The Pro Evolution Soccer series on the Wii bares little relation to its fellow console-based siblings. While they are crammed with arcade style footballing action, the Wii iteration is a whole different breed of sporting animal.
As fans of last series version will be all too well aware, the Wii’s innovative control system takes this to a whole new level. Whereas before you never felt in absolute control of your players and their runs or who they passed to, here you’re the man in control.
Hover the pointer over a player, you can "drag" them to another part of the pitch and make a run with a simple move of the Wii Remote. Similarly, squash down the A button and the player with the ball will sprint towards your marker. This latter point of control initially feels unwieldly and awkward, with your players running head first into trouble each and every time. But take some time and combine it with the slower paced standard control offered by the Nunchuk’s analogue stick, and you can craft some incredible runs and tricky dribbles.
Passing too offers complete control. To make a pass, you need to hover the pointer over the player you wish to send it along to, and stab the B button. And as long as there’s a clear route from initiator to recipient the ball will head precisely to the man you’ve requested. A long way from the sometimes off analogue stick pointing in previous titles on other consoles.
The only major change from last year comes to the most criticised shooting model. Before, you simply wiggled the Remote and your player would take a shot at goal, with you having no real control on where it’ll go. This time you can point towards the precise area you wish to send the ball, which makes scoring goals a much more thrilling prospect. Where before you seemed to make all the moves only for the game itself to grab the glory, now you can take a move from start to finish.
However, defending is still horribly difficult. With direct control gone, you’re only left with vague nudges and pressing prompts. It makes for a frustrating experience, and one that will leave you more eager than ever to keep a hold of the ball. Equally, the ridiculous random effort of clearing the ball remains. Again you simply shake the controller to clear the ball, but your defenders still seem intent on making a total hash of it time and time again.
This time around Konami have seen fit to include a "classic" control method too. Using this mode you can utilise the Remote or Classic Controller to play PES like it’s been controlled on other consoles. A nice option to have, but it does go entirely against what this branch of the series is attempting to do.
But while the control system is (mostly) inventive and fun, the rest of the game doesn’t quite have the same level of polish. Graphically this is more comparable with the earliest PS2 PES title than those on the current generation of consoles. It’s not just poor looking in comparison to just about every game out there - Wii titles included - but it’s downright ugly.
It’s unfortunate that the defending is so frustrating, and the aesthetics are so poor, as Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 Wii plays a heck of a good game. While not quite up there with the outstanding FIFA 09, it beats its fellow series mates on other consoles by a landslide.