I’ve set aside FIFA10′s Manager Mode and Be A Pro mode, and Master League for now, in favour of PES2010′s Become A Legend. This is the solo player career mode where you take control of a single individual from the age of 17 all the way through a career in a Master League-esque kind of game world, albeit one with a few notable—and disappointing—deficiencies.
I played it for a bit last year and one of my first clubs finished bottom of Division 1. But the club was not relegated. Relegation is not part of this game world. I was unhappy with that then, and if things are the same for the 2010 version, I’ll be unhappy again, whether I’m at the club(s) that ‘should’ be relegated or not.
Still, all grumbling aside, BaL is the better of the two fantasista game modes in the two football games. FIFA’s Be A Pro has a lot going for it, but it’s a lot like its cousin Manager Mode: just a hollow, empty shell. It’s become a truism of the next-generation that FIFA might have all the animations and the fluidity of gameplay, but clunky old PES has got the only single-player game modes worth playing, and in my opinion it’s single-player game modes that ultimately count.
I named my player ‘not-Greg’ (what else?) and chose my position: AMF. I dithered over it, tempted to go for CF, or possibly WF, but as an AMF I can be involved in so much more of the play from back to front. (Not that the game plays me as an AMF very often. Mostly it plays me as a CMF, sometimes as a DMF or SMF.)
I didn’t feel like designing a player face from scratch, so I went with a default one. For a hairstyle I gave him the kind of shaggy mop that I had myself at the age of 17, loving Iron Maiden as I did. As this career progresses I’ll update the hairstyle over the passing years, hopefully arriving in the mid-to-late 30s wth the chrome-dome I’m sporting today. That’s the funny thing about the way time passes. One moment you’re a teenager surrounded by people and in personal charge of the whole world, or so it seems. The next moment you’re sitting in front of your TV on a Saturday night, all your friends are either married or dead, and all you can think about is where your precious hair went.
My next decision was which club to join. I played a one-off match that was all about letting the clubs take a look at me and make an offer. I did pretty well, I thought, getting some important touches and keeping things solid the way BaL seems to like. My side lost the exhibition match 2-1 but I was one of the better players.
My three offers were all from lowly Division 1 teams—Blackburn, Hull, and Stoke. There was little to choose between them apart from their relative rankings in the BaL world. I couldn’t decide whether joining a slightly higher-ranked team like Blackburn would be a boost or an impediment to my progress. Stoke were the middle-ranked of the three, so I went with them.
And I went straight into Stoke reserves, and the ‘B’ team at that. It took me 6 or 7 games just to get into the reserve ‘A’ team. not-Greg is a ridiculously poor player. He’s rated 44 OVR, which is at least 15 points beneath Stoke’s next-worst player at the club. It’s a very long road from here, and it goes uphill all the way. I haven’t played around with the Focus Points thing yet. This is akin to starting with the Defaults in Master League, only more so.
I made it onto the bench for the First XI for one match, and came on towards the end for all of 15 minutes. I had to watch the first 75 minutes, of course, of CPU vs CPU. I played so badly when I came on that I was busted back down to the reserves for the next match, and that’s the current state of play.
For the past few years I’ve had a patchy record with these solo-player career modes. I always have an initial burst of enthusiasm and a recognition that I should, logically, adore this kind of thing, particularly in light of my well-documented love of Master League. But somehow it’s never really lasted. Will it last this time?