Month: October 2009

PES2010: first impressions

This is not a review of PES2010. This is a post entirely about my first impressions of the full game after a total of about 4 hours’ play. Over the next week I’ll post about my daily impressions of the game. I’ll award PES2010 a daily score, and keep a running average. I did a similar thing with FIFA10—its first week’s average was 8.42/10. (Call it 84%.)

What will my PES2010 score be at the end of its maiden week? Lower, higher, about the same? Right now, I couldn’t say.

I was ecstatic after my first session on FIFA10. I’d characterise my mood after the first long session on PES2010 as contented and happy, a notch or two below ecstatic. What does that signal? This early in the year-long odyssey that is a football gamer’s routine, it signals nothing. Nothing at all. FIFA10 was fresh, startling, and intoxicating, hence the ecstasy. PES2010 is a heavy dose of the football gaming style I’ve known and loved for 10 years now, hence the ‘mere’ contented happiness.

PES2010 is definitely the best PES on PS3/360. I think I can say that with confidence at least. The same wonderful heaviness and inertia of the players and the ball—most importantly the ball—is carried over from the demo. There’s also the same pleasing weightiness about the overall pace. The game does have its more frantic periods, which I don’t recall being in the demo. They took me by surprise a few times. That’s inevitable with proper match times and lots of teams, I suppose, and probably necessary for variation’s sake. And after about 8 matches I found I could largely dictate the pace anyway.

PES2010-ENG-SCO

I got the game yesterday, Wednesday, the earliest I’ve got a new PES since the year of PES4. After an all-too-brief session, I had to go out to work. That really hurt.

I only managed to play 3 matches in my traditional opening-day fixture list. I always start with England vs Scotland, the classic International match-up. I posted some brief impressions at the end of yesterday’s post.

This morning I was able to resume, and played about 9 matches. I played a few more England-Scotland games, then went straight into an International Tournament. I saved my progress there after the group games and started a Champions League tournament, playing as Fiorentina. I played only on Regular and Professional difficulties all morning. I’m not one of these straight-onto-Top-Player players. I like to keep the CPU at bay while I’m ‘moving in’ with a new game, so I have relative peace to learn its little ways.

It’s a passing game. PES was always a passing game, really, but the last two iterations took the series in another direction, encouraging fast, direct football. I think that’s still there in PES2010, but it’s far less effective. The relatively cumbersome response time system gets the thumbs-up from me (for now…) because it promotes the kind of passing game that brings out the best in PES. Receiving the ball, you have to make damn sure you’ve got it under control before looking for the next pass. I’ve already had dozens of instances where I’ve lost the ball in ways that a PES2008/9 player would regard as ‘broken’. I don’t see it that way. This is the new game, and it’s there to be learned.

On the negative side I have had several occasions where my passes were shooting off to the wrong players completely. However, I seem to have re-adapted my game to PES, and made the appropriate allowances. Misplaced passes are actually my fault for trying to make PES something it’s not (yet). It’s not FIFA, and doesn’t have FIFA’s superior (IMO) passing model. Sadly, it’s a hurdle many will find tough to get over.

That’s something else that’s striking about PES2010: it has a settling-in period, just like classic PES of old. Or at least it did for me, and for plenty of others. The forums are rife with the usual stories of people winning 9-0 in their first matches. And I remember that from years gone by too.

Every year we play the same mini-game: what member of the family does the new PES look like? Whose nose has it got? Whose chin? Whose vicious temper? It’s a game with no objective result, just opinion. I agree, for now, with those who’d slot PES2010 into the family tree alongside PES5 and PES6. The heaviness reminds me of 5, the overall handling of 6. I’m more strongly reminded of PES6 on the Xbox 360 than the PS2 version. (Probably due to my recent exposure to that game.)

The forums are going a bit wild at the moment. An ad hoc committee of PES veterans, fans, and Guardians of the One True Game are heralding the return of the king. I understand the sheer desire for that to be true, and currently I believe it is true to some extent. But it’s not what a football game feels like on Day 1 that determines its place in the pit or the pantheon. It’s what it feels like on day 100 that decides the issue.

End-of-session score (just for today, and emphatically NOT a final review score): 8.5/10

I’ll post again tomorrow. Here’s a short clip of a few goals from my first few hours with the game. The first is my very first full PES2010 goal, scored in Game 1 yesterday, and saved for posterity. (Doesn’t everyone do that?) There’s also a bullet from Beckham in there. (The shooting in PES2010 deserves a massive post all of its own. I love it.) My favourite goal of the four comes right at the end, a diving header after some nice one-touch build-up play. The cross was an L1+circle affair, a rare one for me. I’m usually a double-tap crosser.

Link: PES2010 - First goals

The Loss Time Tunnel

So I’m expecting PES2010 to arrive today. [And indeed it arrived, but I only managed to play 3 matches on it before I had to go. VERY tentative early impressions are at the bottom of this post.] I pre-ordered from two sources, one using Royal Mail, one using a courier service, and both were dispatched early yesterday. One is the PS3 version, one is the 360 version. (I’d only ever do this for PES.) I’ve got a good chance of getting both today. I’d have to be very unlucky for neither to arrive.

This post is just filler. Hopefully I’ll soon update it at the bottom with a photo of the game in my sweaty clutches. So now I’ll just waffle on for a bit about PES2009(PS3) and PES6(360). Then I’ll do some reminiscing about PES release weeks in years past. Then I’ll get out of here and go back to waiting by the front door. Sorted.

gotcha-pes2009-1

PES2009 on the PS3. Over the year I certainly had my downs and ups with it. In my end-of-year review I gave it a score of 6.5/10. If I was doing that review right now, I’d give it a 7/10 but no more. Its zig-zag dribbling was too exploitable, even by me, a confirmed non-dribbler under normal circumstances. Overall it was too similar to PES2008 for comfort. Having said that, it was a very worthwhile PES and I enjoyed it far more than its predecessor.

I’ve played a few Champions League tournaments on PES2009 over the past few weeks. They were very enjoyable. I’d never even glanced at that new mode until now. (Champions League will be one of my warm-ups for Master League in PES2010. I won’t start Master League probably until Monday or Tuesday of next week.)

Xbox360-PES6-pack

PES6(360) was the game that turned it all around for me and PES this year. Without it I doubt I’d be sitting here now, as hyped up for PES2010 as I am. I picked up PES6(360) for just two pounds at the start of August. It was an amazing experience, rediscovering what I loved and still love about PES.

This time of year always reminds me of PES years gone by. 2002 was my first year of getting PES on release day. I was a poor (in every sense) PS1 owner until then, relying on preowned ISS games from the bargain bins.

After saving up enough for a PS2, on a certain weekend in late October I went into town. At Virgin I bought a new PS2 with PES2 bundled in. I remember counting out the £20 notes at the counter. I picked up a copy of Metal Gear Solid 2 from the GAME across the street. And I took a taxi home. I have a clear visual memory of sitting in that taxi, seven years ago. The skies outside were gunmetal-grey. I kept glancing at the large box in the crisp Virgin bag on the floor of the taxi.

A year later—a very happy year later—I bought PES3 from a shop on release day after work. Straight home. No messing about. PES4—ahhh, that was the year when all the stores broke the street date on the Wednesday of release week. I was off work and I went into town just to have a look around, on the off-chance, and literally couldn’t believe my eyes when I walked into GAME, and there it was. Not a promotional case, but the game itself. Right there. Was there a grin on my face as I bought the game? Was there? A grin? On my face….?!

PES5. I was unemployed and poor again. I had to trade in PES4 to afford PES5. By PES6 I was back in work, and completely up to speed with this new ‘Internet’ thing. I decided to pre-order online for the first time. I used… Amazon. Once and never again. At the time (and still today?) they were probably the worst to pre-order games from. You were lucky to get it on release day. PES6 didn’t arrive on release day, and I had to make an emergency dash into town. I traded in the Amazon copy when it eventually turned up (on the Saturday).

PES2008 and PES2009 both arrived at least a day early over the past few years. And so to PES2010. I’m happy that release week is comparatively uneventful these days.

Sadly, I have to go to work today. I seriously considered calling in sick, but—without going too deeply into it—that’s not a viable option for me right now. If the game arrives any later than 1pm, I won’t get a chance to play it at all today. I’d love to get at least one match in before I have to go to work. Here’s hoping.

@12.15—-IT’S HERE

PES2010-is-here

—VERY, VERY TENUOUS EARLY IMPRESSION AFTER PLAYING 3 (JUST THREE) MATCHES—

My tradition for the first day with a PES game: I always play the first match on the default difficulty as England vs Scotland (the big annual fixture of my youth).

Match 1. I was worried that the strong feeling of PES goodness I got from the demo wouldn’t appear. It did appear. It handled slow, slower than I thought it was going to handle. I’d heard they’d sped it up and was worried. No worries. It was a 15-minute match and I dominated, but only won 1-0.

Match 2. Up to Professional difficulty, still ENG vs SCO. I have to win this tie on Professional before I can move on and play anything else. It’s non-negotiable. I lost it 0-1, with Scotland at times playing PES5-style keep-ball. Remember how pleasantly shocking that CPU possession football was back then? It is again now. I couldn’t get it off them. I resorted to the olde sprint-clamp claw thing late on, nothing doing. Very positive sign.

Match 3, because I lost Match 2 I have to play it again. 0-0 this time, and I won on penalties (but it doesn’t count—I’ll have to replay this again tomorrow morning, until I win).

I had to drag myself away reluctantly.

It’s the first PES in years—since PES6(PS2)—where I really feel some unfamiliarity at the start, and that I have to relearn how to play it. Note that I scored 1 goal in 3 matches, and I was only playing on the default and default+1 difficulties. I really am just an average player though.

What’s the longevity going to be like? That’s the big question and there’s no way of knowing. But my gut tells me this really is PES writ large, at last, on next-gen. The already-hoary old cliche “this is what PES2008 should have been” both applies and doesn’t apply. Technically I don’t think PES2010 would have been possible two-three years ago.

After that first match where I basically tried the usual next-gen PES run-and-gun tactic, I was forced to pass and move, pass and move, pass and move. I had the same kind of buzz that I got from session 1 with FIFA10, but that session was 5 times longer. I’ll post detailed first impressions sometime tomorrow afternoon after I’ve had a good long session in the morning.

‘PES is back’? That’s what they’re saying on the forums. Is it mass hysteria? Or is it… could it be… true? I don’t know yet, but early signs are good, put it that way. Early signs are very good.

Approaching fever glitch

Right, here we go—this is one BIG week. I’m excited. Very excited. I’ve just enjoyed two weeks of mostly brilliant football gaming on FIFA10. I expect more of the same from PES2010.

October 2009 is arguably the most important month in football gaming since the equivalent month two years ago. Next-gen FIFA08 and PES2008, in different ways, both set moods that have prevailed to this day. FIFA10 has built on the solid work of its ancestor from 2007. I want PES2010 to make me forget its ancestor from that year.

It’s a measure of the high quality of FIFA10’s gameplay that I’m so caught up in a Manager Mode experience that is on extremely shaky ground. The imminent FIFA10 patch may wipe it all away. I’ve built a pretty involving Coventry City career on the slopes of an active volcano. Nobody knows for sure if we’ll all have to start again, and EA aren’t saying. This suggests to me that the patch probably will render null and void all my Manager Mode progress so far.

I’ll worry about that if it happens. If it happens, I’ll start again. I just hope my Virtual Pro’s development doesn’t get wiped out. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll continue on with this Coventry career. Ah, but when? A big fat Master League career on PES2009 got in the way of FIFA09 last year. Will that happen again this year? I should stop anticipating what might happen with PES2010, and focus on the great game at hand. That’s what I’ve been telling myself for a few days now.

FIFA10-final-league-table

I’ve completed my second season, finishing 9th in the Championship table. I had a great run-in, winning 7 out of 10 of my last matches. Something just clicked for me and FIFA10. The gameplay annoyances that are carried over from last year and the year before seemed to melt away. It plays a beautiful game. I was almost writing poems out there on the pitch at times. Seriously. All the reviews weren’t completely overblown. It remains to be seen how I’ll feel about this game in January, of course, but for now there’s not much wrong with FIFA10 that a good solid offline mode or two wouldn’t solve. Speaking of which…

Does anybody else suspect that FIFA10’s confirmed future DLC, Ultimate Team 2010, could include an offline fantasy league and cup mode? I.e., a bizarro Master League-a-like ? It’d be a masterstroke, and a deeply cynical one on so many levels. Exactly the kind of despicable, evil, brilliant thing of which EA is capable.

It’d certainly provide food for talk about why Manager Mode remains so bewilderingly flat and sterile. The on-pitch gameplay carries Manager Mode to a certain extent, as it always has, but it shouldn’t have to be carried. Manager Mode should be FIFA’s whole raison d’etre, not some kind of half-hearted appendage.

I’ve built a nice little team with some decent players. I’m about as attached to them as it’s possible to be in Manager Mode. I’ll be disappointed if I have to start all over again, post-patch. But not gutted.

This has been a difficult post to write. If PES2010 is any good, this will be the last FIFA10-oriented post for a while. And yet FIFA10 really is a great game. Whats up with that? There’ll be ample opportunity to mull that one over in the weeks ahead.

I’ll wrap up with a short compilation video: 4 Glitches and a Goal. In FIFA10 a very peculiar thing often happens to your players when they’re close to a CPU keeper who is holding the ball. Your player will turn as if to run back, but get stuck, and turn again, and get stuck again, and not be released unless either you double-tap L1/LB quickly, or the keeper kicks the ball. There are three clips of this glitch in the video. There’s also a bonus one of my Virtual Pro having some kind of standing-up seizure just before a kick-off. And, to balance things out, one of my best moments from FIFA10 so far: a very satisfying run and finish, classic centre-forward style.

Link: FIFA10 Glitches and a Goal

So… Yes, there’s loads to love about FIFA10. But I’m waiting for PES2010 with interest. On Wednesday I might even have the game. My preorder should be sent out today or tomorrow. If I do have the game by Wednesday, I’ll do my best to get a 1st Impressions post up.

It’s all PES2008’s fault

FIFA10 has its own unique ‘feel’, its very own way of doing things, its very own pluses and minuses, and so—undoubtedly—will PES2010. Many football game fans believe that one of them must be bad in order for the other to be good. I strongly disagree with that position. The signs are good for me liking both games, a lot, this year.

All this week I’ve had a new morning routine: a long session of FIFA10, followed by a game or two on the PES2010 demo. I’m really blown away by both games so far this year. It’s a (possible) win-win scenario. The full game of PES2010 has yet to arrive, of course, so I’ll keep the party hats and streamers in the cupboard for now.

I’ve seen the PES2010 reviews. They’re a mixed bunch. I had to smile at the hissing fanboy fights that subsequently broke out across the web. It was carnage in some places. Predictably, FIFA10 was the focus for a lot of the catfighting. It seems that FIFA10 is a pick-up-and-play game for children who like to look at licensed kits. Oh dear. In some places, it’s always 2004.

Sevens and eights out of ten for PES2010 are good scores, actually, but they’re a touch below what I was expecting. I’m only going by my estimation of the demo, which is a high one. I have an optimistic theory. Remember two years ago and those bizarrely great reviews for next-gen PES2008? The after-effects of that scandalous non-performance by the reviewers are being felt to this day. PES has had a rough critical ride ever since.

This was supposed to be the console generation where PES would amaze like the most amazing thing since amazement was born… In other words, PES reviews, weighted down by two years of anti-climax, tend to flatten out and occupy the troughs; FIFA reviews, buoyed by two years of progress and positivity, tend towards the peaks.

That’s my fanwank of the review situation. It’s got the whiff of PES fanboyism about it, but I’m hopeful. I’ve really enjoyed the PES2010 demo. I really believe the PES2010 reviews have got PES2008 at the back of their collective minds.

Meanwhile, back on FIFA10, I am seeing dimensions in the gameplay I never dreamed could exist. I took on Arsenal in a pre-season friendly just this morning. I’m still amost dizzy from the high quality of the gameplay. It ended 1-1 with Arsenal playing a dreamy, total football style. The overall quality of the gameplay I’m seeing in FIFA10 at the moment is of a very, very high quality indeed.

I am still forging ahead with that Manager Mode career. I haven’t gone into detail yet because there’s a patch in the offing that might reset everything to zero. And there’s a PES2010 in the offing as well. Nobody can predict the future. So far—touch wood—I haven’t had a truly show-stopping bug in Manager Mode, and I’m ignoring its other shortcomings for now. I’m pretty much addicted to the FIFA10 gameplay at the moment. It’s great. I can’t get over how great it is.

You know, there are times when FIFA10 utterly amazes me with how heavenly it is. At other times, granted, it’s a button-mashing hell. At the moment for me the split is about 85/15 between heaven/hell. And much like the real heaven and hell, it’s up to me which one I inhabit. Loss of attention leads to button-mashing. Concentration, focus, and patience lead to heaven. This is exactly like the dualistic moral Universe, when you think about it. God must be very happy with FIFA10.

If I had to pick on something to carp at in FIFA10 (and my PES genes insist that I do so, right NOW), I’m very annoyed with the slide tackling. You can make a perfect slide-tackle, but it won’t win you the ball. Oh no. You might think it should, but you would be wrong. Your player will get up and run away from the ball. You only get the loose ball if you’ve got another player close enough to come and collect it before the other team’s player (who, remember, you’ve successfully tackled) gets up and gets to it first. Utterly stupid and wrong and I hate it I hate I hate it.

That and many more on-pitch annoyances will have their equivalents in PES2010. But will they be deemed valid reasons to dismiss PES2010 as a serious football game? Of course not—because PES is all warm and fluffy, and it’s allowed to have stupid moments on the pitch. FIFA is all grey and evil and it isn’t allowed to put a single foot wrong, ever.

The great things in FIFA10 easily outweigh the small things. (For now. Let’s see how I’m liking that slide-tackle thing in January, hmmm…?)

I’ve mentioned the eternal quest for the killer pass in FIFA10. You can pass the ball around for 10, 20, 30 passes, and not spot an opening, or lose the ball and have to defend. Sometimes, though, you do spot the run. It’s a huge element of FIFA10’s core gameplay, this possession, passing, and eagle-eyed spotting thing. Here’s a killer pass in action, which came at the end of a typical FIFA10 extra-long bout of possession:

Link: FIFA10 - the killer pass

Yes, the finish was a FIFA09-style ‘hook shot’ into the opposite side of the goal, with the shooter executing the telltale falling-backwards animation. The great thing here for me was the killer pass. Loved this goal, one of my favourites on FIFA10 so far.

I know: in PES, that’d be a fairly typical moment. Just another through-ball leading to just another typical chance. Nothing special. But that’s precisely what is so special about FIFA10. The mundane has been made marvellous again. PES2010 will have to be a great game to tear me away from FIFA10 at the moment.

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