Reviewed by Brian Fitzpatrick 14th November 2007
Football fans rejoice! The new Pro Ev is upon us!
For nearly a decade Pro Evolution Soccer has flown the flag for the discerning gamer/sports fan. It seems to be one of the worst kept secrets of the gaming world that although EA’s FIFA franchise is full of all the bells and whistles that accompany official licensing, it doesn’t hold a candle to Konami’s offering in terms of gameplay (a fact that unfortunately is not reflected in unit sales) and is in fact nothing more than football for people who suffer from ADD. So while its muling cabbage fans “Ooh” and “Aah” about how accurately hideous Ronaldinho’s teeth look, or how every freckle on Rooney’s pikey face is present and correct, or even how you can choose from 180 squillion teams (BSC Young Boys, really?!!) us true believers get to spend countless hours playing the most rich, rewarding and downright fun football sim the world has to offer.
Ok, so by now it should be clear that I’m a fan of this series. I have been playing it since Pro Ev 2 on the PS2, and before that on the SNES, when the franchise was called ISS. So how does this latest installment measure up? Very, very well.
There’s no major visual overhaul this time around. Pro Ev has never been about graphics, and 2008 is no exception. Things are kept workmanlike, serving their purpose rather than blowing you away. Character animations are realistic looking, with the exception of certain dribbling cycles for the faster players that sometimes look like they’re running on hot coals. The framerate is solid during open play for the most part, but occasionally it will drop if the penalty area is especially packed when a goal is scored. During replays however, it can drop quite drastically, making the whole thing look like jumpy slow motion. This is a small gripe, but surely with the power of the 360 at their disposal Konami could have done better in this regard.
Pro Evo 2008 is based on the 360 version of Pro Evo 6’s engine, so anyone who last played on either the PS2 or the original X-Box will experience teething problems as they come to grips with the new, slower, more realistic feel. Gone is the ability to run rings around the opposition, so you won’t get anywhere unless you use your team mates well and learn to love passing. Konami are touting their new system, Teamvision?, as a revolution. They state that the opposition AI now reads how you play, and if you continuously use the same tactics, try the same things, that they learn your style of play and counteract it. I never noticed any such change, but the AI is generally excellent.
The refs in 2008 have, depending on your point of view, either greatly improved or are retired Nazis. I know reffing (sp?) in the modern game has become quite unforgiving, with the slightest bumps and collisions being penalized, but it seems like Konami are being a bit of a killjoy by mirroring this fact. Soft tackles are harder to pull off without conceding a free kick than before, and sliding tackles require the precision of a sniper to pull off without being carded. This is frustrating if you’re used to a more physical style of play, but unavoidable.
The Master League is as excellent as ever, and a real life-ruiner if you’re not careful. This writer has pulled more than a few all-nighters already, so great is its addictiveness. A new team popularity system has been added, which works by increasing or decreasing your fanbase depending on performance. This really comes into play in the transfer market, as the bigger players will only negotiate with teams of equal or greater success than their own. This lends a pseudo-RPG feel to the proceedings.
The sound, as always, is passable. Crowd noises are functional, while the new commentary team of Jon Champion and Mark Lawrenson are pretty awful and almost perpetually negative. Worst of all though are the songs chosen to be played during the menu screens, all of them vaguely football-themed. Some are so bad that one wonders if they were put in as some sort of sick joke. What happened to the funky, cheesy J-Pop of previous versions?
So despite the awful music, the annoying commentary, the occasionally dodgy framerate, the lack of licensed teams and Nazi referees, is this version worth your money? Absolutely. As stated before, Pro Ev has never been about fancy presentation or gimmicks. Its priority has always been gameplay, and in this regard it exceeds even it’s own high expectations. It plays so well you will find it hard to put down, and I can almost guarantee that it will spend more time in your console than any other game you buy in the next 12 months. Go out and get it, NOW!