Month: November 2008

November spawned a funster

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.

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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.

Within touching distance

There are four games left in my 5th season in Master League on PES2009. I’m second in the Division 2 table and playing well. I’m looking good for promotion. Anything could still happen, but realistically I don’t think anything can stop me getting promoted to Division 1 now. That doesn’t mean the CPU isn’t giving it a good try anyway.

Bogey teams. Every year, it seems there’s one. Osasuna tormented me for several seasons on the PS2/PSP version of PES2008. I’ve yet to encounter Osasuna in PES2009. I don’t know what Division they’re in (or even if they’re in).

Keeping their seat warm are AIK Athens. My newest, and most maddening, bogey team.

I don’t think I’ve beaten Athens at all in any of the dozen-or-so matches we’ve had down here in Division 2. I’ve played them twice a season in the league, and we’ve had a couple of Cup encounters. They always DO me. Somehow, even if the game is a draw, it’s one where I feel aggrieved. And most often, of course, they simply beat me. I’m more certain than ever that there’s some kind of dice-roll at the start of an ML career, and the game chooses a team to be your bogey team.

Another annoyance has resurfaced. Occasionally one of my players will viciously tackle a CPU player from behind, without any conscious input from me. This one is specific to PES2009, and I haven’t had to contend with it for a few seasons now. So I don’t know what has happened. This ‘auto-tackle’ feature of PES2009 has been commented on and discussed across the PES community. I know it’s not just me who experiences it.

It’s frustrating and wrong, as it results in penalties, yellow cards, red cards, hassles, and heartaches. I saw it happen a few times in my first season. Then it stopped, and I thought I’d sussed out why it was happening: overuse of the secondary pressure button. So I eased off on Square (it’s a good idea to do that anyway), and the auto-tackles stopped. Problem, I thought, solved. But no—now they’re back, and I have no idea why. I’m not mashing the Square button again. Honest.

It’s possible that I’m not paying sufficient attention to the game. Inevitably, after so much time on any game, there’s sometimes a creeping detachment from the action. Sometimes the mind just wanders, and you notice that you’ve sleepwalked through a passage of play, or a whole half. That’s not how to play PES2009—or any game, really.

Thanks to the auto-tackle I was reduced to 10 men in consecutive games. I won the second of those games 1-0 with a joyous late goal against all odds. So things aren’t all bad.

As the season draws towards its end I find myself looking forward to playing in Division 1. I’m 7 points clear of the fourth-placed team. I can’t fail from here. Can I? If I fail now I’ll be genuinely gutted.

My next game is against the league-leaders, Middlesbrough. They’ve always been buggers to play against in Master League. It’s a big game and I’ll be focused for it. I’d love to go up to Division 1 as champions.

I am Hamann and I need to be loved

Season 2012-2013 in my Master League career on PES2009 has had its ups and downs so far. At the moment it’s just after the mid-season negotiations and I’m still in the top half of the table. For that at least I am thankful.

A few seasons ago (can’t remember which; they all blur into one now) I had a similar good start, but fell away drastically and finished only a few places from the foot of the table. So the fact I’m still within touching distance of the promotion places with 8 games left is a sign of the progress I’ve made in PES2009 recently.

It still seems to be a harder game this year. It’s definitely harder than PES2008, but that’s not saying much (I’ve eaten yoghurts that were harder than PES2008). And it seems harder than PES6, for me. By this stage on PES6—five seasons in—I was going for a Treble.

I’ve passed through the mid-season negotiations. Once again I had enough points in the bank to go on a raiding mission for some quality experienced players. If I wanted to. But I decided that I’m doing well enough with the ones I’ve got. Instead I satisfied my mid-season craving for fresh blood by snapping up a few players from the Youth list. Ahhh, Youth list. Where would I be without you?

First I went for an 18-year-old HAMANN. I’ve seen him there in the list for a few negotiation periods now, but always passed him over. For some reason I identify Hamann as being nothing but a workhorse type of defensive midfielder, lacking the talents that I’m looking for.

But hang on. I took a look at his stats and skills. What’s not to love about Hamann? For a Youth player his stats are already reasonable. He has good stamina. And, critically for me with my 4-3-3 formation, he has Middle Shooting. It’s virtually obligatory for the DMF, who gets lots of long-range shooting opporutnities. Hamann’s not better than Dietrich right now, but in a few seasons he could be. So I gathered Hamann into the bosom of my squad. Let’s see how he turns out.

Along with Hamann I picked up two 17-year-olds. Park Jyun Hi (a steal!) and a solid CB called Barth. I have vague memories of playing with Barth in years past, possibly as a veteran. Here and now, he’s my third decent young CB, along with Jackson and Conwey. It seems that by default I am operating a Youth policy at my ML club. I’m building an Academy. That’s fine, really. I’ll grab the expensive veteran players when I can—hopefully when I’m finally up there in Division 1.

I did try to get PRIETO, who’s now 20 and looking seriously great. His club accepted my bid of Davies+4000 points, which was very, very, very generous of me. I offered Prieto 1400 salary, but he declined my offer. “Negotiations broken down”—surely the saddest words in Master League.


Stoke-ing the fire

One more season of Master League on PES2009. Then I’ll go and play a full season on Manager Mode on FIFA09. I want to get my ML team promoted before I do anything else in the world of gaming. I have a PS3 copy of Mirror’s Edge that’s been left in its shrink-wrapping for two weeks now, because I’ve become so caught up in Master League all over again. In many ways it feels a lot like the good old days on PES. (If it wasn’t for FIFA09 lurking menacingly off-stage, of course.)

Season 2013-2014 is my 5th consecutive season in Division 2. It’s unprecedented for me. I have always got promoted in older Master Leagues after either two or three seasons. Always. It’s a measure of how tough PES2009 feels this year. It remains to be seen whether it will stay that way, or if it’s just a side-effect of playing a different football game—FIFA09—so intensively for a few weeks beforehand.

I won the first game of the season against Stoke City, 2-0, with some quite flukey late goals. Never mind. My good pre-season form seems to be continuing into the competitive matches, which is all well and good.

As so often happens I met Stoke again immediately in the D2 Cup. I was actually disappointed not to have a bye to the next round, as I have in the past two seasons. The game ended 0-0 in the home leg. It meant that in the return leg the advantages were all with me, the away team. One goal from me would effectively put me through. But it doesn’t always work out. Stoke won that second leg 2-0. It was a poor display from me, especially as I played my first-choice team.

Never mind. In many ways, getting knocked out of the Cup in round 1 is the best thing that can happen to you when you’re going for promotion. I should be thankful to Stoke for beating me. Now I can concentrate upon the League, I thought…

Things almost went slightly wrong there as well. I won my next game, then threw away the victory in the next by conceding a heartbreaker of a CPU goal in the final seconds. Then I lost badly against Lecce, who are newly-relegated this season. I started to think: uh-oh. Surely I won’t have to face a sixth season in Division 2…?

But I came back to win the next game 2-0, which included this fine half-volley from my new striker FORESTIERI:

Those kinds of goals were common as muck in the PS3 version of PES2008. But they actually mean something in PES2009. (For now, anyway…)

All of which leaves the league table looking very healthy. I’m top. As ever I’m not scoring enough, but I’m still not conceding many either. I can’t remember the last time the CPU scored from a corner.

I think this is definitely the season—Division 1, here I come. I’ve decided that it’s my last season playing on Professional difficulty, come what may. I’ll move up to Top Player whether I get promoted or not.

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