Pro Evolution Soccer 2008
Yes, we're late with this one. Chalk it up to a combination of the lack of available code at the Eurogamer lair along with the distinct impression that the release version of the game simply wasn't quite complete when it shipped to retail. PES fans won't need me to tell them what was wrong with the initial version of the code. Both Xbox 360 and PS3 versions suffered to various degrees from dodgy frame rates, and online gameplay was essentially a write-off.
Perhaps what is most bizarre about the whole Pro Evolution saga is the fact that Konami's initial Xbox 360 offering - PES6 - managed to offer an essentially satisfying internet experience. Sure, it was basically an upscaled PS2 game (and not even running at full 720p) but it gave gamers what they wanted, the ability to play online on their lovely new HD console. That being the case, PES 2008's failure to match that performance is a mystery taken directly from the files of Arthur C Clarke. Even the latest patched version of PES 2008 has more than a few issues when played on the internet, with teleporting players still being a common complaint. Unbelievably, PES6 still canes it when it comes to smooth, lag-free online gameplay.
In terms of PES 2008 overall, there's just enough of the brilliant gaming DNA in there to make it a worthwhile purchase, but Konami's development team must be looking at the ever-improving FIFA franchise with a growing sense of anxiety. Many of the core PES fanbase reckon that the EA title is the better game and it does seem quite bizarre that the Konami title should be moving ever further into arcade territory while FIFA's simulation credentials are more impressive in the latest outing.
Post-launch patches also seem to show that the PES team is getting rather desperate in its attempts to fix the game. While online gameplay is now at least playable, efforts to fix the frame-rate haven't really worked. On PlayStation 3, the programmers have even removed all evidence of anti-aliasing in order to cure the game of its frame-rate problems, which manifest most dramatically in the replays. The comparison gallery shows that the initial PS3 release of PES worked hard to smooth off the edges, but all evidence of this graphical effect has gone in the patch (no shots here as my PS3 TEST unit refused to update). The fact is that while performance is improved, the replays still look choppy and poor.
In terms of a cross-format comparison, there's not exactly much in it. Xbox 360 looks cleaner and crisper, while PS3 seems to play a better game online, but not to any degree that would influence a purchasing decision. However, the overall feeling with PES 2008 is one of disappointment and downright incredulity that FIFA may well be the better option, after so many years of EA getting it spectacularly wrong.