Today’s post is the final one for the month of November 2008—and it has been a strange old month. At the start of it I was playing FIFA09 and Manager Mode exclusively, and PES2009 was an unwanted guest. If you’d told me on November 1st that by the end of the month I’d be playing PES2009 with great enjoyment—and without having to force it—I would have laughed, or said you were crazy, or done whatever else it is that people do in these “If you had told me…” constructions.
But after getting the sack in a FIFA09 career and—yes—feeling more than a little ‘FIFA fatigued’, I decided to have a few sessions on PES2009. I still mostly disliked the game at the time, although I was intrigued by the peculiar way that PES2009 actually plays a slower and often more considered game of football than the supposed uber-simulation of FIFA09.
The rest of November has been a great surprise to me. I found a lot to like about PES2009, and one thing led to another, and before I knew it PES2009 and me were all over each other. I found something worth pursuing in PES2009, a chink of light, and plunged into it. I never expected it to happen, or even particularly wanted it to happen. PES2008 accumulated a lot of bad karma for Konami and Seabass. I was ready to see PES fail.
The topic of PES2009 and ‘fun’ has cropped up from time to time over the past month. It’s a wearily constant refrain on the pro-PES forums (“PES is fun; FIFA is not fun; PES is great because it’s fun”, etc.). There’s a hell of a lot of assumption in this standpoint. Was the only reason anybody played ISS/PES for ten years because of fun? I really don’t think so.
Hand on heart, I don’t like PES2009 because I think it’s ‘fun’. From my perspective, I’m playing it for the same reasons that I ever played any ISS/PES game—because it involves me and fascinates me and challenges me. Somewhere in the mix, there is something called ‘fun’, but it’s not the prime element of the strange alchemy that makes a good PES game—as I think PES2009 is.
The rise of PES2009 in my estimation hasn’t seen a corresponding fall in my admiration for FIFA09. Yes, FIFA09 has faults, some of them glaring. They’re all well-documented and much-discussed on a dozen different forums. But ‘no game is perfect’ is one of the great truisms of gaming. And FIFA09′s faults don’t prevent if from being, in my opinion, the superior football game. The gap isn’t as huge as I thought it was back in October, but it’s still there.
If I was forced to come up with review-style scores for both football games right now, I’d give PES2009 an 8.5 and FIFA09 a 9. A month ago those figures would have stood at 7 and 9.5 respectively. What will they be a month from now? I can feel a regular monthly feature coming on.
Back in PES2009 itself, I was at the tail-end of season number 5 in the lower division. One of the more-ish things about PES2009 for me is how tough I’ve found it, particularly after last year’s (non-)effort.
Spending more than three seasons in Division 2 is unprecedented. Only now, in season FIVE, am I finally scrapping for a promotion spot.
I was second in the table with four games to go, one point behind the leaders. My next opponents were those leaders: Middlesbrough—a team who, a bit like FC Bosphorus of old, always seem to prove tough.
The menu screen was in no doubt what the big game represented:
Eh? The title decider? With three more games to go afterwards? Not quite a decider, I’d say. Good old eccentric captioning—a new PES tradition.
I won the Middlesbrough game 1-0. And took possibly the blurriest mobile phone photo ever taken with my trembling hand. I defended well and snatched a scrambled goal with Kim Cyun Hi in the second half. Lots of my games are ending 1-0 or 2-1 at the moment. I’m having a mini golden age of defending.
After the final whistle there was a brief celebration by my players on the pitch. This made me tense up, because I thought the game was about to award me the D2 Championship three games too early. What a monster bug that would have been. But no, the celebrations were only about promotion. The victory had mathematically ensured promotion. I’d done it! After five long, mostly hard seasons. Promotion to Division 1. Whew.
After this, of course, I was top of the league. All I had to do was keep winning and the title would be mine. I wanted that Championship—I could taste it. I can’t remember that last time I went up to D1 as D2 Champions in any Master League.
Sadly, I drew one of my last three games. The CPU has a knack of scoring late heartbreakers this year (more than any other), and it got one, and I lost the title because it. So much for that Middlesbrough game being a title decider.
Here’s the final table:
My bogey team, AIK Athens, are going up with me to Division 1. Good. I owe them a beating or two.
Hopefully that’s the last I’ll see of Division 2 in this career. Although, now that I’m moving up to Top Player difficulty, and PES2009 remains overall a tough game for me, and I’m going to go off and play FIFA09 for a while, who knows what could happen? Never say never. I nearly got relegated last year. It could happen again.
I won’t resume this ML career until about this time next week. When I do, I’ll have a lot to talk about. There’s a massive flaw in the all-new ML transfer market that had me seething with rage. In PES2009 you get scout reports that tell you why some players won’t sign for your club. One of the reasons is ‘He won’t come to Division 2′. That’s fair enough when you’re in Division 2… but what about when you’ve just won promotion to Division 1? It wouldn’t apply then, right? Right?!
Wrong. This is PES. This is Konami, and Seabass. The game treated me as if I was a Division 2 team all the way through pre-season negotiations. Even the pre-season friendlies were billed as ‘Division 2 pre-season friendlies’. Grrrrrrr. The crazy thing is that isn’t really a bug. It’s due to the way seasons in Master League are organised. But I’ll talk about this in more depth when I return to PES2009.
The natural break will do me good. The first signs of PES2009 fatigue might just have started to appear, with me trying to ‘auto-pilot’ my way through large chunks of matches. So a quick hop over the aisle to FIFA09 is called for on a number of levels.
Monday will see me return to play regular daily sessions of FIFA09 for the first time in almost a month. At the time of writing I’ve already had my first session—and I still think the game is glorious. And—dare I say it—it’s a lot of FUN. Yes, the faults are there, but when a football game plays as good as FIFA09 does, you can overlook the faults, or even manage to forget them. It’s a bit like PES2009 in that respect. But I’ll save all my gushing for next week.