Month: February 2008

Football Manager – Live!

Well, well, well. It’s a funny old world. There I was yesterday, completely in the doldrums, as dejected about the (frankly) piss-poor next-gen PES2008 as I’ve ever been and declaring myself down on all football games.

I spent the day mooching about on the computer. In mid-afternoon I was happy to receive a confirmation e-mail from Amazon telling me that my PSP copy of PES2008 has dispatched.

At least that’s something, I thought. I have high hopes for the PSP version of the game—maybe it’ll save my PES year. Something’s got to save it, because next-gen PES2008 might never see the inside of my PS3 again. Seriously.

So the approach of the PSP version was a bonus. I felt slightly cheered up, and then in the early evening I received another email:

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About four months ago (not ‘recently’ as the mail claims) I put my name down to be a Beta tester on the forthcoming Football Manager Live. And then promptly forgot all about it. Until yesterday afternoon, when the above invitation landed in my inbox.

As well as the expected Terms & Conditions (please don’t ask me for a download link and a password), there was a pdf. guide. The first paragraph contains a very concise, in-a-nutshell description of what FM Live is:

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I downloaded the client—a very quick download and a trouble-free installation. A couple more emails and secret passwords later, and I was playing. I was playing Football Manager Live!

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At the time of writing I’ve only spent about 40 minutes in the game. I plan to spend a lot more today and over the weekend.

That 40 minutes was long enough for me to set up a manager profile; choose a team and customise its name, appearance and home stadium; acquire a full 22-player squad; choose an initial formation and some basic tactics; and, of course, play a friendly game against another human opponent. (The full competitive season doesn’t get underway until next week.)

My human opponent was a Dutchman who, like me, had received his invitation email less than an hour previously. We sent our teams out onto the virtual pitch and watched the action. Attentive readers of this blog will know that the regular Football Manager game is a little too taxing for my PC and causes it to reboot at random. So I was worried how FM Live would perform, especially during the 2D matches. But the FM Live client seems to be a touch ‘lighter’—in terms of system resources used—than its bigger, older sibling.

I won my game and went back out into the game world lobby, which was rapidly filling up with new and excited players. Doubtless I was one of several hundred new Beta testers, most of whom would be discovering their invitation emails and logging on over the course of the evening.

Anybody who has played any recent version of Football Manager won’t have any trouble finding their way around the FM Live menus. Everything from the main game is in the online game. The tactics screens—for the team and for individual players—are exactly the same. Ditto the player transfer screen.

All in all I am very impressed. The FM Live interface is clean, intuitive, and compelling. You want to do more, discover more, see more. Unlike most MMOG experiences, the other players seem to be a sensible, mature lot. I’m not saying that I dislike the kids who inhabit most other MMOGs that I’ve played. Just that their brand of ‘OMFG u suk!’ interaction isn’t to my taste…

It was perhaps the most intriguing 40 minutes I’ve spent on an online game in a very long time. I’m looking forward to sampling some more of that world later today and over the weekend. And with a bit of luck my PSP version of PES2008 will turn up in today’s post. After being almost in the pit of despair yesterday, happy days are here again.

Singers FC: mid-season 2010

Well, this is a bit of an anti-climax. Here I am at the mid-season transfer window… and I’ve got a transfer embargo on. There’s nothing to do, really, except press the X button as many times as it takes to get me through to Week 19 of the season. I really have got one of those abortive boomerang controllers for my PS3, you know. Honest

Several posts ago I was talking about my talented left-winger, Melengue. I was worried about his suddenly-discovered ability to run literal rings around the opposition—often performing actual loop-the-loops, what with this being next-gen PES2008 (curse you, Seabass).

This next-gen PES2008 phenomenon of wonder-dribbling, as I call it, sees any in-game player of modest abilities or better (i.e., a lot of in-game players) able to go off on unstoppable runs and beat as many players as it takes and slot an easy goal into the net at the end of it. On Top Player. No, I don’t know what Team Seabass was thinking either.

My House Rules are designed to prevent me having any players with the abilities to go on wonder dribbles. Thus, Melengue had to go. So there had to be some transfer activity after all.

I looked for a decent AMF to swap him for. I found a player called Zicu who, unlike Melengue, was mainly left-footed.

The name worried me: Zicu was sufficiently like Zico for me to suspect an ‘Elcherino moment’ approaching. But Zicu is not Zico. He’s Romanian, for one thing, and his abilities are pretty modest. He’s got decent pace, though, so he’ll have to be watched for signs of wonder-dribbling.

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And that was that for the mid-season negotiations. Zicu takes Melengue’s place in the First XI, and it’s on to Week 19, and whoever I’ll be playing there…

I’m not very enthusiastic about the future for me and this game.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again (because it’s true): next-gen PES2008 is a terrible PES game.

In its own terms, considered as a standalone game, it’s an okay football game—a solid 7/10 football game. But in terms of the PES franchise? I’d give it 4/10.

For probably the first time since I started this blog, I am not a few days ahead of matters. As of right now (Thursday afternoon, 28/2) I haven’t got any further in PES2008 than the latest news in this post—the signing of Zicu.

I can’t guarantee there’ll be any new news on Friday. I feel a bit PESsed off, to be frank.

I would far rather be playing other games right now. And no, I don’t mean the likes of FIFA08. Currently I’m less than enamoured by all football games, full stop.

I’ve got a load of great games to get through away from the sports genre. Oblivion, Halo3, Assassin’s Creed, Command & Conquer, Mass Effect. I’m currently playing through the opening hours of Okami—a criminally neglected PS2 game with cel-shaded, quasi-anime graphics that look utterly spectacular on the screen. The gameplay’s great as well, fortunately.

And I’ve been playing Portal on the Xbox360. I just finished it late last night. The entire game only lasts about four hours and sees you constantly jumping through wall-mounted vaginas (Freud would have a field day). But I think it’s the greatest game I’ve played for many years, apart from PES—the PESes before this disgraceful next-gen PES, of course.

I’ve been in these moods before and come out of them. Maybe I will again.

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POSTSCRIPT – 15.00 hours GMT

Just received an email from Amazon – my copy of the PSP version has dispatched and should get to me either tomorrow or Saturday. (I’m glad now that I resisted buying the PS2 version. Why should Konami and Seabass be rewarded for shoddy workmanship any more than they already have been?)

Could the PSP version save the day? It just might. I’ve been playing the PSP version of PES6 quite regularly over the past few weeks and—apart from the lack of player development in Master League and the shocking loading times—it’s not bad. Not bad at all.

We’ll see how it goes.

Quaking your mind up

Bayern Munich have been a strong football side with a formidable reputation for as long as I have been alive. I was looking forward to meeting them in the Superleague just as much as the likes of Barcelona and AC Milan. As it turned out I had to wait until week 16 for it to happen, and when it did there was a definite air of anti-climax: Bayern Munich 0-3 Singers FC.

A good win, and I was hungry for all the points I could get as the mid-season negotiations loom up ahead. The Arsenal were up next. A tiresome, dour, battling game ended 0-0.

The Division 1 Cup 2nd leg. I was at home after the first leg ended 2-2. Those away goals were very nice indeed. However, Barcelona turned up and decided to play. It ended 0-1 to them and I was eliminated. This was the Barcelona that I’d expected from the outset in this league. They played well, but it was still one heckuva fishy game. I’m afraid that I had 3 players sent off as I struggled to get the one solitary goal that would’ve taken me through.

No matter. The Treble is all that really matters to me, and it’ll be next season before I’m able to go for that. Winning or not winning the Cup this season was neither here nor there. The only reason to stay in this season’s Cup would be to accumulate points for transfers. With my transfer embargo in force, there’s no point in that either.

Game number 18 and the last one before the mid-season break was against Aston Villa, a.k.a. the ultimate scum. I am happy to report that I thrashed them 1-0, although John Carew gave me a scare almost every time he got on the ball. Funnily enough, his real-life counterpart is currently enjoying a rich spell of form in the English Premier League.

Last night’s 5.3-on-the-Richter scale earth tremor that hit most of England found me playing… not PES2008 or any other football game, but the opening level of Okami.

For a good few months after a new PES comes out I always have a large backlog of other games to work through. The rather lengthy cut-scene that opens the game was just coming to an end when I felt my bed and then the whole room start to vibrate. It was over within a few seconds.

I knew what had happened but wanted some confirmation that it wasn’t an asteroid strike or something similar, so I turned on the radio and tuned it into the nation’s supposed leading talk-based station, Talk Sport. They were just receiving the first calls and emails and text messages from the public. The presenter and his co-presenters spent a couple of minutes tittering about the common phrase “the earth moved for me”—it was just so hilarious!—before confirming that people had noticed a mini-quake all over the country and it wasn’t an asteroid strike

So it wasn’t the end of the world. I returned to playing Okami, and enjoyed the first couple of hours. Why wasn’t I playing PES2008—or at least FIFA08, or LMA Manager, or something football-related?

Call it football game fatigue. It happens to me occasionally.

Next-gen PES2008 has not helped the situation this year. It’s a poor, poor game by the PES series’ own illustrious standards, although it’s a decent enough football game in its own right. If it wasn’t for the PES name on the box, I doubt I’d still be playing it regularly. But, like some kind of wind-up toy, I’ve always played PES games nearly every day, so here I am in 2008, mindlessly doing the same. Will this clockwork ever wind down?

It just might, you know.

Mings can only get better

In my last league game I took on Barcelona and comfortably beat them 2-0. As so often happens in PES2008, Barcelona were also my opponents in the first-leg D1 Cup match immediately afterward.

That was okay by me. At the start of this season I was looking forward to playing Barcelona in particular. Two games against them in a row is a special treat.

As in the league game—and as in PES2008 as a whole over the last few days—I found it all a bit too easy, and went into a 0-2 lead (the match was at their place). Perhaps this made me careless, or perhaps the game decided I’d had too easy a ride lately. Barcelona stormed back into things, playing some lovely stuff around the edge of my box, I have to say. The final score was 2-2. It was careless of me to let them back in like that, but at least I didn’t lose the game and I have two precious away goals.

I won my next two league games, against Ajax and Chelsea. I scored four goals in both games, with only Chelsea managing one in reply. Kmolo got two goals in one game, Caracciolo a hat trick in the other. I’ve got mobile phone video clips of some of the goals somewhere, but I’m not going to post them. I’m introducing a new policy when it comes to goal replays.

From now on, the only goal replays that will be seen on this blog will be of special or significant goals. For too long I’ve used goal replay clips as ways of breaking up the page and making it easier on the eye. YouTube tells me that most of the clips are watched about a dozen times, on average. So in the future if you do see a goal replay clip posted on this blog, you’ll know the goal will be exceptional or peculiar in some way, and well worth watching.

Back at the game, I hosted Juventus—and my winning streak came to an abrupt end. I’m afraid it was one of those games where the CPU scrambled an early goal and then stubbornly resisted my 70% possession and 25 shots (16 on target) for the remainder of the game. In addition, the infamous pause that afflicts all of my players when they receive the ball in prime position to shoot from distance was magnified by a couple of orders. It was as if that ball was suddenly made of solid lead when it got to their feet, and they had to take just enough time on it to allow the CPU players to close me down. Ho hum.

An extremely dodgy game all round, that one. If I had time I’d have replayed it several times just to see how dodgy it was. But overall I can’t really complain. I’ve had a good run in the league and I’ve got a great chance of progressing in the cup. My first season in Division 1 of the Superleague continues to exceed all expectations.

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