Month: August 2010

Beginning of the endgame

I’m inching towards the end of season 2014 in my Master League career in PES6(360). My only real interest remaining in this game is to win the Treble. And I need to win it soon. Within a week or two I’ll probably bid farewell to PES6(360) for good. PES2011 and FIFA11 are just around the corner. It’s time to create space for the new games.

If this was PES2010 I’d sim most or all of the remaining matches in 2014. Can’t do that in PES6(360), of course—the game’s clunkily old-fashioned ML setup obliges you to play every match. Which is fine, I suppose. I’m still enough of an ML traditionalist for this to be more of a pleasure than a burden. But still, I’d prefer having the option to fast-forward to next season.

This is about as negative as I’ve been about PES6(360). While I’m in this zone, there are myriad faults with the gameplay that become apparent after a time.

Specifically, there is a built-in slowed-down passing mechanic that at times slows the action just when you want to speed it up. Your players sometimes wait an age for a treacle-slow pass to get to them, rather than moving towards the ball. Still, it’s a minor part of the overall picture, and an integral part of what I still think is PES’s best next-gen gameplay so far.

I’m still five or so points clear at the top of the league. I’m still in the D1 Cup—about to qualify for the Final—and, annoyingly, I’m still in Europe. In the Masters Cup, to be precise. Oh, season 2014, when will you end?

My team now is very Treble-friendly. Among my First XI starters are Maldini, Camacho, Mathieu, Bradley, Giggs, Messi, C. Ronaldo, and Schwarz. You could probably take to the field with just those eight players and stand a pretty good chance.

Messi has been an amazing player to have at my command. It’s the first time I’ve ever played with Messi in any Master League. In fact, I don’t specifically recall playing with him in PES at all, ever. He’s nimble and fast and skilful and with him on the park I feel unbeatable. When it comes to the online game I’m a sceptic and a cynic, but now I understand why online players with the win-at-all-costs mentality feel it desirable to play with Messi.

I win matches with my First XI. That’s just how it happens. I’m an average player—I still insist on that—but even I can hardly fail with these players. I run away with the points when they’re all fit and on the field. 3-0 is the most common scoreline. I’ve had a few 5-0 scores. I get the odd ‘difficult’ 2-1. I draw odd matches where I have to play with second-choice players.

Over my time with PES6(360)—both last year and this—I’ve always underscored the fact that this game is nothing at all to do with the PS2 PES6. That’s true, but they do have one thing in common: a pretty shallow difficulty curve. The game starts off hard, as all PESes do, but eventually becomes easier, and then eventually becomes routine—and this happens a bit too suddenly for my liking.

I have many hopes and expectations for PES2011. I hope it’s a tough bastard to play from the start, and remains so for most—ideally all—of its lifespan. Its year-long lifespan.

I haven’t had a true year-long PES since PES5. Fingers crossed.

Back to business

I’ve had enough of wringing my hands and working myself up into a lather of anxiety over PES2011. The weight of testimony from the high number of early players is still very much on the positive side. I think the game’s going to be good regardless of the scares.

The pain of not being involved in the Master League Online beta has receded almost to nothing. There shouldn’t be any surprise at people rapidly assembling squads of superstars, but I am surprised anyway. Another reason why the mode will have almost zero interest for me cometh the day.

If I was still feeling left out, I found one method of alleviating the hurt. Look here—who’s this?

That’s right, it’s the ubiquitous Messi. Albeit in PES6(360), my current football game of choice, but still. It’s Messi. We all love Messi, don’t we? Damn right.

I’ve bought Messi for my ML team in PES6(360). In this way I can experience exactly what it’s like to play MLO, where buying Messi is apparently obligatory. As I understand it, you get kicked from the MLO servers if you haven’t got Messi in your team after a few days of play. And then you get kicked if you don’t squeeze R1 for 99% of the match. (Here endeth the heavy-handed satire.)

He’s scoring plenty for me, is my Messi. I play him on the left side of my front 3. He’s pretty darn good, even for 2005’s PES6, when he had yet to become the PES poster child.

I’m three quarters of the way through year 2014. It’s been a funny season. I lost all 4 of my opening European Championship group stage games. So I was out of the competition, but still had two fixtures left to play.

The thought of those meaningless, empty matches ironically sent me over to FIFA10 for a couple of days. I say ironically (possibly in an Alanis Morissette kind of way) because my experience of FIFA10’s Manager Mode is entirely meaningless and empty.

So I came back and got the two fixtures out of the way. I won them both, comfortably too, which makes me wonder what might have been if I’d only focused a bit better earlier on. I could have won the Treble this season and concluded my unfinished business with this game.

Which isn’t to say I resent playing PES6(360), or feel some kind of obligation to play it. As I hope I have demonstrated, I really only play the football games I want to play (cf. my abrupt abandonment of Become A Legend in PES2010. Yes, I’d sworn to give it 5 seasons, but after 1-and-a-half seasons I just could not take any more, and it had to go).

So I’m top of the league. I’m in the semi-final of the D1 Cup. I should wrap up this season with at least one trophy, hopefully two. And then the serious quest for the Treble begins.

Put it this way. I doubt I’ll return to PES6(360) after this current period. So I’ve got probably a few weeks of real time left in which to do the Treble before the 2011 games completely turn my head. If I don’t do it, PES6(360) will be the only PES Master League in which I’ve never won a Treble. I can’t let that happen.

Period pains

A mixed few days of news about the 2011 games. PES2011 has had a major scare, with the appearance of several videos showing players indulging in chained rainbow flicks. If the final game’s trick system is that forgiving, PES2011 will be PES2008 part 2. I don’t even want to think about that.

Following last week’s great FIFA11 gamespeed scare, two lads from the FIFA Soccerblog went for a playtest on Monday. They reported the gamespeed to be ideal. Hopefully the Slow setting will actually mean something this year

Sadly, as is now all-too-typical and totally INFURIATING, the FSB boys mostly played multiplayer. 1p vs 2p. Yet again the state of the AI was ignored. The single-player game was totally ignored. Ah, but when it was all over and they were in the bar, one of them nipped back to the demo room for a few games against the AI. It was literally an afterthought.

This issue has been a bugbear of mine for a long time now. When did 1p vs 2p become the default method of previewing a football game? Why is there seemingly no awareness that they should be looking at more, doing more, exploring more, reporting back on MORE than simply how much chortling fun it was to go head-to-head against their pals?

I don’t have access to any precise figures. But I would bet quite a lot of money that about 90% of football game players still spend about 90% of their time playing against the AI in single-player.

A very illuminating moment cropped up in the latest WENB podcast. Konami’s Jon Murphy and Steve Merrett were guests, and one of them—I forget who now—remarked in passing that when they’re showing journalists their new game, they’ll often pause it to highlight something new. E.g., “Look at what you can do in defence now…” And the journalists will say how good it is, ignore it, and get back to playing, totally focused on beating their mates. My ears pricked up at this, because that description sums up exactly how I imagine it.

It’s the last full week of August. As far as I know there’s still no clue about the condition of opposition AI in either FIFA11 or PES2011. It’s a major failing not just on the previewers’ parts, but on the parts of EA and Konami, who allow it to happen.

Or do they want it to happen? That’s got to be a reasonable suspicion. But there’s probably no need to hide the AI from the typical PES/FIFA previewer, because he’s not looking for it.

And so to my current gaming. Oh, I’ll be happy when this period is over and the 2011 games are here, believe me.

I’ve gone off FIFA10 again. I had a good few days with the game, but the lack of anything compelling to do with it has got to me once more. No doubt I’ll come back to FIFA10 for a visit when I’m putting together my end-of-year review in a week or two. Other than that, compared to my extensive time spent in FIFAs 08 and 09, FIFA10 has more or less passed me by.

I’ve mainly played Dwarf Fortress for the past week. I woke up yesterday morning thinking about how I was going to channel an underground pool into a reservoir for my dwarves to use.

Valkyria Chronicles II for PSP is out next week. I’ve got my preorder in.

And there’s also PES6(360). Now, after a few weeks, I’ve settled back into it enough to have some perspective. I’m finally experiencing its well-known limitations as limiting. But I’d still say it’s the best pure PES gameplay available on the next-gen consoles so far, which is shocking and shameful. And I’m still enjoying it enough to plough on with my ML career. I’ve got a quarter of a season left in which the Treble is out of reach. I have a Double to go for in this season, and then a fresh assault on the Treble is next. This should occupy me—and the blog—for the next week or so.

What Beta? I am not knowing this ‘Beta’

So, was I too harsh on FIFA11—and on next-gen FIFA in general—on Friday? Yes and no. There’s still a full game of FIFA11 to come out, of course. If we based everything on shakycam vids and confused reports by guerilla poets on the Gamescom floor, no games would ever come out.

But I stand by my opinion that next-gen FIFA is  heading in slightly the wrong direction—for my personal tastes. FIFA10 has always felt faster than I want it to be, even on its so-called Slow setting. Its pressure/stamina mechanic (or lack of one) is just stupid. Stupid. Much like PES2011’s, really, to judge by what’s emerging from the Master League Online Beta testers.

I won’t go into details (no time; less inclination), but I’m not hearing anything about MLO that’s making me yearn to play the mode. MLO sounds just like Ultimate Team in all but name. Super teams packed with superstars all exerting maximum sprinting pressure for entire matches. No doubt I will try it at some point. I forecast a single session that’ll last about an hour at most.

I played some FIFA10 over the weekend. I am still hip-deep in a very good PES6(360) ML career. But I’ve missed out on the Treble in my current season and I felt that I needed a break before starting to push the rock up the hill again.

Predictably, I loved FIFA10 all over again. Just as predictably, after a while I started to want something substantial to do with all this wonderful gameplay.

FIFA needs a compelling offline answer to PES’s Master League mode. It’s no longer an optional extra that EA can afford to nurture and grow organically over a period of years. It’s got to happen now.

Manager Mode has been a disaster for the series and few will miss it. Career Mode sounds sparse and utilitarian, but as ever I have a wild mad hope that it’ll be good. I’m an optimist when it comes to football games, it’s plain to see…

Below are some goals I scored in my weekend FIFA10 sessions (all using semi-assisted controls). The very first one had me sitting up and punching the air. The match was a tight affair. It doesn’t really come across in the clip, but I gave the right stick the slightest nudge in order to make the space, and then whipped the shot in. It felt very good. The other goals were one of my patented ‘reverse hook’ shots, and a different kind of long-ranger that found the postage stamp corner of the net:

Link: FIFA10 August Goals

A lot of people say that goal-scoring in FIFA isn’t varied or satisfying enough. I’ve never really gone along with that view. The three goals above are indeed all a bit samey—but only because I favour goals scored from outside the box when assembling clips for the blog. I’ve always scored plenty of different types of goals in next-gen FIFA, from FIFA08 through to today.

My issue with FIFA is the lack of a meaningful context in which to score the goals. What’s it all about? What’s it all for?