|System: X360, PS3, Wii, PS2, PC, PSP, DS||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Konami||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Konami||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 11, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Pete Richards
For those who were disappointed by past PSP installments of Pro Evolution Soccer - which was probably you - there is very good news for 2008. Konami have done a good job of bringing a nice replica of the PS2 version of the game to your handheld.
When Pro Evolution first hit the PSP with PES 5, it received a negative reaction from critics and a mixed response from fans. Sure, you finally had Pro Evolution Soccer in the palm of your hand, but the frame-rate couldn't handle the high-speed action, and it lacked one of the most popular features of the Pro Evolution series by excluding its Master League mode. One of the biggest grievances among gamers was the ridiculous loading times, which made it take a life's age just to start playing. Konami heeded the calls of fans and critics with PES 6, which was a step in the right direction by introducing the Master League to the handheld version of the game and improved frame-rate and loading times.
The good news for soccer fans is that PES 2008 for the PSP is definitely the best thus far of the series. Konami has done a good job of making this a legitimate handheld version of the console game by incorporating all of the tournaments, leagues, the Master League, and the World Tour mode, as well as all the edit modes. In a nutshell, this is the PS2 version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 on your PSP. In fact, you can actually swap your data between the PS2 and PSP versions. While this only works if you have both a PS2 and PSP version of the game, it goes to show how similar the two games are. And if you do, for some reason, own both versions, you can take data from home and continue your progress while on the road, on vacation, ducking the boss at work - wherever you use your PSP.
And where Konami has done a good job of including all the game modes of the PS2 version, they have incorporated the same quality of gameplay. Pro Evolution Soccer 08 is still as much of a realistic simulation as it has always been, and scoring a goal is still as difficult. The game is very much about playing the ball strategically and tapping your turbo when it's necessary. Scoring a goal takes persistence, and the excitement of finally doing so is similar to that of an actual soccer match.
The graphics look just as they do on the console version, enabling you to view all of the action at top-speed with virtually no blurring and only the occasional slowing of frames. It seems to skip very rarely, though. I did notice it happen at times when there are too many players onscreen, which is to be expected somewhat knowing the history of Pro Evolution. And it doesn't happen often, so I'm really just being picky here. Graphically it plays just like having a 16:9 PS2 version on your handheld. In such a fast-paced game, where framerate has suffered in the past, PES 08 handles the speed well. All of the players move smoothly and realistically, while their facial features and likeness resemble who they should. With its rare blurred or slowdown action and the ability to see all athletes clearly while they run about in crowded areas, Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 is one of the smoothest PSP games I have ever set my eyes upon. The replays and cutscenes are some of the most visually appealing graphics I have seen on the PSP, and if viewed from a distance, sometimes the game actually looks like a real broadcast.
Where I found the game to suffer is in its sound. The lack of commentary during certain moments could have been improved, as it pretty much only exists at the beginning and end of periods or when a goal is scored. However, it may have been an option made by Konami to avoid overly-repetitive comments that become annoying after hours of playing so many sports games. If this was a conscious decision by the developers, then the lacking commentary may have been for the best. Unfortunately, I also noticed sounds like the roaring of the crowd monotonous and a tad bit phony while playing, which also becomes a bit annoying. Hey, I'm hard-pressed to find things I don't like about this game.
For those who were rightfully disappointed by Pro Evolution installments on the PSP in the past, this is a great improvement. And even for PSP owners who may be unfamiliar with the PES franchise, this is an extremely fun game for the handheld and welcomed addition to the PSP. Pro Evolution Soccer 2008 is without a doubt one of the best games in the PSP collection.
CCC Freelance Writer