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PES 2008: Hands on

First Impressions: We go hands on with Seabass's 360 magnum opus

Rumours Jose Mourinho dropped the Chelsea job to spend more time on his Xbox 360 are believed to be wide of the mark, but are we the only ones to notice his departure coincided with the arrival of the 360 demo of PES 2008?

Anyway whatever the real reason behind the special one's departure, PES 2008 is now with us and you too courtesy of today's Xbox Live demo, but yesterday we had a chance to spend bit of time with the new Xbox 360 version at Microsoft's pre-Xmas winter warmer.

Now while last year's 360 offering was respectable enough, it still felt very much like a first next-gen effort compared to the PS2's classic gameplay and almost pitch perfect balance and for PES veterans.

The 360 controller didn't quite have the subtlety and nuance of PES PS2's Dual Shock. This year of course the 360 doesn't have the next-gen playing field to itself either and the 360 version has a lot to prove, especially with a brand new PS3 version waiting in the wings.

Selecting Brazil versus Turkey from a fairly limited array of international teams on offer, initial indications were promising and after a couple of fruitless 0-0 draws on normal mode, our PES reflexes slowly began to reassert themselves.

Soon we were clicking into gear with some sweeping cross field passes, subtle through-balls, belting shots and attractive build-up play which you'd expect from the world's finest ball jugglers.

We were probing and testing Turkey's defence, banging in the odd screamer and forcing the Turks to defend in depth against our Samba soccer skills. Sterner tests undoubtedly await at higher difficulty levels though, so we're not resting on our laurels just yet.

The big new feature for PES this year, is the much vaunted Teamvision which monitors your players' movements and forces you to adopt your strategy on-the-fly. Although a much more exhaustive play will be required to fully evaluate this major new development, the lads seemed to display more intelligent movement and passing.

It felt like Turkey were also forced to change their gameplan to cope with our more expansive carnival football, as they retreated down the pitch and tried to hit us on the break.

More scouting reports certainly required on this one, but it certainly seems as if Teamvision will result in a much more dynamic and responsive game.

However what we can say is about this version of PES is that it still nails that almost indefinable feeling of being in total control of a team in your very own virtual Match of the Day.

PES is all about 'feel' and as usual Seabass and his team seem to have added a subtle and very slightly different flavour over last year's 360 version, which undoubtedly and immediately improves your game. The AI seems just that bit more intelligent and indeed belligerent and the overall playing experience is an absolute pleasure especially when you're banging them in - and a pain when you're disputing the ref's latest 'shocker'.

How it will measure up against the PS3 debut remains to be seen, especially if that version supports Sony's freshly announced DualShock 3 and it seems curious that rather than FIFA, PES's main competition this year will come from another platform rather than a rival.

However what seems certain is that PES 360 is going to tick all the right boxes for Xbox fans and for hardcore football fanatics it simply doesn't get much better than this.

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