Month: June 2010

There’s a club if you’d like to go

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?

Window of opportunity

I’ve been playing my PES2010 Master League career again—it’s season 19, in the year 2028. That’s the kind of year that tech-thriller writers of today are setting their gritty near-future stories in, but the year’ll be here soon enough. When we get to 2028 and there are no hovering aircraft carriers and no United States of South America or whatever, who’s going to look silly then?

Zaki, my number one number 9 for most of this ML career, is no more. I released him way back. He was in his late 30s and in sharp decline, down to a 71 OVR rating. He wasn’t getting any games and he was just a drain on the finances with his mammoth salary of £9m a year. From the outset I’ve found the finances in the all-new Master League to be so tight that I can’t afford the luxury of keeping players who aren’t doing anything.

So I jettisoned Zaki and the plan was to bring in some new talent. I play with a front 3, and I like to use a traditional centre-forward in the central attacking role. I have Morientes, but he’s not presently that kind of striker. For me a great PES central striker is very much in the mould of PES5/6-era Schwarz or Vieri: big, strong, having a bit of pace when needed, and packing a shot like a cannonball. Morientes is big and strong, certainly, but he moves at a crawl and his shot power is more like a balloon in a gust of wind than a cannonball.

I did look for such a striker. Gilardino, who I had on loan a few seasons back, would have fit the bill, but I couldn’t prise him away from his club for anything. A shame. I paid so much attention to the effort that the season got started and the transfer wiidnow closed without me signing anyone. This is a common error I make in the new Master League. I’m still not used to being able to conduct negotiations all-year-round. It’s been over 300 hours now, but I still tend to operate as if it’s old-style Master League where you had to wait to do anything transfer-related until the window opened. A wise player of the new Master League is negotiating in February for the player(s) he’ll get in August. I’ve not been very wise through all this career so far.

So I’ve been making do with what I’ve got. Morientes is playing in that central striker role, for better or worse. Mostly worse: he’s got about 2 goals in 20-odd matches so far. Yet I’m winning most of my matches by a bundle of goals. Most goals come from Munitis, from Nakamura, from Pires, and from ‘me’ (my created player). I find PES2010 to be a very easy game now. I should restart Master League and do it all over again from scratch. And I might just do that. I think I’m waiting for the World Cup to end so my attention can be fully focused on football gaming once more.

As things stand, I genuinely have no idea what I’ll play tomorrow. Become A Legend? Manager Mode? Onward with Master League? Be A Pro? Not a clue. At least this way I have the opportunity to experience something new. I might as well take it. Could I, should I, play online—?! Never say never…

Malapropism Mode

Finally, I have finished a season in FIFA10’s Manager Mode. I doubt I’ll finish another one, but never say never. At least I have now finished one season, and the basic football game side of things was, on the whole, very good.

The actual game mode might as well not be there at all. I loathe Manager Mode. I never felt this crawling sense of disgust with it last year or the year before. But this year it’s up against PES2010’s Master League—the greatest-ever version of the greatest-ever game mode in any game.

I’ve been trying to think of a new name for Manager Mode, something—tee-hee!—witty and clever. Manky Mode? Minger Mode? Those slangy attempts wouldn’t have much traction outside the UK. Mangy Mode? That’s getting there, but it could do with more syllables. What’s needed is a pejorative word with three syllables that starts with ‘M’ and ideally sounds a bit like Manager, or at least echoes the word’s rhythm. Malady Mode? Sigh.

I’ll stop that now. Whatever I finally settle on, I’m going to make a post on the EA forums abusing Manager Mode and calling it by the new name! That’ll soon show the EA bozoes! The lalalas.

I finished 8th in the Championship, for what it’s worth. My form was up and down. Some matches I stitched together the sublime passing moves that next-gen FIFA in general, and FIFA10 in particular, are notable for. (Yes, yes, yes, these passing moves take place between players who are pretty much all the same as each other—FIFA10’s shortcomings are well known.) And at other times I just couldn’t get anything going at all. Was that me, or was that hardcoded? Scripting in FIFA10? I haven’t played it enough to feel comfortable pronouncing one way or the other, so I won’t.

As I outlined on Monday, various factors have turned me, hopefully temporarily, into that most awful thing: a casual football gamer. This is the kind of football gamer that the developers have to please, or else they don’t have a viable marketable product. Those of us who sit in our bedrooms, quivering and groaning over the latest news about a dropped animation frame as seen by somebody whose cousin is a cleaner at Konami, are totally in the minority.

I’m okay with things as they are. I don’t want or need to be hip-deep in console football at the moment. Currently the World Cup and Football Manager 2010 (plus a few other games besides; and a good book I’m reading; and the high summer weather) are more important in my life right now.

Football Manager 2010 has taken off for me since I allowed myself to ignore most of its complexity. I just want to pick my team, tinker with the tactics for no more than a minute, and watch the matches. I am to Football manager what most people are to PES & FIFA: a casual, a dilettante, the kind of player for whom they’re endlessly devising new methods to lure me deeper into the castle.

But I am not losing sight of the fact that this is a blog called PES Chronicles. What is PES, for me, now? It’s not gone away. I still have unfinished business with my Master League career. And there’s always Become A Legend. With the World Cup group stage coming to an end, I foresee a return to proper football gaming for me. I just don’t really know yet what form it’ll take.