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Pro Evolution Soccer 2008

For: DS   Also on: PSP

Sick as a parrot

Product: Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 | Developer: In-house | Publisher: Konami | Format: DS | Genre: Sports | Players: 1-2 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 DS, thumbnail 1
The world of modern professional football is a decadent place these days. Spotty youngsters barely out of their teens become multi-millionaires overnight and not a week passes without some kind of soccer-related scandal appearing in the tabloids. It's enough to make you yearn for the good old days of Bobby Charlton's comb-over and footballers having to have additional jobs to make ends meet. Well, almost.

This dislikeable attitude has predictably been passed down to interactive interpretations of the world's favourite sport, too. It seems that a football game is judged mainly on which star is emblazoned on the cover nowadays, rather than the actual quality contained within.

EA's FIFA is certainly guilty of this but at least last year's DS outing was actually half decent. Konami's PES, meanwhile, attempts to showcase the same cocky swagger but is markedly less successful.

Pro Evolution Soccer 6
was the company's previous effort at bringing its million-selling footy franchise to Nintendo's dual-screened wonder, and the less said about that the better. Compared to the effortlessly assured PSP version, PES6 DS looked flabby, haggard and out of breath. Alas, this 2008 update does little to remedy these issues, proving that Konami hasn't been hitting the metaphorical gym enough since the last release.

First impressions count (or so they say) and in this regard PES 2008 is distinctly underwhelming. Graphically not much has improved since '06. Although the game engine is very loosely based on that found in the original PSone console instalment (this fact alone should probably send alarms bells ringing), it lacks even the limited finesse of that ancient release.

Those of you familiar with the PES control set-up will be instantly at home; every button is where it should be and it takes mere minutes to acclimatise yourself. Sadly, PES 2008 lacks the blistering pace and assured control of its forbears, though: player movement is stodgy and sloth-like; passing feels laboured; and your shots on goal seem to have all the aggressive impact of a fly hitting a windscreen. Your players also possess the turning circle of a 50,000 tonne passenger vessel, rendering all opportunities for skilful play impracticable.

Leaving aside the lamentable game engine for one moment, it's disheartening to see that Konami really has no clue about how to successfully brand a modern soccer title. The box proudly displays the faces of overpaid superstars Michael Owen and Cristiano Ronaldo, but when you actually boot the game up you're presented with a highly patronising cartoon character who appears on many of the menu screens in various excited poses.

We have nothing against creating a football game for the younger crowd, but the DS version of PES (supposedly built on years of feedback from veteran and mature gamers) is hopelessly confused about what audience it wants to pander to.

Speaking of veterans, whenever a new PES title hits the shelves one of the first questions levelled by fans is, "Does it have a Master League mode?" PES 2008 doesn't, but it has the next best thing. World Tour mode sees you taking ownership of a team of skinny nobodies who would have trouble hitting a donkey's rear end with a banjo, and you're left with the unenviable task of getting them to the top of the world league.

Along the way you earn coins that enable you to boost skills and the like; there's also the original (but somewhat out of place) 'Gacha-Get' mini-game, which is most adequately described as a slot machine that dispenses new football players for your team.

Although it's a brave attempt to bring something fresh to the series it's hard to imagine your modern football game fan – fed on a seemingly never-ending diet of ultra-realistic simulations over the past decade – will warm to it in any way, shape or form. Again, it feels like it's catering for a group of gamers that are unlikely to consume this product in the volume that will give it the commercial success it craves.

We've not even touched upon the limited number of licensed teams compared to the mighty FIFA, the underwhelming multiplayer options and the disappointingly sparse audio. Needless to say, PES 2008 fails to get the pulse racing, although on a rare positive note it's nice to see the game offer multiplayer wi-fi play (which should be made compulsory in every DS sports title these days). Then again, the game itself is so poor it's doubtful you'll have the heart to venture online.

When compared to the dependable effort fielded by EA last year (and even the relative minnow Real Football 2008), PES 2008 is all hype and no trousers, proving more disappointing than a £10 million signing who turns out to be a proper turkey. Stick with FIFA 08 and give this hapless effort an early bath.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
Reviewer photo
Damien McFerran | 8 February 2008
Offering no discernible improvement over its lacklustre predecessor and paling in comparison to more accomplished DS football titles, PES 2008 is best relegated to bench-warming duty
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