Ever since the balmy looking controls were demoed in a video, I've followed PES 2008 on Wii like it was the sequel to Mario Galaxy. So when Konami came into the office to show it off, I experienced the strange sensation of being a little too excited over a football game.
The good news for those who know more about football than me is that within minutes of talking to Konami I felt way out of my depth. PES 2008 Wii is all about the strategy of creating open spaces and forward passing. And so I had to re-learn the intricacies of the beautiful game on a Wii Remote.
Due to the unique way the Wii version works, even the most hardened PES fan will have to go through the training mode. Probably more than once, it doesn't help. First of all, a Brain Training inspired introduction screen provided realms of information. You then see the AI play through an exercise - in this case, how to dribble - and then you're thrown into it without further help and only one chance to succeed. Ouch.
As this is a Wii game, showing you how it should be done is about as helpful as being shown a clip of Pele in action and then being expected to be as good as him. PES Wii doesn't just apply motion controls to the standard PES game; it's a radical overhaul of the way football games are played. And the lack of step-by-step help when trying to dribble requires a lot of patience.
After a number of attempts at the training modes, I'd managed to gain some sort of control over my player. I could dribble by pointing the Wii Remote where I wanted the player to go. I could deflect shots by flicking the Nunchuk at the moment the ball came near my player. I could shoot by again flicking the Nunchuk at the correct time. Armed with these basic skills, it was on.
After conceding three goals in two minutes, our embarrassed Konami rep took back the controls and put us in the Free Match mode (stabilisers and all), where it was just me and four other players on the pitch. And a ball.
This was our saving grace, and to be honest the game's too. Able to play the actual game instead of the poor training mode, but without the pressure of a computer team hounding me constantly, I discovered the key to understanding PES Wii was to remember the old saying, "there's no I in team".
PES Wii 2008 is about the football team as opposed to a series of players you take control of. As soon as you gain control of the ball, you almost have to forget about the individual. Instead, you absent-mindedly direct him with the Nunchuk's, while concentrating on directing other players around the pitch using the Remote. It plays like a hybrid of traditional PES and a RTS, where you cease concentrating on the individual and think more about your units.
Like a RTS, you start to use players to draw opponent defenders away, setting up faint attacks from one flank while sneaking the true intended recipient of the ball down the other. You start to think in terms of moves, anticipating where you can get the ball to be played three passes ahead. Once you've grasped this distinct difference you realise the controls are brilliant.
You point and click on players to send them moving. To pass the ball, you click where you want the player to kick it and nearby players will change direction to run on to it. To tackle, get near an adversary and click him. Purists may scoff at the slightly automated nature compared to PES 2008 on 60 and PS3, but they're missing the point. This is something entirely new, and it works.
Similarly, you have to forget your assumptions about Wii games when it comes to shooting. Having mastered the skills required to get the ball into the opponent's box, I went for a shot and shook the Nunchuk in the same way I've played dozens of Wii games (like someone waving off a cloud of bees). Instead of scoring, the player looked like he was about to have a seizure. He didn't know what to do.