We'll admit it. When Konami announced that it would finally be releasing a version of its world-famous Pro Evolution Soccer on the Wii, we were worried. Not because of the gameplay; that was always going to be fine. It was the controls, you see. Yes, the Wii Remote is great for first-person shooting games, racing games and the like, but football? FIFA 08 did a decent job but this is Pro Evo we're talking about - the daddy of realistic, tactical football. "Please Konami," we started thinking, "don't mess this up."
Finally, after months of waiting, we're happy to report that it didn't. That said, even if you're a die-hard fan of the series (as we are), don't expect to be able to just pick this up and play it. This one takes a while to learn for both new and experienced gamers alike.
The main difference becomes clear within seconds of playing the game. The controls have been completely revamped to take advantage of the Wii Remote and Nunchuk. While it's initially a bit of a shock to be asked to forget everything you've ever learnt about football games, eventually you realise that it actually breathes new life into the genre.
Pin Point Passing
Let's describe a situation. You're running along the wing and there's a team mate just in front of you. You can see a gap up ahead that could potentially lead to a great goal-scoring opportunity, if only your team mate decides to run that way. Since in other versions of the game you're only in control of the player on the ball and have no way of determining where the other players run, in the situation we've described you'd probably have had to make do with whatever way the game's AI has decided your player will run.
In this version however, you can point at your team mate and hold the A button, then drag out a line for him to follow and release the button. When you do this, the player will quickly change his pre-determined route and make a run in the direction you've set. It's literally as quick as pointing and dragging - as if you're saying "you, go over there" - and it completely changes the way you play the game.
We'd like to consider ourselves Pro Evo experts who have studied the AI of previous games inside and out, and even we initially took a while to get our head round the new system because it opens up so many tactical possibilities. No longer when you're playing against someone can you think "well, that player's going to run that way", because he could make a move and change direction at any second.
Here Wii Go, Here Wii Go
You can also dictate running directions during set-pieces, which makes for some interesting tactical plays. During one corner kick, we sent a couple of our dangerous strikers on some runs inside the box. This led some defenders to chase after them, leaving one of our defenders free to head our corner, unmarked, into the goal.
If this all sounds a bit much, don't worry: there's a really in-depth tutorial mode which shows you every single move and asks you to complete it successfully before you can move onto the next one. By the time we were done with it we were ready and raring to go.
Die-hard Pro Evo fans may be disappointed to hear that the Wii version doesn't have a Master League mode in it. This was the main league mode in the other versions of the game which saw you starting with a team of no-hopers and eventually building them into a squad of all-stars through buying and developing players.
The replacement mode in the Wii version is called Champions Road. Although you start with the same no-hopers as in the Master League, the main layout is very different. Instead of working your way to the top of a basic league, you travel around the world as you're invited to various leagues and tournaments. As you defeat each team, you're able to pick a player from them to add to your squad, meaning as you work your way through the leagues and play progressively harder teams you'll eventually be able to build a solid team of strong players.