Month: July 2010

Schwarz, in the box, with the left foot

Going back to PES6(360) has got me reacquainted with my Master League team from a year ago. One of its principal figures: Schwarz. He’s more important than the 29-year-old C. Ronaldo. Mathieu and Bradley and Kim Cyun Hi and others are all good too, but Schwarz stands out. He stands out a mile. Why? Simply put, he’s a killer in front of goal. A veritable assassin.

Indeed, Schwarz is a true PES legend. I was sad to see him nerfed to a degree in PES2010, but I suppose all good things must come to pass. His name will live on, buoyed by the memory of classic Schwarz. For the next few PES games we’ll have to contened with a Myth of Schwarz, in much the same way that the Myth of Castolo has lingered on.

My next post will bear a date in August. The 2011 games are just around the corner. (Where is the summer going?) I feel under time-pressure to get things done. I’ve returned to PES6(360) in the middle of a campaign for the Treble. Alas, the gap of a year has proved too much. I’m out of the D1 Cup, my league position is 7th, and I’ll do well to avoid crashing out at the group stage of the European Cup (as I insist on calling it).

What lends each individual PES game its distinctiveness are the myriad little things that work in them that don’t work in others, and the similar number of things that don’t work in them that work in others. Thus my PES2010 moves mostly get me into trouble; I’m slowly, painfully, picking up the PES6(360) moves all over again. Possibly the most overt of these is the way you’re forced to hold up play while waiting for teammates to get into position. That stately buildup play always been a PES delight, of course, but it seems to be ratcheted up to 11 in PES6(360) compared to PES2010, for example.

The more I’ve played of PES6(360) this week, the more I’ve been impressed with the AI. Konami could do a lot worse than to transpose the code or the algorithms or whatever (like I have a clue) from this game into PES2011. It plays a tough game. And it cheats like crazy, of course.But it feels like more honest cheating than in the last few PES games. I haven’t had any nonsense with passes mysteriously misdirected to opposition feet, for example.

But getting back to that man Schwarz. I was in a tight, tight league match against Manchester United. I was 1-2 down, desperate for a result—and, as happens so often, who was on the end of a speculative pass into the box other than the big guy with the black hair and the mighty left foot:

Link: Schwarz snapshot thru legs

I was happy and I knew it and I clapped my hands. And, once again, when reviewing the replay, it struck me that it was a satisfyingly different kind of goal—smacked on the turn high into the net through a defender’s legs.

I’ve reached the mid-season negotiations phase. It’s my first old-style negotiations since last year in this very game. Let’s see if I can remember what to do…

Previously on PES Chronicles

Just short of one year ago, I picked up a copy of the Xbox360 version of PES6. I played it for a couple of months. I got through 6 seasons of Master League. I enjoyed it as much (probably more) than my ML career in PES2009.

I only stopped playing PES6(360) because FIFA10 appeared. We love new shiny things in the world of gaming.

As of this week, I have resumed that aborted PES6(360) Master League career. I cannot take BaL any more. I can’t go back to PES2010. I can’t go on with FIFA10. I’ll be playing PES6(360) for the foreseeable future. (It’s worth noting here that the Xbox360 version of PES6 is NOT the same as the revered PS2/Xbox/PC version. Which wasn’t one of my favourites.)

PES6(360) was the first next-gen effort from Konami. Somewhat infuriatingly, it remains the best next-gen PES to date, in pure gameplay terms. (Features-wise it’s probably the poorest effort since the ISS days on the PlayStation. I’ll talk some more about this over the coming weeks.)

A year ago laid the groundwork for today. Below is a record of the career so far. Thanks to PES6(360)’s lack of Editing, I’m playing as PES United. I had my usual struggle with the Defaults. I loathed the Myth of Castolo all over again. The only thing I won was the Division 2 title in season 2008. The current Division 1 table for season 2013 is at bottom right:

The Treble just wouldn’t come for me in the latter seasons. In fact, as can be seen, I was a long way off winning anything at all. So there’s a lot of unfinished business in this career.

As for my squad... It’s a good one, if a little light in numbers. There are some great players—Bradley, Mathieu, Kim Cyun Hi, Schwarz, Ronaldo (not the Regen: the original!). It’ll take me some time to pick up the old negotiation system again.

I’m finding it strange coming back after so long. It’s like when you wait a year for the next series of a favourite TV show. You know you should remember the characters and the plot more than you do, but it takes an episode or two before everything comes flooding back. I’m finding the same with PES6(360). At the time of writing I’ve had about three long sessions covering about 6-8 matches each. I’ve more or less got back to where I was last year.

The AI in PES6(360) is amazing. It’s hard. It seems to do things that the AIs in PES2010 and FIFA10 never tried to do. It closes off passing channels, forcing me to indulge in the extended, methodical build-up play that I recall being one of PES6(360)’s most endearing characteristics. That could just be down to my average skills, of course.

Why am I going back to PES6(360)? What gives?

The story of season 2010 for me has been PES2010 Master League. It’s been brilliant, my best ML experience since PES5. My mouth is almost literally watering for PES2011. But I can’t go back to PES2010 now. I have had about 20 matches on it since I stopped, and it seems ridiculously easy. I don’t want to sully the memory of a magical eight months.

The second story of my 2010 gaming year so far has been the relative failure of FIFA10. It’s had its moments. But no more than moments, really. Manager Mode might as well not exist at all.

How about online play? It’s not for me. I don’t like the style of football that manifests itself online. Double-sprint-pressuring is the near-universal technique without the ball. My wrists ache enough already, thank you very much…

Which leaves me with this heap of unfinished business in PES6(360).

To close off today, here are two goals from my early sessions in the return to PES6(360). The first is just a typical PES goal. I include it here because of what it meant to me. After my appalling time with BaL, I needed some football gamin’. I carved out this opportunity with Schwarz in the midst of a tight match. As I teed up the shot, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, which was to sort of whip it over and around the keeper. It came off. The second goal is a type of goal I don’t remember scoring many of in PES. One of the hallmarks of a great PES game is that it can always surprise you—it can always show you new things. My looping cross that went in a surprising direction showed me something new all right. It came in the early sessions as well. It was as if this game was saying: what took you so long?

Link: PES6(360) - the return

Unbecoming a Legend

Oh dear. It’s not improved, you know. In fact, it’s got worse. A lot worse.

I’m talking about my career in PES2010’s Become A Legend. I’ll cut to the chase: it’s just about over. I’m completely and utterly fed up of watching the godawful, empty, endless swathes of CPU vs CPU ‘action’ that the game mode forces me to sit through, session after session after session after session after session…

I’ll say right now that I’m not even going to try out PES2011’s BaL mode unless it has a ‘skip CPU matchtime’ kind of option. Things are that bad.

It’s now almost the middle of my second season. I’m still on the bench. I’ve been on the bench for all but a short period at the start of this season. I can’t believe it. I can’t accept it. I’m struggling with it. A lot.

By this stage in 2009’s effort to get into BaL, I was starting regularly. Perhaps I’m just not good enough at PES to have the same kind of career path that so many others seem to have had. I’m sure that’s got to be it. If I sound a little like I’m waving goodbye to BaL here, that’s because I think I am doing that. It is just about all over.

Which is a shame. I was looking forward to the Master League-style magic that so many glowing testimonies tell me BaL truly possesses. But the way it wants to take me there is intolerable. I think I am literally incapable of sitting through one second more of CPU vs CPU football.

Below are my player’s current stats (the second page is embedded afterwards).

Not the most impressive stats, and certainly in real life I’d never get anywahere near a first team. But I expect to spend my time with a console football game playing the game. BaL doesn’t let me do that, and it’s unacceptable for me.

With not-Greg sitting on the bench, it’s the 60th, 70th, sometimes the 80th minute before I come on. When I play BaL I’m sitting and seething for 75% of the time.And then it’s all over in the blink of an eye. Whoosh. There went my playing time.

I don’t want to occupy myself with other things during the CPU vs CPU torment. I can’t consume things in bite-sized chunks while doing other things. If I wanted to read a book or play PSP or anything else, that’s what I’d do: I’d read a book or play PSP or do whatever. When I play PES, I want to play PES.

I can’t really go on spending time on BaL—any time—like this. Having said that, I would probably persist for the 5 seasons of BaL that I promised myself (even while hating it, because I can be stubborn like that)…

But something has happened. Something that has probably ended this year’s BaL experiment at a stroke.

Yesterday morning, I came on as a sub for 20 minutes and got a 6.5 post-match rating in a 2-1 victory for Stoke. That’s pretty good. And I was good. I contributed a direct assist, made some vital tackles, and played some good passes. That, I was sure, should get me a starting place.

Next match? On the bench.

In a fit of temper, I quit BaL with some time to spare of my play-session. I didn’t fancy having a go on FIFA10. The mood I was in was no kind of mood for Manager Mode…

Looking down my pile of games, I saw PES6 for the Xbox360 among them. Hmmm. Why not?

I played one match in my unfinished Master League career, as PES United. (The 360 version had very meagre Editing.)

I played that one match—and every cell in my body seemed to vibrate with sympathetic magic. This is the stuff I need, I thought. As King Arthur says in the underappreciated 1981 film Excalibur: “I didn’t know how empty was my soul, until it was filled.”

I know exactly what he meant. More next time.

Sliding doors

My patience with PES2010’s Become A Legend mode was hanging by a thread. It’s almost the middle of my second season as a young professional at Stoke City. Granted, in real life I’d still be nowhere near the first team. But in this game mode I think I should have become a regular starter by now. I do get occasional starts, but then I’m back on the bench again.

Clearly I need something big to happen—a goal, or a couple of assists. I need something more than solid performances. Playing my position and making my passes aren’t doing it. 6.0 and 6.5 ratings aren’t good enough. I need magic.

But I get so frustrated and wound up by being on the bench. When I come on, it affects my performances. Case in point: It was the 80th minute of yet another match in which I had just come on as a substitute. I feel intense pressure to do something special in what amounts to about a minute-and-a-half of real time.

When an opponent sprinted near me with the ball, I gave chase. But I couldn’t catch him. I let loose with a frustrated sliding tackle that just clipped his heels and brought him down. Ouch. I’ve already been red-carded a few times in this career for tackles just it.

Here is where my BaL fate was either made or unmade. As the referee ran across to me, I distinctly thought: if this is a red card, I’ll just exit the game, abandon BaL, and never come back to it.

The ref stopped in front of me and brandished the card. It was yellow.

I played on. BaL is still alive. If I do go on to have a full and immersive career, I’ll look back on that moment as the moment when everything could have been so different.

I started a game a few matches later, and had a very good time. I really do enjoy BaL when I get a full game. My stamina is now 81 overall and I can run for pretty much the whole 90 minutes, although I still get subbed around the 75th minute. I can cope with that.