Real life—life away from gaming—has intruded once again. Over the past four or five days I haven’t had time to do anything more with my main consoles than look at them longingly, and think of the days when I could (and did) spend 10 hours a day gaming, for days on end. Those days are a long, long, long way behind me now. I suspect that there’s a whole generation of gamers out there in much the same situation as me. Where do all the years go?
Up steps the PSP. Last year I spent several highly enjoyable months playing ‘last-gen’ PES2008 on PSP (and on my backwards-compatible 60GB PS3). For me, that version PES2008 was almost the best football game of the 2007-2008 season. FIFA08 just edged it out, in my opinion (other opinions are available).
Last-gen PES2008 was a great PES game, a classic of the PS2-era PESes. I preferred it to the public’s darling, PES6. I found PES6 rather lacklustre after the pyrotechnics of PES5… But, whoah. This isn’t the time or place to get into another ‘best PES’ discussion.
So last week—I think it was Friday—I found myself once more sitting with my PSP in hand, playing PES2008. I resumed my Coventry City career in Master League. It seems to me that I am always resuming some Coventry City career or other. It’s like one of those recurring archetype things. Yes, I really do need to get out there and try meeting other people/game modes/teams every so often. (Become a Legend here I (be)come…)
It was season 2019 in that PSP ML career. After the first third of the season I was top of the table, but not doing so well in Europe. I’d been away too long. I’d forgotten most of the little tricks and touches that enable you to play any familiar PES like a favourite old fiddle. Somehow I was putting together wins and draws in the league to keep me in the #1 position. But in the Champions League-equivalent I was bottom of my group after two matches and two resounding defeats.
I managed to win the next fixture to give me a fighting chance of qualifying. But then I lost the fourth match, and drew the fifth. I was out of Europe by the close of play of this sequence of matches—which was just last night. Yes, between Friday and Sunday I only had time to play about 8 matches on the PSP. These are lean times indeed in my gaming life
The way old-school PES handles is just sublime. Yes, its engine is open to abuse—more than open to abuse. If the fabled ‘true next-gen’ PES ever does come out, it needs to come out without the defensive ‘squeeze play’ technique, whereby you simply clamp Square+X+Sprint and win the ball back more often that not. It also needs to ditch the transparent scripting of tackles, for example, where you win the ball but your player then pauses for just long enough to allow the same player you tackled to retrieve the ball and race off with it. I also hate to see my players visibly being slowed down to allow loose balls to run out of play for CPU throws and corners. All of these and many more are familiar moans.
Those quibbles, though, are far outweighed by the greatness of old-school PES. If Konami and Seabass (curse him) can somehow, somehow, stitch together a genuine next-gen game engine, and marry it to the intuitive feel of old-school PES, well, that’ll be FIFA knocked into a cocked hat. And not before time.