The past few days have been like one of those web articles whose first paragraphs are packed with gratuitous references to Lady Gaga and Britney Spears and all their related keywords. Such articles are intended to attract hits from those who really are looking for the latest showbiz clothes sex shopping gossip sex chatter about Lady Gaga and Britney Spears. It’s more than a bit awkward and frustrating to run into when you were looking for something else entirely.
The end of last week saw me drooling about the gameplay of PES2011 when played with top teams. Or with a top team, anyway: AC Milan, in a Champions League tournament, on Professional difficulty, with 15-minute matches.
I’ve still had some high quality moments, but nothing so far has matched up to the almost primordial innocence of the pure PESness of that one match against Valencia.
It all begs the question: why is PES2011 like this? Why can’t it just behave, and be good? Why must it revert to the awkward, tangly, stumble-strewn mess that has made year 2010-2011, overall, my most deflating football game year since 2007-2008, the year of the game-that-must-not-be-mentioned?
I felt so curious that I broke out my best Jack McGee impersonation and did some investigating. I replayed one problematic match over and over, about 5 times in all, under various conditions. My methodology was hardly rigorous, far from exhaustive, and definitely not scientific, but the results—such as they are, such as they are—are interesting. Ahhh, vaguely interesting, anyway.
The final AC Milan group game was at home against Rosenberg. I was already through as group winner. Rosenberg were already out. They would finish bottom of the group no matter what. You might expect this situation to produce a sterile, Exhibition-type match. You would be wrong.
The match was as bitterly gruelling and ugly as any I’ve played in PES2011—and I’ve played a few, believe me.
Two players or more were around each of mine the instant they had the ball. Shooting? Forget about it. The long stumble-and-pause animation was on show a lot more than the shooting animations.
I won 1-0, with a glancing header from a looping near-post cross (a bit of a PES2011 exploit, that). It was a terrible match that I didn’t enjoy even slightly.
In the spirit of investigation, I reloaded the save and played it again. Once again, the same conditions applied. Supercharged Rosenberg overpowered and outpaced and out-skilled my players all over the pitch, for the whole 90 minutes. This time it was a 1-1 draw.
I’ve had a persistent theory for many years now that PES games adjust their character from session to session. Particularly in Master League. I have nothing to go on except a hunch based on the accumulated impressions from thousands of hours of play over more than a decade. It’s the only thing that explains why your shots all sail in one day, then you come back the next day and can’t do anything. Nothing else has changed. You’re playing today with the same team and players against the same opponents as yesterday, but the game feels totally different.
So I quit the game and turned off the console. Waited a minute or two, humming to myself. Then powered the console back on and reloaded the game and the save.
Drat. All the same. Another dour, tight, thankless kind of match.
So I did it again. Except this time, I waited a couple of hours. Thinking, what if the internal clock has to tick past a certain point before the hypothetical PES character-altering switch is switched?
I loaded up and played again, and—placebo effect notwithstanding—it all did seem a bit gentler, a bit more in keeping with the stately, plump PES that we know and love.
In the interests of science, I replayed again, and again—making about 5 or 6 experiments in total, over a period of two days.
The matches were all a mixed bag. The fixture would need to be replayed with a much larger sample, under controlled conditions, to determine any kind of pattern that would lead to a conclusion.
And my conclusion: I just don’t know what the problem is. Bring on PES2012. I need to draw a line under this year, fast.
Postscript: this morning, Monday 25th July, I’ve played the two Round of 16 matches (against Manchester United) and the games were sublime. Really great examples of PES2011 at its best. But what version of the game will turn up tomorrow morning? This is the problem with PES2011, I feel.