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Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 Review
PIV 1400, 256MB RAM, 4.5GB HDD, 64MB video card
|ESRB rating: E
release date: Oct 26, 07 (released)
|» All About Winning Eleven: Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 on ActionTrip|
When it comes to video games, soccer fans have always been torn between EA's immensely popular FIFA franchise and the Pro Evolution series. While FIFA remained a greater commercial success over the years, it was Konami's Pro Evo that won over hardcore soccer fans, pushing the series further with increased realism and generally more intricate gameplay. FIFA games, on the other hand, continued to offer more of an arcade-style experience.
Well, we've been playing the PC version of the latest addition to the Pro Evo series, to see if things improved since Pro Evolution Soccer 2007 (known in Europe as Pro Evolution Soccer 6 and Winning Eleven 10 in Japan).
Experienced Pro Evo players will notice many familiar elements from the previous game. All the same, some crucial changes come into view right from the first kick-off. This time around, the physics were fine-tuned so the ball feels less automatically guided as you kick it towards the opponent's goal. Things are more balanced, basically. The ball rolls and drifts realistically, so each time you give it a jolt, it will feel like an actual ball and not a CPU-controlled projectile.
In the same way, players act convincingly, as they strive to take possession of the ball. The occasional tussle against players on the opposing team is a slightly more rewarding experience. This time maintaining possession of the ball or re-possessing it, depends greatly on the size and strength of your player. The smaller and weaker players have less chance of succeeding if they jostle and try to take the ball from more robust opponents - which works vice versa, of course. On more than one occasion, I managed to snatch the ball from weaker players without tackling, which usually results in a foul (if you're not cautious). All this may require some getting used to, though it proves rather enjoyable once you've mastered all the moves, with the ball and players reacting like you'd expect them to react in a real-life match.
With the difficulty set on 'Regular,' it would appear the game isn't as challenging as it used to be. In some ways, it feels a bit toned down for the casual gamer. While veteran players may easily increase the difficulty at any time, there are certain aspects that make matches too easy. Konami also vouched to improve on-the-ball dribble techniques, which, in our experience, may be a problem as much as it is a benefit. Players known for their footwork, such as Ronaldinho, come in as powerful additions to the team... almost too powerful, in fact. It doesn't take much effort to dribble the ball more than half-way across the pitch, without anyone stopping you. Hardly realistic. Also, it could cause serious aggravation in multiplayer matches.
The developers were also keen to promote Teamvision, the new-fangled adaptive AI system. In all fairness, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 is a reasonable challenge for any player and you'll soon see that CPU-controlled teams are worthy opponents. The only problem is that AI hasn't turned out to be as adaptive as promised. You soon realize that AI behavior is pre-determined and won't exactly respond to how you play.
Speaking of the game's visuals, there are a few newly fitted details that make the atmosphere a bit more authentic. For starters, there's an increased variety of player animations, so you'll see stuff like shirt-pulling when two opposing players fight over the ball. Crowds also look better than before. Yet, such additions are marginal. Overall, the game doesn't really live up to the spectacular and highly detailed presentation of the next-gen flavored FIFA 08, which we played both on the PS3 and X360.
On the plus side, the audio has been enhanced since the previous game, with richer backdrop sounds and dynamic and livelier crowd reactions. As fans will recollect, the commentary has always been a weak spot in the series, but things have finally improved. Any remarks during a match will fit the situation, so you'll sense the excitement in reporter's voice whenever he recognizes a goal opportunity.
After a few hours, you'll find that Pro Evo can still be a kick ass soccer sim.. Especially if you take realism into consideration. For example, referees don't just give out yellow or red penalty cards on a whim. In one of the matches, I successfully tackled a player within the penalty area. The tackle appeared to have caused the opposing player to fall down, but it was pretty obvious it was not a foul. Happily, the referee acknowledged this and showed the poor sucker a yellow card for diving. It's safe to say that such moments will please diehard soccer fans, as well as those who expect a realistic depiction of this popular sport. (It's called football in Europe, you traitor. - 2Lions)
Even so, there are other drawbacks such as license issues that could irritate the hell out of players who want to experience matches with their favorite teams. Some of the most popular European soccer clubs still don't have their respective names. So, Manchester United FC is in there as "Man Red," while Chelsea FC is referred to as "London FC." This thankfully doesn't apply to all clubs, but we're talking about two of the most influential teams in the English Premiere League and such issues are clearly going to avert true-hearted soccer devotees.
In a nutshell, this year appears to have brought a shift in the ever-present FIFA vs. Pro Evo war. Each series has improved in some ways and it's good see both Konami and EA trying to incorporate as many new elements as possible. On the whole, however, it's obvious that FIFA 08 is a superior experience, with true next-gen quality and gameplay mechanics that proved to be a lot more enjoyable than this year's edition of Pro Evolution Soccer.
Still a good soccer game, technical and gameplay improvements take the series a bit further;
Unresolved license issues for certain teams, disappointing visuals, not nearly as fun as playing the next-gen version of the latest FIFA game.
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