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Sean Pettibone


Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 (Wii)

There have been a few soccer titles released for the Wii to date, but none of them have really tried to take full advantage of the console's unique interface design until now with Konami's excellent Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 delivering a specially tailored control system that showcases the wii-motes flexibility and intuitiveness. While this takes some getting used to, its innovative design helps to separate this version from the many other editions on the market. There's an excellent selection of single, multi and online game modes, several licensed teams and players. The visuals are somewhat average with graphics that aren't anything to write home about, but the positives outweigh the negatives and PES 2008's innovative gameplay makes this an excellent soccer game for Wii owners.

Even though PES 2008 has arrived on many other platforms this year, the Wii edition's unique control interface helps it to stand apart from other versions and warrants a separate review here on the Laser. Instead of implementing a standard set of controls, Konami has decided to fully take advantage of the Wii-motes' special abilities. PES's interface is quite impressive in the way it takes standard soccer game conventions and turns them on their head. Instead of manually moving the players, you instead point and click. The first thing you need to understand is how to move the player around. Pointing at the specific player you want to control and then sliding the pointer in the direction you want to run, you can change their path as they run, moving the cursor makes them change direction almost instantly, which is a very different system than the ones other soccer titles use. Mastering this new technique takes some practice, but the game's overall feel is unique. This definitely isn't the same soccer title you've played on other platforms, but don't mistake its novelty for gimmickry. The game still offers plenty of depth with numerous single player, multiple and online modes of play. You can choose to play in a single match against random teams, set the time and rules, switch camera angles and other options. You can also choose to compete in a league or tournament mode where you take your club up the rankings through multiple matches. You can also compete online against other players and use the Championship mode to trade players and teams with others online and then use them in different leagues. There's a full compliment of teams, though only a couple of notables such as Newcastle and Portugal are officially licensed. The player-licenses are more robust and offer players the chance to play as a number of stars including Christian Ronaldo and David Beckham to name a few. Most leagues are represented, though the lack of a North American league will probably annoy MLS fans. However, the game is fairly decent overall in the features department, so most players should be able to overlook these minor problems. Once you get on the field and experience the new controls, these become almost moot points anyway.

While PES 2008's modes and features are fairly standard for a soccer title, PES diverges from the norm with its unique controls. Instead of automatically selecting which player to use, gamers point the controller at the screen to select them. Once selected, players then hold down the A button and move the remote to the section of the field that they want the player to run to while holding it down longer causes them to run faster. Intercepting or tackling the ball is a two step process. First, you need to point at the opposing player and press the A button to pressure them, then hild the Z button on the nunchuck and swing it to tackle them. PES 2008's control system is somewhat strange at first and takes some getting used to. Passing is also somewhat different, though it follows the same logic. When you're in control of the ball, you can point to another player on your team and push down on the B button to pass to that player. In order to shoot or clear the ball to the other side of the field, you shake the nunchuck and the player will shoot in that general direction. You can cross the ball by pointing at one of your players in a forward position and then pass it to them as standard. Set up plays can also be performed by passing to your team mates in forward positions as you would normally.

These basic commands are fairly easy to get the hang of, but there are more advanced techniques available as well. For example, you can perform feints by pressing on the Z button while dribbling, make your players slide tackle while dribbling, use open passes and crosses to keep them off guard and create complicated defense and offense moves by pointing and positioning players and having them pass the ball between them to safely move the ball upfield. Other controls allow you to position your players perfectly to defend or take advantage of corner kicks without much effort. There are also a number of special moves available such as a pass and move where you can pass to another player while dribbling and they'll move to the destination or a clever set-up where you can point at an opposing player and have several of your team put pressure on them before they can move the ball. This is very effective on defense and gives you the ability to counter-attack with your players, though it leaves you vulnerable if they punch through your line. While the game seems simple at first, Konami has built in a lot of complexity and strategy which gives PES 2008 a lot of depth. During penalty kicks, a similar system is used, where you point the cursor in the area of the net where you want to kick the ball and press down, then quickly shake the nunchuck. It's a bit strange at first, but once you get used to it, you'll find that PES' wii controls are remarkably intuitive and allow you to control the ball with a great deal of precision. This level of depth makes for a challenging title that offers the depth and realism that players have come to expect, and shows that the with a little ambition and creativity, the Wii controller can be used in a variety of ways.

While the controls are quite innovate, one area where the game falls a little bit flat is in its presentation. Visually, the game is acceptable by Wii standards, but falls short in comparison to its counterparts on the next-gen consoles like the PS3 and 360. It still looks decent, but the limited number of camera angles, two, both make the players look small on the field while the close-ups show a decidedly last generation graphics engine at work. The replay feature is decent though it isn't as elaborate as that seen in other versions of PES 2008. There's a decent selection of songs that play at the menu and the play-by-play commentary does a good job of keeping pace with the onscreen action. That said, most players won't be impressed by the games looks as much as how it plays. PES 2008's unique controls take some getting used to, but the extensive training levels should help most players get up to speed. For novice gamers, it should be far more accessible to play than most normal soccer games, while advanced players will find plenty of depth under the innovation with an array of special moves, formation maneuvers and attack formations that make this as sophisticated and deep as many of Konami's other soccer titles. Overall, this is an innovative and solidly entertaining title that should please soccer fans of different abilities and passion. - Michael Palisano


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