When PES 2008 was released on the Wii early last year, it showed up the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions like a younger brother beating his older brothers in a penalty shoot-out. As the supposedly "next-gen" versions faltered the Wii version, with its initially mind-bending pull and drag pointing mechanic, provided a degree of control fans of the series weren't perhaps ready for. With PES 2009 on Wii, Konami has consolidated the game's position, offering a small number of refinements that for some Wii PES 2008 owners won't justify a purchase, but for newcomers will represent the ultimate virtual football experience.
Veteran Wii PES players will find the controls perfectly agreeable; the hard work was done getting to grips with last year's effort. Newcomers, though, will have to embark on what amounts to a complete rethink. At its most basic, you point at a player with the Wii Remote to give him an instruction and shoot by swinging the Nunchuck.
Pointing at a player and pressing the A button will "grab" him. You can then drag him to another part of the pitch by moving the Wii Remote. You can control "on the ball" players by pointing and pressing A on the grass ahead of them, although using the Nunchuck control stick for movement is easier. Pointing at a player and pressing B passes - a simple control but its importance can't be overstated. You've never been able to pinpoint exactly who you're passing to at all times in Pro Evolution Soccer. You can in PES on Wii.
As mentioned, PES 2009 on Wii is about little improvements here and there rather than revolutionary back to the drawing board mechanics. You can now shoot more accurately by pointing at part of the goal and pressing B, providing a greater level of control over shooting than any game in the Pro Evolution Soccer series has ever had. Defending, which is still incredibly difficult, is more a case of gently ushering your players to get the ball rather than directly controlling their actions. Slide tackling is still governed by swinging the Nunchuck, and intercepting the ball (by asking your player to look out for passes with the d-pad) is still virtually impossible. However, you can now get your players to try and win the ball by holding the Z button. While this does make you feel like you've got more of a chance of stopping attacks, you're still, ultimately, at the mercy of the AI and where your defenders are positioned. And the "clear the ball lottery" from the last game remains: to clear the ball, say from a cross, you simply shake the Nunchuck. A small dot will appear over the player's head signalling he has the clear command programmed into his skull. Then the lottery kicks in. If he heads or kicks the ball clear, great. But more often than not he won't, especially if you're up against a team with good attacking players.
Because of the difficulty in stopping attacks, of simply getting the ball off your opponent in general, PES 2009 on Wii feels at times more like a game of basketball than football, with most attacks ending up in a shot. Once your attack is over it's your opponent's turn to attack. Rinse and repeat. So many goals can be scored in your average 10 minute half match that scores shoot off beyond the stratosphere. Against the computer on anything but the hardest difficulty level, expect to win generously. If PES 2009 proves anything, it's that Konami hasn't quite worked out to defend.
Ultimately, though, and somewhat ironically given the Wii's reputation as the home of accessible, mainstream gaming, PES 2009 plays a more complicated game of football than the 360 and PS3 versions and, as a result, it simulates the team play aspect of football better than anything that's gone before. This, for some, means PES on Wii will be too hard. One-touch passing, one-twos, all the advanced stuff that's so simple on the non-Nintendo console versions, is made harder here because you have to think about not only where your passes are supposed to go, but the runs your players are making. Put simply, being in control of everything is great, but it won't be everyone's cup of tea.
Perhaps aware of this fact, Konami has implemented a new "traditional" control scheme that allows you to play the game with the Wii Remote on its side or with the Classic Controller. This makes PES 2009 on Wii feel a lot like it does on Xbox 360 and PS3. It's a strange thing to do, but it's a nice option to have, especially if you own the Wii and nothing else, and reckon playing the game the way it was designed to be played would give you an embolism.
Beyond the control tweaks it's as you were. The addition of the UEFA Champions League license is, as it was in the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions, disappointing because not every team in this year's competition is officially licensed (the Champions League spell is broken somewhat when Manchester United play North London). You can play online, as you could before, Master League rears its ugly head once again, and the curious role-playing meta game that is the Champions Road returns from the last game too.
The graphics haven't been improved, nor the music or the embarrassing commentary (a PES tradition). In fact, you might say the game's positively ugly, reminiscent of early Pro Evolution Soccer efforts on the PS2. The crowd's laughable, as are the player faces; we know for a fact the console can do better than this. Oh, and the Wii Remote cursor still inhibits your ability to see what's going on, especially when using the widest camera angle.
Criminally, the January transfers haven't been included, despite the fact that the game is out nearly two months after the window closed. So Robbie Keane is still at Liverpool when he should be at Spurs (oh sorry, North East London). This, frankly, is just lazy, and is something Wii owners will have to put up with if they haven't got their console hooked up to the internet. Sure you can spend hours making everything right in the edit mode, but that's not what we'd call a fun game of football.
PES 2009 on Wii doesn't do enough to justify a purchase if you've got last year's effort. Crucially, attacking is still miles better than defending, despite the control tweaks (something we hope Konami sorts out for the next game). However, if you've become disillusioned with PES on 360 or PS3, the Wii version's a great alternative. It's not better than FIFA 09 next-gen, and it'll take a bit of getting used to, but with time and effort you'll find it the most rewarding virtual game of football around.