Month: August 2011

The turning points

September the 1st tomorrow. Which means the end of summer is just around the corner, if not already here.

This precise time of the football gaming year always feels a little unreal. The next games (if we include FIFA, and I think we must) are just around the corner. The demos are either out or soon to be out. Preview code and review code is in the hands of various sources.

It’s precisely now that you start to get a real idea of what’s ahead, and also to take serious stock of what’s behind.

The forums are full of technical talk that’s a long way outside my expertise. I’m sure that the participants do know what they’re talking about when they’re analysing individual frames of animation and everything else. It all sounds very interesting, but even if I had the inclination to immerse myself in that side of things, there’s no time.

I’ve not been playing the PES2012 demo. I haven’t even downloaded the expanded PC version of the demo, the one that introduces all the other teams and match times. I will. I just haven’t had the time to do so yet.

I’ve been focusing on PES6(360). Those brackets with 360 in them are very, very important. They signify an utterly different game from the one that appeared on PS2, Xbox, PC, and PSP.

As I’ve remarked once or twice, I believe that last-gen PES6 marked the beginning of the series’ downward curve. Oh, the game was still right up there on the high part of the curve, no question. Any serious historian of PES would have to acknowledge last-gen PES6 as one of the great football games. But I just felt that last-gen PES6 was faster, more ‘arcadey’, and notably easier than its predecessors. It seemed to be the moment that PES started its journey down from the lofty heights.

PES6(360) is a different game—a better game—that just happens to share the name. Over the past three or four days I’ve played every day for an hour or two.

PES6(360) represents a good deal of unfinished business for me. Since I started playing this series a decade ago, there are only two PES games whose Master Leagues I have never ‘completed’ (i.e., won a Treble in—or at the very least a Division 1 title).

They are PES2011, which I stopped playing because of certain atrocious gameplay elements that I could no longer tolerate.

The other is PES6(360), which has no such gameplay problems in my estimation. The gameplay is sublime, some of the best pure PES gameplay ever seen, particularly on a next-gen console.

The reason I’ve never ‘completed’ a PES6(360) ML is because I missed out on it during its original year. Didn’t have a 360 back then. I have only ever played it for a month or two during summer over the past three years.

Progress has been stop-start, it’s fair to say.

But here’s where I am today with my team, PES United (there’s no team name editing in PES6(360)):

The in-game year is 2015. As can be seen, I am closing in on the D1 title. My team is 2 points clear with 2 matches left in the season. I would love to win this title.

Sadly, I’m out of the Cups, so there’s no chance of a Double or Treble. Realistically I doubt I’ll have time to play another full season before the second PES2012 demo and the FIFA12 demo both show up.

Goalkeeping the faith

At last, at last. I have a couple of goals to show off. They’re not anything remarkable, but they at least show me scoring from outside the box. This can a problem in PES2012, at least to begin with.

Here are the goals, both scored whilst playing with Porto (my favourite demo team so far):

My favourite is actually the second one. A clipped type of shot, right in the far corner.

Again, neither is anything really special. As ever in PES, satisfaction is contextual and individual. It’s about the story of your session. These goals came along after a frustrating few matches of scoring either no goals at all or scrambled tap-ins.

Shooting in PES2012 is a hot topic. Essentially, Konami have once again pulled the ‘annual shooting weight switcharoo’ as I insist it now be called. Every year they reverse the previous year’s shooting mechanic. Light shooting years alternate with heavy shooting years. PES2012 is a heavy shooting year.

Or is it?

It’s risky to judge by a demo, particularly this one. Konami has a track record of changing fundamental aspects of the game between demo and full release, usually not for the better (cf. PES2010 and PES2011). And this year more than any other they have trumpeted the fact that Demo 1.0 is just a taster of the banquet to come.

But I’ll plough recklessly on and judge by the demo anyway. PES2011’s featherweight shooting model has been ditched, but elements of its shooting ball physics seem to remain. PES2012’s shoot button requires a heavier press, no question, but it retains some of PES2011’s floaty-feeling ball mechanics.

Meaning that shooting from distance is now critically (or fussily, you could say) dependent upon the traditional PES factors: time, space, opportunity, and the right player. It’s no good trying to blast a 30-yarder with your identikit right-back any more. To plant one in the onion bag from more than 20 yards, you need a Seedorf or a Schwarz (or indeed a Dzeko, or an Ashley Young).

That’s my take on it anyway. All is subject to change.

I’m not too worried about PES2012’s shooting. I think it’ll be fine. We’ll get used to it. I liked PES2011’s shooting, and if I can like that, I can like any shooting.

I’m most concerned about the goalkeepers. I really believe that if PES2012 emerges with keepers like the ones in the demo, it could spell trouble.

It’s simple. PES2012’s keepers need to catch balls that goalkeepers should catch. Not all the time, of course. Every keeper has lapses in concentration and moments of madness. But most of the time, real-life goalkeepers will catch balls that keepers should catch. Otherwise, they  wouldn’t be goalkepeers.

PES2012’s goalkeepers aren’t goalkeepers. They’re so bad that they can only be conceived of as a means to an end—the end being a football computer game designer’s wish to keep things ‘exciting’.

Low-powered shots straight at the goalkeeper or within easy catching range should NOT be routinely batted aside as if the ball is made of vomit. They should be caught, 99 times out of 100.

If it happens roughly once every two or three matches, yes, fine. That’s statistically probable. If it happens several times in every match, no, that won’t be fine.

In the PES2012 demo, bad goalkeeping is truly wretched. If it translates to the full game, it’ll damage PES2012’s credibility.

FIFA-style super-keepers are not required. All that is required is for the PES2012 goalkeepers to catch the balls that goalkeepers should bleedin’ well catch. Simple.

My fingers, as ever, are crossed.

Do not boil

Like every other PES-lovin’ PS3-owner, I grabbed Demo 1.0 of PES2012 this week. I’ve played it a bit over the past few days. Happily, the PC demo’s blurred graphics problem is absent. As ever, it’s a real pleasure to sit with a proper PlayStation controller in hand and play the game without worrying over v-sync tearing or what Windows Update might be doing. PC gaming has got a lot going for it, but when it comes to football games I’m firmly with the consoles.

So, how about PES2012—or how about this early demo, it’s more accurate to say.

What more is there to say? The first thing is that this is not PES2012. I have to smile when I see the demo spoken of in some places as being PES2012.

This is a demo, and a very early and rough-around-the-edges one at that. Have we ever had a demo with more than a week of August still to go? I don’t think we have.

The in-depth diagnostics of various gameplay mechanics that work/don’t really work/don’t work at all, is largely pointless, if impressively fine-grained in some cases.

I’m as disappointed as anyone that the assisted passing settings are borked and that the keepers are ludicrously bad. I’m as pleased as anyone with the general handling, the speed (-1 is my sweet spot), and the nimbleness of the players. I go along with the impression of great promise mingled with relatively minor concern.

The biggest change that’s leapt out at me has been shooting. PES2011’s shooting was characterised by a lightness that occasionally bordered on the absurd, with the gentlest of touches of the shoot button producing wayward, frequently skyward, shots.

PES2012 seems to have gone back to heavy shooting. The floatiness that some have seen is because they’re still using PES2011 muscle memory, and feathering the shoot button. You now have to really lay on the shoot button to get any power going.

I haven’t been able to score a good goal, or even a middling goal, to show off here. Not yet. I think I’ll play the demo for another few days before inevitably going back to my patchwork quilt of football games whilst waiting for Demo 2.0 to arrive.

This week’s WENB podcast makes for very interesting listening. It does seem as if Demo 1.0 (I’ll be calling it that from now on) represents the least best code of any that has surfaced over the summer. Apparently, if we think this demo is good, the second one will be a good deal better. As for the final game…

No! I won’t allow myself to believe that a great PES2012 is a done deal. I remember too well what happened with PES2011: a superb demo, the best one ever, but a criminally misconceived final game in so many aspects.

This demo is like a tasty spoonful that you take from the pot while the pot is still cooking. It’s nice and all, but there’s still another ten minutes’ cooking time to go. And you’ve got to be careful not to let it boil.

“How do you trigger player runs?”

That question? Beware—it’s about to become the most-asked question on PES forums in the history of the Internet. For the record, it’s right stick plus R3.

I’ve had the PC version of the PES2012 demo since Monday night. I’ve played about 20 matches in total. It’s only a demo, an early demo, and a fairly scruffy one at that. A fact that should be borne in mind.

I wanted to see some things in PES2012 and—perhaps most importantly—not see other things. The stumble animation, the step-around animation, the elephant touch, and much else: I wanted them all GONE. For now, I am satisfied with how PES2012 is shaping up.

Getting the demo on Monday, August 22nd, the earliest ever, was both gratifying and plain weird at the same time.

Monday was an odd day. The PES2012 demo wasn’t supposed to be out until today, Wednesday. But there was something in the air, you know?

The preceding weekend had seen the now-traditional annual pre-release community infighting reach epic new proportions. What we needed was a dose of actual PES2012 gameplay as a bucket of cold water in the face.

I was at a work training day on Monday. Around 5pm, on the way home, my spider sense started tingling. Suddenly I was sure that there was something I needed to know.

I checked the forums on my phone, again, as I had done a few times that day…

The PC demo was out! I didn’t know how it was out, and still don’t know how. Was it official, or a leak, or what? Whatever the reason, that bus ride home was one of the longest of my life.

The download started at my full 8MB download speed. ETA: 30 minutes. It looked as if I’d be playing PES2012 before 7pm.

Ah, but there must have been hundreds (thousands?) of other people joining in the fun. The download slowed painfully, inexorably, to less than 80 kB/s, and didn’t complete until almost 9pm. Painful wasn’t the word.

Over the past few days and over the week to come it will be common for people to ‘review’ their experience of playing this alpha demo as if they’re reviewing PES2012 itself.

  • You’ll see
  • lots of bullet
  • point lists
  • that look like this,
  • talking about passing
  • and shooting
  • and the goalkeepers –
  • dear God, the goalkeepers!

You’ll also see lots of admonishments (like this one!) about it being pretty pointless to assess this PES2012 demo in this way.

It really is an early demo. It’s a pre-demo demo, in lots of ways.

The graphics, for one thing. Blurry. I tired my eyes out squinting at the graphics. Seriously, it was the same kind of ‘sandpaper eyes’ and dull headache that I got from spending an hour playing the Nintendo 3DS.

Yesterday afternoon I played my approximately 20th and so far final game on the PC demo. I’ll wait for a fix for those graphics. The console versions of the demo are out today. I trust the graphics won’t be blurry.

I loved the PES2012 gameplay on show in the demo. After I’ve played the console version(s) I’l have more to say.

  • I might even
  • do a
  • bullet points thing

+Or one of
+These things
+That some people
+Do instead

–With all
–The pluses and
–The minuses

The goalkeepers really are as bad as everyone’s saying. The assisted passing settings don’t seem to do anything. The scissors kick animation is still too common. There’s a new ‘heel flick’ animation that fires far too often. (I saw a CPU defender use it to clear a cross.)

But overall, the feel and handling of PES2012 is exactly what I wanted it to be.

I lost all four of my opening games. Three on Regular, one on Professional. I scored one goal—a very good one, as ithappened, with Park Ji Sung from 30 yards. Shooting feels oddly heavier to me. As ever, it’ll come with time and practice.

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