Going part-time

Below is the draw for the Champions League group stage here in season 9 of my Master League career in the ill-fated PES2011:

The “ill-fated” PES2011? Alas, yes. I speak only for myself of course.

After many ups and downs with the game, I have come to a decision that no big TV is going to undo.

No, this time I’m not giving up PES2011 again. Master League will keep me coming back until the itch is fully scratched. It’s pointless to pretend that I could keep away from Master League.

But I am scaling things down. I usually play PES every day. It was one of the founding principles behind the blog. From now on, though, I will only play PES2011 occasionally—a few times a week, instead of every day.

The blog will continue with three posts per week, but it could take a month to get through a season. (Maybe the blog will actually be better this way?)

So what’s really my problem with PES2011? There are so many that I don’t know where to begin.

It’s my considered, rational, and totally genuine opinion that PES2011 is the worst PES since PES2008(PS3)—the game that introduced a serpent to our football gaming paradise. PES’s fall from grace has been as shocking and spectacular as any in gaming history. I believed that the many sins of next-gen PES were coming to an end with a very worthy PES2010. And then Konami all but promised that PES2011 was going to be a miraculous, total resurrection for the series. Instead, I find myself in limbo—or possibly in hell itself.

The game is billed as “Engineered For Freedom”, but the actual state of affairs is telegraphed from the start of every match. The kick-off is taken for you. The game plays itself, and continues trying to do so far, far too much.

I feel that I’m not really in control for a lot of the time in PES2011. It’s got nothing to do with how good or bad I am at the game. There are hard-coded elements of the game’s physics engine that no amount of R2 will alleviate.

The heavy touch and automatic run-on, where highly skilled players receiving a pass are obliged to run several yards with the ball before control is regained, is the most notorious example of this.

And the shooting is as floaty as FIFA’s was at its worst. The PESverse spent a lot of time LOLing at FIFA’s floaty shooting, back in the day. Ah but PES2011 is a PES game, so its floaty shooting is subtle and nuanced. Right.

There are glorious periods when the sun emerges from behind the clouds, but most of the time the ball is stuck under your players’ feet and your players’ feet are stuck in superglue. And the AI players chase you down and chase you down and chase you down and chase you down and chase you down until your possession degrades, somehow.

Or your players do the stupid, pointless, brain-dead ‘step-around’ of the ball (also known as the ‘approach shuffle’, or my own term the ‘half-moon shuffle’).

The step-around makes me seethe, every single time. The step-around, which real-life players do only very occasionally—usually as a defensive, ball-shepherding move—is perfomed by PES2011 players over and over, in all circumstances, in every part of the pitch. They even do it at lay-off free kicks.

I must have seen the step-around a thousand times by now, and I have come to loathe it more than I have any words to describe.

In a recent PES2011 session I was going to film every instance of the step-around for a special piss-taking video, but I’d have had to stop and film every minute, and I no longer feel that PES2011 is worth the effort.

Currently on the PES forums, an intriguing consensus is emerging. The game’s issues are obvious even to the hardest of hardcore fans. The solution seems to have two parts:

  1. Play PES2011 very sparingly—it’s the only way to enjoy the game.
  2. PES2012 is going to be The One; let’s just keep the faith for a few months, then we’ll see PES returning in all its glory to smite FIFA and raise its followers up to heaven.

At this stage I don’t want to think about point 2.

Point 1 is of much more immediate interest. The theory is that by not playing the game, you reduce your exposure to its issues, and appreciate its positive points more clearly.

What are the implications of this stance? After 15 years of ISS and PES, we have come to this: the current version of PES is best appreciated by not playing it.

That’s what the advice “Take some time off”, “only play every few days”, etc., all amounts to. Playing PES2011 less == liking PES2011 more. And it’s true, I’m already finding. But that it should come to this!

It might be argued that racking up a couple of hundred hours in any game will lead to the kind of over-familiarity that breeds contempt. I don’t accept that argument at all. Because if it was true, it would have been the case with ISS, ISS98, ISS Pro Evolution, ISS Pro Evolution 2, PES2, PES3, PES4, PES5, PES6, PES6(360), PES2008(PS2/PSP), PES2009, and PES2010.

Each one of those games received a similar amount of play-time from me. I played most of them every day, usually tailing off around July or August of every year. In a few cases (PES2, PES3, PES5) I played until literally the night before the next game was in the shops. In no case did intensive play result in the kind of contempt I feel for PES2011. On the contrary: the end result was something akin to religious awe.

So that’s it. Friday’s post might well cover just two or three matches. The character of this blog is going to change—hopefully for the better. Playing less matches should mean more scope to deal with areas of the game that I have traditionally glossed over or ignored (i.e., stats and things). The wide lens is going narrow focus.

An heretical thought has tickled at my mind over the past few years, and tickles again now: could Pro Evolution Soccer’s time actually be over?

Oh, Pro Evolution Soccer… With every year that passes, its chance of redemption gets evermore slender. When will this most prodigal of gaming sons come home?

Updated: 26th January 2011 — 08:33

52 Comments

  1. Chris—ah, I see now, thanks. Actually I was getting confused myself between the two memorable Big Cup nights, Istanbul and Barcelona. And just to put a final touch to this conversation, I thought Mrs Keys’ cliche-riddled contribution (Quote of the Day, halfway down) was the funniest thing about the whole affair.

    And now let it be another 3 years before there’s any more real-world discussion on here!

  2. Paul—no problem, and I see there’s a Mac version of After Effects, and Fnal Cut could replace Sony Vegas, so you might not need Bootcamp at all. Most switchers do need that buffer zone though. I know I did, a virtual Windows XP was one of the first things I installed on my iMac! But as I said I’ve used my virtual Windows less and less as time has gone by.

    Shame about your desktop. My last Windows desktop just died on me one day after a period of eccentric behaviour. I hope you’ve backed up all your data. Or a good reinstall of Windows might sort out your desktop anyway.

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