Here be dragons

I’m kind of itching to get back to PES2008 already – but why? It’s day 3 of next-gen FIFA08 week here on PES Chronicles. I’m going to be stubborn and see the whole week out. I think I’ll be happy when it’s over. But why???

Since I finished my first Master League career on PES2008, I’ve been playing FIFA08 pretty intensively – more intensively than I’ve played it at any time since I got it in September. Over the past few days I’ve played through almost a full season of my ongoing Manager Mode career with Coventry City.

I miss the ease of PES2008. I don’t mean that I miss winning almost every game 5-2. I miss the familiarity, the comfort, and the feeling of security that I get from PES. I know what I’m doing with PES. I know where I am, where I want to go, and how to get there. FIFA08 is terra incognita.

FIFA08 is a hard, hard game. This cannot be stressed enough. It’s hard to score goals. It’s hard just to create a good chance to score goals. Shooting is so formidably difficult that it’s not surprising so many people regard it as broken. It’s hard to pass the ball from player to player without the CPU intercepting. It’s hard to get the ball back from the CPU. It’s almost the Ninja Gaiden of football games.

There are five difficulty levels in FIFA08:

Amateur (moderately easy)
Semi-Pro (challenging)
Professional (hard)
World Class (very hard)
Legendary (very, very hard)

I’m playing on Professional now, after spending most of my time before this week on Semi-Pro. When I started winning most games on Semi, I made the step up. FIFA08’s difficulty levels have no exact counterpart in PES2008. Most of the time Professional feels as tough as PES’s Top Player with the Default squad in Master League. So it feels to me, anyway.

FIFA08 is slow and ponderous compared to PES2008. Hell, it’s slow and ponderous compared to any PES game. FIFA08 makes most of its own forebears look like children’s games (which is what they were, in the final analysis).

Lots of PES players this year have been caught out – or downright embarrassed – by the fact that FIFA08 on the PS3 and Xbox360 is a whole new kind of football game. (Thus the instinctive “FIFA is the same old rubbish!” is a tad misplaced…)

It has very little in common with its predecessors. It resembles no other kind of football game that I have ever played. Some people believe it closely resembles the first Pro Evolution Soccer on the PlayStation2 all those years ago.

High praise indeed, but I wouldn’t go that far. FIFA08 really is unprecedented in computer football game terms. There has never been a game exactly like it.

Without anything to compare it to, FIFA08’s gameplay is tough to describe in words. When it plays well (i.e., when you play well), it delights about as often as it frustrates. You have to work so hard to create goal-scoring chances. When they do come along, you have to work hard again to get a shot away, and get it on target. Hitting easy chances high, wide, and not-too-handsome is a regular occurrence. After 300 games on FIFA08, I still do it.

For example, take a look at these two goals:

They’re taken from the past few days, when I reached that 300-game mark. In the first case, a half-volleyed long-range goal into the top corner from my striker Jesus Navas, it was the first goal of its kind I had scored in those 300+ games. I’ve scored dozens of long-rangers where I’m running straight at the goal and I’ve dinked one over the keeper straight down the middle. But a half-volley from distance into the top corner? Never, until now. On PES, they’re pretty common.

The second goal in the clip (I’m attacking ‘south’ in the replay) shows the kind of patient passing play you have to engage in to get ‘bread and butter’ goals in FIFA08. One of my other strikers, di Natale, applies the finishing touch.

I doubt that I’ll end this week believing that FIFA08 is better than PES2008 (although anything is possible). But scoring those two goals gave me more satisfaction than any of the 136 goals I scored in my recent Treble-winning PES2008 Master League season.

And that’s what scares me.

Let me be person number 1,023,334 to point out the droll irony of this year’s PES/FIFA faceoff. The world has turned on its head.

PES, once the discerning footie fan’s preferred game, is now an arcadey shoot-’em-up (sad but true). FIFA, which has been little more than a joke for so long, is a tough, demanding, unapologetic simulation of the sport.

No other FIFA game has ever been like FIFA08. Few other PES games have ever been like it either. FIFA08 is not for the faint-hearted. It’s not for the impatient. It’s certainly not for anyone who thinks a FIFA game should be all about the pass-pass-shoot-score gameplay and 8-3 scorelines of old.

Yes, yes, yes. But is it the better game? Which one do I enjoy playing more? Do I itch to get back to PES2008 just because it’s a lot easier? I’ll try to come to some kind of conclusion before the end of the week. May God have mercy on my soul…

3 Comments

  1. “May God have mercy on my soul…”

    (tears) If God had any mercy, PES would be good this year!

    Seriously, it’s a very good game. There’s just some magic spark that was missing for me.

  2. There’s a magic spark missing for me as well. I’m only doing this FIFA08 week because the usual spark is *also* missing from PES2008. So why didn’t I just run back to PES5/PES6? Maybe I just want to punish myself. Or maybe the next-gen consoles’ first proper football games were/are a big event in gaming and I can’t let go so quickly. What a shame they’re both so seriously lacking.

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