Month: November 2007

Truly, Bradley, Deeply

Losing in one Cup might be regarded as unfortunate. Losing in two smacks of carelessnessGetting myself knocked out of both Cups was a PES2008 reality check.

It doesn’t matter if you play well in some games, or even if you play brilliantly in most games. You have to perform consistently in every game to win anything in the Master League.

Chelsea are currently riding high at the top of Division 1. They’ve lost just 2 games all season and are 10 points clear of Man Utd in second place. The lesson for me is clear. Thumping a Division minnow 5-0 every now and again is good for morale and good for goal difference. But if I go out in the next game against a team like Blackburn, say, and manage ‘only’ to draw, or even lose, I’m never going to get anywhere.

433-12.png

Now that I am concentrating solely on the league, I have a full squad of players to draw upon for every game.

Before resuming normal week-by-week league life, I made an adjustment to the First XI. Bradley has shown enough quality to convince me that he should replace Muntari as my automatic first-choice DMF.

I was repaid for my faith in Bradley in his first full game in the First XI. I took on Sunderland – my old enemy – and beat them 4-2.

Bradley really does have it all. Strength, balance, shooting. And a nice dribble too. It really is an easy PES year when routinely even I am going on runs like this, and scoring with a few of them:

I want to finish the season in the top 6 at the very least. The top 2 would be a bonus. I think Manchester United are too far ahead of me to catch them now. There are ten games left and 30 points to play for, though, so anything is possible. I need to win all or most of my remaining games and hope that Man Yoo lose enough of theirs to let me catch up. That almost never happens in PES, though. The teams at the top tend to stick there until the end.

I picked up a couple of 1-0 wins, including a valuable one against the team just beneath me in the table, Liverpool. The winner was a nice diving header by Schwarz from a decent cross by Braafheid.

I’m really glad now that I didn’t get rid of Braafheid in the mid-season negotiations. Pacy SBs who can launch dangerous raids down the wings – and also defend a bit – are hard to come by. And I have two. Guimaraes over on the right side continues to grow into a monster of a player. I keep going on about Schwarz, but Guimaraes has been another success story from the pool of young talent that I assembled back in my first couple of otherwise disastrous seasons.

I’m up to third now and should hold steady until the end of the season. It looks like I’ll be playing at the top European table next season. I’m 9 points ahead of the team in 7th place, and I have a superior goal difference to anyone else in the Division.

I’ve scored 54 goals in 28 games this season. Only Man Utd are anywhere near me in terms of goals scored. However, my goals conceded total is among the very worst – only the teams down in the relegation zone have conceded more. Lucky for me I found my shooting boots this season.

Making your mind up

bucks_fizz1.jpg

More than 26 years ago, another band of plucky Brits set forth to conquer Europe. Their manifesto was straightforward: overcome the perils of conformism, and single-mindedly dedicate yourself to following the path of individuality. Above all, simply make your mind up, and stick to your decisions thereafter. As uncomplicated as it sounds, it’s one tough prescription to follow.

Faced with a campaign on three fronts – the league, the domestic cup, and garlicky old Europe – the PES Master League player is faced with a dilemma. Who to play, and in what fixtures? Even with a squad packed full of top players in peak form and condition, there will be casualties along the way.

You can field your top strikers in a big league game (and every league game is a big game, rightly considered), but if you then play them in the big Cup game afterward, they’ll likely be unavailable for the next big League game. Either their stamina or their form, or both, will be borked (as I think people still say on the internet).

One solution, if you have a big enough squad, is to make your mind up about which competition is your priority, and formally establish a Second XI of players to play in the lesser competitions. And stick to your decision.

For me, the league is the #1 priority. I doubt I’ll be able to catch Chelsea, but second spot is well within my reach. That would mean automatic qualification for the European Championships (i.e., the Champions League) next season. A top-six finish would be the next best thing. Playing a load of pre-tournament qualifiers in the first weeks of next season would be a pain, but it’d be better than finishing outside the top six and not being there at all. More games means more points for the transfer kitty. And what do points make? That’s right. Prizes.

433-2ndxi.png

So the First XI (plus/minus one or two players as circumstances dictate) is the one I want to play in every league game. For the Cup and the European Masters Cup, I came up with a Second XI (pictured left) who would – notionally – always play in those fixtures. In this way I hoped to preserve my good league form, and also give myself a fighting chance of progressing in the two Cups.

It’s a good plan on so many levels. You preserve your first-choice players’ fitness levels, and you give several rising stars a full game.

Bradley in particular is in need of full games right now. I’ve resisted starting with him in the First XI so far because he feels a little bit ‘unfinished’. I think that playing him regularly in Cup games will take him that extra bit further and hopefully establish him as a first-choice regular next season.

All of this is good in theory, right?

If you stick to it, yes. I didn’t stick to it. When it came to the crunch I followed the old advice to always play your best team regardless of other fixtures coming up. Thus I embarked upon my worst run of form and results all season. Things haven’t been this bad since the dark days of 2010.

Out of seven games, I lost five and drew two. Portsmouth thumped me 3-1 at home in the league. Mattsson was sent off in this game. A bad day at the office for everyone.

As for the Cups, the First XI/Second XI thing went out of the window almost straightaway. Before the D1 Cup tie against Arsenal, I saw that Schwarz had an almost-full stamina bar and a red form arrow, and selected him for the game without giving it a second thought. Always play your best team is all well and good. But I had a plan, and I should have stuck with it. I drew the Arsenal cup match and lost the second leg. I also lost the league games in between times.

Espanyol almost contemptuously disposed of me in the Masters Cup. They beat me 3-1 at home, and the fixture at their place ended 1-1. They were all over me in both games. It looks like the standard of play in Europe this year is a lot higher than the domestic game.

So much for Europe. #Don’t let your indecision take you from behind…# How I wish I’d really listened to that sound advice. Coventry City, nul points.

The Marcos of a man…

I didn’t realise until now that this season is a season of European football for me. Winning the Division 1 Cup last year automatically qualified me for the European Masters Cup (the game’s UEFA Cup equivalent). Winning the Cup in every other PES has brought European football in its wake, but for some reason this year I completely forgot, or neglected to remember, which amounts to the same thing, really.

Checking out my upcoming European fixture, I see that I’ll be playing Espanyol away in the first leg of a knockout tie. After four-and-a-half seasons of playing the same clubs twice per year, playing a brand-new club with whom I have no prior history just feels weird. The match is a good few weeks away yet. I’m already worried about fixture congestion and how a stamina-challenged squad will cope in all the games. I’ll worry about it when I get there, though.

For now, there’s league games to get through. Europe will look after itself. Finishing as high as possible in the league is the #1 priority.

I thumped Anderlecht 4-1 at their ground. Marcos ruled in this game. He owned. He was 1337. He pwnd them. He – I’ll stop that now. Marcos played most excellently against Anderlecht, and bagged himself this goal:

Marcos is a 24-year-old left-footed CMF/SMF in PES2008. He seems to be a made-up Konami player. I’ve played him in my midfield as the left-sided AMF without any problems at all. He’s been one of the best all-round midfielders I have ever had the pleasure of playing with in any PES.

In the next match against Fenerbahce, he showed that he is more than just a rasping left foot. Fenerbahce had the effrontery to score first. I came back, scoring my equaliser quickly (always good for the nerves, that). Then in the second half I was pressing and pressing for another, but making no headway.

What I love about Marcos is that he’s an effective attacking force, but can also put himself about a bit. If I’m ever short of a DMF, I have no doubt he could play there and do well. On the edge of the Fenerbahce box, I lost the ball to a defender. Up stepped Marcos:

In PES2008, stamina and form is as big an issue for Marcos as for everyone else. However, unlike some players I could mention (Shaw, Shimizu, I’m looking at you two), Marcos can play two games in a row before there’s much of a dent in his stamina bar. Sometimes I can play him for three games in row – league, cup, league again – before having to rest him. My best buy from the Unbelonging list so far? Definitely. Player of the season? Possibly. There’s a ways to go yet.

22-11-07_marcocalledup.jpg

Marcos simply performs – time and again, game in, game out. Looking at his stats, it’s difficult to see what marks him as so special. It’s psychological with some players, I think. I started well with Marcos, so now when I get him on or near the ball I always believe something special can happen, and I play accordingly – with confidence. It was no surprise to me when Spain came knocking on my door for him.

Marcos’ international call-up meant he was unavailable for the next game, which turned out to be an easy 2-0 league win against Newcastle – sweet revenge for their 1-0 victory back in the second game of the season. My other contender for player of the season, Schwarz, got both of the goals. I haven’t scored with many first-time shots in PES2008. I was happy with this one, as it put the game to rest late in the second half:

Arsenal are next in the Division 1 Cup quarter final. In our recent league match I just couldn’t cope with their skills and teamwork. If I’m going to hold onto that trophy it looks as if I’ll have to do it the hard way.

Wasted Potential: PES2008, the PS3, and the Patch

Back on 24th October, the first thing I did when I opened the PES2008 case was remove the manual. Underneath was a leaflet marked: WASTED POTENTIAL? At the time, I thought it was just asking for trouble…

I have now spent 24 hours with the game since Konami released the PlayStation3 patch yesterday.

The pesky framerate jitterbugs that scarred the initial release – the initial release that should never have happened, as the game was unfinished (curse you Seabass!) – have all but gone. The offline game now plays very smoothly most of the time. It’s not perfect, but it is acceptable. This was #1 on my wish-list for the PS3 patch, so I’ll take it and say thank you very much.

26-11-07_wastedpotential.jpg

Some niggles remain. Most matches still feature the traditional ‘PES prickle’ of slowdown at isolated moments. But this has been present in every version I can remember, especially PES4. What slowdown remains in PES2008 is nowhere near as bad as that.

The Bernebeu and one or two other stadia are still occasionally problematic. I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable playing on pitches with concentric circles. The time has come to edit all of those pitches out of my Master League.

So the 99% resolution of the offline slowdown is very welcome. But this has come at a price.

Those clever programmers at Konami seem to have given themselves a leg-up by reducing the game’s graphical quality. Textures are rougher, and the grass on the pitches is less detailed – it looks duller and glassier than ever. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think so.

Nothing has been announced by Konami. There is no official word on what the patch has and has not changed. The download was a whopping 130MB – almost a fifth of an average full game – so there’s been some pretty substantial changes. We just don’t know what, exactly. So many people have reported a drop in graphical quality that I think it’s safe to say it’s not just my paranoid and bruised PES-related imagination at work.

Konami has taken with one hand whilst giving with the other. They really did rob Peter to pay Paul.

3games-2.png

PES2008’s graphics were already relatively poor when compared to other games on the PS3 – games like Call of Duty 4, Oblivion, FIFA08, and even launch titles like Motorstorm.

Call of Duty 4 features chaotic screens full of true whizz-bang, next-gen action that never lets up, and nary a frame is dropped. It’s a hell of an achievement. Likewise Oblivion and Motorstorm. FIFA08 suffers from odd glitches, but these are so rare that they’re a non-issue for me. Graphically, EA’s football game is a true next-gen experience.

I am not a graphics junky. I have never loved PES for its showstopping graphics – it’s never really had them. Gameplay supersedes graphics when the game’s as good as PES always has been. But I do expect that the graphics should be at least decent. Otherwise, why bother with a next-gen console? Let me rephrase that: why bother with the PlayStation3?

Pre-patch, PES2008’s graphics on the PS3 were decidedly PS2.5. This patch has further degraded them. We’re now looking at PS2.25-style graphics.

It’s not good enough at all.

After I had played several games offline I visited the online section of the Main Menu for the first time. I am not much of an online gamer – PES has always been a solo experience for me – but from time to time I do mingle with those exotic creatures known as ‘people’ on the internet. I was curious.

I’ll get straight to it: the quality of online gameplay on the PS3 is absolutely shocking and unforgivable. Players who instantly teleport from one side of the pitch to the other aren’t even the worst of it. Quite often the ball itself will magically disappear and reappear in ways most strange and unnatural. The action can jump from one moment to several moments later without any warning. During one match I was attacking down the right wing, when there was a momentary flicker on the screen and suddenly my goalkeeper was diving to save the ball down at the other end.

26-11-07_onlineengland.jpg

I played around 8 full games. All but one was horrendously unplayable. The one good game was ‘only’ marred by occasional player teleports, which I strangely learned to cope with. I happened to win that game 5-0.

I played as England against Spain. Andrew Johnson was rampant. I was gratified to discover that my offline style of play translated very well into an online match. My opponent didn’t get a single shot on goal. (Possibly he was suffering worse lag than me, but who knows.) I’m only slightly embarrassed to report that I fully exploited my strategy buttons‘ alt formations. My players were always in his way. I ran riot in front of goal.

I could get to like this, I thought. But if the online code is irrevocably broken, and no one knows how to fix it, I won’t be playing online again.

The online session ended as it had mostly gone on – farcically. Playing as Spurs against Arsenal, the game seemed to be doomed from the start, with player teleports galore. Every few seconds the camera would zoom to another area of the pitch, leaving the ball behind. Then I kept seeing the ‘Waiting for another player’ message for several seconds every time the ball was ‘out of play’ (even when the ball was in play, it was effectively out of play, but never mind). After the game had stuck on this message for more than five minutes, I quit in something like disgust and went for my dinner.

Later, I double-checked that my internet connection was still working fine with other PS3 titles in my collection. Warhawk, Motorstorm, FIFA08, and Call of Duty 4 were all working online as they always have done – perfectly. I loaded up PES2008 and went online to see how things were now (this was after midnight) – and it was still a dog’s dinner. If anything, things seemed a little worse than earlier. Sheesh.

But I’m an offline, average, Master League player, so I’m all right, yes? Well, no.

I care about the franchise. I don’t want to see it trashed and trailed through the mud like a common whore. I’m also very keen not to be swindled out of my money by a product that promised next-gen graphics, online play, and a lasting PES experience, and delivered relatively little. I also care how my fellow PES gamers are feeling about the game. We’re a tight community, and my brothers in PES ain’t happy

What must a very common type of PES player – the type who loves Editing, and loves nothing more than to play online – think of PES2008?

For the first time, I can really understand the anger that is out there amongst the wider PES community. I’m angry too, but I’m less angry now that the offline framerate has been sorted. If I had bought PES2008 primarily to play it online, I’d have been spitting nails during the month since release. After seeing the online game in action, post-patch, I’d be speechless with outright disbelief right now.

At this point, I’m going to execute a rhetorical handbrake turn and re-emphasise what I have stated many time before, here and elsewhere: that I like PES2008. Yes, I like PES2008. I like PES2008 because I’m a Master League player through and through, and I can overlook the game’s graphical shortcomings because I find the gameplay to be satisfying – for now.

Along with everybody else I hate the goalkeepers. I hate the fast pace of the game sometimes (let’s have a FIFA08-style pace for PES2009, eh lads?). I am concerned that I’m suddenly the world’s greatest dribbler after seven years of not being able to dribble at all, but – I like it. It’s still PES, warts and all.

However, for the first time in my entire PES life, I doubt that I’ll still be playing this game regularly in six months’ time. I might not even be playing it regularly in a month‘s time. FIFA08 is burning a hole in my shelf right now. So much about this PES year is unprecedented. Perhaps FIFA08’s serious challenge is the most unprecedented thing of all.

PES2008 on the PlayStation3 is nowhere near being the next-gen game that it should have been. It’s not even halfway there. An offline mode that only just passes muster (after a 130MB patch) simply isn’t enough nowadays. It fails on too many fronts for even a dedicated fanboy like myself to continue making excuses. Wasted potential? I’ll say.

© 2016 PES Chronicles Frontier Theme