IGN Review of Pro Evolution Soccer 2009
Be warned, Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 on the Wii is not for those incapable of multi-tasking. Unlike almost every other soccer game on the market, Pro Evo puts you in control of much more than a single bloke on the pitch. While there's no doubt that Pro Evo 2009 on Wii has one of the steepest learning curves on the console, that doesn't stop it from delivering one of the most enjoyable soccer experiences around.
Pro Evo is about more than keeping track of the ball as it makes its way around the field. Instead Konami makes fantastic use of the Wii's unique IR controls to allow players to truly marshal their troops on both offense and defense. Offense is a bit more traditional than defense. Just as in most soccer titles, you'll be in control of the player with the ball. You can use the nunchuk's analog stick for controlled movements and the remote to sprint by pointing across the screen and holding A. The real trick is that while you're still managing the player with the ball, you'll also need to be mindful of what everyone else is doing on the field.
Unlike FIFA and Pro Evo on other consoles, runs to the goal are almost totally under your control. As you're dribbling and juking your way down the field you'll need to point the remote at players and send them on runs with the A button. It's bit of a nuisance if a defender is breathing down your neck as the A button needs to held to sprint, so you'll need to pick the exact moment when it's safe to send a player on a run and deliver a smooth pass.
Passing is an interesting mechanic as well in Pro Evo. Thankfully the game has a finely tuned AI system working underneath the hood or passing would be more of a headache than it is. See, not only can you point at a player and pass it, but you can also point to a spot on the field and the nearest player on your team will automatically go to that spot to receive it. Rarely were there instances where the wrong player made the move to receive the pass. Likewise, the AI also makes decisions about how a pass should be delivered. If a forward is blazing up the sideline with the ball at his feet, Pro Evo knows that a pass from the corner isn't intended to roll on the ground; it's meant as a cross. There are also more complex moves like one-two passes, feints and the ability to pass and move, but those moves are for more advanced players. Thankfully, when you do take the time to learn them, they work just fine.
Shooting is a mechanic that has seen some refinement from last year's Pro Evo on Wii. You can now aim at the goal with IR sensor and tap B for a slower, more accurate shot, or you can just launch shots with a shake of the nunchuk. Free kicks have been tweaked a bit to allow for more trickery than was available last year. You can now have a second player lineup with you and take a surprise shot or just blast it as has always been available.
Offense, while it is a headache at first, becomes second nature before long. At least, the simple moves will. The more complicated moves will undoubtedly take more time to master, but you can score goals on the default difficulty without worrying too much about over-complicating things.
Defense is another affair altogether as you no longer have constant control over one player. Defense is more about seeing the whole field and predicting where the opponent AI is going to make runs and go for passes. In other words, it's very comparable to being forced to think like an actual defensive captain. Thanks to the fact that your IR pointer can race around the screen in no time, it's easy to tell your players to mark a man, double-team, look for an incoming pass and set up an offside trap, all without accessing a menu or designing a specific play. Yes, defense is finally no longer about streaking after one player and going for slide tackles.
In the way of modes, Pro Evo delivers largely the same package as we saw last year with one notable addition. The UEFA Champions League finally makes it into a Pro Evo game and its presence will certainly be appreciated by the throngs of soccer diehards. There are some nice presentational touches to the UEFA mode, but the real fun is playing through the tournament with the licensed teams from across the Atlantic.
For as good as the UEFA Champions League is, my favorite mode is Champions Road. This lets you start with a slightly under-talented group of misfits and then, as you progress, you'll earn players that you can add to your team. There are also experience points handed out after each game that you can assign to different attributes. It's not nearly as painstaking as other career-building modes in lesser soccer games, and the ability to easily swap out players and change tactics will likely be underappreciated by many.
One of the few new additions to Pro Evo is the advent of co-op play. While the screen does get a bit hectic when you have four players drawing arrows all over the place, the feeling of playing side-by-side with your friends is a welcome change from last year's solitary experience. Oh, and don't punch your friend because he doesn't react to your precision pass as well as the AI.
The online mode that was in Pro Evo 2008 makes its return here and is just as fun as you remember. You can hop online with a friend or a random mate and you can even play against an AI-controlled version of a team that your buddy has assembled. I did hit some moments of lag and stuttering animations while playing online, but that could've been because of the distance from IGN's San Francisco office to Europe.
My one big gripe with Pro Evo 2009 is that there just isn't enough new content in the package. Sure, Pro Evo 2008 revolutionized and legitimized sports gaming on the Wii, but this version feels like a fairly generic update. That's not to say that there aren't both gameplay additions and a new mode or two, but I can't help but feel like those who own last year's game won't regret passing on 2009. You'll still get the Master League, League and Cup modes, but they're all the same as you remember. And yes, you can now use the classic controller, but that's not really a feature that's going to attract players when the Wii remote is the way to truly experience the game.
My other gripe is with the visual presentation. It's not great. Players are extremely rough and angular and the crowd, well, the crowd is made up of what is best described as cardboard cutouts. Thankfully the bird's eye view constricts the view to only seeing the first row or so. Thankfully the animations feature a good bit of detail and intricacy.
On the sound side, things are also a mixed bag. The announcers, while active, aren't as descript as they should be. They don't call out specific names or countries, but, on the upside, the crowd is very active and sells itself as a true soccer-crazy bunch. I'd like to hear some more on-field chatter between players in the next version, but for now the current audio package will suffice.
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