Yes, my football game of the moment is still Winning Eleven 9: Liveware Evolution. I haven’t lost interest in the shiny bauble of the week. I haven’t jumped off the bandwagon. WE9LE has got depth and staying power. I think it’s here to stay.
I’ve got previous form when it comes to discovering old football games and spending large amounts of time with them.
Amost two years ago I found a copy of PES6(360) in a shop for £2. At that price it wasn’t much of a risk, and I duly discovered one of the best PES games I’ve ever played.
PES6(360) was great despite its limited feature-set and crude Master League. And even by the standards of old-school Master League, PES6(360)’s ML was extremely crude.
None of that mattered, because the gameplay was so good. In addition, I had a lot of next-gen football fatigue. Like now.
In 2011, history is repeating itself. A chance comment and email a few weeks ago pointed me at WE9LE. Here I am, and barring an unlikely FIFA11 miracle comeback, I’m here until at least October.
(It’s best that I don’t even mention PES2011. The stumble animation is… well, I’m not mentioning it.)
Just as I overlooked PES6(360)’s drawbacks, I’m having to overlook WE9LE’s too. The version I’m playing is run with a fan-made patch that updates the squads and kits etc. to season 2010/2011, as well as altering the gameplay via a universal stats adjustment. I think it does so brilliantly.
But sadly the patched game just isn’t optimised in any way for Master League. The screenshot to the left is an example.
The mode is still playable—I’m two-thirds through my maiden season. I worry about what the ML world will look like in a few seasons’ time. But the bird in the hand, and all that…
Last time, I mentioned being beaten 2-0 at Brugge in the first leg of the D2 Cup. I thought that I would have to play the game of my life to turn it around in the second leg at my place.
It so nearly was the game of my life. I started with an aggressive 4-3-3 formation, an even more attacking variant of my favoured PES setup for many years.
WE9LE, as much as any football game I’ve ever played, encourages and favours the Arsenal approach to build-up play and chance-creation. Or the Barcelona approach as I guess we have to call it now.
You know, endless passing and probing, looking for the opening, and usually finished off (if at all) from about 3 yards out.
You still can play direct. You still can pepper the goal with long-range efforts, but it’s hard.
In most matches I have maybe 4 long-range efforts, as opposed to about 8-12 in a typical match in almost any other football game.
In We9LE, I might get one long-ranger on target. When they go in, they’re proportionally more satisfying, of course.
I got the early goal against Brugge that I was praying for. It came from a 20-pass move. I spotted a run my striker was making and fed him the perfect PES through-ball—you know what I mean. It was a through-ball, and it was perfect.
One side-footed finish later, and I was 1-0 up on the day. The score was now 1-2 on aggregate. With 75 minutes of the match left. I was going to do this!
Sadly, some old, old PES problems remain even in WE9LE wonderland.
The AI team reacted as if it had gone 1-0 down in a one-off match. It had no awareness that this was a two-legged match that it was still winning.
The pressure turned up and up as time passed, as the AI became ‘desperate’ for what it thought would be the equaliser.
Eventually, it got its equaliser—and what a goal it was. I rarely post AI goals on the blog, but this was a good ‘un:
I was still pushing desperately myself for what would have been my aggregate equaliser, when the buggers of Brugge hit me on the break.
A floated cross was volleyed first-time from 20 yards past my keeper. A great goal in WE9LE that I would have been orgasmic about myself.
That killed the game off. Now I would have needed to score 3 goals. I crashed out of the D2 Cup.