Month: March 2011

The wind of change

So there were a few more matches left in the season than I thought: 6. I have played 3 of those 6 matches. I will definitely finish the season in Friday’s post, and after that… There have been certain developments in my football gaming, but I’ll deal with all of that near the end of the post.

The situation heading into these last matches of the season was as follows. My club, Catania, were mid-table, but only a few points off the Europa League qualifying places. That’s where I wanted to finish. Here is a potted overview of the 3 matches I played, followed by a league table snapshot:

Catania 2-1 Parma

Incredibly, Parma came in with a cheeky offer for me in Negotiations just before the match. This would have unsettled me in real life. I gave the offer a good look. Hmmm… 43% chance of playing, AMF/SMF, a good squad, and Parma are a ‘name’ in a way that Catania somehow still aren’t.

But I turned them down. Their players are only about the same level as my current teammates. If/when I leave, it has to be a palpable step up. Othersiwse I could spend several seasons just traipsing from club to club, always remaining roughly on the same level.

In the match, we went 2-0 up and were cruising. I laid on one of our goals. Parma got a late goal to make the last 10 minutes nervy, but we held on. I thought I played well, and was disappointed with a post-match rating of 6.0.

Verona 0-0 Catania

A tetchy, bitty, frustrating game that neither side deserved to take anything more than 1 point from. I knew I’d had an average game, but was still shocked at my post match rating of 5.5. That’s still above-average, I suppose.

Napoli 2-1 Catania

A bitter defeat, and it could have been a hammering as well, with Napoli totally dominant for the first 30 minutes when they got their two goals. At one stage it looked as if they would give me a true thumping. I supplied one of the passes that led up to our late goal in the 75th minute. After that it was nearly all one-way traffic as we laid siege to the Napoli net, but nothing came of it. I got a 6.5 rating for this one.

After those matches, here is the table:

With three matches to go, I will definitely have the season finished in time for Friday’s post. After that… I don’t know if I’ll continue playing BaL regularly.

I picked up a 3DS this week, with a copy of PES2011 3D. It’s a decent game, very reminiscent of PES6 as many have said, if a little cramped on the small handheld console—and the 3D is staggeringly effective (I was braced for it not to be). I’ll write some more about it on Friday’s post, after I’ve played it some more.

At the time of writing (Tuesday night), I’ve only played two quick matches. But they’ve been enough to convince me of one thing.

I don’t think I can continue playing Become A Legend. As much as I’m enjoying the mode, it’s not entirely for me.

I have realised that BaL has been suffocating my football gaming for several weeks. I’m not a solo-player football gamer. It’s not what I want to do with my football gaming time.

I need the pure air of full-on 11 vs 11 gameplay. I need the freedom and satisfaction of playing with whole teams. What I need is Master League.

From Monday, I’ll be back to playing an orthodox Master League career. I don’t know yet which version of the game I’ll be playing. It won’t be the 3DS version—I can say that with certainty. It’s got to be on a proper, big console, with a big controller and screen

It could be PES6(360), it could be PES2010(PS3), it could even be PES5 on the PC. All three options have pluses and minuses. I’m inclined to favour PES6(360), as it’s the only one whose ML career I never actually ‘completed’. But I’ll see how I feel if/when I play it.

Consolation wars

I’m heading to the end of my first season with Catania in season 3 of my BaL career. Wednesday’s post should see it finished. My only aim this season is for us to qualify for Europe next season. The league position is rather precarious (sorry about the glare):

With just a few matches left, a run of indifferent results has seen us fall out of the top 6 into mid-table. We’re currently 11th. But there’s only a few points between us and that precious European qualifying zone.

I’m still on starvation rations as regards my football gaming. I manage just a few matches per session, and some days I don’t play at all. This is a sea change for me. I’ve had bad next-gen PES years before (haven’t we all), but my interest in football gaming has never waned until now.

What is going on here? Is it simply the natural passage of time, ageing, and the inevitable change in habit and routine? Or is it a sneaking, chronic disaffection for what has been, even at its height, a considerably less than illustrious showing for PES in the next-gen era? Which is now getting on for 6 years old. They got the first effort right, IMO, with PES6 on the 360 back in 2005. But it’s been mostly downhill ever since.

I have now pretty much accepted that PES2011’s orthodox full-team game is dead for me. I’ll never play it again. If I want Master League, I’ll have to go elsewhere. PES2011 is over for me, and in truth it’s been over for a long time. I no longer see any of the subtleties that so many others see in the game. It’s a wry inversion of last year, when I loved PES2010 despite so many others seeing it as a troubling, retrograde step.

I might end up breaking PES2010 out of mothballs. But we’ll see. There are plenty of options, really. But for now, I am still involved in my BaL career.

Catania are fighting for that Europa League place. There’s would be no better stage for growing my player’s stats than European competition. Catania have to be there next season. I intend to stay at the club no matter what, but it would sweeten the pill if I could rely on European football.

I’m turning in a lot of indifferent performances. 6.0 and 6.5 are my most frequent post-match ratings lately. Occasionally I have also been subbed for the first time in a long while. And they’re justified subsititutions on each occasion. I seem to spend many games now just watching my teammates bumble and stumble around whenever an opposing player brushes them.

BaL is very much a consolation prize. I don’t really love it, as is probably obvious to most regular readers—but I like it just enough to go on playing it.

Stumbling on

I’ve played another three matches in my Become A Legend career on PES2011. I am taking things quite easy at the moment. Mainly this is because my non-gaming life needs some quality attention right now. And it has to be said that PES2011 just winds me up too much nowadays for it to withstand more frequent play.

Oh, there’s no doubting the game’s many good qualities. I got a good few months and a good few hundred hours out of it. But when I think of PES2011 in years to come, this will be what I think of first:

That’s the stumble animation. I’m thoroughly sick of it.

In BaL it’s especially bothersome. It takes your player out of the game for a few precious seconds. It effectively wrecks whatever idea you had of getting into the box or whatever. Opposing players only have to brush past you to trigger it. You don’t have to be clattered. The slightest clip—as in the above example—will set it off.

Training up Body Balance won’t help, in my view. The stumble seems to be an integral part of PES2011’s gameplay. It’s one of the factors that drove me away from Master League, where my top-rated superstars frequently went careening around the pitch like marionettes.

I am still enjoying BaL enough for me to want to carry on with PES2011. I do have plenty of other football gaming options available to me, and  might end up taking one of them. But that’s something for a rainy day.

It’s the back-end of season 3. My current club, Catania, are an upper-mid-table kind of team. We have no chance of finishing in the top 3 and qualifying for next season’s Champions League, which I managed to pull off with my previous club, Willem II in Holland, two seasons in a row. The standard is much higher in Italy.

Of my three matches I lost 1, won 1, and drew 1, in that order. It was an interesting session.

The defeat was unavoidable, a nightmare game where I seemed to just twist on the spot looking for the ball and not finding it.

In the win, I scored both our goals. The first was a routine tap-in. I enjoyed the second, which came after a free kick. I went on a speculative run to the centre, feeling that if I did, the ball would come. I took a smart first-time shot and placed the ball neatly into the bottom corner:

Oh, yes, the defender obviously had to send me into a partial post-goal stumble, just to get at me even more.

I also scored in the drawn match, another tap-in. Still, they all count, and my haul of three goals in three games is one of my best-ever ratios. I’d like to keep it up.

Sadly, only getting that one win has seen us drop out of the European spots. We’re still in with a very good shout of finishing high enough to make it—but it could be close.

The oldest winger in town

Above is the current League table in my BaL career in PES2011. I’ve played another 2 matches since Monday’s post—both of them very enjoyable, I have to say. I haven’t wanted to play any more than that. I’m satisfied by the current schedule. At this rate I should finish this career just in time for PES2012.

Both matches were away from home. Playing away is often a formidable prospect in PES2011 due to the game’s infamous balancing protocols. In both matches I was the only player on a red form arrow. Most of my teammates were on green or blue. The opposition were all on oranges and reds.

Fixture 1 was against Cagliari. We went 0-1 down inside the first 15 minutes, to a well-taken goal from the AI. One thing I have noticed in PES2011 is the AI’s propensity to shoot from distance. A Cagliari striker was put through 30 yards out and took a speculative shot with my keeper off his line. The ball sailed over his head into the net. It was the kind of goal I’d have been delighted to score myself.

Just before half time I played a few simple passes around the Cagliari box, and finally laid it off to Maxi Lopez, who slotted it home for our deserved equaliser. Maxi Lopez is to Catania what my old buddy Sheotahul was to Willem II: just a very reliable striker. The match ended 1-1.

Fixture 2 was against Juventus. They were above me in the table, with a cushion of 7 points too. I figured it was my last chance to haul myself up into the Champions League positions. Lose or draw this match, I thought, and there would be just too much ground to make up.

Again I went 0-1 down early on. This time it wasn’t a good AI goal, but one of the bad kind. The kind that comes from the 5th AI corner in suspicious sequence—where you feel that the AI won’t stop getting corners until the goal has come.

I feel that the PES2011 AI blatantly forces goals from corners, much more so than its predecessors (also guilty, to a lesser extent). It’s all part of the scripting that is the beating heart of Pro Evolution Soccer. I know this isn’t a widely shared view. But I know I’m right! In the same way that the faithful know God, I know that dark shenanigans go on under the hood of PES.

Anyway—once again I came back to 1-1, and again I laid on the killer pass, again for Maxi Lopez. Game on, I thought.

Did I mention that Juve still have Del Piero in 2013, in my BaL world? In traditional PES fashion, he’s still the best player in the world at the age of 50 or whatever he is. Just when I got back into the game, he sprang into life. Two mazy dribbles from the wing later, and Juve were 3-1 up. There was no coming back from that.

And that was my slim chance of reaching a Champions League spot gone. I’ll do well enough just to finish in a Europe League spot now. I’ll settle for that.