There are very few things in life football fans can count on. There's no guarantee your team will win each match, that you'll see a good game or that your favourite player won't defect to another side. But one of the few things a supporter can rely on is a new Pro Evolution title to jink its way into footballing hearts and gain some last gasp glory before the end of the year. This season? Expect greatness...
This is the season
The annual revitalisation of Pro Evolution Soccer is always a crowd pleaser. No matter what team you support, Konami's big name football simulation always aims to deliver the big match thrills and atmosphere of the world's most popular sport, and with the backing of High Definition visuals and the extra processing power afforded by its PlayStation 3 debut, PES 2008 carries through its promise rather nicely.
Despite all that, however, the first thing most fans will probably look for are licensed names and teams, to see if their chosen squad is replicated realistically. Pleasingly, Konami has included over 3,000 real players from over 250 teams, with Brazil, Portugal, Greece, Scotland and Ireland among the new officially licensed national line-ups.
Better yet, most of the teams are up-to-date, so new signings made in the last transfer window are included; something bound to please the hardcore. Even with this impressive array there are a few players and team names that aren't completely accurate, but that's exactly what the deep and user friendly Edit mode is there for, allowing you to tweak your boys from their hairstyle down to their fancy coloured boots. If you're feeling particularly vain, you can even scan your face into the game with the PlayStation Eye and place it on a player's head; a nice touch.
Of course none of this makes a difference unless the statistical authenticity is reflected on the pitch, and thankfully PES 2008 slots that expectation home with appropriate passion. Visually the polished interface and stylised presentation matches the varied and lavishly recreated stadia and crisply detailed players who not only have the look of their real world counterparts, but also the idiosyncrasies that add so much personality to proceedings. Shirts are pulled and creased, there are reactions to bad misses or post-shaving shots and celebrations are wonderfully extravagant in all their group hugging, corner flag lifting, crowd rousing glory.
Playing reveals equally slick results, with fast and responsive controls that make PES 2008 more player friendly and intuitive than before. Your team reacts quicker to situations unfolding on pitch, which makes passing and unexpected scrambles for the ball much more fluid. Scoring is a little easier too, as headers and shots are far less prone to go awry with accidentally heavy button presses.
The increased Artificial Intelligence also means surprises can often crop up; rival teams start playing possession football when defending a tight lead rather than jeopardising everything by attacking, and desperate stars will even dive to gain penalties - something you can also control; although the harsh referees don't shy away from dishing out yellow cards to those caught in the act.
Sing when you're winning
Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 brings football home with its shrewd gameplay enhancements and comprehensive features. Single players can find depth in the numerous league and cup options, as well as the ever-involving Master League where transfers, player happiness and other managerial decisions become almost as important as your on-pitch performances, while the multiplayer modes continue to provide utterly addictive and competitive action, on and offline. It all adds up to make a game that you'll return to again and again, regardless of how badly your real life team may be performing.
Konami clearly loves football. And after playing Pro Evolution Soccer 2008, you will too.