For all its problems we found PES 2008 on the Xbox 360 to be a thoroughly entertaining game of football, and a game that we're likely to play in the office almost daily until next year's version is released. But what of the PlayStation 2 version? Despite the talk of next-gen consoles and HD visuals, for many people PES 2008 will be played on PS2. Is there any point in picking this year's game up if you already own PES 6?
Although the title screen and main menu looks different to last year, things are actually remarkably similar. Switching from one PES that you've been playing for a year to a brand-new version is usually a hard task, often resulting in screams and accusations that Konami has ruined the beautiful game. Usually this initial confusion makes way for appreciation of the newly tweaked game. Playing PES 2008 on PS2, I had none of these issues. It felt almost identical to the last game.
What this means is that PS2 gamers get a thoroughly entertaining game of football that feels like the beautiful game. Getting good takes time, knocking the ball about and waiting for the right time to play the killer pass is essential and great goals can be scored if you get the ball to the best players. What's missing, though, is the improved shooting of the next-gen versions of the game and the improvements made to the flow of the game that make next-gen PES 2008 a more impressive experience - at least on the Xbox 360.
So, PES 2008 on PS2 is a good game. It's probably a game you could play until PES 2009, but chances are that you've already been playing it for a year. The diving from the next-gen games is missing, which is odd seeing as it's one of the biggest additions to this year's game on next-gen systems. Purists might prefer it this way, but as long as you don't take the game too seriously we've found the dive to be good fun during friendlies. PES 2008 is fractionally faster than last year's game, but it's not really enough to warrant picking it up if you're a long-time fan.
As well as the standard Master League mode, Cup and League modes, PES 2008 includes a World Tour mode that sees you attempting to complete numerous challenges. It's something that FIFA games have been including for some time and it makes a nice addition to an otherwise fairly run of the mill re-print of last year's game.
One area in which the PS2 version once again destroys its next-gen brothers is in the stats and editing department. While the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of PES 2008 are a huge improvement over next-gen PES 6, on PS2 you get treated to a whole other level of statistics. Entire games can be analysed, goals can be seen drawn out as if on a white board and pages of other info is on hand if you want it. Why this hasn't made it into the next-gen games is a mystery, making the PS2 game the one to own if you love to talk statistics.
Visually and aurally things are very familiar, to the extent that it's hard to see what's changed at all since last year. The PS2 game still lacks widescreen (something FIFA has had for years), but player animations are good and likenesses are adequate given the console's age. Thankfully the frame rate remains more than playable except for moments when the screen is full of players, but these sluggish sections aren't frequent enough to cause bother.
Online play is available once again but it's sadly almost unplayable at the moment. Just as with the next-gen versions, lag rears its ugly head far too often, making online matches basically unplayable. Hopefully this will be sorted out by Konami, but currently you're better off sticking to last year's game if you want to play online.
It's hard to knock PES 2008 if judged on its own merits. PES is a series with a large hardcore following, though, and for those people this PS2 game will be far too similar to PES 6 and therefore can't be recommended to those players. It's still an excellent football game that is perfect for newcomers to the series, but just don't expect it to be all that different to PES 6.