Month: May 2008

Coventry City 7-0 RCD Espanyol

So, I’ve been toiling along in PES2008 over the past few days. I switched from the PSP version to the PS2 version, and something hasn’t clicked back into place. I don’t know what it is. I’ve got my theories about screen sizes and controller button placements etc., but it’s more probable that I’m just suffering from PES fatigue and I need a short break to recharge my enthusiasm. A day or two on FIFA08 (I still instinctively shudder to say it) should sort me out. That’ll happen on Monday now.

Here in PES2008, I’ve lost key games in every competition. This was not good in a season where I’m going for another Treble. But every now and then when you’re toiling along in PES, a chink of sunshine breaks through. You get a good game—in this case, it was a very good game. It was the last game before the mid-season break.

Espanyol are not a bad team. They’re not up with the best teams either, but they’re by no means one of the Division’s basement clubs. as ever on PES, these are the kinds of teams that it’s often hardest to play against. I worry about playing teams like Espanyol, Villarreal, Osasuna et al far more than I worry about playing Barcelona, Real Madrid, Deportivo la Coruna et al (Valencia being the sole exception).

The game went my way on this occasion: 7-0. It’s a high-scoring PES year across all the consoles. Things are not so bad (or good, depending on your perspective) on the last-gen PES2008 as they are on the next-gen game, but even so, 4-1 and 3-2 and similar scorelines are sadly a bit more common in ‘classic’ PES than they were in the past (come on Seabass, sort it out for PES2009). But a 7-0 win is still rare enough for it to remain noteworthy.

I was only 2-0 up at half-time. Usually when I inflict a hammering on the CPU, I get most of my goals in the first half and then have to get through a much tighter second half as the CPU exerts itself to get goals back, as if it’s only 1-0 or 2-0 down. In this case, the CPU was only 2-0 down. There was no hint of the goals deluge to come as I defended desperately to avoid conceding. On a random kind of breakaway somewhere around the 60th minute mark, this happened:

Good old Giggs. In real life, for my money, Giggs is one of the very few players who realised most of their wunderkind potential. Who can forget that goal back in 1999? In PES2008 I think Giggs is the best he’s ever been in PES, full stop. I got him as a 17-year-old and he’s 22 now. This goal was an example of my favourite type of PES goal: taken on the half-volley at an angle from outside the box. It’s the kind of goal that a 4-3-3 formation like mine is particularly suited for, with its wide frontmen just waiting for those aerial through balls to come bouncing through.

Giggs went on to claim a hat trick. Kim Cyun Hi got two goals. Andy Cole got one, Bradley the other. A 7-0 win is special in any kind of football, real or virtual.

In all my years on PES I’ve only ever scored one full volley (not a half-volley) from an aerial through-ball. It came over two years ago in PES5, and it can be seen toward the end of my first PES5 compilation video. Maldini floats the cross-field aerial through-ball over to Bergkamp, who deliciously thumps the ball into the net without letting it bounce first. That PES5 incarnation of Bergkamp (he was a Regen) remains the single best striker I have ever played with in 10 years of ISS/PES. The rest of that video (and its follow-up) shows why.

Home and Away goals

So… it’s season 2017 of my ongoing Master League career with my very own Coventry City team in the ‘last-gen’ version of PES2008. Last season I won the Treble, largely thanks to a very kind CPU team obligingly letting me overhaul its eleven-point lead during the final quarter of the season. This season my aim was to win a Treble properly—i.e., get to the top of the league and stay there. I wanted to win the championship under my own steam.

So far it just hasn’t worked out. I started the season averagely, then I hit a poor spell, then I played okay for a game or two, then I was average again, and now I’m poor again. I’m languishing in the also-ran positions. Once again I find myself 10+ points behind the team at the top (Valencia again). The difference this season is that we haven’t even got to the mid-season negotiations yet. So there’s even more time for the CPU to transparently let me back into the title race…

I played most of the start of the season on the PSP version, then switched back to the PS2 version just a few days ago. It’s been pretty disastrous, really. I don’t know if I’ve failed to adjust back to using a full-size controller or what, but at times I’ve literally struggled to string two passes together. It’s peculiar, because the PSP version is reputed to be the harder of the two versions. (Apart from minor elements of the control scheme, the two versions are identical in terms of gameplay, but naturally the Internet—God love it—thinks differently.)

I had to let the league take care of itself and make sure I didn’t lose my grasp on the two Cups. In the Division 1 Cup I’d had a terrible first leg at my ground against Real Madrid that I lost 0-2. First legs at home don’t come much worse. Well, 0-3 or more would have been worse, but my point stands.

In the return leg I felt I had to score early. Only an early goal would settle me down and enable me to go on playing calmly and methodically in search of a second, equalising goal. If I didn’t score at least in the first half I’d probably get all anxious and aggressive, and end up crashing out of the Cup.

I got the early goal. I think it was in about the 20th minute. Kim Cyun Hi was the scorer. He has continued to show great form this season, but as an all-round striker there are others better than him for now. I do believe it’ll be two or three more seasons before I see the best of Kim. He’s still young and unformed. His skills are all pretty much there already, but he lacks stamina. When he’s fully fit and on form he’s already pretty sensational.

I got the second goal before half time, which was a bonus. That made it 2-2 overall, with neither team having the advantage on away goals. However, I was the away side this time, so another goal from me would effectively kill the game off. And I got it. It came in the middle of the second half—Kim Cyun Hi again, tapping in a square ball from Dos Santos on the edge of the box. 2-3 to me with three away goals meant I was virtually unassailable. Real Madrid would need to get two goals. They got one goal—of course they did—to make it 3-3 on aggregate, but couldn’t get the second. I went through on away goals.

I’m holding steady in the league. I’m back to winning ways at least. Although—typically—Valencia at the top have been winning as well, maintaining the 10-point distance between us. I’m absolutely confident that they’ll start losing as long as I keep winning. With just one more game-week before the mid-season negotiations, there are worse positions I could be in.

A vicious two-footed lunge from behind

Until quite recently on this blog, I had a trainspotter-ish tradition of maintaining detailed records of the progress of my seasons. I stopped doing it because taking notes during and after every game session was interfering with my PES play, and I couldn’t have that.

As a season passed I used to post the amount of yellow and red cards I’d received. It was always noticeable that until I got some really good players, my disciplinary record was absolutely shocking. If a CPU team was beating me I often hacked them down just for the fun of it. With the result that I usually had two or three times as many yellow cards as games played, and almost as many reds.

Now that my Master League team is a mature one, packed with stars from back to front and side to side, there’s rarely any cause for me to get frustrated and foolhardy. I can more than handle myself, and if I can’t, there’s no point losing my discipline when I’m only a good passing move away from getting a goal back or snatching an equaliser, right?

Well. Yesterday I mentioned that I have returned to playing the PS2 version of PES2008 after several continuous days on the PSP. I had a strange first few games back on the bigger console—a string of 0-0 draws followed by a paltry 1-0 win in Europe. That happens in PES—and long may it continue to happen. Goal droughts are a feature of real football. Personally speaking, the more PES is like real football the better I like it.

Following those first strange games, I have continued with my season. Barely more than a third of the way through, I was fifth in the league table, just seven points behind the leaders. I was still in both Cups. My target for season 2017 is a Treble, so I was still on course.

But I have been on a shocking little run. I’ve been taking bad defeats,and have once again reverted to my old bad habit of scything down CPU players left, right, and centre. Some matches have seen me end with 7 men on the pitch.

PES2008 feels as if it has changed utterly since the last time I played it on the big console. Truth be told, the game has felt a little different all season. The CPU players seem a lot more aggressive, and they seem to stay that way for longer. It seems harder to score goals. I’m certain that these impressions are false. It’s always possible that there is a hidden extra difficulty level in Master League that you unlock by winning a Treble, as I did last season.

But it’s unlikely. They’d never include an extra difficulty level and not tell anybody about it. Would they? No, they wouldn’t. So it’s not the game that has been different over these past few days; I am the one who is different… Plainly I’m still suffering from PES fatigue. I’m obviously not giving the game the full concentration it needs. I think a break is in order—a FIFA08-shaped break, once I get to the mid-season. That’ll be in a day or two.

For now, I’d better re-focus my energies and start trying to turn around these terrible results. I lost a shocking game in my European group: Sochauz beat me 4-1. They were 4-0 up and cruising—for a change it was I, the human player, who bagged a cheeky late consolation. Hah. The result was bad, but I’ll still qualify from the group. More serious was the result in the first leg—at home—in the Division 1 Cup. My opponents, Real Madrid, beat me 0-2. Ouch. Two away goals to them means it’s going to be a challenging away leg at their place. The Treble could be gone before the mid-season.

I lost or drew my other league games. My indiscriminate, dirty fouling conceded free kicks and penalties, and got my players sent off. I was my own worst enemy. All the CPU teams had to do was turn up.

All of which leaves me in 3rd place in the table. I’m 10 points behind the leaders, Valencia. As I found last season, that doesn’t mean a thing. This is a computer game, not reality. If/when I start getting the results again I’ll soon be back up there, challenging for the title.

Warhawk and Peace

For the past five days or so, I’ve been playing PES2008 solely on the PSP. The little handheld console has got its knockers (missus), but I love it. I’ve actually got more games for my PSP than for any other platform. I love it. And I love playing PES on it—particularly the 2008 variety, which is the authentic handheld PES that we ended up having to wait three years for.

The past several days have been unusual for me. Usually I chop and change between the PSP and PS2 version (on my PS3) every day or two. It’s so utterly simple and straightforward to transfer the save file from one machine to the other. Literally the work of seconds. I haven’t really had time to use my PS3 recently, so my PES play has been all on the PSP, in odd moments during transit from home to work and back again, and during breaks, etc.

It’s an amazing luxury to play a proper game of Pro Evo whilst on the move. I often look down at the PSP in my hands, with a full-on football game running on it, and reflect that if I could take this thing back to 1980 or thereabouts, the people back then would think… well, they’d think I was from the future. Ahem.

I powered up my PS3 for the first time in almost a week. First of all I treated myself to a warm-up session on Warhawk and FIFA08. I just fancied a bit of next-gen wizardry before firing up the PS2 disc, with its faithful old chalky visuals. I hadn’t played Warhawk for about 6 months, and I was shocked to discover how expert the regular players have become. Before, I was able to more or less hold my own, but now I was just a walking bullseye.

On FIFA08, I played a couple more games of my Manager Mode career with Dagenham & Redbridge. It’d been a while since I played FIFA08 regularly, so I was just as rusty as I was in Warhawk. After several months now of regular PES2008 play, I’d forgotten how to play FIFA in an attacking sense. I was automatically trying my PES moves and strategies, which simply don’t work.

I went online for a game against a human opponent—my first in 6 months—and came up against a player who chose a four-star Mexican team. In my position, 99.99% of players would have instantly picked Barcelona, but I’d have been embarrassed to be seen as one of them. I flipped through the English Premiership teams and settled on Birmingham City, also a four-star team in FIFA08 (yeah, right).

FIFA08 online really does play as smoothly as offline (read ’em and weep, Seabass). There was no lag, no teleporting, none of that stuff. I took the lead with a pretty soft goal in the second half and got to the last few minutes by defending well. My opponent persevered, however, and scored in the 89th minute with a fine 25-yard shot straight into the top corner. I was gutted. I hardly ever win anything online. You should have seen my one (and so far only) attempt to play Halo3 online. Not pretty. Not pretty at all.

The match went to extra time. I rashly conceded a penalty during the second period. He converted it and that’s how the game ended, 2-1 to him. Yes, gutted is the word.

And so to PES2008.

It seemed that my time away from the bigger console had cost me dear. I couldn’t re-adjust back to a properly-sized controller. The extra two shoulder buttons seemed weird. Playing PES on the big screen seemed weird. I played three league games and drew them all 0-0. That happens in PES from time to time. Even after you’ve been playing a version for months on end, you’ll stumble into strange spells of scoring no goals and conceding no goals. I quite like it that this happens. I just couldn’t understand why I was finding the transition back to the PS3 so weird after only a few continuous days on the PSP.

Things picked up in Europe. After my Treble-winning antics of last season I didn’t have to qualify for the Champions League-equivalent, so the main group stage came around in the usual Week 9 or so. I played Almela, whose presence in the group took me slightly aback. Weren’t they a minnow team? How did they get into this competition? Anyway, whatever, I finally scored a goal—a scruffy affair from Camacho—and won it 1-0. Phew.

Then, to round off a busy night of gaming, I played a league game against Real Madrid and lost 3-1. Saviola was rampant—he’s good in PES2008, at least for the CPU. That result left me slightly out of touch in fifth place in the league, seven points adrift of the leaders Valencia. But there’s a long way to go.