Sunday, October 14, 2007

Pro Evolution Soccer '08 for Wii

Slowly but surely, developers are working to integrate that mysterious Wiimote into established gameplay. Here's an amazing example of where sports games may be headed, courtesy of Pro Evolution Soccer. Konami has long been recognized as the kings of soccer, or rest-of-the-world football, for many years. They've always been more focused on the depth and strategy of the game, taking the mantle from Sega's Worldwide Soccer 97 on Saturn, and always leaving EA's poor FIFA series in the dust.

Now Pro Evolution Soccer takes that next leap on that little white box and its strange, untested controllers. This is really remarkable, just amazing stuff. Here, watch the video and see for yourself. Here's what the video demonstration highlights:

Dribbling: Just point in the direction you wish to dribble with the Wiimote. The player is controlled with the Nunchuck. This enables some pretty complex dribbling and movements.

Passing: Just point at a player to receive a pass. This immediately reminded me of the giant stars in Super Mario Galaxy.

Long pass: Automatically switches to a long pass depending on the distance. This is a good example of streamlined controls. I always hated having so many buttons just to move the ball downfield. Even WWS '97 was guilty.

Pass into space: Pointing at space to make your teammate automatically move into the space to receive the pass. This is where the control scheme really starts to shake things up, as the video continues to demonstrate.

Free run: Players not on the ball can also be controlled real-time via the Wiimote. Just point at the player and drag the cursor to move them. Teammates will make tactical movements when you are on "free-run."

Offside trap: Now this is just cool. Control your defensive line by shaking the Wii controller. Try springing the offside trap. Alright, I'm just reprinting the text from the video. So what? I'm an American; I can't explain this sport to you.

Shooting: Shake the Nunchuck to shoot the ball. Smart move, and fairly intuitive. This is the first thing we think of when we think of the Wii controls.

Konami's video then shows all of these skills in motion, and it's an amazing sight to behold. It appears to be difficult on first glance, since you essentially are being given control over your entire team (instead of just one player), but I think it will become second nature before very long. What this game is trying to do is streamline the controls, all while giving you nearly complete control over your tactics and strategy on the field.

The video demonstrates how you can move players in order to draw defenders away, opening up space for another linesman to run into. An entire world of psychological warfare opens up here. You can move a man behind defenders, you can fire off one-two passes, yadda yadda yadda.

If the controls are properly fine-tuned, this could become a new standard in sports games. Again, I'm an American. I like soccer, but only casually. And nearly all soccer titles are really arcade games at their core. This control scheme opens up the strategy. Now, to my eyes, the sports actually begins to make a bit of sense. There's more to it than that Simpson's parody.

As a comparison, I watched a video of EA's upcoming FIFA '08 for the Wii. It looks like they actually bothered put some effort into this one, instead of just slapping Wii controls onto an old Gamecube game. I'm even looking forward to the new "family mode" controls. But the difference against Pro Ev '08 is already striking. Next-generation, even.

Everybody in the know should stand up and take notice. Write down a lot of notes. And then start stealing everything. How would something like this work for, say, basketball or baseball?

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