Month: September 2009

Goodbye Rubio Tuesday

Yesterday morning I completed season 2012 in my Master League career on the Xbox 360 version of PES6. I finished the season totally empty-handed. I was hoping to get a Treble in my last few days with the game before FIFA10’s arrival, but it wasn’t to be. I didn’t win a single thing in the end.

First I was knocked out of the D1 Cup in the semi-finals. That was at the hands of London FC. Then I was knocked out of the European Cup, also in the semi-finals. That was also at the hands of London FC… After the two Cups were gone, something in me just died. I was in 3rd place in the title race, and only 5 points off 1st with several games left, but I started playing loosely. I fell away badly and missed out on the title by some distance in the end.

Here’s the final league table:

PES6-2012-table

And so it’s goodbye to PES6(360). Probably. If FIFA10 is a total disaster then I’ll start playing PES6 again until PES2010 puts in an appearance.

I’ve really, really, really enjoyed my time with PES6(360). I picked up the game for £2 at the start of August. I’ve had almost exactly two months of mostly blissful PES gaming. True, there were downs as well as ups. There are good reasons why this game isn’t generally placed alongside PES3 and PES5 in the top tier of great PES games.

Those reasons prevent PES6(360) from being my personal footballing Game of the Year. There’s the lack of Editing, for one thing. The comparative clunkiness of some of the animations and physics, for another. Overall the gameplay is as deep as any old-school PES game, but it does have a provisional, ad hoc kind of feel that betrays its status as the first stab at PES on a new generation of consoles.

I became very attached to my Master League squad. That always helps. Most of them were only slightly above-average players. I had very few out-and-out stars—just Mathieu and Schwarz, really. Most of the others were either seasoned old pros or promising young players.

I also had Rubio at right back. Again. I’ve ended up with Rubio at right back in every PES since 2006, on every platform, PS2, PSP, PS3, and now Xbox 360. Will he pop up at right back again for me in PES2010? Of course he will. I’ll end up getting Schwarz again too. Bradley. Mathieu. They’ll all be there. I’m looking forward to seeing them all again.

It’s been a memorable couple of months for me and PES6(360). It’s reshaped my whole football game outlook. It could turn out to be the game that saved PES for me.

I think it’s appropriate for me to give PES6(360) a final review-style score. In my one-year reviews I gave PES2009 and FIFA09 6.5/10 and 8.5/10 respectively. In its two-month review, I’m giving PES6(360) a very healthy 8/10 final mark. I’m tempted towards an 8.5 or even a 9, but I’m being sensible. I have to see the infatuation in context. I was totally parched for quality PES action for so many months before PES6(360) came along. And it even stimulated me to go back and revisit PES2009 for a few matches, something I never mentioned on the blog (because all the game-hopping is confusing enough already).

And now, there’s the little matter of FIFA10 to contend with. You don’t have to read between the lines of my recent posts to tell that I’m in my most pro-PES state of mind for a long, long time. ‘Pro-PES’ doesn’t necessarily connote ‘anti-FIFA’, of course. But it’s amazing just how often they’re found together.

FIFA10 should—fingers crossed—be with me Thursday morning. I had the dispatch confirmation email from GAME.co.uk on Tuesday evening. All being well, Friday’s post will cover my first 24 hours with FIFA10.

Thursday October 1st, @14.40: The bugger didn’t arrive! First time in 3 years that I haven’t had a GAME preorder at least 1 day before release. It seems most other preorderers didn’t get their games either. Bleedin’ Royal Mail and their strike action. Ah well. I’ve felt tempted this afternoon to go into town and walk around looking for somewhere to sell early, but decided against it. It’s not a sure thing, and even if I found somewhere I’d only get a few extra hours on the game now. It’s not worth spending £50 quid on (£40 for the game plus the £10 for the inevitable taxi ride home…) Assuming FIFA10 does arrive tomorrow (it’ll be a torrid day on the forums if the postal strike banjaxes the deliveries for another day), my Friday blog entry will not now appear until late in the afternoon/early evening. I want a few hours with the game before committing to some  first impressions. My post traditionally arrives around noon or 1pm on a Friday. Remember the days when the post would come before anyone had even got out of bed..?

The fairytale finished

My chance for a Treble in PES6(360) is gone. I got knocked out of the D1 Cup in the semi-final. With FIFA10 about to herald the (probable) end of my Indian summer with PES6 this year, I had hoped to tie things up neatly. Maybe it would have been too perfect to finish with a PES6 Treble just before FIFA10—too much of a fairytale finish.

Whatever, I won’t have time now to try again. At least this leaves the door open for a return to unfinished business with PES6, should the need arise. Maybe next summer? Who knows.

The Treble fell through my grasp over the course of two matches. First I lost ground in the race for the league title. With 6 matches left in the season I was 2 points behind the leaders, Man Utd. My opponents were London FC. (There is no team editing in PES6 on the 360.)

I went 1-0 up in the first few minutes—thanks to a lame rebound goal, but I was prepared to take it. I knew this was going to be a tough game. The top teams in PES6(360) are tough, as they should be.

Taking the lead in a Master League game against a tough team can be a bad move to make. The supercharged AI that I like to call God Mode promptly kicked in. I watched in horror as my players passed to the wrong men, failed to dribble more than two yards, and shot at bizarre angles into the skies.

Somehow I avoided conceding. In the 76th minute, mopping up after another London FC attack, I played a routine pass out of defence. It was from my RB up to my right-sided AMF. Totally routine. There were no other players anywhere nearby. I aimed directly at my AMF and tapped pass. The pass shot off at 45 degrees straight to the feet of a CPU attacker thirty yards away. A few seconds later the ball was in the back of my net. I was furious. I never reload in order to get a different result, but boy was I tempted.

I checked the league table and saw Man Utd were now 4 points ahead. With 5 matches left. In Master League, if the human player’s team is near the top and challenging, the race is rarely over until the last game. We all know what I’m saying here. Let’s not look too closely, eh? Suffice to say that I would still probably find myself playing for title in the last match. The Treble was still alive.

But not for long. My next match was the second leg of the D1 Cup semi-final. My opponents were… London FC. The first leg at my ground had finished 0-0. At London FC’s ground the match was one of the tightest I’ve ever played in PES. 90 minutes passed with a few chances for both sides. I felt confident of scoring in extra time. In the last minute of the first period of extra time, London FC got a decent goal. No complaints from me. I defended badly. 1-0 to London FC was the final score. I was out of the Cup.

Disappointed? God,  yes. It’s a measure of the roots PES6(360) has put down with me that I was actually distraught.

I’ll finish this season. I’ve still got the title race to complete, and I’m still in the European Cup. There’s a very worthy Double up for grabs. I’ll post how it all turned out in Wednesday’s post, which should be a fond farewell to PES6(360). FIFA10 willing, of course.

What’s the Mathieu with FIFA10?

So I’m on a mission to win a Treble in my PES6(360) Master League career before FIFA10 gets here next week. Both of the imminent games, FIFA10 and PES2010, are casting huge reverse shadows over my current football gaming. It almost doesn’t feel real. It’s like those weird few days in between Christmas and New Year—all hazy and provisional. Not proper at all.

But I’m getting on with it. And PES6(360) still feels worthwhile.

It’s just after the mid-season negotiations in season 2012. I’m 2 points off the top of the league. I think I’ve done well to get this far playing with a pretty average squad.

My goalkeeper is some geezer called Pyatov. My back four are Kobayashi, Jacobsen, Kruger, and Rubio. I have Mathieu as DMF—he’s my star player. My two AMFs are Wilhelmson and Aissati. My main strikers are Mamadou Diallo, Bojinov, and Kim Cyun Hi.

In those mid-season negotiations I gave my squad a boost by signing Bradley and Schwarz. I then won a HUGE match against the league leaders, Man Utd. It was one of those matches where you focus and make sure of every pass, every tackle. I missed the few decent chances I created and feared the worst. Then I finally got a scrappy goal late in the game, and closed it out 1-0.

PES6-360-Euro-table

I got the points I needed in my European Cup group to qualify in second place behind Arsenal. They’re the toughest team to play against in the whole game. I think PES6 was in development just after the real-life Arsenal’s unbeaten league season. Getting a point against them was one of the toughest tasks I’ve had on PES6. (Just this morning I met them in the league, in another massive game, and they beat me 0-1. A huge setback in the title race. It’s looking dodgy now.)

I should reach the end of the season sometime over the weekend. If I don’t win the Treble, I don’t think I’ll have time to try again.

Over the past few days I’ve also returned to the FIFA10 demo. After keeping away from the PES2010 demo for a few days, I expected to start liking the FIFA10 one. And as I fired it up, I had this portion of today’s post all sketched out in my mind: “Ahhh, what a game FIFA10 is when you give it a chance, when you play it as it’s meant to be played…”

It just didn’t happen. The players seemed to skate around the pitch. They lacked weight and momentum. Somehow I was unpleasantly reminded of FIFA2005—the last of the really bad old FIFAs. I button-mashed and sprint-clamped and did The Claw and got away with it. I think online play is going to be particularly horrific this year. There was a seeming lack of real depth to the general gameplay. It was all a lot of aimless tussling to get to a few scattered moments of quality.

It’s obvious what’s happened. At some point over the past month or two I have reprogrammed myself to love PES and only PES again. It’s not all PES6(360) that’s done this. I have loved the PES2010 demo too, and cannot wait for the full game.

I hope I’m wrong about FIFA10. This is just a 3-minute demo. It’s like judging a symphony based on the opening few notes. I’ve seen and felt the greatness of next-gen FIFA’s gameplay too often over the past two years. I’ve seen FIFA10’s ecstatic early reviews. But next-gen PES2008 showed us that, for many reasons, bad football games can get good reviews. There’s a nagging disquiet about FIFA10 in the back of my mind that won’t go away.

Beware of The Claw

The countdown to FIFA10 has begun. Including today’s post, I’ve got one, two, three, four posts left until it arrives.

After FIFA10’s arrival I hope and expect to be drooling all over it. I really liked the demo to begin with, but then I felt underwhelmed by it. A 3-minute match isn’t the greatest display case for the new FIFA gameplay. I believe the full game will feel different, and I believe it will astonish me.

In the meantime, I’ve got just over a week left with the Xbox 360 version of PES6. I want to win a Treble with my Master League team before the end.

Current state of play: I’m halfway through season 2012. My team, PES United (editing on this version is virtually non-existent), is two points off the top of Division 1. I’ve got a decent chance of the title.

I’m still in the D1 Cup. With a 3-0 aggregate lead in the quarter-final, I should make the semi-final easily.

The European Cup is more delicately poised. I lost my opening two group games 0-1 in ludicrous fashion (imagine a typical PES tale of woe here). I won my next two, but it’s still looking dodgy. I think I will need 4 points from my last two games to be sure of progressing to the next stage. The Treble is definitely there for the taking, but I could easily blow it.

If I do fall at any of the hurdles, I’d only have time for one more season. After next week I can’t see myself picking up PES6(360) again.

The gameplay seems a bit crude after playing so much of the PES2010 demo. Which I’m still playing, despite saying I’d give up. I can’t resist having two or three quick goes on it every time I boot up the console.

I really like the cut of PES2010’s jib, if that hasn’t been made clear. This is the best PES I’ve played in years. It’s got its problems. But I have become convinced (perhaps mistakenly, I cheerfully admit) that its much-discussed response-lag is a user input issue. People are playing it as if it’s just another bog-standard PES game. It’s not. I’m sure there are some gnarly animations going on in there, but the ‘stuck ball’ phenomenon and the delayed shooting phenomenon are both down to button mashing IMO.

I’m talking in particular about the PES Claw, a.k.a. sprint-clamping. The Claw has two versions, one for attack, one for defence. Here’s a nice picture of the defensive PES Claw in action:

The PES Claw

That finger and thumb are both exerting MANY pounds of pressure on R1, Square, and X. At times you can hear the joypad creaking like a wooden ship in stormy seas. The attacking version of The Claw sees the death-grip on Square+X being released, of course. But that forefinger stays lovingly wrapped around R1.

I’m convinced there’s a penalty for doing this in PES2010, and that penalty is an apparent response lag. This is easily tested. For the last few days I’ve barely touched R1 in PES2010. I’ve not seen any response lag at all. Not even one instance of it.

Admittedly it’s not just PES that gets The Claw treatment. FIFA, sadly, as anyone who played FIFA09 (online or offline) can testify, seems designed with The Claw specifically in mind. On Professional and lower difficulty levels in FIFA09, The Claw is a guaranteed possession-winner 95% of the time.

The reason why The Claw is a staple of football gaming is because it works. Keeping that forefinger on sprint keeps your players hustling and bustling, zipping the ball around, making chances, bamboozling your opponents. After all these years players subconsciously assume that it will go on working, and they (we, I, me) insist upon using it (or minor variants thereof). In PES6(360), I find myself doing The Claw just as much as I ever did. In PES2010, I have found myself forced to stop.

I know, I know. The deal with PES2010’s response lag is its dodgy animations, and I am amusingly mistaken. Probably.

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