Month: September 2010

FIFA11: my very first impressions

FIFA11 was delivered yesterday (Wednesday) around noon. Whatever happened to the days when post was delivered at the crack of dawn? Never mind. It did well to get here at all yesterday. A very well done to ShopTo.

Unfortunately, I only had time for about 40 minutes’ play yesterday. This morning, I’ve had about an hour. I’ve got a lot on this week.

I was going to save up all my impressions for my regular post tomorrow, but I think I’ll split it into two. I’ll post brief first impressions now and brief second impressions tomorrow, with hopefully a longer post on Monday.

In brief, I’m not impressed at all with FIFA11. I wasn’t thrilled by the demo, but that’s no real guide. I think the series is going backwards.

I played my usual football game opener, England vs Scotland (the International fixture of my youth). Then I played England vs Germany. Then I played a Tournament. I’m partway through that tournament now. I’ve played seven full matches of FIFA11. I’m not much impressed yet.

I’ve always had two main critiques of next-gen FIFA. Number 1 is probably the lack of a decent single-player mode. It’ll be a while before I can see if that complaint has been resolved, or at least alleviated, in FIFA11. I always piss about for a bit with a new football game, playing Exhibitions and Tournaments etc., until I feel I’ve got enough of a handle on the gameplay to dive into the real substance. I won’t try out the all-new Career Mode until next week.

My Number 2 complaint has always been the absurd over-effectiveness of sprint-pressure—that’s when you squeeze some buttons and get the ball back semi-automatically. To some extent PES has this ‘feature’ too (I believe it originated in PES), but in FIFA the damn thing is near enough 90% effective all over the pitch.

I only really noticed sprint-pressure—sprint-clamping, the Claw, whatever you want to call it—being very bad in FIFA09. It’s got steadily worse, steadily more serious, steadily more notorious. Everybody, it seems, hates it.

Sprint-pressure, the swinging albatross around next-gen FIFA’s neck, is as present and effective and fucking stupid in FIFA11 as it has ever been. There’s a half-hearted new stamina system that has zero impact. I’m not the sort of player who can forget that something like this is in the game. When I don’t have that ball and I want it, I’m simply gonna squeeze them buttons…

There are great positives. Shooting is very nice indeed. There is now loads of dip on shots. Early signs are that headers have some oomph. The Slow speed setting is, predictably, hardly worthy of the name, but gamespeed can be slowed a bit more by selecting rainy weather conditions and a pitch with some wear and tear on it. A very welcome option.

It’s far too early to write off FIFA11, or next-gen FIFA as a whole, as many in the football gaming world already seem to be doing. Some PES fans have been waiting for 4 years to dance on FIFA’s grave all over again. They won’t be restrained.

I’ve always been a supporter of the next-gen FIFA ideal. But in my view the franchise has gradually retreated from the ambition it showed with FIFA08. And now the shocking thing is how little I care about FIFA11.

It was no great wrench to leave FIFA11 behind yesterday and go out to work. It was no great wrench to stop playing it just now and come to write this post.

I should be able to put in a good few hours tomorrow (Friday) morning. I’ll post my second, more in-depth impressions, on Friday afternoon.

This is not a filler post

It’s very close now, isn’t it? The 2011 football game season, I mean. FIFA11 lands later this week, alongside PES2011 for a lucky few. PES2011 will arrive next week for the rest of us. I’m happy to wait.

I’ve been playing Civilization V since last week. I have still played football games, but only briefly. I’ve played a few matches of the expanded PES2011 PC demo every day.

Ireland vs Australia continues to be a match-up that fascinates me. They’re two teams with a few good players, but no great ones. Most are efficient, hard-working players from the engine rooms of various middle-ranking clubs around the world. (Hey, I speak as a Coventry City fan. I’m not looking down my nose here—I’m actually looking up it.)

Out of the approximately 50 matches I’ve played in the expanded demo, about 20 of them have been Ireland vs Australia. My most common scoreline is 1-0 or 0-1. I’ve actually lost more than I’ve won on Regular difficulty. (That worries me a bit more than it should.) 0-0 is my next most common scoreline. I’ve never had more than two goals in a match.

PES2011 feels very good indeed with lesser players and teams. It’s hard to create chances and it feels harder to score them. It also feels harder to stop the AI from creating its own scoring chances.

I wonder how much of this is down to great balance in a great PES game—or how much is due to my averageness as a PES player. I’ll know in a few weeks.

The build-up to the new games always feels as if it peaks too early. In PES2011’s case, the hype was at its maximum a few weeks before the demo.

Since then, if I had a pound for every time I’ve seen the phrase ‘PES is back, baby’ or some variant on the PES forums, I’d now have… ah, about two hundred and ninety-eight pounds. I might be off by a few there, but I think that’s pretty accurate.

But is the victory parade premature? It’s not wise to count any chickens before they cross the road.

The story of 2011 is written in our minds. PES2011 will herald the series’ triumphant return—if not to out-and-out dominance, at least far enough along that route to be enough. Enough to consign FIFA back to where it belongs: second place at best.

And, yes, isn’t it telling how quickly that F-word appears in the train of all the ‘PES is back, baby’ ejaculations? The PESverse is jittery. PES2011 had better not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Personally, I don’t feel it’s necessary for FIFA to be bad in order for PES to be good. I want to play good football games whatever name is on the box.

There’s a remote chance of getting FIFA11 on Wednesday—it’s happened before. If it happens again, Wednesday’s post will be all about FIFA11. If not, I might post a Fraps-made recording of me playing a match in the PES2011 demo.

PES2010: one year later

So this is my end-of-year ‘review’ of PES2010. I say it like ‘that’ because really, the whole year has been my review. This post is just an acknowledgment that the year of PES2010 is all but over. And how was it for me?

Pretty bloody great, actually. Between October 2009 and May 2010 I played PES2010 for around 200 hours. That’s small beer compared to some people, but considering that I work full time, 200 hours represents a hefty chunk of life.

My problem in trying to summarise PES2010 is the opposite of the one I faced with FIFA10. In EA’s game, I found great gameplay but there was nothing I wanted to do with it—there were just no modes for me. With PES2010, the gameplay was problematic, but Master League was extraordinary. It was the latter combination that won out.

And in my experience, PES2010’s gameplay was not as bad as all that. The sluggish response times and the slow-turning animations drove many PES veterans crazy. Not me, most of the time. I liked them.

I played Master League for 99.5% of my time on PES2010. That’s just how I roll. I’m a career mode player to the exclusion of almost all else.

I liked PES2010 and I don’t care. I don’t care if liking PES2010 makes me look hardcore or non-hardcore or fanboyish or whatever. For me, it succeeded as a PES game despite its faults. I respect the views of the very many PES veterans who found the game functionally unplayable due to the animations, the collision system, the teammate AI, and everything else that has been debated for the past year.

But all I can say is that in my 200 hours I found that PES2010 contained a level of charm and playability and sheer PESness that was lacking in its two immediate predecessors.

I’ll admit that my view of PES2010 would likely be very different if it hadn’t had Master League. Without ML, would I have played PES2010 for longer than a month? No, I don’t think that I would have.

I have wallowed in Master League. I have bathed in the glow of a career mode that was everything I wanted it to be. Yes, I’d probably marry it if I could.

For some reason, it took me 7 seasons to get promoted from Division 2. This helped create a snowball effect of intense addiction and an epic feel. My Master League career was a phenomenal one for the first time since PES5.

I made a full-length movie commemorating my multi-season struggle to get promoted. Here it is:

And so to the thorny issue of giving PES2010 a review-style score. I’m not a proper reviewer and this isn’t a proper review. Therefore my score is going to be gloriously subjective, based entirely on my own narrow perceptions.

If I was awarding the score based on Master League alone, it’d be 10/10. No question. But that would a touch too subjective.

I can’t ignore the problematic gameplay. As I’ve said, I enjoyed it a lot more than most, but even I could see where it stank to high heaven at times.

My final score for PES2010 is therefore 8.5/10.

9 would be too high. 8 would be too low, and would be the same as FIFA10’s score—which would be illogical given the disparity in playing time between the two.

It’s a big jump up from PES2009, which I gave 6.5/10 last year. PES2008 got 4/10 back in the day. PES is on an upward curve for me. PES2011, over to you.