Somehow, I have started playing and enjoying PES2009’s Become a Legend mode. I never wanted this. I was rather looking forward to spending the rest of this football game year catching up on all the unplayed games on my shelf. I’ll still do that, but now it seems BaL in PES2009 (and Ultimate Team and BaP in FIFA09) are also going to be in the mix.
After spending a third of my first season with Manchester City in the Reserves ‘B’ team, I found myself bumped up to the Reserves ‘A’ team. This was a really big deal. I was actually nervous before the match and for most of the time during it. I was still playing in the reserves, on an empty, echoing reserve team pitch, but I was playing with the first team players alongside Robinho et al. I felt that things were moving in the right direction for me.
But I played quite badly in the match. The occasion got to me. I tightened up, always going for the safe, conservative passes. I was scared to make a mistake. Another complicating factor: it was my first game as a proper AMF. I’d played all the previous 16 or so matches as a CMF. The problem now was that I kept dropping too deep. The performance was a mess. It wasn’t helped by my growing anger towards some of my team-mates. Yes, anger towards make-believe team-mates…
One of the most convenient options available when you get the ball in midfield is to lay it off to a winger. But that rarely leads to anything good. It’s only by playing BaL that I’ve come to appreciate just how very, very bad at wing-play the PES2009 AI really is. 9 times out of 10 the winger, whoever it is, just messes it up.
You play the pass out wide, and go on the long run into the box anyway. Watching your winger on the ball, waiting for him to do something with it, is exquisitely painful. JUST SQUARE THE ******* BALL! CROSS IT, CROSS IT, YOU USELESS PRANCING SHOW-PONY. ****! But no, he tries one jink too many, trips over a blade of grass, and that’s it. You’ve made your run and expended some of your precious non-renewable stamina for nothing. You might just as well have passed it to the opposition.
Eventually I worked out it was okay for me to just goal-hang for a bit if that’s what I wanted to do, so I did. Late on, I even had a half-chance that I thumped tamely into the keeper’s midriff. It’s a measure of BaL’s deep-immersion factor that I was hugely satisfied with that.
Despite having a pretty bad game I made the subs bench for a proper game. This was an even bigger deal for me. It was the second leg of a D1 Cup tie against West Ham. Different atmosphere, full match, crowd, commentators. The Hammers went 1-0 up. I was brought on in the 65th minute. The cutscene that showed me coming onto the pitch made me drool. Finally a chance to try to do something in a proper match.
I felt overwhelmed and played ‘tight’ for the first few minutes. After that I played ok, getting a dozen touches in the 25 minutes I was on the pitch. I played a few decent passes, including the one that eventually led to our equaliser. We went through to the next round of the Cup 1-2 on aggregate.
I thought my average performance might send me back to the reserves. But I was still on the bench for the next league match, and the one after.
Here is where I started to encounter a huge negative with BaL. Being a substitute and having to watch the match is a total chore. I’m not coping very well with it at all. You can speed up the action to twice the normal speed, but it still makes for tedious minutes spent doing nothing at all. CPU vs CPU action contains little or no incidental entertainment value for me. It’s like watching a demo game on a screen in a shop. Maybe this won’t be an issue after my player matures and earns a regular starting place, and as I become more identified with my team(s), of course.
I didn’t come on at all in that in the first league match—very frustrating, that—but I did come on in the second. This time I was brought on as a CMF, which is currently my preferred position. As CMF I seem to play an active role in nearly every type of play. I can drop deep, push forward, hang wide, or I can just stick to the official position and let play develop towards me. I thought I had a decent game and it ended 0-0.
Next up was the mid-season negotiation period. Aston Villa made a bid for me, and I accepted the offer. I was feeling frustrated about being a substitute at Man City, and thought I might have a better chance of playing more games at Villa. It was a big old NOOB error on my part. Because, of course, at Villa I had to start all over again in the reserves…