[ANOTHER EDIT, Tuesday 27th November 2007. The PS3 patch has finally been released, and seems – touch wood – to have resolved the bulk of my complaints about offline play. I have reset all the settings detailed in this post and it still seems – touch wood again – to work OK. It’s still relatively early days, though. We don’t yet know if the patch is the final patch. (Online players certainly hope it’s not the last.) It’s likely that slowdown will never be fully eliminated from the PS3 game. So I will leave this post below as written.]
[EDIT, Saturday 27th October 2007: I believe I have found my solution to slowdown, but will let this post stand as it was originally written. I have edited in the details of my solution at the bottom of this post.]
I never wanted to write posts like this one. I wanted this blog to be pretty much an episodic recounting of my day-by-day adventures on PES2008. It still will be that way, I’m sure, in time.
For now, though, there’s a turd in the punchbowl. I’m talking about what many PS3-owners have discovered upon firing up PES2008 for the first time. Yes, the game’s now-infamous framerate issues on the console. I’ll call it slowdown for short.
Many people don’t see it. They don’t know what we’re talking about. They stop short of calling us liars, but they suggest that we’re exaggerating, or that we’re over-fussy and over-critical. “I played 20 games today and saw slowdown just once on a corner OMG what are you people on about!” – that’s about the size of it. Things can get brutal out there in the wild.
What they’re not seeing, and what I’m seeing – along with many others – is a disastrous drop in the game’s framerate that can happen dozens of times during every game.
Most often it will happen when the screen is full of players, or when playing a long ball or having a long shot. The previously silky-smooth game suddenly slows to a crawl. It’s similar to a Bullet Time effect. It can last anything from a split-second to a couple of seconds, depending on the situation. It’s exceedingly ugly and frustrating, as it plays havoc with your timing.
If it happened just on occasions when the screen was packed with players, I think I could live with it – grudgingly, and indeed grumpily, but I could live with it. I played an entire year of PES4 with ‘packed penalty box slowdown’. But I’m seeing the problem under all conditions, at random times.
Just this morning I was playing a big International Cup quarter final, England vs Italy. I was on a breakaway attack. There were four players on screen. Four. I played a through-ball to my other attacker, and the slowdown happened. I had anticipated the ball arriving earlier, and cued up a shot. A shot that never happened, because the ball was still on its way to me. The defender intercepted easily (my attacker completing his shot animation too quickly).
Most games I play have at least one instance of this kind of thing. Some games have several. Some other games have dozens, as I said. I’ve conceded penalties and free kicks and missed easy tap-in goals galore because of it.
PES2008 is a really great game – even with slowdown, I can see that – but for those of us who have yet to play more than two games in a row without potentially game-wrecking slowdown, it’s a great game with serious issues right now.
And maybe I’m even one of the lucky ones. My slowdown is not as bad as some others I’ve heard about. Some people testify that their games are ‘crippled’. Their framerate drops so low so often that the game is totally unplayable. I believe them.
Even at this early stage – today is the official release day – there are suggested solutions to the problem. I’ll recap the main ones:
- Turn off Stadium Effects (in the game’s System Settings)
- Turn off Entrance scenes (in the game’s System Settings)
- Install the game data to the PS3 hard disk (in the game’s System Settings)
- Change your PS3’s output resolution to 720p (in the PS3’s XMB Display Settings)
- Switch off various in-game display options, such as Player Name Bar and the like (from the in-game menu)
- Use the Normal Long camera (in-game Camera menu)
I know, I know. We bought a games console for a reason. Having to tweak this setting, and alter that gizmo, and check the other widget, and so forth, is uncomfortably like PC gaming.
I have tried all of the above and some of them have made a difference. Only two had no effect: changing the camera and changing my PS3’s resolution to 720p – these actually seemed to make things slightly worse for me.
But, using the other measures, my slowdown is about 50% of what it was at first. I can go longer periods without slowdown, and indeed sometimes play entire games without slowdown. But then in the next game, it’ll be back. It’s like toothache: it hurts, and there are periods of respite, but you can never feel totally at ease while you know it’s there, waiting to happen again.
Different stadiums in the game are worse than others. If I could, I would choose to play all of my games at the ‘good’ stadiums. But I cannot choose. In every game mode but Exhibition, the game chooses the stadium for me. And, as Sod’s infamous Law would have it, the game often seems to favour the ‘bad’ stadiums. I played the entire group stage of a tournament at some bad stadiums this morning. It was not pretty.
Grief-stricken would be too strong a term to describe my feelings right now. Away from PES I do have a full and active life. (Honest!) But I do feel something like grief. I also feel betrayed. I have spent so long looking forward to this – the first next-gen PES! on HDTV! – that the corresponding feeling of let-down is intense.
What has not improved my mood is hearing that the Xbox360 version of the game is problem-free. This does not surprise me, having played the 360’s demo a couple of times. I found it to be excellent in almost all respects. Vibrant colours. Good graphics. Smooth gameplay. Only its replays seemed to be afflicted by very minor slowdown. I saw none in-game.
So now I am straining at the leash to go out and get an Xbox360 to play PES2008. But why should I have to do that? I have a perfectly fine next-gen console in the PS3. It is supposed to be the superior console, technically-speaking. The game’s developers must have had it to work on for over a year now. So what has gone wrong?
Perhaps the fault lies not with Konami but with some element of our individual setups. Perhaps some TVs are less compatible with the game than others. Quite how this would be I have no idea. In fact, I think it’s pretty unlikely. Every other game I have on my PS3 runs smoothly without any issues at all times. Oblivion, Resistance, Warhawk, FIFA08(!), and many more – none of them have ever given me a moment’s trouble. FIFA08 in particular represents a kick in the teeth for Konami. It shows that there is really no excuse for even a single framerate drop in a football game.
So there’s no real conclusion to this so far. Konami is reported to be working on a patch for the PS3 game that will arrive ‘in weeks rather than months’. That’s some good news. I hope that they understand just how important this is to the game’s fans on the PS3.
For now I will continue to play the game. I will continue to watch out for news and tips about how to cope with the problems. There is nothing else I can do right now.
What I will never do is do what some well-meaning but misguided people suggest. I will never simply buckle down and get used to it. I will get an Xbox360, or throw myself off a cliff, or both, before I ever just meekly get used to it. If I ever find myself playing the game and trying to take the slowdown into account when making decisions, I will instantly switch off. Permanently.
[EDIT, Saturday 27th October 2007. Late last night I came across a list of settings to tinker with on the PS3. Having nothing to lose, I went ahead and changed them. The result? The end of slowdown! Well, the end of 99% of slowdown. Have a look at the list and try it out if you’re at your wits’ end as I was.
• [Settings]> [Settings BD (Blu-ray Disc) / DVD]> [Booster DVD]> [No]
• [Settings]> [Settings BD (Blu-ray Disc) / DVD]> [BD 1080p/24 output Hz (HDMI)]> [No]
• [Settings]> [Settings BD (Blu-ray Disc) / DVD]> [format audio output BD / DVD (HDMI)]> [Bitstream]
• [Settings]> [Settings game]> [Revamp PS/PS2]> [No]
• [Settings]> [Settings game]> [Smoothing PS/PS2]> [No]
• [Settings]> [System Settings]> [Message notification]> [Do not show]
• [Settings]> [Network Settings]> [Connecting to multimedia server]> [Disabled]
• [Settings]> [Network Settings]> [Internet]> [Disabled]