Month: January 2011

Another season goes by

Season 8 is over. This has been a long old season.

I started season 8 on the blog exactly 11 days ago. I have genuinely taken until now to get through it. (I’m only a day ahead of the blog at the moment.) I usually get through my ML seasons in about 5 days.

Part of the reason for this laggardliness has been down to playing Uncharted 2, and more recently Fallout 3 (which I am loving, by the way). And part of the reason, yes, has been down to a renewed sense that I can only take so much PES2011 before I have to stop playing, in order to preserve my sanity.

Many would say that a bit-by-bit approach is the best way to play any football game, PES2011 in particular. I would respond that there was a time when I could easily play PES for 6 hours a day, every day, and still want more. What has changed: PES, or me? Or both? It’s still an open question.

The seasons always do feel long when you’re in the Champions League for the first time, as I was. I made it all the way to the Final (and lost), so I played every game I possibly could have played. I was knocked out of the domestic Cup early on, so the season wasn’t as long as it could have been.

I finished 4th in the league, as I did last season. But I turned in an improved performance overall. Far fewer draws, and if my form in the second half of the season had been there throughout the whole season, I would have finished in the top two.

The gap in goal-scoring performances between myself and the top 3—particularly Man Utd’s eye-popping 109(!)—will take some closing, particularly if I move up to Top Player. At the time of writing, about to begin season 9, I’m about 70% sure of doing that.

One disappointment this season has been Schwarz. Oh, he’s still good, and he’s still my star player (even above Metelger), but the goals haven’t flowed as freely as they should have. He at least got his name on the top scorers’ list, which is something.

The overall tale of the season saw Metelger, my stylish, Schwarz-like outside-left CF, get into the Best Eleven and finish up on top of the Assist Leader chart. So that makes Metelger my player of the season.

And so I go on, on to season 9. It must already be plain to regular readers that I have no great love for PES2011. In a way it’s the most disappointing PES since PES2008, in my opinion.

But I have to at least complete my quest for a PES2011 Treble. Past experience tells me it’s not far off.

My love for Master League, my enthusiasm for it, is bizarrely unaffected by my deep and abiding misgivings about its parent game. I will probably be playing Master League as the world ends.

Accidentally on purpose

Near the end of season 8 in my Master League career. I’m still playing on Professional difficulty, as I found Top Player too hard for me when I tried it a few seasons ago. I intend to have another go at Top Player after I win my first major trophy. Because when I get around to winning the Treble, I want it to be won on Top Player.

Either the league title or the Champions League will count as that first major trophy. The title is at least another season away. I’ve performed a lot better in the league this season—I’ve cut down on the amount of draws—but I’m still way, way short of the required standard, as the final league table will show.

But the Champions League has felt very much within my grasp all season. I have done well in the competition this season, and made it through to the quarter final against Atletico Madrid. 0-0 at my place was followed by a tight, tight, tight 0-1 victory for me at their place. It was as ugly a match as it’s possible to have in PES2011, I think, with only about 2 shots on target for each team.

AS Roma were my semi-final opponents, and again it was a tight, tense, two-legged affair. Once again I was at home for the first leg. I won it 2-0 with a sturdy performance. At their place for the second leg, I lost 1-0. It was one of those games where I wasn’t going to score even if I played for days. I held on to the end and went through to the final, 2-1 on aggregate.

My opponents in the final were Bordeaux. My tinkering with the Division 2 setup has altered the chemistry of the Champions League. There are more French teams in it than there should be. Many top European teams are locked away in my custom Division 2. Ah well.

I lost the final. I know, not a very subtle story-telling technique, but it was another one of those games where nothing much happened apart from the goal. I lost it 0-1.

The AI was in total overdrive. Space at a premium. 56% possession is low for me. I did well to get 3 shots on target, all told. The 9 off-target shots were mostly through blazing away desperately in the closing minutes, trying to take the game to extra time.

It wasn’t to be, and at the final whistle my players sank to the virtual turf.

Part of me wasn’t too unhappy. It woud have felt slightly wrong to win the Champions League on Professional. I think I will go up to Top Player for season 9, regardless. I’ll decide when I get there.

Another two goals of interest to round things off today. First up in the clip is the very first goal of any distinction from my new Youth signing, Beckmann. And then a goal from my other, now-ageing Youth signing, C. McManaman:

Link: A rasper and an autolob

Beckmann’s goal was interesting for a few reasons. One, it was his first goal of note, a first-time ‘rasper’ from outside the box. And two, whilst watching the replay I saw that his shirt bears the name BECKMAN. That’s with one N. I double-checked the name in the formation screen, where it’s BECKMANN. Two Ns there, just as I thought. Oh bloody hell, Seabass!

McManaman’s goal was the type of goal I call an autolob, with some disdain. But in this case, I kind of knew it might happen if I twitched McManaman to the left just so, as I do in the clip, and then aimed for the far corner, and gave it just the right amount of power…

And it worked. It was a semi-autolob, then. Just a few games before, from almost exactly the same position, I’d scored an orthodox driven shot across the keeper with McManaman There was no real reason why he produced a lobbed goal this time, and how I knew it would happen, but there you have it. The ‘feel’ was right.

Puncharted

I’m through to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League in season 8 of my Master League career in PES2011. My opponents there will be Atletico Madrid.

I overcame my second-round opoonents, Lyon, after a memorable couple of games. The first leg at my place finished 2-2; the second leg at theirs was an eventful 3-3. So it was 5-5 on aggregate. I went through on away goals. I did well to score three times away from home, not something I think I’ve done at any other time all season. I was 2-0 down at one point as well, so I was very pleased with the performance.

In the league I have hauled myself up to 4th place. I’d love to finish the season at least 4th, as it’s a guaranteed passport to next season’s Champions League, which is a critical component of the coveted Treble.

After an average start to this season, I thought the top 4 was out of reach. But I’ve knuckled down and focused. Last season I suffered a lot of draws. This season, many of those draws have become 1-0 wins. I defend a lot better. Defending well means allowing the AI as little fo the balla s possible. I finish most games with around 60% possession, sometimes 65% or more. Now I’ve just got to keep it going until the end of the season.

Only one goal to show off today, and it’s an unusual one for me to show off. A one-touch passing move leads ot a side-footed half-volley from two yards:

Link: One-touch goal PES2011

The remarkable thing about this goal is the one-touch cross that leads up to it—a full volleyed cross from an aerial through-ball that actually went where I wanted it to go.

I find that aerial through-balls in PES2011 have been nerfed almost to the point of non-existence. If a defender doesn’t magically intercept them, they simply go out of play. So, yes, I was pretty happy to finally get on the end of one.

And I have finally completed Uncharted 2. I enjoyed the first Uncharted more, but its sequel is also a great game, no question.

I do miss the old puzzle-platformer days of wandering around huge levels and trying weird things to get out. If you don’t find the way out of an Uncharted level within half a minute of trying, you’re not paying attention. Modern games are absolutely terrified of losing the player, aren’t they? There’s almost no chance of getting lost in a modern game level. You can lose your bearings whilst fighting bad guys for several minutes, but that’s about it. Controlled, linear movement from A to B is the level designers’ goal.

So Uncharted 2 is pretty weak on the puzzle and exploration front, IMO, but it does all look fantastic. And it’s a total triumph on the combat front. The game features some of the most exhilarating action set-pieces I’ve played since the original Syphon Filter games on PS1.

Uncharted 2 is the first ‘proper’ game I’ve completed in a long time. It felt pretty good to make it to the credits in a game. You never get that feeling with open-ended football games (unless you won a Cup tournament in PES2, when the credits would roll and “We Are The Champions” would fire up!).

There’s nothing like being hip-deep in a great game. It’s now time for me to move onto another. Fallout 3, it seems your time has come.

Stumble and fall?

I think that I hate PES2011 again. Most sessions are still largely good and positive, but sometimes—about one session in three—the bad parts of the game just climb out of the screen and grab me by the throat. I’ll get to the grim details later.

First of all, other business. I’ve passed through the mid-season period in season 8 and played a little way beyond. In the league my form has held up enough for me to hold position in 7th place. I won my crunch final group game in the Champions League. I’m in the knockout stages. (Are men allowed to say ‘Yay!’ on the Internet? In that case: ‘yay!’) My opponents will be Olympique Lyonnais.

During mid-season I went shopping in the transfer market. I was looking for a top-rated, silky-skilled midfielder in the Platini mould, but couldn’t find one for an affordable price. I was only looking to spend about £5m, max, so it’s no surprise there were none available. In the end, I picked up a quality CB (RANE), a left-sided SB (NELOM) to act as cover for my first choice, and I recruited a spare CF (BECKMANN) from the Youth Team. It’s made my squad list nice and full for the first time in a while—how nice to have 22 players to choose from:

Beckmann’s 58 OVR rating is belied by his back-screen stats, which are in the high 60s and mid 70s—all up where it matters for a striker. I’m looking forward to seeing how he develops.

That’s assuming I stick around for long enough. PES2011 is annoying me again. I have found myself newly irritated beyond belief by the game’s many unendearing little ways.

The novelty of playing PES on a bigger screen is starting to wear off. Oh, it still feels wonderful to have all that extra space. How far I have come from the days when I played blocky racing games on a ZX81 through a 12″ black and white portable in my childhood bedroom.

I think I’ve got used to players receiving the ball and acting as if their feet are now trapped in a patch of superglue. It’s the programmers’ method of cutting your human margins down to smaller amounts of time, to give the AI a fighting chance. Hmm. I don’t like it, but I can live with it. But there are some things that I don’t think I can live with.

Where to begin? I’ll start with the one thing that possibly drives me crazier than everything else put together: the way a player who wins a tackle will often be unusable for a few seconds afterwards.

I’m talking about standing tackles as well as sliding ones. Far too often the game doesn’t reward good tackles with possession. Instead, it leaves the tackler laying there for an age, or simply standing in an apparent daze. Another one of your players has to be nearby to collect the loose ball, or the CPU player will just take it back again and carry on as if the tackle never happened.

It’s almost as if your player is in a strategy RPG and he’s used up all his Action Points by making the successful tackle, and then has to let the other players have their turn. It can only be a deliberate programming choice.

And I hope we’re all still LOVING the horrific stumble animation that fires whenever a CPU player so much as breathes on one of your players. Good grief.

I swear the stumble animation was created specifically to mock those of us who thought PES2011 would take PES and football gaming to a whole new level. Instead, in many ways, it’s taken us back down a level or two.

So much about football gaming has actually devolved in PES2011, it seems to me. The auto-kickoffs are perhaps representative of just how little user input is required. There are entire passages of play when I wonder just how much I’m really in control of.

There’s a certain level of honesty I expect from a football game. PES2011 struggles to deliver on this level consistently enough.

Maybe it was a bad session. No, hang on, I know it was a bad session.

What I mean is: taking the rough with the smooth is starting to appeal less to me than it did a week ago.

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