I can feel the soil falling over my head

A bad couple of games on PES2009’s Become A Legend, and a bad little run on FIFA09’s Manager Mode. At this moment I hate both of them. It’s been a bad few days for me and my football games.

In BaL, I’m starting to believe that I really picked the wrong position to play from the start. Even as an AMF in the Tottenham midfield (licensed to goal-hang, in other words), the games often just pass me by.

I still go through distinct phases with BaL. Phases of disliking it, liking it a bit, liking it a lot, and then thinking it’s the greatest game mode ever. I’m somewhere between dislike and like at the moment. I’ve played enough of BaL now to know that I’ve just got to play a few more games and I’ll probably be back in the adoration stage of the cycle.

In FIFA09’s Manager Mode the sheer sameness of the matches is starting to grate. I’m talking nails-on-a-blackboard kind of grate… I don’t know how long I can go on. After a while I barely notice which teams I’m playing against. Every single match is played in bright sunshine, one after the other, in an unending, grinding fashion. League, Cup, League Cup , Europe—every single match kicks off in the middle of a sunlit, golden afternoon. Sometimes there’s a cloud in the sky, but even then you only see it in substitution cut-scenes.

Reportedly, EA omitted night-time matches and weather effects from Manager Mode in FIFA09 because having them would have been ‘inconsistent’. The problem they faced was that some stadia in the game weren’t coded with night matches and/or weather. So what was EA’s solution?

Was their solution:

a) Let the stadia that did have the capability to host night matches and weather in Manager Mode have night matches and weather in Manager Mode, and allow the ones that didn’t have them to just not have them, and leave it at that.

or

b) Force daytime sunlit matches on every stadium in the entire mode, all the time.

The good folk at EA—otherwise so sure-footed in this console generation—went with b). Brilliant!

And to cap it all: in one of those loading screen Q&A things, I saw Notts County referred to as Nott’s County. I’ve been on the Internet long enough not to get upset by misplaced apostrophes, but this one made me want to burst into tears.

And soon after this, I saw Bolton Wanderers called the Bolton Wanderers… No, no, no, no, no. If I was a different kind of ‘net denizen, I’d have that Captain Picard facepalm picture right here.

The way I feel right now, 360-degree dribbling and all of FIFA10’s other bells and whistles can just go and be damned. If Manager Mode doesn’t have night matches and weather (and a better transfer system), it’s not going to happen for me. I mean it. I really don’t care if the core gameplay is made in heaven by angels. There’s got to be a single-player game mode that’s worth playing over at least a couple of months, or it’s pointless.

It’s a startling truth that I’ve spent almost my entire time on FIFA09 this year just ‘making the best of it’. Getting by with scraps from Ultimate Team and Manager Mode.

And then there’s FIFA09’s distance shooting. It’s not as bad as some would make out, but it’s still not quite right. The gleeful surprise you feel when you do get one on target, or even score one, is a good sign that something is wrong.

This happens all too often:

Link: FIFA09 hitthebar AGAIN

That’s me hitting the crossbar from a shot taken about 25 yards out, from an angle. I’ve done this—hit the post/crossbar—from this kind of position, approximately 50 times in FIFA09.

If I get a throw-in roughly level with the opposition penalty area, I’ll try to work the space to take a shot from this kind of position. They’re not hard chances to make, and there’s usually time to cue up a finesse shot, as in the clip. About half the time I’ll miss badly, or send a weak shot scudding along the ground. And the other half of the time… I always hit the post or crossbar.

And I mean always. It doesn’t get saved by the keeper. It doesn’t go in. It hits the post or crossbar. Every. Single. Time.

I’m so used to hitting the post/crossbar with these kinds of shots that I rarely try them any more. I only try them occasionally in the faint hope that I might, at some point, not hit the post/crossbar—that I might actually score.

There is a programmed tendency in FIFA09 for long finesse shots from that certain area of the pitch to hit the post or crossbar, and this makes me feel stupid for playing at all. PES has its macro-level scripting, which certainly has its knockers, missus, but FIFA09’s scripted elements are arguably just as bad. Scripted hitting of the post and crossbar is just an awful, awful thing.

I’m low on motivation to play any of the football games at the moment. The way things are going, Monday’s post could be about Peggle on the DS (surprisingly great), or why Final Fantasy VII isn’t what I remember it to be (lots of RPGs under the bridge since then; Cloud is no longer a unique hero; the random battles are annoying), or why you should never, under any circumstances, put your whole poker tournament on the line to chase a gutshot straight draw (the odds, the odds)…

The way I feel now, if my PSP wasn’t occupied with FF7 I’d play my PSP PES2008 Master League career and report on that for the next week or two. I’ve just about had it with PES2009 and FIFA09 at the moment. Had it.

What has happened to football games over the past few years? It’s not just me, is it? None of them have been really great.

Some have been good, yes—FIFA08 in particular was very good—but we’re a long way from the heights reached earlier in this decade. Or am I merely donning the proverbial rose-tinted spectacles to look back on the PS2 era with such fondness and nostalgia?

Was everything really better in the old days? And if it was, what has changed?

The only thing really different about today is the higher profile of online multiplayer. I dislike online play, so I might just be picking on it for no reason here, but could it be to blame for, well, everything? Has the mass online era—which diverts time and resources from the core game, and arguably requires gameplay to be dumbed down optimised for online conditions—ruined football gaming for good?

4 Comments

  1. Disagree somewhat about gameplay being dumbed down for online play. Huge amounts of people used play PES1 – PES4/5 offline multiplayer a majority of the time, whether vs or co-op, this is no different from the gameplay when playing online. Admittedly some resources that could be spent on developing gameplay might be going towards programming the online interface. But I suspect that Konami leave it to the spotty work experience teenager its that shoddy….
    Oh and I too hate those loading screen quizzes on FIFA, the questions always seem to be either
    “How many leagues titles has (not have!) [some obscure team] won.” or
    “In what year were [some random team] established”

  2. Grilled Seabass—I played plenty of online PES4 & PES5 (PC) and found them just as deep as the offline game. In the post I was only referring to the next-gen games, and would even then only say their online components were ‘dumbed down’ tongue-in-cheek, which is why I did the crossed-out thing and said ‘optimised’ instead. Because I often say I dislike the online side of things I was slightly satirising myself too.

    I do wonder, though, if all the next-gen focus on online play has had a negative effect on offline. There’s no question in my mind that FIFA09 was and is an online-friendly instalment, and that the offline modes were skimped on. As for PES2008’s and PES2009’s online… they don’t count. I played some PES2008 online and – when it worked, for about three whole games in total – I enjoyed it, but haven’t bothered even once with PES2009 online.

  3. Do you know, i enjoyed that post immensely.
    There was something honest about it. As though it wasnt a planned rant, just your fingers typing as the words flowed from your brain. im not sure if thats true but i hope so.
    It also ties in nicely with everything i feel about the two games. Im a Pro Evo man all the way……i dont even own FIFA. Given the good things im hearing about FIFA 10, im looking forward to seeing what PES 2010 throws us in the next couple of weeks.
    I keep having the arguement with my mates (all recently turned to FIFA, forgetting their PES roots) that im not an online player, i dont get much opportunity to get online……so the single player mode has to be top draw. Thats what makes the game for me. I briefly played FIFA 09 Manager Mode and experienced the same thoughts you have. For me the Transfer System was the final straw. Kaka playing for some sh*tty team. No way. If FIFA 10 can match or improve on Master League then i may be drawn to EAs devil in disguise….COME ON KONAMI!!! show us what your made of……cheers.
    have a good weekend.

  4. Phil—it wasn’t planned as a rant at all. I knew I wanted to vent some frustration about the crossbar thing in FIFA09, and it grew from there. No doubt in due course I’ll be back happily playing BaL/FIFA09, but seriously, at the moment I can’t face them.

    I’ve been watching the slew of FIFA10 developer interview vids appearing on FSB through gritted teeth, thinking what a sheer waste the last two years has been for the all-new FIFA’s single-player game. Having said that, FIFA08’s MM seemed pretty decent and I got quite a bit of mileage out of it. But when FIFA09 appeared with an arguably WORSE Manager Mode, a blowup was always inevitable.

    Like you, it’s mainly a time thing for me and online play. Nothing against online per se, I just prefer to use what gaming time I have to play offline.

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