Month: July 2011

An accidental overdose of gamma radiation

It puzzles me why PES2011 shows so many different faces to so many different people. Many of the issues that have disappointed, infuriated, and frankly disgusted me about the game, are nothing or nearly nothing to others.

Playing styles have a lot to do with it, of course. My style is perhaps more ponderous. I want to hold onto the ball for longer than the game will properly ‘allow’, leading to a higher incidence of the goddamn bastarding stumble animation for one thing.

But it really puzzles me how the step-around animation—known as the ‘Pirlo turn’ on some PES forums—isn’t more widely noticed and reviled. Running onto through-balls is problematic thanks to this feature, and trying to shoot from a laid-off free kick is a nightmare.

Yes, after a reconciliation with PES2011 over the past few weeks, it’s trying its best to push me away once more. I think I’ve narrowed down my objections to the game to one word, a common word for next-gen PES players: awkwardness. The way highly-skilled players will hesitate and shuffle when collecting the ball. The step-around. The stumble. At times it can be lived with—at other times, for me, no, it manifestly cannot be lived with.

Which is a shame. Roughly half the time, PES2011 plays really well. Often it’s a delight, in the finest tradition of the series. For the other half of the time it’s pretty bad. And what causes that? Is it the game itself, tossing a virtual coin upon boot-up? “It’s tails! For this session I will turn his annoyances up to 11, heh-heh.”

PES2011’s character is so divergent from session to session that something must be causing it, I feel. An actual programming decision by the creators. The game’s split personality is reminiscent of David Bruce Banner, appearing in split-screen with his green alter-ago at the end of every memorable title sequence. (Me calling him David Bruce Banner will be sacrilege to the comics nerds, where he was merely Bruce Banner—but I’m talking specifically here of the Incredible Hulk TV series.)

So I’ve been steering clear of PES2011 for the past few days. My vague hopes of maybe, just possibly, starting a Master League—again—in PES2011, and playing it through to a Treble before October, would seem to be on hold.

I’m back playing WE9LE exclusively, where I’m in season 3 of what is developing into a very intriguing Master League indeed. A week or two ago I posted that the patched game’s ML ‘world’ was in danger of being unbalanced by the appearance of unpatched super-players. There were also a disamaying amount of FREE AGENT slots in the Youth player list.

Time would seem to have resolved the latter. The Youth list is now fully populated, bar one solitary FREE AGENT slot the last time I looked, at the start of this third season.

I picked up two 17-year-olds: Brad Friedel in goal, and Jari Litmanen in midfield. I couldn’t afford anybody else. I’m still in Division 2 and will do well to mount a challenge for promotion this season.

0-0 is back to being my most common result. The few days I had away from We9LE have cost me, particularly as I spent them with another game that has different passing and shooting values, and a different overall rhythm.

That’s fine. I know the way to score goals and eke out those precious 1-0 wins will return to me in We9LE eventually.

The AI has scored another notable goal. This one was a lob that came after some particularly calamitous defending from yours truly. Note the ‘scoop’ nature of the lob, using the right front edge of the player’s boot:

That’s the 17-year-old Brad Friedel making his debut in goal. He/I had a really bad game, losing this one 3-0.

PES2016 news here!

So, three things happened over the weekend.

First and foremost, PES2011 took a dip in my affections yet again. It’s not another divorce situation, no. I just have to leave it alone for a few days and return refreshed.

I might have spoilt myself by playing WE9LE, where players can trap the ball without falling over a blade of grass or doing a little Cossack dance first.

The second thing that happened was that I got access to the blog’s statistics again. My stats-gathering plugin has been out of action for a staggering two years. In all that time I haven’t known how many visitors PES Chronicles was getting or what search engine terms brought them here.

I always meant to fix it but somehow never did.

This weekend I made a determined effort to fix the issue. With Google’s help it was fixed in 5 minutes. I really am the laziest man in the world.

Now I can see the top search terms that lead random visitors here. Here’s a selection of them from Saturday:

pes 3 formation
pes 2012
schwarz pes
pes 2015
chell portal 2
where is castolo from
pes 2011 manager mode
castolo ximenez master league

What leaps out is the startling fact that people are already hunting for information on PES2015.

Yes, PES2015.

But things might not be what they appear. After doing a bit of Googling of my own, I believe there’s some very early quasi-domain squatting going on, with Facebook angles as ever. I suspect that most, if not all, of the ‘PES 2015’ searches are the would-be quasi-squatters checking out the efficiency of their own shady endeavour.

Personally, I think they’re wasting their time anyway. PES2016, on the then-probable PS4/Xbox720, is definitely going to be The One.

By 2016 I hope we won’t have waited in vain for PES’s first universally-acclaimed instalment on the PS3/360.

The third and most significant thing that happened over the weekend was that a bumper-sized gameplay video of an early version of PES2012 appeared online. Much to Konami’s chagrin.

Even making allowances for this being an early-to-middle-stage build of the game, it makes for encouraging viewing. Here it is:

I like what I see there. It’d be easy to pick out isolated moments and work up a frenzy of despair, but I like the overall impression it gives of a mature football game in flow.

The speed is a bit worrying, but I assume it will be customisable once again, as in PES2011.

Even if the speed settings feature is, against all logic and reason, removed from PES2012—and wouldn’t that be a very Konami thing to do?—I could live with a higher speed if the game moves and handles as fluidly it seems to.

It’s also a touch worrying to see Puyol popping up in an AMF position at one point. After PES2011’s goal-hanging sidebacks, the last thing we need is for PES2012’s centrebacks to start piling forward uncontrollably. Although, looking closely at the passage of play concerned, I thought I could spot a sequence of one-two passes that forced Puyol up front, but I’m not sure.

As ever, one of the most frustrating things about watching these football game videos that appear at this time of the year is the way other people approach the game.

I don’t for one second believe that any of the players playing PES2012 in this video actually play the game that way. They seem to want to walk the ball into the net all the time.

Time and again they create the chance for a shot, and you think yes, shoot, but no, they have to try one more pass. And then when they do create the elusive perfect opening, they tap the ball against the keeper’s legs…

It’s not just me who loves shooting from all angles and distances in PES, is it? I’m not really alone on that front, am I? Does everybody play like the players in this video?

The One, part two

So the trumpeted PES2012 ‘gameplay video’ turned out to be a ‘gameplay features video’. A world of difference, there. Instead of the continuous gameplay that most of us wanted to see, we only got a few morsels instead. Those morsels were satisfying, but compared to the feast that I was expecting, I still felt hungry.

(Credit to SpoOky1611 for this compilation video; see the YouTube original for a HD version.)

One of the most notable aspects of this video is that Konami’s European head honcho, Jon Murphy, is an eerie soundalike of the former London Mayor and left-wing firebrand, Ken Livingstone.

Setting aside all the misgivings (next-gen PES is the era of misgivings), PES2012 continues to look and sound great. Very promising. Highly encouraging. A solid platform to build upon. Etc. (Yawn.)

I struggle to take previews of any kind very seriously at all this year. I’m still bitter about what Konami did, very late in development, to another promising game that looked like being The One.

PES2011 was supposed to be the The One, and it damn well should have been The One. All through summer 2010 the previews were great, and then the demo was great—and then just before release it’s as if Seabass handed over to some internal ‘sabotage squad’. Saying: “Here’s a great game of football called PES2011. Make sure you do something to fuck it up.”

Okay, okay, PES2011 is still a good game, I’d agree the best yet on next-gen. But it could have been better. The stumble animation, and the step-around ‘Pirlo turn’, and the elephant touch, and the wandering side-backs, are all intruders. All turds in the punchbowl. None of them should be there.

It was interesting to see PES2011 so openly criticised throughout the videos. But the one thing I wanted to see—a demonstration of how PES2011’s stumble animation is removed in PES2012—was worryingly not present.

It’s mid-July now and I’m happily playing two PES games. WE9LE and the much-maligned (by me!) PES2011.

Following on from Wednesday’s revelation of a tentative return to PES2011, I’m still just playing Champions Leagues. I’m unwilling to start yet another Master League this late in the football game year, especially while I’m still playing my WE9LE one.

I’ve played to the end of season #2 in WE9LE without incident. By which I mean, without encountering any more noticeable incidents of unpatched super-players. I finished mid-table in Division 2 again.

I’ll very cautiously start season #3 and see what happens. It’s a weird one, playing ML in WE9LE. On the one hand there’s the sumptuous gameplay, as good as old-school PES gets. On the other hand there’s the creaky old-school ML infrastructure, which is more than a little wearying nowadays, to be honest.

I’m also replaying many of the old games so that I can remember the times when I played them. I was supposed to play PES2008 on the PS3 last week, for the first time since the year 2008 itself. I never got around to it for various reasons, but this weekend I do plan to jump in.

PES2008(PS3) is the next-gen’s principal Bad Guy. Will I find anything in the game to redeem it?

And I’m strangely looking forward to hearing that infamous soundtrack once again. All together now:

#We’re gonna play football (soccer!)
Football (soccer!)
Football (soccer!)
All around the world…#

The nine lives of PES2011

For the past few weeks I have been having regular, guilty sessions on PES2011—and enjoying them hugely. Replaying all my football games—for the book’s sake—has drawn me back to PES2011 with a refreshed eye. I’ve liked what I’ve (re)discovered so far. God help me.

I’ve hinted at PES2011’s renewed life on the blog and in comments, but it was too early to come right out and say it. I had to be sure. Now it’s time to come clean.

I’ll admit to being influenced by the community on this. The forums are still full of those for whom PES2011 is one of the great PES games, despite its problems. Several commenters on this blog who are still playing and loving the game have also given me pause for thought. And my options in other areas may be shrinking.

I think WE9LE’s Master League is sadly on the point of falling apart. The gameplay patch is currently very multiplayer-oriented, and it shows. If it does fall apart, I’ll start what feels like my 97th ML career of the year on PES2011 on the Xbox360.

Playing WE9LE on the PC has been a problematic experience in any case.

The game itself is superb, albeit hobbled in single-player. The brilliance of the PC platform is its power and versatility. Patching the game is a matter of copy-pasting the right files into the right folders. (A fully patched PES2011 on the PC, incidentally, is a wonderful experience.)

But the PC has to be specially set up and then laboriously brought to life every time I want to play. I leave it in Hibernate mode, so at least the boot-up process isn’t very long.

When it’s finally awake, though, it wants to update everything in sight. Anti-virus updates, Windows Update updates, .NET framework housekeeping…

My main computer is a Mac. The PC is just for gaming. I’m not tempted to go back to the PC for my general computing needs, put it that way.

One day a few weeks ago, the PC decided it wanted to update those .NET repositories, and that it was going to take its sweet time about it, and that it was going to use near enough 100% of CPU as well. I quit the relevant process in Task Manager, but it just restarted itself. WE9LE started up, but ran as if in treacle. Heavy, thick treacle.

I left the PC alone to get on with its bullshit, and booted up the 360 instead. The PES2011 DVD was still inside. The Umpteenth Coming of PES2011 all re-started from there, really.

I’ve played PES2011 almost every day since, sometimes just for 20 minutes, sometimes for a couple of hours. After all the stick I’ve given it, it’s drawn me back in.

I haven’t gone back to either of my old Master League saves on the PS3. I’ve just been playing Champions League tournaments on the Xbox360 instead. (How weird is it that there are PS3 advertising boards in the 360 version (see picture at top)? How could Microsoft allow that?!)

I play 15-minute matches on Professional difficulty. It’s all been pretty sweet, as I believe the kids still say.

The 360 ‘version’ of the game is installed in full on the console hard drive. Loading times are short or non-existent. The overall experience is a lot better.

I don’t take back a word of my PES2011 criticisms. The stumble animation is despicable and I hate it. I avoid it as much as possible by being very careful in possession and moving the ball around a lot quicker. I just have to accept that in PES2011 you’re not allowed to keep the ball if there’s an opposition player anywhere near you. He’ll most likely take the ball from you and send you stumbling. That’s just one of the ‘rules’ of PES2011.

But many would say PES2010 was packed with issues too, but I loved that game. What I loved most was its Master League, of course. That’s what I hunger for still.

I’m loving PES2011’s passing and shooting. The graphics, the features. I scored a free kick in one of my early Anderlecht CL campaigns. Here is is, one of the very few I’ve scored in PES2011