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.