March 30th, 2009: the day I finally got around to playing Become a Legend. That’s six months after PES2009 was released with BaL as one of its crown jewels. I know, I know. It’s almost unforgivably late of me. Who do I think I am, with my Master League this, Master League that; with my Manager Mode boo-hoo-hoo this, Ultimate Team hip-hip-hooray that? And as for playing anything at all online, well, forget it.
But now I’ve started—albeit late, and albeit tentatively—to dip my toe into the waters of other game modes. Become A Legend was billed by many as PES’s answer to FIFA’s Be A Pro mode. However, it’s fairly well known now that Be a Pro was itself a ripoff/tribute/inspired by Winning Eleven’s fantasista mode.
You create a player, and play as him for the duration of an entire career, aged 17 to 35. They say that an Attacking Midfielder is probably the best all-round position to play in one of these solo-player game modes, so I went with that. I created myself as an AMF, envisioning myself turning into a classic PES AMF over time. The most valuable players I have ever had in PES over the past few years have been AMFs.
You get to customise your player’s appearance using one of those multi-menu affairs that seem to go on forever and ever. You can position your nostril hair at a 30 degree angle, and that kind of thing. Here’s the final head I ended up with:
There I am. No, I’m not really that bald.
So to the game itself. The first thing you do is play a match for the benefit of the ‘scouts’ watching you. I played quite badly in my scout match, I think (see below), but still got a few decent offers. I signed for Manchester City.
One of the factors that held me back from trying BaL before now is that I have played FIFA’s Be A Pro mode—in last year’s FIFA and in this year’s FIFA—and not been very impressed. Oh I’ve liked it well enough at the start, for something like 20 minutes. Then the rot set in. I’m afraid something similar happened with BaL.
It frustrates me to only have control of one player. I want to be the one playing all the passes and trying to unlock the opposition defences. I hate just watching the game going on without me, as it seems you have to do for most of the time. I hate being patient, waiting for the ball to come to me, playing my position.
Unfortunately, my first six or seven matches in Become A Legend did not go well. Admittedly I was my own worst enemy in matches 1 and 2. I had no idea about double-tapping R2 to call for a pass. And I was chasing all over the pitch trying to insinuate myself in passages of play that had nothing whatsoever to do with me. This was emphatically not the way to play this game mode, I soon realised.
I started playing ‘properly’, sticking to my position, using the L1 button to ensure I didn’t stray too far, waiting for the flow of the game to come near me. I started going on what I thought were intelligent runs and calling for the killer pass. The pass never came. Most of my time was spent just aimlessly twisting more or less on the spot, watching instead of playing. In one match I touched the ball 3 times. In the next, 9 times. These were all training matches and the atmosphere was totally silent—almost eerily so.
It was pleasant, actually, almost Zen-like. I had a shot on goal in one of the later matches. The manager switched from 4-4-2 with me playing as a CMF to a 4-5-1 with me playing as an advanced AMF just behind the lone striker. I saw a lot more of the ball and was effectively a second striker. It was at this point (just before my play-session had to end) that I started to see just what this game mode might be, if I stick with it. I can see why and how this game mode has so many followers in the PES community.
I’m not abandoning Become a Legend, not yet, although I’ll admit to being tempted. I have a keen awareness that I have probably not played it right. I’m still trying to play it as if it’s a regular, familiar game of PES, instead of something quite different. I’m going to give this thing time.