Breaking the spell

My belated infatuation with FIFA09 was never going to last at such a high intensity. It’s been an unforgettable, eye-opening few weeks, but a healthy splash of realism has hit me.

I went and had a few games of FIFA09 online. Oh dear. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. FIFA09 online is a terrible game.

Everybody pressures everybody for the full 90 minutes without suffering any consequence. So much for the fatigue model. I turned up intending to play a patient passing game, and did so for a while. But after a while, my good intentions went out of the window. I started pressuring all the time as well. What choice do you have if you want to compete?

This has happened to me before on FIFA09. Even when up against somebody who wants, in theory, to play a ‘proper’ passing game, by degrees you both end up exerting more and more pressure, eventually both strangling the controller in a death-grip (Sprint+Secondary Pressure+Tackle) until the game is just like every other game of FIFA09 online.

I confess that I only went online to play FIFA09 because I wanted to see what it would feel like to score a ‘floater’ goal in an online match against another person. And I scored one in my very first match.

My opponent was Barcelona, naturally. I chose Manchester United. I always let the other player choose the teams, and I always make a point of choosing a similar team to theirs. I’m not one of these Accrington Stanley heroes.

Twenty minutes into the first half, I got the ball with Cristiano Ronaldo out on the right wing. I was in the golden spot where I’d scored all my other floaters from. I had a bit of space (somehow), and aimed, pulled the triggers, and shot… The ball flew as fast and true as anything, sailing over the keepers head into the opposite corner of the net. A picture-book goal from all of 40 yards. My opponent watched the replay with me. I wonder what he made of it. Or are these goals as common as muck online in FIFA09? I don’t think they are, somehow.

I had a few more games. Maybe 5 in total. All but one opponent chose Barcelona. The one who didn’t choose Barcelona chose Monaco, pleasingly, and I reciprocated by choosing Le Mans. Sadly, he turned out to be just another pressurising runner. That’s all FIFA09 is online, really, when it comes right down to it: pressurising, and running.

This is the game that’s been played online 10 billion times, or whatever it is? Good grief. All I can say is that its players must have Popeye-sized forearms from all the controller-strangling they must do.

FIFA09 offline I’d still say is a satisfying 9/10 game of football. FIFA09 online is a tedious 2/10 game of ‘who’s best at squeezing their controller’. Nice lag-free experience; shame about the game. I hate it and will never play it online again at all.

After all that it was a struggle to get back to any semblance of normality offline. I played a few more games in my Atletico Madrid Manager Mode career. I was unable to recapture the heights of a few days ago. Having had the awful, grinding gameplay of online rubbed in my face, it was difficut to find the beautiful game again. I did rediscover it, eventually, but I’m not as smitten with FIFA09 as I was a few days ago. Instead I’m back on a more healthier, even keel.

I’ve removed the Monster Hunter Freedom Unite UMD from my PSP for the first time in a week. I’ve put in the PES2008(PSP) UMD, and taken my Master League team out for a spin. I was struggling with them last time I played this career. Now? After a few weeks of FIFA09? I’ll tell all next week now. There’s some other business first…

Because another old-school PES game has seen some action again. I’m talking about PES3. Three. I don’t really know why either. I’ll tell all on Friday.


  1. I despise online play and I have no idea how people manage to play it exclusively with most of the games they play. Every game I have played online has been full of dull boring gameplay often with the opponents exploiting some kind of glitch or loophole in the game. If I want to play multiplayer I will play against mates in the same room, not randoms from around the world. Unfortunately I am in the minority with this view

  2. You’re not alone with that view. The only time i’ll play online is against people I know. Every one else i’ve played seems to be a complete tool (no offence those who play online).

  3. stinger—I’ve given up on online play for good, I think. If FIFA10/PES2010 turn out to be great online games of football (with fatigue models that work), I’m sure I’ll hear about it. The thing that gets me about playing football games online is even when I’ve played arranged games against somebody who wants, in theory, to play passing, measured football as well, both of us by degrees ended up lapsing into the usual, dismal, pressurising, 100mph game. I don’t think it can be helped. The games are calibrated that way.

  4. Liam—there’s plenty who love the online scene in general, and football games online in particular. I’ve got nothing against it in principle. It’s the unfortunate reality of online play that appals me! Possibly the only pure game that can still be played online the way its meant to be played is the very first game I ever played online, many years ago: chess.

  5. PES “used to shine” on multiplayer. That’s how you know it was a great game. When the same is so realistic, another human will have to comply with its realism. As I said, instead of expanding on simulation (ball physics, 360 movement, animations) EA should have fixed its hardcoded lack of tactical depth… scoring similar goals… etc…

  6. So at risk of being an anti-FIFA guy, in other words, you enjoyed the game because you chose to play a realistic passing game. It was a choice you made. A great game leaves you no choice but to play realistically and enjoy it…. like PES6 for instance… PES5 of course… and the best of all WE9LE (the Korean game that showed up between PES5 and PES6)

  7. TareX wrote:

    “A great game leaves you no choice but to play realistically and enjoy it”

    TareX—that might be the magic formula in a nutshell, for PES, for FIFA, for all sports games. Old-school PES compelled a realistic approach to the game (or so it seemed to us at the time). Next-gen FIFA online is pretty horrific, but offline, yes, it does force you to play the patient passing game that I’ve come to love over the past month.

  8. I have to disagree about the PES being realistic. Has anyone played PES6 or even the beloved 5 recently? It’s insanely fast, the same old tactics work (run down wing, cut in, shoot) with good players and it’s arcade football at it’s greatest. The only reason anyone thought it was realistic at the time was because how ludicrous FIFA played at that stage, with it’s goals from the half way line (something people are still doing online on FIFA 09). Make no mistake PES 5 and 6 are arcade football played at lightning end to end speed.

  9. I have to agree with Not-Given, the old school PES’s weren’t quite the pinnacle of brilliance we all make them out to be. They were fantastic fun thats for sure but if you look back on them now the game was never as slow as we now all want it to be.

    Next-gen FIFA has given us a taste of something far greater and when you go back and compare it to what we used to idolise so much they are not as perfect as they seemed. That is not to say they are bad games, I think us long-term football game players who have been around since PES first burst onto the scene have grown up along with the games and now want something different to what we enjoyed even 3-4 years ago.

    We have to remember that there are still those out there who enjoy PES2008 and 2009 as much as any of us enjoyed PES 4, 5 and 6 but I’d be willing to be that 99% of them haven’t been playing PES games since they first began.

  10. I’m probably one of the exception’s as i’ve been playing the series since the first international superstar soccer on the super nintendo and I still get a lot of satisfaction from pes 2009. It’s not as addictive as the older games, and there are less of those “pro evo moments” but it’s still a very very good game. I think the main problem is for most people is that it hasn’t improved at a quick enough pace.

    Not-greg, i finished my first default only season last night. I lost the d2 cup final and first place to zenit, but after going unbeaten in the league since just before the transfer window, i’m delighted to say i got promoted! 5 minute games.

    Gutierrez got the golden boot with 11 goals and him and foque have had the biggest improvement in stats at 3 each. Have won 2 out of 2 in division 1 so far (even castello has scored) but now fatigue is gonna settle in, and one of those games was against another promoted team.

  11. Im not a fan of online football. You do always (as you rightly point out) end up playing as one of 2 teams. Its pathetic. No one enjoys playing the game for the sake of playing…….its all about the win. which in this day and age is an all to regular occurence.
    To combat this, my friends and I regularly meet for massive multiplayer sessions in a league format. 7 of us, 7 best Pes teams in a hat. 42 games over an 8 hour or so session. Throw in a plethora of beers and you’ve got yourself a fun ol time. This is what multiplayer should be. The kiddies can keep their sprinting Barcelona v United matches……not for me.
    Keep up the good work……no pressure, but as well as downloading both demos when they arrive, i will also be loosely basing my game choice on your thoughts and musings. Dont let me down ha ha

  12. Not Given—I did say ‘at the time’, and I do think at the time we all thought PES was realistic. And even now there are times when I think it plays a great, measured game of football. It’s when the gameplay deteriorates into the 100mph pinball game that I see all too clearly how arcadey PES is and always has been. It took next-gen FIFA to give us that view. Imagine going back in time, 4 or 5 years, and telling the PES community back then everything that’s happened over the past few years! You’d be burned as a witch.

    p.s. How have you got on with FIFA08?

  13. stinger—maybe old PES is a bit like old TV shows. There was a time when Doctor Who was everything to me. No TV show could be better. Now? Now I see it as a kids show and can’t watch it.

    Despite what the last few posts might suggest I’m still playing FIFA09 every day—offline of course, as God intended football games to be played.

    After next-gen FIFA, nothing can be the same again. PES2010 has got to blatantly steal FIFA08’s biggest and best idea: SLOW gameplay, no matter how much the kids cry. And that’s teh crux of the matter, really: will Konami have the balls to put out a PES2010 that’s against the grain of all its predecessors?

    I know all the previews have said the gameplay IS slow, but I still think Konami will have sped it up in the months of development time since those previews, and we’ll get something close to the speed of PES2008 and PES2009. (Even EA lost their bottle on the gamespeed front, as FIFA09 shows.)

    I still think the speed in that notorious ‘cubicle guy’ video IS going to be the speed of PES2010! I will be deliriously happy to be proved wrong. Only a few weeks before we find out.

  14. Liam—I still have a fondness for PES2009, as my posts from roughly last November, and at other times all year, show. I think we’re both in a minority really, and most people who despised PES2008 feel the same, more or less, about PES2009. One thing’s for sure: another PES2009, i.e. just a decent PES game, won’t do. There’s a hell of a lot riding on PES2010 and we’re all waiting with bated breath. It’s tense.

    Your persistence with those Default players is admirable, I don’t know how you’re doing it. I played a few matches in PES3’s Master League the other day (today’s post) and the Default players are superb, particularly Castolo—it was good to remind myself of the Castolo myth’s origins. I think Konami did the right thing making them all extremely poor in the latter PESes, though. You can’t get rid of them soon enough now.

  15. Phil—I’m really finished with online football for good. I only went on the other night to see if I could score one of my ‘floater’ goals, and I did, and now I’ve done it and that’s that. I wash my hands of the whole dirty business. Unless I hear definite noises that FIFA10/PES2010 online have changed radically, I’ll never bother again.

    Oh, and thanks a lot for that at the end there. Brilliant. Now I’ll be even more paranoid come October… Well, on your own head be it—I think you’ve seen how much my views can change over the course of just a few days. I will be a lot more careful this year than last though.

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