Month: May 2010

‘Twas the day before June 1st…

Over the weekend I literally blew the dust off my PSP to play a few matches on PES2008(PSP). I’ve also played another four or five matches in my ML career on PES2010(PS3). I squeezed in a few BaP matches on FIFA10. I’ve played Final Fantasy XIII and Football Manager 2010. I didn’t have time in the end to try out Red Dead Redemption (I should get time later today). Currently I’m enjoying a broader gaming life than I have been able to over the past 6 months, when my PES2010 ML career occupied 99% of my play-time.

My save file for PES2008(PSP) showed the last time I played the game: mid-November 2009. The ML career I’ve got going in it is one of my longer-term ones. I’m in season 2023, having covered roughly the same amount of time as in my PES2010 career. I’ve got an amazing squad of uber-galacticos.

Yes, it’s a very old-school Master League squad. It’s the kind of squad you can only dream about now, in the new age of Master League.

Can you imagine the wages bill for a squad like that in PES2010? The mode’s revamped internal mechanics now pretty much guarantee that a squad like this one would be almost impossible to assemble, much less keep. I say that’s a good thing. If I have a hankering to own every great player there’s ever been, I can always fall back on these older games.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Last-gen PES on the PSP is absolutely wonderful. It plays like a dream. There are a few issues (atrocious loading times; occasional penalty box slowdown) but the issues are nothing compared to the overall package—which is what PES used to be, when you think about it: an unmitigatedly great game with a few annoyances that you could easily overlook.

In my first match against Deportivo la Coruna, I went 0-1 down early on. I didn’t really know what I was doing. The muscle memory that we play individual football games with soon rusts with disuse, as we all know. 0-1 was how it stayed for most of the match. How to play the game returned to me gradually over the 90 minutes, but wouldn’t fully click until my second or third match.

However, in the 91st minute of this first outing, I fed the ball to Schwarz on the edge of the area. I took a pretty speculative shot that curled deliciously around a defender and inside the far post. The keeper never moved. Here’s the replay—wait for the second angle at pitch-level to see the extravagance of the curl:

Link: PES2008 PSP goal

I quite enjoyed that. As I did the following few matches: another few League matches that I won comfortably, 3-0 and 2-1; and then a D1 Cup match, which I lost badly, and crashed out of the tournament; and then I lost 0-4 to Benfica in the European Cup.

It’s been a challenging few years for the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise, I think it’s fair to say. But PES2008 is worth buying a PSP for on its own, IMO. Could anybody honestly say the same for the PS3/360 version of PES2008? Or even one of the better versions since? In 2010’s case, Master League, maybe, would be worth it on its own. But not for the core gameplay, not really.

Playing PES2008(PSP) yesterday I couldn’t work out why I’m not always playing it. The reason is that there’s a huge new matte black console on my shelf that demands a newer, shinier, better version of PES than the old-school version. It’s still waiting. We’re still waiting.

Playing around

I can’t deny it any longer: FIFA10 just isn’t doing it for me. It’s all to do with a lack of decent game modes, of course. I’m still playing a few matches in Be A Pro every now and then. And I still keep trying to play Manager Mode, but I get nowhere with it.

Without Master League, I doubt I’d have played PES2010 for very long—certainly not for 250+ hours. Without an equivalent mode in FIFA10, I find myself drifting away from the game as a whole.

It’s a shame, because I rate FIFA10’s gameplay very highly indeed. Despite the weak shooting (I know, I know: it’s just different, is all), I find myself amazed by the intricacy and satisfaction of the passing game. But I need something to do with all that goodness, and there just isn’t anything—at the moment.

Last year and the year before, in FIFAs 08 and 09, I was able to extract something from Manager Mode. I still might do the same this year. But not yet. Manager Mode is actually slightly improved from last year, bugs notwithstanding, but it has really suffered in my eyes in comparison to PES2010’s revamped Master League. Master League is a cathedral of delight next to Manager Mode’s ramshackle hut of despair. For now, it’s just how I feel.

And there’s another thing going against FIFA10 right now. I’m playing a few other games. It’s a major factor in the equation, make no mistake. With so little gaming time to spread around, I haven’t got time to coax Manager Mode out of its cave. At the moment, these are my games:

Final Fantasy XIII. I should finish this game at some point over the next few days. When I do, it’ll be the first Final Fantasy game I’ve actually completed since FFIX. I’m loving XIII, but I know many don’t love it, and I can see why. A mandatory 15-25 hours before you get full control over your battle party?! Not the best game balancing decision ever, IMO. But the full tactical combat system is a joy, arguably the best-ever, and needless to say it looks magnificent.

Football Manager 2010. I picked it up on a whim, as I have all the FM games of recent years. Unlike those others, I’ve played more than half a season in this one. I’ve just completed my first season—as Coventry City, natch. The 3D match engine is very watchable. By finishing in 9th place in the Championship I exceeded the board expectations. I’ve bonded with my squad (a crucial step in bonding with the game itself), and… well… I could go on. FM fans will know just how much I could go on. I’m playing FM2010, and that’s all there is to it.

PES2010. Yes! I went back to my Master League career, the mammoth one that I’ve been blogging about since October. Season 19 got under way with me releasing Zaki and trying to sign Gilardino again, and failing again. It looks as if this will be my main console football game now for the near future. Monday’s post will be about season 19. I’m loving it again. Not that I ever stopped loving it, really. I just assumed that I’d be hip-deep in a FIFA10 Manager Mode career by now. It hasn’t happened.

Red Dead Redemption. At the time of writing, this one is still in its shrink wrapping. I plan to put it through its paces on Friday. Yes, the hype and buzz got to me. I haven’t liked an open world game since GTA: Vice City all those years ago. (San Andreas bored me; GTAIV bored me silly.)

FIFA10. If it wasn’t for Be A Pro I’d have stopped playing FIFA10 completely by now. That’s the alarming truth. It’s a long summer ahead, so who knows what’ll happen. Sorry, FIFA10. Your time isn’t now, not for me.

Curbing my enthusiasm

Strange days. At the time of writing, the PES2011 hype has been somewhat deflated by a (much-needed) reality check. On a couple of PES forums, a few individuals who claim to have experience of the game say that it’s probably not, actually, going to be the most perfect game of football ever.

I don’t know what to think. Part of me finds it inconceivable that Konami would march all its men up to the top of the hill as they have done, only to present us with another member of its current family of good-but-flawed games. Another part of me worries that that is exactly what will happen.

About one thing, though, I am absolutely certain. PES2011 will be a decisive game for the series, one way or the other.

After today I’m going to shut up about PES2011 until June 1st. That’s when the press who attended the special event in Japan a few weeks ago and played the game will publish their impressions.

What do I want to hear in just over a week’s time? First of all, that PES has finally abandoned its cursed efforts to replicate the PS2 glory days on next-gen hardware.

It’s not really worked out, has it? PES2010 is a game I have loved and I am still playing it today (see below), but the love is 90% due to Master League. Its gameplay does please me enough to keep me going, but I’m not blind to its serious shortcomings. Particularly after a couple of weeks of playing FIFA10. I’ll say this now: if PES2011 can move like FIFA10 and have a passing game like FIFA10’s, yet somehow preserve the unique PESness of PES, I’ll weep salty tears of happiness.

I’ve been breaking one of my own cardinal rules over the past few days. I’ve been playing FIFA10 one day, and PES2010 the next. Once I even played the two games in the same session, back-to-back.

No, it doesn’t really work. I find that I tend to carry the bad habits of one game over into the other. In PES2010, I try to sprint-clamp all the time—FIFA10’s ugliest feature, IMO. And then moving from PES2010 back to FIFA10, it takes me a while to adjust back to proper passing, where the direction you point in is the direction the ball travels in. Only the most diehard of PES fans would deny that its passing belongs to another era of gaming—a cruder era. I’m very well aware of the argument that PES models player individuality, fatigue, pressure, etc. But no argument on earth will ever convince me that it’s realistic for even the most exhausted, clueless, hassled player to misplace a pass by 90 degrees.

I’ve been playing BaP in FIFA10. It’s still good, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll play it for. The matches have started to feel like much of a muchness, unfortunately. I’ve tried some Manager Mode again. Still no-go there either.

I’ve got a problem with FIFA10 that just won’t go away. It’s not so much the shooting or the player individuality—the usual susopects when it comes to FIFA10’s gameplay. I’m talking about the accursed sprint-clamping.

For the few people who have never heard of sprint-clamping, STOP READING NOW. Go to the next paragraph. The following information could wreck your blissful gaming life. Sprint-clamping is a cheap-ass way to get the ball back from your opponent in a next-gen FIFA game. In FIFA10, I find the technique is the most effective it’s ever been. Here’s what you do: you simply grip sprint+tackle+secondary tackle all at once, and wait for the game to win the ball back for you. Far too often, you won’t have very long to wait.

I do it. Everybody who plays next-gen FIFA does it. Almost everybody, I should say. I’m sure there are people who can refrain from doing it. Good luck to them all, but once I know that something is in a game, it is part of that game. It is going to get used. I cannot not use sprint-clamping. Oh, I can go easy on it. I can go for whole minutes of games, sometimes, without using it at all. But sooner or later, trailing 1-0 with seconds left, or just feeling like it, my hand irresistibly forms into the claw. And I just have to strangle that controller.

I’m exaggerating the effect, of course. It’s rhetoric. Sprint-clamping is nowhere near 100% successful. It depends on a lot of factors which, all combined, make it roughly 75% successful at best, in my experience. But that’s about 70% too much in my opinion.

I know that the sprint-clamping effect diminishes as you go up the difficulty levels. But it never goes away. The last time I played FIFA10 online, sprint-clamping was the sole method of defence. I planned to play a few matches online again, tonight (Sunday), before writing ths post, but in the end I didn’t have time. Has anything really changed in FIFA10 online over the last 6 months?