The beautiful game is about to kick off in the UK tomorrow with PES 2008 on PS3, PS2, Xbox 360 and PC. If you haven't already seen our controversial PS3 review, we urge you to check it out. Shingo 'Seabass' Takatsuka, the game's legendary producer, has already promised lots more new features and modes in next year's game. Seabass has even gone on the record to promise a complete overhaul in every aspect. So, to get those creative juices flowing while you wait for PES 2008 to come out, we've put our heads together to come up with Pro-G's Top 10: Things that will make PES 2009 great. Read on, and let us know what you think should be in next year's game in the comments section below.
10. Get rid of the invisible barriers for throw-ins. This has been a bug-bear of mine throughout the series. When taking throw-ins, your player seems to have this magical bubble around him that prevents receiving and defending players from getting too close. This isn't how they do it in real life, and so this isn't how it should be in PES, the most realistic football simulation ever. Get rid Konami.
9. Sort the music out. PES has always had cheesy music, but PES 2008 has possibly the worst, cheesiest, cringe-worthy music ever heard in a video game. What you get is a small box in the top-right corner which details the song name and the genre, from salsa to drum and bass. Some of the tracks are so mind-numbingly bad, that we've had to turn the background music off entirely just to end the pain. Let me give you some sample lyrics from a piece of original music in the game (you have to imagine this with a Status Quo-type punk rock riff): "Football, soccer, football, soccer, football, soccer, all around the world. Football, soccer, football, soccer, football, soccer, Greatest game of all!" This isn't licensed music, this is god-awful music. Konami, please, do something.
8. Tweak the keepers. Some players criticised Pro Evolution Soccer 6 for the way keepers seemed to suffer from Paul Robinson syndrome - spilling the ball at strikers' feet whenever a shot comes in. While they've tweaked the keepers in PES 2008 so that it happens less often, it's still heart in the mouth time whenever the opposition let fly from mid to close range. Whatever happened to Dave 'Safe Hands' Seaman?
7. Don't break play up with changes in camera angles. One of the great improvements in PES 2008 is the ability to take quick free kicks and for refs to be able to dish out cards without the game cutting to a different camera angle. If you have the game set to wide view (of course you do), and you hack Cristiano Ronaldo from behind the ref will trotter over and dish out a card without the camera leaving that view. It's so great that we want it extended to non-shooting free kicks and goal kicks. There's no need for the 'behind the player' camera angle in these circumstances, so keeping the wide view while the keeper trots off to get the ball from a ball boy or a player passing the ball to another so he can take a free-kick in his own half would be fine. Not just fine, it would be fantastic.
6. Skill-based penalties. As far as we can tell, there's no skill to penalties in PES at all. If you're the keeper you guess the direction and hope for the best. If you're shooting, you press the direction and hope it doesn't hit the post or go wide. While real life penalties are somewhat of a lottery, there's obviously skill involved. We'd love to see Konami introduce a penalty system that somehow took skill to master. How about a return to the way it was in ISS 64 with the boxes?. Oh, and Konami, get rid of those dodgy new keeper camera angles please.
5. Make and share videos of your matches. Halo 3 has taken game editing to a whole new level with the ability to save videos of matches and share them with friends. How great would it be if you could do that with PES? You could win a seven-goal thriller with your mate then watch it from the perspective of a floating camera that you were in total control of. Then you could share your films with your friends through Xbox Live or PlayStation Network. You could even save your favourite goals or funny moments, edit it together so it looks really cool and then submit it for consideration on Konami's Goal of the Month competition, which everyone can check out through XBL or PSN. How great would that be? Come on Konami, we know you can do it.
4. Overhaul the online offering. PES 2008 only allows 1 vs 1 matches online, which is disappointing. We'd love to see that increased for the next game, even if it is only 2 vs 2. We'd also love the opportunity to create private leagues with your friends, a bit like The Sun's Fantasy Football. And how about PlayStation Eye and Xbox LIVE Vision support so that you can see your opponent's reaction when you score a last minute winner, and they can see you jumping around the room and screaming your head off? And what about the lag? Playing PES 2008 online is nowhere as smooth an experience as it is offline. While this situation may improve with patches and updates, and we know that completely lag free play is impossible, we'd love Konami to improve the situation for PES 2009.
3. More official licenses and more teams. It's a question of taste as to whether you like to play in real kits, in real stadiums, with players that aren't named Gills and teams that aren't named North London FC. Personally, I'm a big fan of official licenses in football games. It's one of the best features about FIFA 08 and something that I've always felt adds authenticity to the match experience. It seems like Konami has taken a sideways step with the English Premier League rather than a forward one. Official licenses for Manchester United and Arsenal have been replaced with Newcastle and Tottenham. We know it's very difficult, given EA Sports' exclusive deal, but we can only hope that the situation will improve with PES 2009. We'd also like to see more teams, both national and club. How about the German, Scottish and Portuguese leagues?
2. Improve the graphics. Now that we're well into next-gen gaming, there's no real excuse why PES' visuals aren't top notch. While player animations and faces (some) are great, playing the game in the main wide angle simply looks terrible when compared with FIFA 08. We're not asking for much, since it's gameplay that really counts, but we'd like to see the crowd receive a lick of paint, the menus re-thought, player kits more real looking and the overall presentation dragged into the next generation. We love the classic PES animation, but a few tweaks here and there wouldn't go amiss.
1. Don't overhaul the game engine. We love PES. We love it like a fine vintage wine that gets better with age while keeping the essence of what makes it taste so good. All we're really asking for is subtle changes, changes that will give that awe-inspiring gameplay a next-generation, high definition sheen. For years PES has been one of the greatest multiplayer games in the world. The feeling of satisfaction you get from scoring a goal in PES, be it a tap-in at the end of an Arsenal-esque 20-pass move or a Frank Lampard scorcher, is unlike anything in gaming. It's about as close as us mortals are going to get to that uncontrollable burst of emotion professional footballers experience week in, week out. We've been enjoying those feelings on a virtual basis for years, and we want to keep enjoying them for many years to come.
What would you like to see in PES 2009? Let us know in the comments section below.