Rush of blood

I started my Coventry City Manager Mode career on the PlayStation3 way back on October 6th. That was only about 3 weeks ago but already it feels like another age. FIFA09 had just come out and everything was still shiny-bright and sparkly-new. PES2009 was still in the future and I hoped for great things.

I’ve remarked once or twice on the blog that FIFA09 (for all its faults) is roughly in the same ballpark where I imagined PES would be playing by now. There are many areas where FIFA09 falls short. Extended playing time has shown me that there are some areas where it becomes seriously unsatisfying. I’ll get to them over the next few days (chaotic, farcical, midfield ping-pong, anyone?). But none of the issues make FIFA09 a bad game, in my current view.

And so to Manager Mode… It just cannot compare to Master League. This is what I keep coming back to. EA have spent all this time and money catching up with—and smoothly overtaking—PES on the gameplay front, but on the game modes front they’re still a good way behind. I don’t count online, simply because I personally never play online (or so rarely that I might as well never). One of the FIFA2010 team’s top priorities has surely got to be providing OFFLINE gamers (the silent majority) with a career mode to match this all-new FIFA’s vaulting ambition.

My Coventry City career, begun all those weeks ago in another age, got off to a good start. I won two of my first three games, and then went on a spell of drawing loads of games. This roughly coincided with my switch to a mixture of semi-manual and assisted controls. I wasn’t worried about holding steady in mid-table, as I was doing. The club’s board expectations were simple: avoid relegation. That was all. With a fairly decent squad, that was a pretty easily achievable aim. At least I was probably safe from any threat of the sack (so I thought).

Regular readers will know that I’ve spent time since on the Xbox360 version of the game, playing online and completing a memorable season with Atletico Madrid in a Spanish Manager Mode career. I returned to the PS3 and Coventry City just a few days ago.

And I’m in trouble.

I can’t buy a result at the moment. I’m only a few places from the foot of the table. I’m just over two-thirds of the way through the season and my record is something like won 5, drawn 9, lost 11.

I’m conceding stupid goals, and scoring none back. My players are decent but I can’t consistently create chances. The chances I do create, I miss. I’ve had many occasions to wonder if I could go back to Assisted shooting. (No, I can never go back now. It’d feel all wrong.)

I’m playing on Professional difficulty, the same level I played on with Atletico, using the same controls scheme. Yet it feels like a different game. This is all to the good—FIFA09 has finally buried the long-standing criticism that all its teams and players feel much the same. There’s a gulf between the best teams and players at least as wide as on PES. The feel is just different. You know when you’ve got a good player on the ball, and when you’ve got a donkey, and all the gradations in between.

Here’s a clip that will interest anyone who has yet to sample FIFA09. This year, the CPU has quite a few extra tricks in its locker. Not the least of which is a sudden, devastating long ball up to a lone forward, giving him a one-on-one with your keeper. All too many times, I’ve had a rush of blood and charged my keeper out, when I should just leave him at home and at least make the CPU score past him. I’ve actually conceded goals almost exactly like this one on about five separate occasions:


  1. Interesting to hear how your struggling with the mighty COV in your MM season…. you may have heard me mention before that last season, my 1st season with Liverpool on Semi Pro, i blitzed the league, this year, on Pro difficulty, i too am struggling!

    10th in the table, Played 11 Won 3, Drawn 5 Lost 3 …. and have falled foul to several of FIFA’s annoying nuances – the Sidestep bug, Ridiculous Penalty decisions etc etc … so far though this hasnt spoilt my enjoyment of the game because, like real life – its unpredictable! IRL refs have shockers, players play like donkeys, shock results happen – as infuriating as it is at the time, upon review, it actually makes the game what it is.
    Now if EA can iron out those small bugs with a patch, and take on board the comments about the Manager Mode needing to be on a par with Master league, then i can seriously see myself never needing to buy a PES title again!
    I have PES 09 and am currently dipping into it purely for the BAL mode, proper footy gameplay is being coveted by FIFA and for all its frustrations, cant see that changing too much within the next few months!

  2. i think i posted this in the wrong place somewhere in your blog i can´t find so i repeat it here. sorry


    those are my setting and im playing on wc so no need to say that im not on winning bussiness any more, im in a word where drawing valencia0-0 makes me happy. i don´t think im passing to manual pass because its very similar to throug ball manual, a little faster reaction, and actually it looks to me more realistic the missing balls i can make with semi than the unnacurate passing in full manual. on the other hand scoring in full manual y so rewarding that there is no way im back to semi, i can use some help in passing but i want the goals to be all mine and thougt is hard is not much harder than semi. crosses i dont like the feeling of manual and how strange the ball behaves, semi is more like PES i think, short or long cross is the decission you have to make.

    i would like that someone comment these impressions and also similar impressions about other stuff like tactics and formations and how they work.

    By the way, online everything assisted of course. (maybe passing semi), i dont mind to loose against the cpu but god knows i hate it when against a human being

  3. I have a couple questions about Manager Mode — is there any opportunity to create a custom team? Could I re-create my Aylesbury Vale in FIFA09, for example?

    Second, what are your house rules going to be? I think MM and Master League had the same problem with quality players too quickly coming to the club — ML took some steps away from that direction with PES 2008, but as you know, I’d still play with house rules myself to make it more realistic and challenging.

  4. Paul – try switching to manual through-balls to combat the sidestep bug. If you can get to grips with manual through-balls it’s well worth it if only to eliminate the bug. Having said that, there’s still a perceptible pause and sometimes a ‘twirl’ on the spot even with manual. Annoying – and it needs to be patched asap.

    calimero – your settings look pretty formidable to me. I’m nowhere near ready for manual shooting yet. The idea of it scares me right now.

    Semi passing is an odd one. At times the ball goes straight to feet and it’s not much different from Assisted passing. At other times the passes go astray. I think it’s got to be because of two factors: the individual player’s passing stats, AND whether or not you are unintentionally pointing the pass astray using the analogue stick (easily done after a gaming lifetime of Assisted passing).

    I’ll be doing another special post about these other controls after the weekend.

    As for formations and stuff… still early days for me. I still don’t know enough yet to commit to an opinion. My early opinion is that defences seem to sit too high up the pitch, even with the tactics tweaked to make them sit deep. But again, it’s so early that I’m not 100% confident this isn’t something I’m doing wrong.

    I feel another special post coming on in a week or so.

    ck – No custom club creation that I can see. Sadly.

    I’m toying with starting a CCFC MM all over again after this difficult first season (assuming I avoid the sack), not because it’s too tough but because I’d be able to apply House Rules strictly and consistently from the start of a new MM career, AND play the whole thing on WC difficulty or higher.

    I’ve got MM House Rules in mind that I’ll talk about in full either over the weekend coming, or at the start of next week if I play PES2009 between now and then (as I’m planning to).

    My MM House Rules are just related to two areas right now, but would change in the future if required.

    1) Staff upgrades – they must lag just behind the club’s current status – ALWAYS. In practice, this’d mean I could only upgrade Coventry’s staff to 5/10 in season #1. Further upgrades dependent on progress up the league. I could go to 6/10 after a top-10 finish, 7/10 with promotion, etc. I wouldn’t get to 8/10 until I was a full top-six side in the Premier. The exception here would be the Fitness coach who would always stay on 5/10 permanently, thus enforcing ML-style squad rotation.

    2) Transfers – I’m not allowed to offload youngsters and ageing warhorses just to raise cash and trim the wage budget. I have to keep a certain number of youngsters. As for players coming in… I’ll go into more detail in future posts, but I’ll use some kind of formula where I’m only allowed three or four players who’ve got an average rating above my squad average. It’s not as complicated as it might sound. Basically, no more out-of-the-blue signings of International wingers in a mid-table Championship club.

  5. For anyone who missed it here is a sensational guide I linked to in yesterdays post which is a great read.

    not-Greg your comment about FIFA’s teams not being “at least on par with PES” in terms of being able to tell the difference between good players and bad players. I agree that even last year there wasn’t enough difference between good players and bad players, this year they have got that right,something which PES has has down for a while now.

    Where I think FIFA has surpassed PES in this area is the difference between teams. In PES I’ve never felt that there is enough difference between the good teams and between the bad teams. What I mean by that is if you were to take say Chelsea and Man United on PES you could essentially play with an identical style and have it be effective, in FIFA09 you have to adapt to play the teams style a whole lot more.

    In PES you can essentially take the same formation and apply it to just about any team (as you know with your 4-3-3) and have success with it, that wont work in FIFA without a lot of tweaking and hard work.

    Also in PES a bad team is simply a bad team and unless your some kind of gaming God your not going to beat Real Madrid with the default squad. You can never really be confident of getting a victory with a small side against a big team, which should be the case of course but you get the feeling that even if you defend brilliantly and repel the opposition for 80 minutes some scripted moment will come and break your heart no matter how well you defend.

    At least with FIFA you feel that if you play the right style and counter the opposition then you are a chance to beat the big teams. My greatest FIFA win yet is beating Italy with Australia 2-0 in a World Cup tournament I set up and the game played exactly as you would expect a match between these two to play out with me on the back foot for most of the game, I strongly doubt I would be any chance to win that sort of game on PES.

    Some may say well that shows it’s to easy but it’s the complete opposite. You have to battle hard and keep your discipline and you are by no means going to win that game every time you play it, in fact my record against Italy with Australia stands at 1 win 1 draw and 3 losses in my time with FIFA09, exactly how it should be.

  6. I have finally made the jump to manual. Well, almost. Everything is on manual now except passing- which is semi. It does make a vast difference to the game, and I am enjoying learning it. Shooting in particular is brilliant, I missed an empty net after going AROUND the keeper. Very embarrassing.

    There is one problem I need help with. It’s almost a game breaker and I haven’t heard anyone else mention it, so it MUST be me. My penalty kicks are going straight 80% of the time. I hold the analogue stick left or right and shoot, and it always goes straight (and saved most of the time). My last 3 penaltys have went straight and saved, and I aimed them all to the left. It must be something I am doing wrong, but when they do go the right direction, it doesn’t feel like I have done anything different. Any help would be appreciated!

    Looking forward to seeing if you managed to save your career after ‘that’ result. You know what i’m talking about!

  7. I had the same issue with penalties but have solved it. It stems from being used to the PES penalty system I do believe. PES has always use the system of pointing towards the corner of the goal you want to hit, for example if you wanted to hit it low and to the left you would hold that angle and hit shoot.

    FIFA uses a different system from what I’ve noticed, instead of holding down-left to hit the bottom left corner you just hold it to the left and hit it with low power. You don’t aim for the corners as such, whether it goes high/low is simply determined by the amount of power you put into the shot (a system which I like much better)

    So by you holding at an angle the game senses that you are aiming straight, the occasional one that does go the direction you want isprobably because the angle you are holding is just slightly different (ie. more towards either side) than the ones that are going straight.

    I hope that makes some kind of sense

  8. stinger – after a few days of FIFA fatigue (starting in today’s post and going on for a few days) I’m gradually emerging from it, after seeing something with crystal clarity – they really did get the player/team differential right this year!

    Playing with a lower division team, as I am doing now, produces realistically tedious football, unless you’re good enough to ‘intervene’ and take a hold of the match, which I’m not good enough to do yet except for short periods.

    Playing a season or two with the default players in PES Master League was bad enough. The realism of FIFA09 is such that going from playing with top players in the Spanish league (on the 360 MM career) to playing with average and below-average players with Coventry in the English Championship, has seriously impacted my whole game. The coming days will detail it all. But I think there’s a happy ending…

    Not Given – I can only think you have a broken controller?

    No, seriously, never had this problem with the penalties. If it was a real problem I think it’d be all over the forums, and it’s not. It’s definitely something you’re doing.

    I’ll disagree with stinger—I think you can target penalties down and left, up and left, etc. Although it’s been about a week since my last penalty in the game, so I might be misremembering. Don’t hold me to this.

    What I think you’re doing is taking the penalties PES-style. You’re possibly releasing the stick after you’ve targeted and before you’ve kicked. That would result in a straight penalty on FIFA09. On PES, it would result in a targeted penalty.

    So just hold the direction. The factor that determines the strength of the kick is solely the power you choose and the player’s stats. I think…

  9. Incorrect on the power issue with penalties at least not-Greg. I could well have been wrong about the down-left, down-right aiming but penalties in FIFA definitely have a power bar, something that has been missing from PES for a long time. The longer you hold the button the harder and further in that direction the ball will fly.

    I think the shot meter even fills up while your shooting

  10. stinger – I think you’ve misread my last comment. I never said penalties in FIFA didn’t have a power bar. In the last sentence above I said the strength of the kick is determined by the power chosen, meaning the filling up of the power bar.

    I think Not Given is prematurely releasing the direction stick, worrying that he’ll overshoot and miss, when it’s the power chosen that determines this.

  11. Spot on, my bad I miss read your last comment. My apologies.

    I still get the feeling that my earlier comment may have some merit. I think the angle at which FIFA determines you are in fact aiming down-left may be slightly wider in FIFA than PES, not by much but I seem to have noticed it in some of the recent penalties I’ve taken, you can think your aiming down-left but the game still takes it as straight down.

    After having a penalty shootout today though I think you are right about the ability to aim for the corners, but like I say I think the angle at which the game differentiates between straight down and down-left may be slightly wider

  12. stinger – no worries, I spend a good few hours a day reading on the internet and I often do the same. Which is odd as I don’t have the problem reading print-based text, newspapers, books etc. Reading on a screen still doesn’t feel right after all these years.

    Been thinking about PES penalties, and realising how primitive they are. Point in direction, press shoot, and just hope. That’s it. To be fair, if the FIFA keepers guess the right way they’ll save it too, but that’s the way penalties are in real life. At least in FIFA the game doesn’t randomly decide your player will blast the ball over.

    I often go for a down-left/right penalty too and it’ll be just off-centre, which is NOT what I wanted. I wanted corner of the net. So I agree that the registering of intention isn’t consistent. I’ve tried upping the power, and missed completely. Whatever the truth is about FIFA penalties, it seems that it doesn’t allow you to shoot for the extreme top and bottom corners, or at least not easily. More experimentation needed.

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