Month: August 2009

Not switching to manual just yet, thanks

Today brings my shortest post in a while. I’ll be back to posting thousand-word walls of text before too long. Right now we’re very much in the ‘phoney war’ phase of the football game year. There’s lots of talk and lots of bluster from various sources, but nothing concrete to get your teeth into.

A week on Thursday there’ll be some answers in the form of the FIFA10 demo. It’ll be a good demo, but I suspect there’ll be more questions raised after it. PES2010 has certainly got the banners raised among the long-suffering PES community. A rather premature sense of jubilation is taking hold, but I still have a queasy feeling about PES2010. I almost wish it was November already and the discovery phase was behind us. I just want to know.

Recently I’ve been talking about how I seemed unable to play FIFA09 any more. This followed a heady few weeks on the Xbox 360 version of PES6. I found myself unable to get back into FIFA09, and blamed my time with the PES game for ‘deprogramming’ me. I had come to regard FIFA09 quite highly, possibly more highly than at any time all year. My sudden inability to play it was as puzzling as it was distressing.

Well—duh, as they say. Just yesterday I found out that I’d left the shooting setting on manual. A few weeks ago I tried out manual shooting to see how I liked it. I forgot to change the setting back to my preferred setting of semi-assisted, which I see as the best of both worlds. When I was unable to play and enjoy FIFA09 the way I’d got used to playing and enjoying it, it was because I’d fundamentally changed the game by leaving the shooting on manual without realising it.

I plan to go full manual on FIFA10 at some stage. It’s the logical thing to do after playing fully assisted on FIFA08, and semi-assisted on FIFA09. But not just yet. I’m not quite ready.

I changed the setting back to semi-assisted, and now everything is fine. Well, nearly fine. I still am seeing FIFA09’s faults a little too clearly, but I’ve also mostly re-settled back into the good groove I was in recently.

Barring the unthinkable scenario of both 2010 games being turkeys, these are my last sessions on FIFA09. I might still play it after September 10th, but I might not. I’d love to take my Atletico Madrid career in Manager Mode to some kind of conclusion. A league title would be nice; a Double or Treble would be fantastic.

In my current season I’m nowhere near the title, but I am in Europe thanks to last season’s Cup win. I met Juventus in an early round and lost the first leg at their place 2-1. That away goal was so vital. In the return leg at my ground it was 0-0 until the 80th minute. Then I fed the ball to Pavlyuchenko on the edge of the Juventus box, and smacked the ball into the top corner. It felt damn good.

Link: Winning goal vs Juventus FIFA09

2010 fatigue

It had to happen. Last week was a Gamescom orgy of wallowing in PES/FIFA forums and websites. I watched every video that appeared. I followed all the discussions and arguments down every path. Now? This week? I’m not so bothered. I’m like a kid who’s eaten too many sweets. When I think of PES2010 and FIFA10 right now, it’s with a certain weariness. So I have a feeling that I will be able to wait after all.

It’s all the Internet’s fault. Just a few years ago, games magazines were the primary source for previews and advance news. I don’t remember anything like the fevered speculation of today. Sites like WENB and FSB and PES Gaming et al either didn’t exist or were still at a bedroom-hobby level (like this site). No PES fan ever doubted that they were going to go out and get PES on release day and it was going to be brilliant, and we were all going to laugh at FIFA as usual. That was the way of the world. Anything else was literally inconceivable (the main reason that PES2008 effectively got a free pass when it first appeared).

The Internet was around, but it didn’t have anything like its current profile. It didn’t have the baleful influence it has on PES development today. I bet Seabass sits around at night and curses the Internet.

So, I’m not bothered about waiting for the 2010 games. They’ll come when they’ll come. What am I still playing? The answer is, not much. I’ve got 2009 fatigue as well. There seems little point in extending any of my careers on the 2009 games. I’d fire up my PSP PES2008 Master League career, but the handheld is occupied by another great Japanese gaming passion of mine, Monster Hunter Freedom Unite.

I have played several session of FIFA09 on the 360 over the past few days. I’ve ruined FIFA09 by spending those few weeks with PES6. During my purple patch with FIFA09—about 6 weeks ago now—I’d almost swear I was playing the greatest football game ever made. Now? Now I see all too clearly everything bad that any PES-schooled player has ever said about it. The main one being: you can’t score satisfying goals in FIFA09. This frustrates me even more now, because I regard it as something I’d largely disproved (if only to myself). I was belting them in from everywhere, using semi-manual shooting too. (Not as hardcore as full manual, but still harder core than all the lame-o online sprint-clamping assisted noobs, oh yeah…)

Here, once again, is a short compilation I made at the time of all my best FIFA09 goals. It’s now had the music removed, after Sevenload ‘did a YouTube’ and blocked the old version with The Smiths soundtrack:

Link: FIFA09 goals nomusic

Those were great days. FIFA09 played in its way on its own terms is one great game of football. Definitely the best football game on next-gen—so far.

But now I’m almost  back to square one with FIFA09. I’m frustratedly air-shooting my way through 0-0 after 0-0, wondering what happened to my golden spell. What happened was that I went and played PES for a week or two, and that undid all the good work with FIFA09.

This teaches me a harsh lesson, one that I’ve already learned lots of times over the past two years, but don’t want to face up to. I cannot really play both games and get the best out of both games. No man can serve two masters. There could be some hard choices to come for me in season 2010.

This will rock you

I’m still playing a bit of PES6 on the 360. After a dip last week, it’s back on the rise again. I have found that it does not do to mix football games. I cannot switch easily between PES and FIFA and back again. It nullifies everything that is good about both games, because I automatically try to transpose what works in one game into the other, and it doesn’t work. The two games’ rhythms are totally different.

I might have one last tilt at FIFA09 throughout September. As FIFA10 draws near, I’ll allow FIFA09 to quietly expire with honour. FIFA09 was the best football game of season 2008-2009. No, I didn’t play it as much even as PES2009, but that’s my PES background for you.

Speaking of PES background (segue alert), I played some PES2 the other day. I’m still putting my repaired PlayStation3 through its paces. And I was interested to see what the old game would be like anyway.

I sat through PES2’s famous We Will Rock You intro with the hairs standing up on the back of my neck. Here it is in full.

Link: PES2 Intro

Back in 2002-2003 I watched this intro all the way through nearly every time I played PES2. It was part of my gaming ritual.

It’s packed with moments that make me smile in remembrance, and freeze with the kind of regretful nostalgia for the recent past that suddenly comes over you in your 30s (believe me). When the words ‘Pro Evolution Soccer 2’ first appear on screen, and the guitar kicks in; when the penalty kick is hit up the middle of a muddy goal, and the diving keeper futilely kicks his leg at it; when Batistuta spins around with his arms outstretched as the camera follows; and so many more moments—it’s just the eeriest feeling. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up, I get goosebumps, the works.

How does the actual game stand up, 7 years later? Pretty good, actually. I played a full match on 2* difficulty, just to get a feel for the passing and shooting. I won 5-1. (How did I concede that goal? Scripting, that’s how…) Granted, the handling feels quite primitive even in comparison to its successor, PES3. In my opinion PES2 is closer in the family tree to the old ISS games than to the later PES ones.

Another moment of nostalgia came after I scored a goal and watched the replay accompanied by that music—the cheesey, chintzy, Europop synth music. It also plays over the end-of-game highlights. I recorded those, with a manly tear in my eye:

Link: PES2 highlights

Beckham’s goal at 0:25 (he’s got his old Mohican!) is pure ISS in terms of animation and execution. Just a year later PES3 would be a whole new ball game, the first ‘proper’ PES title in my opinion. Hmmm. The third title on the then-new PS2 hardware… Does that bode well for PES2010? Probably not, but that won’t stop me waiting and hoping. Despite the disappointments of the past few years, PES is still very much in credit on my balance sheet.


I’ve placed my FIFA10 pre-order, with some reservations. The Gamescom videos were totally underwhelming. I almost wish I hadn’t seen them. They were just too fast. The football on show was boring and ugly (an ‘online football’ style was the order of the day). And there were no long-distance shots or goals. The solitary distance goal I’ve seen so far (a pretty darn special one too) came in PES2010.

Still, the various write-ups from hands-on previewers have told me enough to make me put in that pre-order. WENB’s current podcast featuring the Finnish games journalist known as Riot was a very intriguing listen. It whetted my appetite for PES2010 and FIFA10. It was amazing hearing the self-confessed jaded lifelong gamer describe how FIFA10 has got under his skin. EA will be getting forty quid from me again this year.

I still haven’t put in my PES2010 pre-order. I was very tempted to place the order, especially after hearing Riot’s thoughts. I have warmed to PES2010 a lot since the shock of those first videos last Wednesday. I like some of the videos where the slower gameplay is clearly visible, and it excites me. That sounds like a pervy thing for a grown man to say about a computer game, but it’s true. God help me, it’s true.

I know I’ll end up getting PES2010 and everybody who reads this blog knows I’ll end up getting it too. So the non-ordering thing is pretty pointless. Maybe I just need to believe that I’m being difficult with Konami this year.

The Great Gamescom Enigma

In Friday’s post I queried the lack of long-range goal attempts in any of the PES2010 and FIFA10 videos coming out of Gamescom. I actually wrote the post on the Thursday, one day into Gamescom. I thought that by the time the post was published, it would make me look slightly foolish. I was certain that we would be awash in 35-yard screamers by then.

Even after it was published and there were still no long-range shots or goals, I was sure it was only a matter of time. Somebody would have a go sooner or later, surely? Even if it was just for a laugh, or by accident, somebody would let loose from outside the box. Right?

Well… Gamescom is over and I do believe we never saw a single long-range effort, never mind an actual goal. (I can’t have seen every video. So I stand ready and more than willing to be corrected.)

Am I alone in thinking this is really, really, REALLY weird? Hundreds of people sampled both games. Many of them—probably most of them—will have picked up a football game at some point in their lives. And yet they all chose to play what I think of as ‘online football’—direct, always sprinting, and always trying either to create one-on-ones or work the ball into the box (preferably the 6-yard box) before risking a shot on goal.

This approach, amazingly, made up 100% of the tactics on display in all the videos I saw. Nobody worked the space for a shot from distance and then took the shot. Nobody. Whenever anybody did create space (by accident), they ignored it and carried on trying to walk the ball into the net.

I saw one solitary goal scored from the edge of the box. It came about via the trusty old PES manoeuvre of pulling a 180-turn on the wing and then sprinting inside, parallel to the 18-yard line, to create the chance before shooting across the keeper. It wasn’t the kind of long-range goal I mean. This is more like the kind of thing I mean:

Link: Mathieu PES6 Xbox360

That’s me playing PES6 on the Xbox 360 the other day. It’s not a particularly special goal. In PES, it’s a fairly common type of goal. That kind of opportunity is straightforward to create on PES and always has been. The effectiveness of the first-time shot from distance can vary from PES to PES, but the underlying framework is always in place. You can always do it.

But nobody did it, or anything remotely like it, in hundreds of games over the whole of Gamescom. (Assuming the couple of dozen videos in circulation are a representative sample.)  Nobody did it on FIFA10 either, but at least FIFA has the excuse of not being noted for its long-range shooting in recent years. PES has no such excuse. Exquisite and explosive long-range shooting practically built PES.

It’s a mystery that will now never get solved. I will always wonder. When I go to next year’s event, I might get my answer.


POSTSCRIPT, added 25 August

At last, we have a long-range goal. Thanks to commenter BlueChampion for the tip-off. His £20 prize is already on its way*.

Link: PES2010 Gamescom long ranger

What a beauty that is—struck whilst running sideways too. At the end a player can be heard saying something in German that sounds a lot like “Who’d have thought it?” Exactly, mein freund. Exactly.

Seeing this gorgeous long-ranger comes as a relief, but now I’ve just got to ask: why was there only one long-range goal at Gamescom…..?

*not actually true