We'll whisper this, but Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 on the Wii might just be the truest Pro Evo experience on any console. Where PES 2010 has traded some of its fluidity for sparkly visuals on other consoles, on Wii it feels rather like the big kid who never left home.
It's up for a laugh and keeps you up until 3.00am, because it doesn't care what time it gets up the next day, or whether or not it takes a shower. Pro Evo on other consoles must be casting green-eyed glances at PES 2010 mucking about on the Wii, making the same old mistakes but having the time of its life. but having the time of its life. That's responsibility for you. What a drag it must be being flashy and talked about all the time.
The Beautiful Game?
You can tell this is really still the same Pro Evo because it's a heffing scruff. It doesn't care about first impressions, so it's up to you to make sense of its tangled menus and customisation settings. The front end is like a bomb site as you're herded into creating your profile and sorting out your favourite team, the menus are fiddly and there's a general sense of shabbiness about the whole package.
Out on the pitch the visuals are of the muddy variety, with some horrible cardboard cut-out crowds. But Pro Evo just gives you a cheeky grin - it knows you'll overlook its dishevelled appearance. It's a footballing Colombo, confident in its ability to run rings around you, but rubbish at remembering to change out of yesterday's clothes. At least its players don't look like reconstructive surgery patients. Cold, lifeless eyes apart, big name players bear a striking resemblance to their real life counterparts. Phew.
It's got the flair and the flaws of previous games and a number of tweaks in high profile areas to freshen it all up. The biggest changes involve rationing players' energy, so head-down runs from one corner flag to the other simply don't work, at least not all match. Two bars appear over a player's head when he takes possession, one for overall stamina levels, and one for the run he's currently on. When the second bar empties he turns into Michael Owen and falls to bits, and is more likely to meekly give the ball away.
Round The Bend
There's a literal twist to the free kick system too. Using the Playmaker control method you point a big bendy arrow at the part of the goal you want to hit, then press B to hoof the ball and tilt the Remote to add lavish spin. It's hard not to feel supremely smug when you send the ball initially toward the corner flag and then see it swerve back to brush the keeper's glove on its way into the net. Unfortunately this can't be done with the Classic control method. How cool it would've been to combine the best of both worlds.
Flair play has always been PES's forte and Konami has given the showboat an almighty shove. Casual Cruyff turns are pulled off with a nonchalant flick of the left stick, but when Jamie Carragher makes with the crazy legs credibility starts to become a little elastic. The keepers themselves are much more dependable and the humble stepover has been given at least four variants, from Ronaldo blurring his feet, to Peter Crouch trying not to trip over the grass.
The old quibbles are still here - in fact it's almost like greeting old friends. There's Inverse Pass, where the game does the opposite of what you intended. There's Bubble Man, who pops up occasionally to miraculously repel tackles. And there's Mazy Defender, who wanders off in a daze to leave your keeper completely exposed. They're not terribly prevalent, but shouldn't they have been fixed by now? Don't be alarmed by the faults, there's much here that's very good indeed - more official Champions League integration, the ability to update teams via the Wii Channel, a huge number of tournaments, the addictive Master League and of course some scintillating action. Who cares about the odd rough edge? When it comes to shifting the ball from one side of the pitch to the other in the most entertaining way possible, PES 2010 is all jazz hands.