If the bile-ridden postings of largely illiterate internet warriors are to be believed, the war between FIFA and PES may have to be resolved in the street, with indignant fans of the respective games going at each other with razor-embedded joypads.
While the debate that surrounds releasing essentially the same game every year is best left for another time, the plain fact is that we are blessed with two excellent football games that cater for different markets.
FIFA has always been about glossy aesthetics allied to pick-up-and-play gameplay, whereas PES has always been uglier but deeper, largely appealing to the hardcore gamer. However, as we hinted at last year, they are in danger of turning into each other.
Last year's PES 6 was berated in some quarters for being too difficult to score goals, requiring players to adopt the correct body shape and timing. Even so, the ball would regularly fly over the bar if you held down the shoot button for more than a quarter of a picosecond.
While this was anathema to the much-derided casual gamer, it's what the hardcore craved. Besides, it's the relative paucity of goals in football compared to other sports that makes them so special, something that the majority of Americans struggle to comprehend.
So what do we get for PES 2008? An Xbox 360 port, and a veritable goal feast. From a drought to a flood, the goals fly in from all angles, with high-scoring games the norm and goal-less draws proving rarer than a good steak.
In many ways, this is Hollywood football, with defenders dribbling from their own halves into the opposition area, much to the surprise of the all-new commentary team of John Champion and Mark Lawrenson.
Despite the renewed openness of the play, it's still undeniably PES, boasting the robust controls that the series is renowned for. Immediately familiar, it's reassuring to
know that if you ping a crossfield ball to a winger, he'll generally be able to control it and continue the attack.
And when you concede a goal, it's either because you were fairly beaten, or you made a mistake in football terms as opposed to wrestling with the game controls.
Apparently, this year's quantum leap on the gameplay front is Teamvision, whereby the AI monitors your tactics and reacts accordingly, requiring you to mix it up a bit. To be honest, if we hadn't been told about it, we probably wouldn't have noticed, and it seems like little more than something to fill a press release.
What we have noticed is that once you take the lead, the opposition seems to make a more concerted effort to equalise (as you'd expect), which accounts for the number of end-to-end games.
PES has always lagged behind FIFA on the licensing front, and depressingly this is again the case with 2008.
We've begrudgingly accepted the lack of lower division teams, but the Premier League itself is still a joke, with only the inclusion of the correctly named Newcastle United and Tottenham Hotspur standing out amidst the mire of Merseyside Reds and West London Blues. It's enough to tempt you to the foreign leagues, where the teams are at least more authentic.
For the hardcore PES fan, the Master League is still where it's at, offering the choice of a team with fictional players, an actual team with actual players, or a custom club of your own, replete with your own choice of kit. Either way, it's a long-term investment, able to sap away a rainy afternoon in a blur of goalmouth action.
If we wanted to get splinters in our arse, we could make a claim for buying both PES and FIFA. While we are often swayed by the razzmatazz of the latter, within one-half of one game it becomes apparent which is the better game. That's PES, by the way.
Half rice, half chips
- Robust controls
- Breathless gameplay
- Facial likenesses
- Usual licensing nonsense
- Some cheap goals
- Limited online features