You can read the full hands-on with PES 2008 in the uncut preview in PSM3 issue 92, on sale August 30.
Carlos Tevez to Man Yoo? The longest transfer of the summer is nothing compared to how long we've waited for Pro Evolution Soccer on PS3 - but they do share a common history. Like Konami's footie stalwart, Tevez's been strutting his stuff on another team for almost a year (Microsoft's Xbox 360) - and while he looks the part, you can't help thinking he'd be more at home in, well, a bigger team. Mount the open-top bus. Unfurl the flags. And kiss that cherished copy of PES6 on PS2 goodbye. Pro Evo 2008 is kicking off on PS3... and even on the basis of a mere 15-20 hours play - bear in mind we've played PES6 over 1000 hours and we're still seeing new things - it's shaping up as a genuine contender for the next-gen footie title.
Eye for goal
Was it worth the wait? Yes, totally - and a tiny bit not... but more on that later. Impressive visuals aside, there's a kitbag of new features - including bringing key defenders up for corners, photo-scanning for accurate player editing and a new 'popularity' system in the Master League. The screenshots might look like renders, but zoom-in during replays and you'll be gobsmacked at the player likenesses and fine detail - the fluid animations make PES6 on PS2 look like table football. Players are clearly differentiated - watching Thierry Henry dance past bewildered defenders with subtle nudges of the left stick is a sight to behold, with blink-and-you'll-miss-it subtly animated shoulder shrugs and a twist of the hips.
Fast players like Ronaldo can really outstrip their plodding counterparts - it's not absurd, but you stand more chance of bursting past a full back than in PES6. There's a real advantage in having, say, Aaron Lennon running the wing rather than a lead-footed Ivan Campo, making your key players more effective in their specialist areas. On the flip-side - as is the trend in successive Pro Evo's - defenders can exploit their physicality to blunt razor-sharp runs. Playing as Man United vs Inter Milan, little Anderson was being spun every time he crashed into leggy Vieira - while dogged tacklers like John Terry dominate in goalmouth scrambles. The cheeky q tackles and fiddly slides of PES6 are complemented by more realistic scrambles, with desperate hacks at the ball and some naughty shirt-pulling.
Players scrap doggedly side-by-side, and we've seen two, or even three, seesaw interchanges of possession in gritty tackles. Defenders now dig their heels in and impose their strength in mini-battles around the pitch.
Defenders will go to desperate lengths to prevent a goal; throwing their bodies into the path of the ball with their backs turned, blocking the shot and keeping their face and spuds from harm. New heading techniques - like craning out a neck to pinch a bouncing ball, or carefully shielded back-headers - add realistic variety to defending crowded areas or going for goal. Headers are stronger - you can glance, lob and power the ball with your noggin; the latter scattering the opposing players like skittles if you're leaping with six foot seven Niko Zigic. Shots can be powerful too, too - we hit one Gerrard volley so hard, it knocked a player off his feet.
Sadly, it's hard to pinpoint a defining new feature, or option, in this current build of PES 2008 - most notably in the barely-changed Master League (see page 26), though this may change in later code. The biggest alteration is the fluid passing, linked to the TeamVision AI (yes, the name is daft, but teams really do move more intelligently, forcing you to work the ball around) and, while we bang on about how PES is "more realistic and random" every year, you can really see - and feel -the difference. Wait until you see Ronaldinho leaping high into the air and heel-flicking a perfect pass to Messi.