It’s official: Become A Legend has taken over my gaming life. I think this was pretty obvious anyway, but now I’m formally acknowledging it. For all BaL’s faults—and, like PES itself, they are many—I am enjoying it.
FIFA09, Valkyria Chronicles, Mass Effect, and the dozens of other games that I planned turning my time and attention to… have all been placed on hold. Possibly this BaL enthusiasm will burn itself out after I’ve got a full career (or even just a few more seasons) under my belt. I have to say, though, speaking as a PES fan of long-standing, it’s nice to discover some life in the old girl yet.
There I am, pictured down there, looking happy in the middle of a training match after laying on an assist. The smile is a bit ‘Toy Story’, isn’t it?
My first season was pretty error-strewn. I tried to play everywhere on the pitch. I moved clubs for no real reason. Almost everything you shouldn’t do, I did. Here at the start of my second season, I’m at Portsmouth and looking for a bit of stability.
When you move clubs in the early stages of a BaL career, you do have to start all over again in the Reserves at your new club. That was strangely okay with me. I liked playing entire matches again, and further exploring what’s possible (and not) as a single player on the pitch in PES.
How to play as one player in a team of AI players? It depends. As a raw Youth, I can’t go chasing all over the pitch trying to get the ball. Maybe when my created player is older, faster, and stronger, that might be feasible—but not now. By the time I get to where the ball is, it’s somewhere else. I’m almost always chasing shadows. Soon enough my stamina runs out and I’m good for nothing even when I do get the ball. It’s very rarely now that I play like that.
I’ve slowly—painfully—learned the best things to do in most given situations, and adapted my play accordingly. I’ve learned what the AI will respond to, what it’ll ignore. Simply playing my position isn’t a good idea—that way lies anonymity and stasis. I have to get involved, be a winger sometimes, a forward sometimes, a defender sometimes. (All without simply running around aimlessly, of course.) I grant myself a free role, but always anchor myself in that CMF berth. Short darting runs into space in midfield: the AI loves that, and I see the ball a lot. They love to pass the ball ahead to me if I’m in space on a wing. If I make a run through the middle of a defence, the AI is brilliant at spotting the run and playing a good ball. Alas, I’m still looking for my first proper goal scored with my feet in BaL.
Portsmouth are a decent team, and we started the season very well. A few good league wins put us up in the top 6. I was still scratting around in the Reserves, but I kept an eye on the First Team’s progress, knowing that it would materially affect my own fortunes.
I earned my chance in the Reserves ‘A’ team, and did well. I qualified for the subs’ bench in a proper match. I sat and watched the CPU vs CPU matches extremely grumpily, and came on and tried to do too much. At least I did well enough to avoid being bumped down to the Reserves again. With four midfielders in a fluid 4-4-2 formation, my prospects are better at Pompey than they ever were at Villa.
I had a few above-average substitute appearances, playing well enough to notice my stats climbing match after match. Then came a breakthrough match.
Away to Middlesbrough, we were 0-1 down when I came on in the 65th minute. I played great, the best I’ve ever played in BaL so far. I saw a ludicrous amount of the action. I had 28 touches on the ball in those 25 minutes (that’d be a respectable figure for a full match). All my passes found their mark. I lobbed a few dangerous through-balls over the defence for Utaka to chase (what a speed demon he is), but we couldn’t quite get back on terms.
Then I ran ahead of one of our wingers, going for a pass. This move is something you learn to do in BaL. You have to do it, to nullify the effect that the terrible winger AI has on the pattern and flow of your attacks (it tends to kill them). You have to take charge yourself to a certain extent. I’ll be interested to see how this dynamic alters, if at all, over the course of my career.
Here’s the replay. Weirdly, the YouTube clip cuts off just before the ball goes into the net. I am, of course, the player with blue hair:
I loved this moment. The cross, the headed goal (don’t know quite why we don’t see the moment the ball goes into the net, but I promise that it did). After the match I was stunned to see my match rating. 6.5 is the highest I’d ever got in BaL so far. Getting an 8.0 was nosebleed territory:
And there was more staggering news when I returned to the main menu screen. AT LAST…
That’s posed as a question, but it was a fact. I was in the starting line-up for the next match. This is massive for me. Nervous? No! Yes. YES.
I’m loving this mode. It feels a lot like the intense early days of a Master League career, when you play long sessions for a much longer period than you really intended to, and can’t wait for the next one. Roll on my very first start for the first team.