Month: February 2009

Above the lore

When I lost my poor old Xbox360 a few days ago to the infamous RROD, my football gaming hit another hiatus. Or better to say, it extended the hiatus it was already in

My football gaming had been a 360-only affair since I started playing the peerless Valkyria Chronicles on the PlayStation3. And I was already missing a few days of football gaming on the 360 after having to move all my gaming stuff out of my room for some new radiators to be put in. That was a few days (not) to remember, let me tell you.

Then when I set up the 360 again, it went straight into the RROD routine. No, this has not been a great week.

I don’t know about anybody else, but I hate having random workmen, no matter how ‘sound’ they otherwise are, in my personal spaces and able to see my personal stuff. I’ve got nothing that’d really make me feel embarrassed or ashamed—and even if I had I’d bet they’ve seen it all before and then some, making my shabby little room seem rather tame. But it’s the principle. It’s my room and it’s my precious limited free time, and I wanted it back but I couldn’t have it back until they’d finished and gone.

Getting back to the Xbox360 issue, I was in a quandary. On the one hand I’m easily within Microsoft’s extended three-year warranty to cover the RROD phenomenon. So I could pack the broken 360 off to wherever they go and receive a refurbished replacement in 2-3 weeks, on average. That’d be fine. Or I could just go into town immediately and pick up a new Xbox360 Arcade, stick my hard drive on it, and carry on regardless. Or I could do both… which is what I did. Yes, I do have more money than sense—but with the Arcade model relatively cheap (£129), it was too tempting. A no-brainer.

The new Xbox360 works like a dream. It’s one of the newer models. (Jaspers or something?)  The power supply unit is of a lower wattage, and the console seems to run quieter overall, even with a disc in the tray and spinning at full speed. I stuck my hard drive on the end and was up and running with minimal fuss. The only downside is that I had to reinstall my games—FIFA09 among them—all over again, for some obscure DRM-related reason. But that was a minor bump in an otherwise smooth road. I’m very happy with the new and better Xbox360. I think I’ve done the right thing. When the refurbished 360 comes back I’ll take it into GAME and trade it for some games (hopefully NHL09 among them).

My old 360 was collected this morning by a man in a grey uniform who was driving a grey van. In RROD lore, it’s traditional for this man to impart grim news about all the hundreds of Xbox360s he spends his working weeks collecting. And he goes on to divulge (in a throaty whisper) the fact that there are warehouses dotted around the nation full to their brims with broken 360s waiting to be shipped on somewhere. However, this man just smiled without looking at me in that way that busy deliverymen do, got me to sign a form, and drove away with my ex-console in the back of his van.

I’ve played about 5 more matches in my Coventry City career in Manager Mode on the new 360. I lost a couple quite badly and feared the sack, but turned it around with a draw and a win—a lucky 1-0 from a deflected goal. I drew the fifth match and remain perched precariously at the foot of the table, with a manager approval rating of 39%. It’d only take another defeat or two to get me the sack. Having somehow made it this far into this career I don’t want that to happen.

It’ll never happen to me…

Last week I had to move all my gaming equipment to another room during some work being carried out at my place. I unplugged and bagged the PS3 and the 360 and all of the various leads and plugs. Yesterday evening I moved them all back and set up everything again just as it was. A small voice in my head told me to switch everything back on and check the health of both consoles. The PS3 was fine—thank God—but the 360 was… not fine.

I’ve had my Xbox360 for about sixteen months now. On it I’ve played what for me is still the greatest ‘proper’ game of the next generation: Bioshock. It’s hardly been used otherwise—maybe one hour of play for every ten hours I’ve used the PS3. I’m a careful console owner. They never get banged or moved about (except for the past few days, through necessity).

I’ll cut right to the chase. When I switched on the Xbox360, this is what I saw:

I’ve read up on all the troubleshooting and self-help advice there is. I’ve unplugged and tested and cleared the memory cache and done all sorts. I refuse, on principle, to try the ‘towel trick’.

I never really thought it would happen to me. Well, I knew it was a theoretical possibility, and a very strong possibility given the 360’s notorious reliability issues. But I thought that the care I take of my 360 and the lesser amount of time I spend using it should count for something. Seemingly not.

I don’t know what I’ll do yet. Famously, Microsoft would accept delivery of my broken console and ship me a refurbished one in a few weeks’ time. I might go for that option. Or I might just buy a new Arcade model—they’re so cheap, and I would prefer to have a new console instead of a refurb—and attach my hard drive to it. I’ll see how I feel. I’ve got a great Manager Mode career going on FIFA09, and plenty of other unfinished business on the 360 besides. I’ll definitely do something. The 360 is a fine console with a great range of games, many of which I was looking forward to playing over the next months.

I am considering getting the PS3 PES2008 out of mothballs and starting a BaL career, but with Valkyria Chronicles still to fnish, I’ll probably put off BaL until then. In the short term, it looks as if I’m sticking with my PSP PES2008 Master League career. I’ve moved onto season 2023 and ditched lots of my bloated squad. I made a great start in the league capaign but lost a few matches, and then lost the first match in my European Cup group. Overall, though, there is no reason why every season on PES2008 shouldn’t be a Treble-winning one, and a massively high goal-scoring one as well. Assuming that I don’t run out to town later today to pick up a new Xbox360 (as I’m actually kind of itching to do), I’ll return to my PSP ML career tomorrow.

Woe is me

Unhappy developments this week. I had to dismantle my entire gaming setup—the TV, the consoles, all the (many) wires, and all the stacked games—-and store everything on the floor in another room. All to enable some long-postponed plumbing work to go ahead in my room.

Perhaps you can imagine the heart-wrenching dismay that this caused me. At this stage of my laughable excuse for a life, my gaming setup is almost an extension of my body. It’s not really feasible to set up everything in the other room, so I’m stuck without console gaming until the work is completed in my room. That won’t be until the middle of next week now. I am, needless to say, slightly distraught about it.

My PS3 and 360 are in figurative mothballs until the middle of next week. This will be the longest period I have been separated from console gaming for a long time. I’m looking on the bright side and hoping to catch up with a few books and TV shows that I’ve neglected recently. And of course there’s always the trusty old PSP.

I have revived my Master League career on the PSP version of PES2008. For all intents and purposes, last year the PSP & PS2 version of PES2008 was the football game of my year. I played it for longer and more intensely than any other football game. When I stopped playing it I had just won a Treble in season 2021, and started very well in 2022.

My first game back was strange—but it was familiar too. By now I think the classic PES gameplay is almost as familiar as breathing. It took me about half of a half to get over the initial slight strangeness. I won the league at a canter, but stupidly lost the European Cup final 0-1 to a traditional CPU sucker-punch goal straight from the kickoff. I had about a million chances to equalise but missed them all. I was already out of the D1 Cup and there was no prospect of another Treble. Still, clinching the title wasn’t bad for my first matches back in the old routine.

Playing this game again I am struck by several things. The most striking thing is how old-fashioned the ‘classic’ PES gameplay now feels. How fast it feels. How arcadey. And how bloody brilliant, too, of course.

I only picked up my PSP meaning to play perhaps 1 or 2 matches. I stayed for 8. Yes, it’s been a while—absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that.

I have an amazing squad numbering the full 32 players. I don’t remember signing some of them. Kaka’, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Giggs, Maldini—all these and more are present.

I’m toying with the idea of starting a new career on the PSP version of PES2008. That might not be an idea with any real legs—once I get my main consoles back I think I’d inevitably lose interest. Priority #1 for next week is to complete Valkyria Chronicles and then finally, finally, start playing Mass Effect. But I’ll see.

Cry free-kickdom

FIFA09 and free kicks. There, I’ve said it. FIFA09. Free kicks. What gives?

I haven’t had the best of times with free kicks in this game. I’ve yet to score direct from a free kick, even in my early days of playing on Semi-Pro with all the control assists turned on.

Last year on FIFA08 I had a pretty good record with free kicks. I scored roughly one in three from the prime danger area around the box. I’d make the keeper pull off a save with most of the other attempts. Free kicks were pretty easy in FIFA08, but that was a different game that I always played with the shooting assists turned on. Maybe I’d find similar success in FIFA09 if I turned the assists back on here? I won’t, though. I want to plough on with semi-assisted shooting, and see where it takes me.

But, yes, the point of today’s post is that I’ve finally scored from a free kick. Albeit from a layoff—knocking the ball to one side for a loitering third player to have a shot. Here it is—my young defensive midfielder Isaac Osbourne supplies the tidy finish:

It’s not the best viewing angle. The ball could do with being a bit more visible. I know that there are a few video streaming websites with better quality than YouTube. But this does its job, I think. It shows me scoring a goal with a fine strike—if I may say so myself—from a layoff from a free kick. (Before anyone asks me how the layoff is done: pull LT/L2 to summon the second player. Then hold LT/L2 whilst pointing to either side with the left stick, and press A/X to perform the layoff. The player who will take the shot is automatically in position and doesn’t need to be summoned beforehand.)

I’d estimate that this was my 100th attempt to score a goal from a free kick layoff. This was my first successful attempt. Most of the others went badly wide or thudded straight into the keepers’ midriffs. A high enough percentage of them went just wide, or hit the post/bar, or were tipped aside by a spectacular keeper dive for me to want to keep trying to score. Finally I get my reward.

The goal won me the match, incidentally. It improved my standing with the board, but I’m still 19th in the table and only a couple of defeats away from another crisis.

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