Such was the disappointment in the next-gen versions of PES 2008 that the PSP version has taken on an even greater importance than usual. The result is a thoroughly decent effort, one blighted by technical problems like its next-gen big brothers, but in many ways it eclipses them in terms of raw gameplay.
This is, as you'd expect, a stripped down version of PES 2008, sans the commentary (you'll get a single line whenever a goal is scored, which feels odd) and much of the crowd and stadium effects. The graphics hold up extremely well - probably because PES 2008's graphics, at least on the PS3 and the Xbox 360, came across as last-gen with a lick of HD paint. PES 2008 PSP doesn't have the HD lick of paint, of course, but that doesn't stop if from being a decent effort.
Gameplay wise, PES 2008 PSP feels more like the PS2 version than the PS3 or Xbox 360 versions of the game. And because of that you might think it's a bit too similar to PES 6 PSP, as the PS2 version feels to its predecessor. This may or may not be a good thing, depending on your opinion of the new, more arcadey gameplay seen in the next-gen versions of PES 2008. If you absolutely hated the quicker, more dribble driven PES 2008, the PSP version might be right up your street. If you loved it, PES 2008 PSP will still be an enjoyable experience, albeit one that feels slightly old. The ties with the PS2 version don't stop there either - you'll be able to transfer your PES 2008 PS2 profile over to the PSP version, as well as Master League saves.
Another thing to note is that, when played on the hardest difficulty, PES 2008 on PSP is very hard indeed, much harder than the equivalent difficulty on the next-gen versions. This isn't a bad thing, it just requires a different way of thinking. You won't be able to twist four defenders up before rifling a shot into the top corner, as you can do with many of PES 2008 next-gen players. You'll need to shift your mindset, if it isn't there already, back to when PES was a football sim, and employ patient, pass-based build-up play to win. You'll need to watch that shot power bar closely - it's a lot less forgiving. And passes go astray a lot more regularly. It's quite refreshing really.
As we mentioned, the game isn't without its technical problems. The crippling slowdown, seen whenever more than half the players are on screen at once, returns for this version like an hereditary disease the PES family can't shake. It's often so pronounced that it will mess your timing up completely - resulting in a shot that balloons over the bar or a miss timed tackle. Apart from that though, things run relatively smoothly. PES 2008 PSP just about gets away with it.
Familiar game modes return. As well as exhibition matches and the master league, the World Tour Mode has been included for football-starved commuters to sink their thumbs into. Here, one off challenges need to be overcome before you can progress to the next, from coming back from a goal behind in the second half to winning with no offsides. These are addictive, fun and perfect for a regular, half-hour or so commute. The Master League will still be PES 2008 PSP's most popular single-player game mode, but the World Tour is good for a laugh, and played on the hardest difficulty level can be satisfyingly challenging.
We can't help but feel that PES 2008 PSP puts the more illustrious versions of the game to shame, a bit like Barnsley knocking Chelsea out of the FA Cup. We know that Konami is going back to the drawing board for the next version, and you do get the feeling that the publisher wants to sweep this year's effort under the carpet, so negative was the reaction from its hardcore following, but at least the Japanese game company has one version of the 2008 series to smile about.
VideoGamer.com Score8 Score out of 10
- Transfer option files from PS2 to PSP
- Hard, satisfying football action
- No commentary except for goals
- Serious slowdown when things get busy