Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 - Xbox 360

We don’t know what’s better. Is it the arrival of a brand spanking new version of Pro Evo each year or flattening your bitterest rivals in a tooth and nail local derby?

The arrival of this year’s Pro Evo has been even more closely scrutinised. Many thought last year’s model dropped the ball, while Electronic Arts’ officially licenced FIFA edged ever closer.

Early reviews of FIFA ’08 have been glowing, so it could finally be EA’s year.

We never thought we’d be saying this, but if you’re buying only one football title this year, buy FIFA ’08.

As staunch fans of the Pro Evo series, we don’t make such a bold statement lightly. There was not much wrong with last year’s game, but a few upgrades would have been nice. What we didn’t expect to find was a carbon copy of PES 2007.

Even the greatest managers come a cropper when they try to get away with last year’s team. Konami deserve the same fate. The inclusion of a "dive button" smacks of last minute desperation – press a ridiculous combination of buttons only to be awarded a yellow card. Nice.

It’s great that football’s the winner, but if it isn’t humanly possible to blag a penalty why did Konami bother adding the feature? Worse, when the only real addition to this year’s version is a moot point, everyone loses.

On the pitch, the action is fast and frantic. A year’s extra development has brough some incredibly hectic gaming with balls zinging every which way. If FIFA ‘08 now prides itself on staunch realism, Pro Evo is some kind of crazy speed-a-thon.

In multiplayer games the extra speed makes things all the more exciting. Through balls are handled better too with them actually being nudged into space rather than the grateful arms of the opposition keeper.

Online, however, the excitement is almost obliterated by disastrous lag. Half our matches so far have come complete with the kind of stop-start gaming that we thought we’d seen the back of when we got shot of our 56k dial-up connections. Pro Evo online just doesn’t work.

There’s still no sign of a next-gen level of graphical sheen either. OK, so the graphics are a step above the PS2 version, but comparing Pro Evo 2008 with FIFA ‘08 is like comparing Christiano Ronaldo with Luke Chadwick.

PS3 owners be warned – you’ll be in possession of an even poorer title. Despite the console’s hefty power, it suffers from horrible slowdown once a handful of players are on screen. If you can buy any other version, including the PS2 version, plump for that over this shocking piece of gaming code.

Verdict

But, this is still Pro Evo. It’s still that stupidly addictive footie title that we all adore, just with more minus points than we’d hoped for.