how well you do in games, select new players to join your team via a unique card selection system, and craft your team how you see fit.
Champions Road also includes active tutorial systems that teach you new soccer tactics and abilities as you progress though tournaments, as well as an achievement system, which rewards you with team upgrades after completing specific missions in-game across the life of your campaign. If the serious single player campaign isn't your cup of tea, you can always play locally in quick match, go one-on-one locally through multiplayer, or bring in your Miis for a Wii-made big head mode. For those craving depth, but not ready for the commitment of Champions Road, there's still basic league and cup play, each offering a pretty large amount of replay value through player vs. computer tournaments and season play. It's a full package to say the least.
On the presentation side of things, Pro Evo is a bit on the basic side, but still a well-crafted visual package with some decent commentary to boot. The actual interface is simple to use, again embracing Wii IR for pointer control and polishing up the experience with a Wii-specific FMV intro, large, slick icons that work great with the pointer, and a unique look for the roster system, having everything depend on dragging icons to quickly swap players, or physically pinching players with the A/B control and moving them around the field like a chess board to custom-make your formations on the field pre-game. Animations are well made, many of which are taken directly from the PS2 build (the current-gen animations already looked great over the last few years of Pro Evo), and the visuals have received a slight bump over PS2, with character models looking fine from a distance, decent up close – with exception to a few of the more complex hair styles – and field design well crafted.
As a side note, the Wii version of Pro Evo also has the most stadiums of any version, sitting at just over 30 total. The crowd looks pretty horrendous, which is worth noting, but seeing as most of the game is played from a bird's eye view, it really doesn't get in the way. The game runs at a locked 30 frames per second, and hasn't flinched during our hours upon hours of play. Audio commentary is the expected dry, casual, on-the-fly explanation, just like previous Pro Evo endeavors. It's well-produced, but very simple.
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