Looking back to the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 last year, it’s understandable that they were so poorly received. Single player was disastrously packed with bugs, and online multiplayer was absolutely crippled with lag.
The announcement of a Wii iteration raised a few eyebrows. With standard football gaming controls engrained on our brains after 20 years of gaming, how on earth could the Wii’s innovative method of control translate to a fast-paced football title?
Very well, it seems. Before you have the opportunity to take part in a quick match, you’re prompted to learn the first few basic gaming controls that will get you on your way to crafting some incredibly complicated goal scoring moves.
It’s easier to think of PES 2008 Wii as closer to a real-time strategy title than a standard football game. Though you can indeed simply move the player on the ball with the Nunchuk’s analogue stick, they’ll only be able to dribble at a slow speed, forcing you to utilise some of the game’s more convoluted moves.
Pointing at an area of screen and holding the A button will initiate the player on the ball to run in that direction. Twist your run, and manipulate the analogue stick and your player will jink his way past opponents and speedily rush his way through the opposition defence.
Passing is simply a case of pointing your icon at your chosen recipient and tapping the B button. The game AI will decide whether you need to loft a high pass, or a speedy knock along the grass.
Shooting, unfortunately, is a little too simplified for our liking. To take a pop at goal, all you need to do is jerk the Nunchuk to one side. The player's stats will decide how accurate, and powerful the shot is, and you’re given no opportunity to aim whatsoever outside penalty kicks.
It all feels incredibly alien to start with. At first you’ll find yourself tackled and crumpling to a heap as you have a glance around to spot a player in space to pass to. It’s a heck of a learning curve, and one that’ll take you a good hour before you’re even truly to grips with even these basic controls.
But there’s so much more. All that is taught via the initial tutorial, which is followed (at your pleasure) by another four that add a whole heap of tricks and special tactics to utilise in order to kick some footballing bottom. Give it a week of play and you’ll be dragging players to initiate curved runs, chipping the ball out wide, pulling it back to the edge of the box, doing a swift step-over to bamboozle the defence, then smashing it into the bottom corner.
And all that feels, well, quite amazing. For once a football game does really look like it does on the TV. Since you’re never essentially in direct control of any one player, you’re crafting these grand moves and tactical plays to try and get a goal back. It really is completely different from everything that’s gone before it.
Based on the PS2 engine, graphically this Wii version is functional rather than a visual treat. It’s certainly not a bad looking game, but since it’s not as stylised as most Wii titles, it seems to miss that little something that makes all those gorgeous Wii games so appealing.
Defending too, is a bit of a down point. Though it does pack a lot of depth in from the initial closing down, marking, and sliding tackles (a well played offside trap is almost as exciting as a goal) its one area that feels more out of your control than most. And it’s really blooming frustrating when your opponents are playing keep ball and you can’t nab the damn thing back.
It might not be quite there to initiate a football gaming revolution, but it’s an absolute riot to play. There’s so much depth there to make use of once you’ve learned the tricks of the trade, you can be playing for weeks on end without discovering all there is to learn.
If next year’s version takes this as a base, tweaks the defending, and makes shooting a little more fun, we could have a real footballing treat on our hands.