PES on Wii plays unlike any football video game ever. It's so unfamiliar and bizarre you'll almost want to turn it off and immediately slap the Xbox 360 or PS3 version on instead. The funny thing is, after a while you do get used to the crazy controls, and, once you do, Wii PES starts to feel, well, just great.
You need to forget everything you've ever done in scores of footie games in the past and open your mind to motion-sensing madness. Instead of controlling player movement with a d-pad or thumb stick, you need to point the Wii Remote at where you want your player to dribble with the ball and hold down A. This sounds simple, but it requires a change in thinking akin to getting China to embrace democracy, especially if you've honed your virtual football skills through hours of play on PES down the years.
The madness doesn't stop there. To pass, you need to aim the Wii Remote at your target and press B. Again, time for a lobotomy. To shoot, wiggle the Nunchuk. To tackle, aim at the opponent and hold A. Mind-bending.
Things can get extremely complicated and busy on-screen. Seen that advert with Michael Owen and Ian Wright rolling about a white couch? That's just what it's like. Controlling every player on the pitch, pointing and clicking, dragging players to man mark, directing player runs, raising the Wii Remote to trigger the off-side trap - the screen can often get filled up with too many lines, cursors and player trails. On a small to medium-sized television, this can actually start causing problems.
Wii PES, amazingly, ends up feeling a bit like an RTS. Where Konami has made 2008 a more arcadey, fast-paced PES on 360 and PS3, the Wii version is a much more considered affair. This slower pace is forced in many respects, since the controls are so damn complicated. Soon enough, though, the game results in enormous satisfaction. Controlling player runs, sliding through balls, hitting a killer one-two then rifling a shot into the top corner is, in many ways, even more satisfying that in the game's more illustrious cousins because you know you've been in control of every cog in the sexy football wheel.
It doesn't always work as brilliantly as you'd like though. Attacking is much better than defending. Sometimes getting your defenders to tackle the player with the ball feels like asking a stone to give blood. And, as much as it pains us to say it, there are times when too much control can be a bad thing, especially when you need to ping the ball about first-time Arsenal style.
Graphically, PES on Wii looks a little dated - PS2 quality at best. The players look like muck, the crowd is laughable and the pitches look like they were drawn by a three-year-old. It's not really the point, since Wii PES is about substance over style, but it's disappointing all the same, especially since we know the Wii is capable of so much more when developers put their minds to it. Still, Wii owners do get widescreen support, which is something the PS2 games have never had.
Other areas have seen serious toning down, too. The edit mode will disappoint many - you can only change team names and player names. Online play is a random affair, too, with some games afflicted by the same crippling lag that has plagued the 360 and PS3 versions since launch, and some games that are perfectly playable. Criminally, quitting out of games before they're finished won't affect your record. We hate it when developers don't include this in online play - it just lets cheaters get away scot-free. Grrr. Oh well, a lack of an online leaderboard means players shouldn't get too upset.
On the plus side the Champions Road mode, which replaces the frankly stale Master League, is quite refreshing. It's a stripped down version, but it's better for it. Gone is the uninspired transfer system, replaced by a trading card-style player collection game. Here you take a squad, which begins with the same set of players that have made up the default Master League team in every PES, Castillo and Minanda included, and attempt to "collect" better quality players by winning region specific tournaments, usually four teams strong. Player quality is measured out of five stars, but you won't gain access to high-level players until you complete more difficult tournaments. In a nice touch, you'll able to trade players with your friends online. And, once you've played a few matches in the Champions Road, you'll unlock the ability to integrate your Wii console's Miis into a team. Funny, but a nice touch.
Overall, PES 2008 on Wii is a solid first effort, a great start for Konami's genre-scrambling control system and, with practice, extremely rewarding. I won't go as far as to say it's revolutionised the series - for me the traditional control scheme is still the best way to play PES. But you do wonder how good and refined PES 2009 on Wii really can be.