Month: May 2011

Arshavin it all

The performance of Barcelona in Saturday’s Champions League final impressed me in spite of my usual disdain for ‘tippy-tappy football’. Whilst watching the match, I had a PES-related epiphany.

I now believe that Seabass & co. based the footballing style of PES2011 on match videos of Barcelona in action. PES2011 is very conducive to Barca-style one- and two-touch passing. In fact, the AI’s constant pressing positively encourages it. And that constant pressing itself is another real-life Barcelona trait.

Inspired by the match, later that night I reloaded PES2011. I played a couple of games in my Anderlecht ML career. Not fancying too much of a grapple with the game engine, I knocked the difficulty down to Professional.

I had a great few games, scored some great goals, played some lovely Barca-style stuff. The stumble only appeared when I tried to not play Barca-style. All in all, I saw only the good in PES2011 and little or nothing of the bad.

I am not, and probably never will be, a fan of PES2011. But I might be able to play it occasionally without being disgusted. Judging by the ambient forum chatter over the past 6 months, it seems that even those who love PES2011 agree that it’s best consumed in small doses, that over-familiarity is the breeder of contempt.

I won’t be going back to PES2011, but I hope to be able to play it once in a while.

Meanwhile, back on PES5… I’m still playing it despite it being on the PC and damn awkward to start up much of the time.

This is the acid test for me and PES5(PC). To set up and play PES5 on the laptop takes more effort and bother than to play any game on the consoles.

First I have to restart the laptop from hibernation, then wait for Windows 7 to wheeze and groan its way back to life, then fend off any of several random antivirus and Windows Update notices. It can be 5 or 10 minutes before the machine’s in a fit state to be used for gaming.

Then if I want to play on the TV screen I need to get the HDMI cable from its hook on the wall, plug it in, and connect the other end to the TV.

Then I plug in the Xbox360 controller for Windows. Then I’m ready to play some PES5.

Whereas to play on a console, I just turn it on and sit back. I miss my back-compatible 60GB PS3 desperately, needless to say.

At the moment I am persevering with the whole PC rigmarole. PES5 is so worth it. With each session my rediscovered regard for the game nudges up another notch.

I’m just starting season 2, having failed to get promotion last year.

In the pre-season negotiations I managed to sign none other than… Arshavin. It’s 2005 in-game and he’s an unknown 23-year-old. I got him from some club—I forget which—in a trade-in deal.

H. Almeida and Aquilani have come along for the ride as well. Alongside Zidan I’ve suddenly got a decent frontline.

I picked up Ricardo Costa in defence.

And just like that, I’ve got the skeleton of a good team.

For the start of the new season I whacked the difficulty up to Top Player. In my first few matches I’ve noticed a difference already. I don’t think I’ll be getting promoted this season either, put it that way.

I’ll talk about it in more detail on Wednesday—which, in case you haven’t noticed, will be June 1st.

That’s June the first.

Bleeding hell. Next thing we know, it’ll be Christmas.

PES5 stakes its claim

And just like that, I’ve played a whole season of Master League in PES5(PC). It doesn’t really take long with the smaller Division 2 back in the old-school ML.

I started in traditional style as Coventry City (an edited PES United), using the Default squad, on 4* difficulty to ease myself back in.

I applied the Falkhon 4.0 patch that I found via the archive of some forum.

The patch has made all the teams, leagues, kits and badges as authentic as they can ever be in PES. It was just 1.5MB in size, and installation was so easy compared to the PS3. All I had to do was drop it into the relevant folder on my laptop’s hard drive.

A Windows PC is the ultimate games console.

I’d have played a lot more of PES5 if I hadn’t been busy sampling all the great PC games I’ve missed out on over the past few years. Mount and Blade: Warband will most likely be the only one I’ll stick with for any length of time, though.

So just how does this PES5 gameplay feel to me now? This is the burning question. It could define the rest of my football gaming year.

The Defaults are a lot better in PES5 than they’ve been probably since PES2008. They’re still not very good, but they’re not utterly terrible. You can play a decent game with them, much of the time.

I’m not so naive that I’d expect to resume my mid-2000s love affair with this instalment of PES. I know that playing a game in 2011 is a different prospect from playing it 5 or 6 years ago. No man goes down to the same river twice. You can never go home again. And so on.

I’m still undecided about PES5(PC), really. I’m definitely on the positive side of the equation, but it’s not a done deal yet.

I’ve had a couple of great sessions. Really great sessions. PES5 has definitely still got magic in its boots.

But there have been a couple of other sessions when I’ve thought, you know, actually… this isn’t so great after all.

Amusingly, I’ve noticed a lot of PES2011’s traits in PES5. At times the AI ramps up the pressure to swarming levels. PES5 also has its own version of the elephant touch: the famous R1 knock-on that it takes ages to remember how to use to your advantage—and of course how not to use it.

There are all kinds of old-fashioned touches that I’d clean forgotten about. Regulate condition. Pre-season friendlies. Player exchanges in transfers.

Regulate condition is always a surprise. This was where you could use up some stamina in an effort to improve your players’ form arrows.

After a time the differential always made doing this worthwhile, and it becomes an empty ritual that you perform automatically between matches. The only time you wouldn’t do it, I remember, was during fixture pile-up, when you couldn’t afford the stamina loss.

And then there’s the transfer system. Or, as I might have to get used to calling it again, the negotiations window.

In the 4-week mid-season window, I only managed to bring in one player. He was a young SS/CF called Zidan.

No, not Zidane. I’m a few seasons away from that.

My player is Zidan. He’s called “ZEE-dan” by Peter Brackley. Stress is on the first syllable. I don’t remember having him in ML before.

Here’s the final table for season 1:

As ever, goal-scoring is a problem for me in season #1 of a Master League.

I have never won promotion at the first attempt. My unscientific impression is that the majority of other PES players win first-time promotion as the norm. The struggle to get out of Division 2 is part of what defines me as an average player.

I’ve passed through the post-season negotiation window and picked up a few exciting new players. I’m very happy to have got players of such quality. One of them is a star of 2011 who was relatively unknown in 2005. I’ll save it for Monday’s post, by which time I should have a better idea of whether I’ll continue with PES5 as my main game.

I throw my slipper at you

PES2011 is over, again. With all due apologies to those who suggested teams for me to play International Tournament with in PES2011, I have abandoned the game. Again.

This is the fourth time, I think, that I’ve tried to walk away. This time I think it’ll stick. My blog entries over the past several months have documented my problems with PES2011.

All I have to say now is: PES5!

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve played the PC version of PES5 quite a bit. Yes, with my old 60GB PS3 long dead (and still missed), it has to be the PC version now.

The fiddliness of playing on PC isn’t too bad, after all. And in fact I’m mostly playing it on my TV, linked up via HDMI port, with an Xbox360 controller for Windows plugged in as well.

I’ve used Macs as my main computers for several years now and I love them like the most slavering Apple fanboy you could wish to meet, but I have to admit that a Windows PC is the ultimate games console.

For at least the short term, I’ve decided to play PES5—in my view the best that PES has ever been, and sadly probably ever will be. In the longer term, we’ll see if I can stick with a renewed PES5 campaign.

Because it’s not certain that I can go back to such an old game.

I haven’t been absolutely blown away by my return to PES5. I can’t in all honesty start gushing here about the gameplay.

The game’s almost 7 years old now, and it shows in lots of little ways. There’s the frantic speed for one thing, which I am slightly getting used to. For another thing, there’s that pitch where it’s hard to see the ball…

But in lots of other ways… PES5’s still got it. You know, IT. The secret sauce that made PES the Rolls Royce of football gaming for the best part of a decade.

I’ve started a Master League on 4* difficulty (remember that!) with the Defaults. It’s just like 2004 all over again, except that I installed an Option File that wasn’t too difficult to track down. I made my own Coventry City team. Remember when the Editing screens and menus looked like this?

I’ll save the more wordy breakdown for Friday. It’s the eleventh hour for a university assignment that’s due in on Wednesday afternoon, and I do need to crack on.

Below is a video featuring two good PES5 goals, with a chunk in between them of me starting up my Master League. PES5 was the year that many of the traditional ML players ‘retired’, and they received an emotional send-off to begin with:

A brief word about the two goals above. Rooney’s first-time shot is a much-missed old-school PES specialty. With Fouque’s goal I did exactly what I had in mind to do, i.e. just whipped it inside the keeper. Both goals would be rarities on PES2011, and if deploring that means I’m shallow, well, shallow is what I’ll have to be.

Oh, and if you don’t get today’s post title, have a close listen to this.

The Myth of Castello

For the second time I have reached the final of an International Tournament with Slovakia. I’m playing tournaments with a variety of teams, in a game—PES2011—that I have, frankly, come to despise. Stumble. Step-around. Elephant touch. Player selection. That is all.

PES2011’s days are numbered, and this time I don’t think I’ll come crawling back. I’ve got other gaming options now—football and otherwise—of which more later.

I started this would-be sequence of international tournaments with Slovakia, and this was my umpteenth attempt. I haven’t kept count, but I’d estimate this was attempt #15.

For this attempt, I hopped over to the PS3, complete with its option file. As regular readers will know, a few weeks ago I picked up a copy of PES2011 for the Xbox360, knowing that it was exactly the same game. Like so many PES fans wandering the wilderness, I was delusional. I made myself believe in the hair’s-breadth of a possibility that the other console’s PES2011 might actually prove to be a different version, with none of the gameplay features that I loathe so much.

PES2011 is the same game on PS3 and 360. End of. I repudiate all beliefs and anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

In my latest tournament the gameplay was really shocking. A lot of the time I sincerely believe that PES2011 is the most awkward, stumbliest, crappest football game ever made. Worse than PES2008(PS3) at its worst. Oh yes, I’m going there.

I got out of the group, slogged my way through the following rounds, and saw that Germany were my opponents in the Final.

It was as tough as my last Final against Spain—tight, dour, and I was always up against it, as you would expect.

They went 1-0 up after 50 minutes, and to be honest I really thought that would be it. The time limped on and nothing was happening for me. In the last five minutes I went 3-4-3, then subbed my entire knackered front 3. Time for one last mighty effort.

With a minute left, 30 yards out, I squared the ball to that hero of Slovakia, a great midfielder called Welden, and aimed for the top corner. It flew in. 1-1. Extra time.

I hit the post in extra time, and enjoyed a lively spell of pressure that seemed certain to yield the winning goal, but somehow never did. There was a grim inevitability about penalties against Germany, and so they came.

I scored my first two. So did Germany. I’m good at saving penalties in PES2011 and dived the right way for both, but the ball squirmed in. I was playing with a blue-arrowed keeper, and this was some of PES’s legendary stats-modelling, I’m sure. No real complaints.

I missed my third penalty, and Germany scored theirs. I scored my fourth, but it was moot as Germany slammed home the deciding penalty, and that was that.

Another final lost. Gutted.

Will there be another attempt? Maybe, but probably not.

I’ve been off work for the past week, supposedly to work on a university assignment. I haven’t bothered with that yet (I’ve got two days left—it’ll be fine…).

Instead I have turned my attention to the gaming laptop that I bought last year. PC gaming could be the future for me, you know. Just an inkling I have.

Do you know there are still hundreds of people playing CounterStrike, at all hours of the day and night? It’s 5 years or so since I was a regular player but I can still remember my way around the maps. I’m still rubbish, too. If I get 1 kill it’s a good round.

I’ve caught up with Mount and Blade, a fantastic indie game that has become an established name over the past three years. It’s like a first-person Total War with beefy strategy/RPG elements. I played for 10 hours like a true noob, wandering around the world with no men, no weapons, and frequently no shirt on.

Once I knew what I was doing I started again with a new character—who bears a grand old Pro Evo name…

I haven’t got time to waste on games that I don’t really want to play—games that I’m only playing out of habit, because there’s nothing else on.

There are other football games available, including the greatest football game ever made in my view: PES5.

Over the past week I’ve been playing the PC version of PES5. Probably about 20 matches all told. I like to play a few either side of a Mount and Blade session.

The only thing I’ve got against PES5 now is that it’s fast. Too fast for my taste nowadays. But for that speed issue, I’d already be playing a PES5(PC) Master League right now. I’m trying to get used to the speed before taking that step.

At the time of writing—Sunday evening—I don’t know what Wednesday’s post will be about. The chances of it being about PES2011 are very slim, but not impossible. Never underestimate the power of convenience, which is what has kept me going for so long despite my overall disgust with the game.