Month: May 2011

The pain in Spain

And the quest goes on. I’m trying to win International Tournament mode with a select few teams. So far I’m still at the first one on the list, Slovakia. I’ve now tried and failed on at least 8 separate occasions. This is still a lot of fun, though.

I think I’m on attempt #8 with Slovakia. It could be anything up to #11 or #12. I have lost count. All these attempts are partly due to my stupidity on a couple of occasions.

Twice now I’ve started up the mode, played a few matches—usually the group fixtures, and maybe one or two knockout matches—and then quit the game. Then I’ve come back for the next session to discover that I’d forgotten to save my progress. Whole sessions, gone just like that. Might as well have never happened.

That has only happened twice so far. It hasn’t happened since. My first order of business at the start of each tournament now is to save the game and turn autosave on.

And the attempts are getting increasingly close. Chile knocked me out at the quarter final stage a few attempts ago. I thought my latest attempt was going to be the one.

I’m now very used to Slovakia and their players. My chance-creation and chance-conversion ratio has crept up and up. I’ve probably played 50 matches with Slovakia by now. And this time, I got to the Final.

Spain were the opponents. Unlucky for me, as I really feel that against almost any other team I’d have won. They kept the ball a lot more than any other CPU team ever has (i.e., I ‘only’ got 55% possession instead of my usual 60-65%). There was a momentum about them that seemed irresistible, and so it proved.

Midway through the second half, the score 0-0, I was creating chances and starting to believe. From my corner, they broke away and Torres popped one past my keeper.

There was still loads of time left to get an equaliser, and I so nearly did. I rattled the post from the edge of the box, and tested Casillas several more times even at the death. But the fnal whistle went and my players sank to their haunches. All over now.

And so I go on to the next attempt. When I started this new phase of PES gaming, I did say that each team could take me a while.

There’s nothing like a long-range goal to cheer me up. Here’s a clip of the first—and so far only—long-ranger I’ve scored with Slovakia. This came against Tunisia, en route to the Final. It’s a peach of a 30-yarder, right into the top corner:

And to close today, I have put together a mini-compilation of stumble animations that occurred in my latest session. Why? Because I’m obsessed with PES2011’s stumble animation, that’s why.

These are representative stumbles. If I’d stopped to record every stumble, I’d never have played the game. Watch until the end, where you will see a farcical double-stumble. First to go a-stumbling is Spain’s David Villa, and then my player joins in immediately afterwards (with some accidental good editing from me!):

Many people say that they never see the stumble animation. I don’t want to say I don’t believe them, but I am genuinely at a loss to understand how that could be. The stumble animation is tightly integrated into the mechanics of PES2011. Almost any kind of physical contact with another player can trigger it. The stumble animation is not a rare event at all. Even taking into account my self-confessed obsession, it’s not something I have to make an effort to notice. Its there in front of me, in my face so to speak, all the time.

When I come to do my end-of-year PES2011 review in September, much of it will be coloured by my opinion of the stumble animation.

PES2011 has been ruined for me by the stumble animation, among other things. Whenever I loathe PES2011, it’s mainly because of the stumble animation. PES2011 is poisoned by the stumble animation. I fucking hate the bastard.

The Miss of Sisyphus

I said that playing International Tournaments with teams outside the top tier could take a while… And so it is proving. Currently I am on my 5th attempt with Slovakia.

Each time, I have started from the start, in the Group phase.

It’s because of my tournament mode House Rule: if I am knocked out, at any stage, I am NOT allowed to reload and play that one match again. I have to start the whole thing over, from the start of the Group phase.

It’s a tough rule because it means that one slip, one unlucky moment, or one missed chance can undo a lot of work.

It brings an added air of tension to the knockout matches, knowing that one slip-up and I’ll be back at the bottom of the mountain. And indeed, International Tournament with Slovakia (and, I’m anticipating, with 90% of the teams I’ll use) is proving to be a Sisyphean task.

Sisyphus was the mythical hero doomed to spend eternity pushing a huge rock up a hill and watching it roll back down again. At which point he had to start pushing the rock back up the hill. And that was his life, forever. (“We have to imagine Sisyphus happy,” said Albert Camus, a goalkeeper, once. My italics.)

Not that Slovakia and I will go on through all Eternity. I should get to the final and win it at some point. And when I do, the pleasure experienced will be proportionate to the effort expended.

I was eliminated in the group stage of attempt #3. 0-0, 0-1, 0-0. Nothing much to say about that.

Attempt #4 was so nearly the one. I made it safely out of the group, trouncing Canada 5-1 as I did so. I beat Austria in the round of 16, then met Saudi Arabia in the quarter final. It has been a very long time since that goal at USA ’94. I was justified in thinking this would be almost a walkover. But no, it was a frustrating 1-1, and extra time brought no goals. A penalty shoot-out would decide matters.

I pride myself on having spent the 2 minutes necessary to learn PES2011’s penalty system. Astoundingly, lots of PES2011 players have decided they’re above spending the 2 minutes, and persist in blazing their penalties down the middle, or miles over. And then complaining about it.

However, my knowledge of PES2011’s penalty system is still lacking. It’s useless when it comes to tournament penalty shootouts.

The altered perspective screws things up. You view the penalty old-school style, from pitch-level and behind the kicker, rather than high up from the side as in a match.

But I have discovered at least how to take a ‘Cantona penalty’ in this viewpoint: the ball is hit firmly at ground level to one corner or the other. The drawback of these is that if the AI keeper ‘guesses’ the right way, it’s almost a certain save.

I missed my first one after leaning on the stick too hard. But I scored all 4 of the remainder, and saved two of Saudi Arabia’s. And so I had won my first ever tournament penalty shootout. I was elated. This mode really does lay a lot of meaning on individual matches and moments.

In the semi-final, my opponents were Uruguay. At 1-1 again, it went to extra time (again), and it was looking like another penalty shootout until I conceded the dreaded last-minute free kick about 25 yards out.

I was expecting the shot, but the AI kicker floated one across to Forlan at the far post. He chested down, shot, and my keeper saved. But Forlan picked up the rebound and slotted it home.

Even then I wasn’t finished. As we restarted I knew I’d get probably one attack and then the final whistle would go. I probed down the wing and lofted over a cross. A Uruguay player met it and conceded the corner.

I brought up my keeper to take the corner. The ball was cleared to the edge of the box. There stood Welden, my trusty midfielder. I took a first time half-volley, feeling it was hopeless. But somehow the ball zipped through a crowd of players, hit the outside of post, and rebounded to the feet of Silanok, my reliable striker, on the corner of the 6-yard box.

It was more or less an open goal, albeit from a narrow sort of angle.

I stabbed at the shoot button. The ball went over the bar.

I trudged my way back to the bottom of the hill, and applied my shoulder to the rock.

A check on Slovakia

I know I’ve said it before, but this time I really mean it. I’ll be keeping the posts as short as possible from now. 600 words, max. Even an Open University assignment doesn’t just write itself, you know.

For the near future, I’ll be playing Tournament modes in PES2011. International Tournament mode occupied all my ISS/PES playing time a decade or more ago.

I started with England, for no reason other than to get the buggers out of the way. I lost the first campaign in the final, 0-1 to a superb Brazil side. In my second attempt I met Brazil again in the final, went 0-1 behind again, and had a player sent off: Milner, for nothing.

It was one of those melees where your player seemes to oeprate without your input. Milner slid in from the back on an attacker, and got a straight red. It was a shame as Milner was one of my players of the tournament, scoring a lovely lacrosse-style ‘nestled in the net’ goal during a group match against Argentina (the goal appears in today’s mini-compilation, at the end of the post).

I could have done two things. One, resign myself to defeat and then to a third campaign with England. Or two, exert all my focus and what little skill I might possess to see if I could pull off a miracle here.

And I did. With a few minutes of the 90 left, I scrambled a deserved equaliser with Gerrard. In the first period of extra time, I scored a thumper with Rooney from 25 yards (also in the mini-compilation below). I held on grimly for the final whistle, and that was that. Now I could move on.

On Friday I took suggestions in comments for teams to play with. That list (closed for now) stands at: Slovakia, Uruguay, Chile, Japan, Senegal, Mexico, Croatia. It’ll take me a while to work through those, I think.

I’ve already started with Slovakia, and I’m already partway through my second attempt with them.

My first Slovakia campaign ended in the Quarter Final. Group stage qualification was a nightmare. Slovakia’s players are only just above average, no doubt about it, but there are some gems. I like WELDEN and the strong centre-forward SILANOK.

I played Croatia in the round of 16 and won, just, 1-0, with a scruffy goal. This match was notable for seeing me go down to 8 players late on as I defended a little too desperately. This always used to happen in 1998-2001, when tournament mode was my main mode.

Holland in the quarter final were a different prospect. I withstood the pressure, but just couldn’t get myself a goal. I should mention that I’m using each team’s default formation and tactics. Slovakia’s is a very attack-minded 4-5-1. I often push the wide midfelders up to make a 4-3-3 when I need to press. Even this didn’t help much.

There was an amusing glitch where two players got stuck together in the first stage of a challenge animation (it’s also in the mini-movie below).

The match went to penalties, and despite knowing full well how to take a good one, I was confused by the altered ground-level perspective. I miscued my first one badly. I fluffed a further 2 out of the remainder, scoring just once, and was eliminated.

This morning (Sunday) I started another tournament with Slovakia. I drew with Canada and beat Nigeria in the first group matches. The third group match, against Uzbekistan, was going well—1-0 up—when my TV’s screen went black. The 360 shut down with a click and a whine. Only a powercut, not a RROD or similar. Phew.

Football gaming like it’s 1999

PES2011 and I have had a checkered history, it’s fair to say. Today I announce yet another twist in the saga. This time it’s all gonna work out, I swear…

In Wednesday’s post, I recounted how I acquired another copy of PES2011.

I now have the Xbox360 ‘version’—as the PES community’s popular usage puts it. That usage is deeply misleading, because PES2011 on the 360 is not another ‘version’ of the game at all. It’s the same game. That this even needs to be said says a great deal about where the PES fanbase is at this point in the franchise’s history. We’re all over the place. It is a time of scattering and schism.

At the end of the post on Wednesday I gave readers to understand that today would see the start of a new Xbox360-based Master League campaign. It’d be my 159th different ML campaign of the season!

Plans have changed. Something else has happened instead of that. Before starting Master League, I thought, I’ll play a quick International Tournament with England as a warm-up.

The rest could well be history. I’ve been enjoying International Tournament gameplay so much that I’ve decided to play that mode instead. On PES2011 on the Xbox360. Indefinitely.

I had a great few sessions, probably my best on PES2011 for a long, long while. The screenshot above is from before my Quarter Final, against Kuwait. (I had random teams in the 32.)

At the time of writing I’ve got a final to play, England vs Brazil, and I’m really looking forward to it. As I’m looking forward to playing this mode with Croatia, with Zaire, with Chile, with Wales…

NB: this positive development is nothing to do with it being the Xbox360 ‘version’. There is no unique Xbox360 version of PES2011. There are no gameplay differences whatsoever. The game on PS3 and 360 is identical in every single respect.

The one minor possibility I will admit is that the bigger, bulkier 360 controller always seems to make me play football games slightly differently. It gives my hands terrible pins and needles, particularly in the fingertips, a couple of which can actually go numb after twenty minutes or so.

And so I tend to hold a 360 controller more loosely than I do a PS3 controller. Which tends to mean less panicky sprint-clamping, and less sprinting overall. Probably 90% of sprinting in football games is pointless anyway.

The bad stuff is all still there in the Xbox360’s so-called version. The stumbles, the step-arounds, the elephant touches. Ashley Cole. The wandering side-backs (really, Konami, why?).

The difference is that in a Cup mode with international teams it is much reduced.

Who knows how far it’ll go? All I can report here are the facts about what’s going on in my football gaming life right now, and this is what’s going on. I’m football gaming like it’s 1999.

In any case, I could do with a more bite-sized PES experience right now. I’m moving into a tricky 6 weeks of my real-life year. I’m coming towards the end of year #2 of my Open University course. The final essay is due next week, and in June there’s a written examination that I need to revise for. This is all going to fit in just nicely.

Before 2002, when Master League came along to steal my life, I used to have a very different yearly routine. I played nothing but International Tournaments (and occasionally leagues with international teams), over and over and over. All year long.

My routine was to start at the letter A and see how far through the alphabet I could get before the next ISS/PES game came along. I got as far as Sweden on one of the ISS games—that was the furthest.

I also played nightmare rules, which I will be observing again now. It has to be on the hardest difficulty. And here’s the clincher: if I lose a match, I have to start all over again from the start of the group stage, with the same team. No reloading the last save. Only after an ultimate victory in the final am I permitted to move on to the next team.

I recall that with minor—and some major—teams it can develop into an epic story. I really struggled with China in one of the ISS games, for example, repeatedly playing and losing with them for weeks, but I got there eventually.

It feels odd not to be planning a Master League campaign. In some sense, I’m always planning a Master League campaign.

But if I’ve got trouble with Master League gameplay, and if the gameplay in International Tournament is so good, the choice seems clear.

I won’t go A-Z this time. I’ll jump around, playing with any team that takes my fancy. Which teams should I put on my to-do list? I’m open to suggestions, but I’ve already decided on the next one after England (assuming I beat Brazil in the upcoming final*). It’s going to be Mexico.

[*EDIT, added 10 minutes before publication: I didn’t beat Brazil. They beat me 1-0. Kaka was a monster. It’s back to square 1 with England, until I win. I am really getting into this PES2011 videogame now!]

© 2018 PES Chronicles Frontier Theme