Month: September 2011

FIFA12: early first impressions

FIFA12 arrived yesterday—Thursday—after I’d gone out for the day. I started playing this morning. What with all the settling-in and menu exploration that goes on (always an enjoyable aspect of a new football game), I only managed to play 5 six-minute matches in Exhibition mode.

I like FIFA12. After I went overboard with FIFA10 and eventually recanted, I’m not going absolutely crazy about FIFA12. Not yet. But I’m ready for more, and looking forward to putting in some serious time over the weekend. Monday’s post will be a lot more in-depth. I can smell a 1500-worder.

I always open a new football game with England vs. Scotland. It’s become my football game calibration tool. I always rely on it to get an early feel for things.

All settings on default. I’m a great believer in playing a new football game out of the box, so to speak. For a little while.

I played all games on Professional. 3 of the 5 were England-Scotland; the remaining 2 were England-Germany. I lost all but one.

TACTICAL DEFENDING: This thing works for me. To defend now, you have to exercise skill and judgement—not just squeeze a few buttons and wait. No more homing-in pressure button. It’ll be a shock going back to PES’s traditional sprint-clamp model after this. I welcome it with open arms. It’s arguably the most innovative development in football gaming since ISS brought in the through-ball. That moved things onto another dimension; so does this. I know that the kids don’t like it. (I’m not laughing. I’m not!)

MAKE YOUR OWN FOOTBALL GAME: I never saw this coming. You can play with various sliders in a back-screen and effectively make your own football game. The passing and shooting values you prefer. You can even alter the heaviness/lightness of touch needed to pass and shoot. That is immense. There’s one galring drawback to this. With all the myriad gameplay settings that can be tweaked, the FIFA12 each individual ends up playing won’t be anything like most other people’s.

GENERAL HANDLING: This is what I’m most concerned with when I’m playing a football game. How does it feel to be in control? What’s the overall sensation of playing it like? Am I being allowed to play—or allowed to play too much? It’s too early for me to judge properly, but I liked what I felt in my 5 matches.

SHOOTING: FIFA12 has finally got it right, it seems to me.

My first goal—another finessed curler, a common type of goal in next-gen FIFA:

Are there negatives about FIFA12? Again this is only after one micro-session of play, but they are:

GAME SPEED: It feels noticeably faster than the demo to me on Normal. I  don’t know if it’s  the extended time I’ve spent recently in playing the PES2012 demo on -2 speed, or what.

ALAN SMITH: This man must have the best agent in the world. A nice guy, no doubt, and a decent CF in his day, but he’s a wet blanket on the commentary team. (That’s not anti-Brummie of me. It’s not!)

DARREN BENT: What is Darren Bent doing in the England team? I bet even Darren Bent wakes up at night asking himself that question.

Overall—after a ridiculously short amount of time, I know—my first FIFA12 impressions are of a great game of football.

Now why is that such a hard thing for some people to accept?

It’s not being disloyal to PES to like FIFA.

I’m not one of those PES fans with that stubborn and irrational belief that FIFA nowadays is all about flashy graphics and fancy tricks. FIFA’s graphics are good but not mind-blowing, and I’ve only ever done tricks by accident.

I’m more than ready to be told that I shouldn’t like FIFA12 for this reason or that reason. No doubt something is lacking in the interstitial animation matrix during the fullback’s overlap double-pop, and that kind of thing.

Oh what jaded epicures we have become!

Much more on Monday.

Ask Jack Bauer

No, I’m not too sure about the blog’s new look yet either. I’ll be tinkering with it for a week or two. I do quite like the mock-1950s comic book header I ended up with, but it could still use some work.

The football gaming news today is sad. There’ll be no FIFA12 for me today. ShopTo have let me down this year.

Even since the dawn of Internet time, ShopTo have received their stock on the Tuesday and dispatched the same day. And once again this year, they got their stock yesterday, but…

“By agreement with EA”, it seems, ShopTo have waited until today—Wednesday—to dispatch their stock. The best I can hope for is to get it tomorrow, Royal Mail willing.

I’m happy to wait for FIFA12, but I’ve cancelled my PES2012 preorder with ShopTo. I can’t take the risk.

For PES2012 I will go back to my traditional supplier, GAME. They may turn out to have the same kind of agreement with Konami, but we’ll see.

Getting PES2012 on Wednesday October 12th would be a completely different proposition from getting it on Thursday October 13th or even, horror of horrors, on Friday October 14th itself.

I’m off work that week. I booked it off especially. It’s the first time I’ve done so for a few years. Getting my PS3 copy of PES2012 on the Wednesday of release week is more important to me this year than it usually is.

A lot can happen in 24 hours, as Jack Bauer would testify (in front of some no-balls Senate committee, dammit).

In 24 hours a lot of the settling-in time that I always need with a new football game can be got out of the way. I could move myself up the learning curve and onto Master League that much quicker.

I should get FIFA12 sometime tomorrow, probably too late for me to actually play it much. I work afternoons/evenings. Our post has started arriving mid-afternoon. It’s likely I won’t actually play FIFA12 until Friday morning. Whatever happens, I’ll have my full first impressions post up on Friday afternoon.

I have retired PES5 for the foreseeable future. Only an unthinkable and unlikely catastrophe involving the two games would see me resume PES5.

Over the past few days I have been amusing myself  with a fully patched and pimped-out version of PES2012 Demo 2 on PC.

By all accounts this as close to the final retail game as it’s possible to get. I’ve been playing 15-minute friendlies between random teams, and loving everything about it.

Of course the retail version is out in various parts of the world. The PES forums have exploded over the past few days with a familiar round of bickering and contradiction. The game’s too fast, there’s too much AI pressure, the stumble animation is back, and so on.

I have a contact abroad—a fancy way of saying “old school friend who moved to America and keeps in touch via emails a few times a year”—who has been into football games for as long as I.

He assures me that the game isn’t too fast, that the AI pressure is variable and tolerable, and—most importantly for me—that there is no stumble animation.

There are other issues, of course. Doubtless there are issues that will only emerge after several days’ or weeks’ play. But the kneejerk mewling and puking currently going on in some quarters is premature and misplaced.

Fear and Trembling

Over the weekend a lot of lucky people got to play PES2012 and FIFA12. I won’t try to summarise what’s been said. The forums are full of their observations.

Suffice to say that their experiences have been encouraging, even positive—but not entirely so. We’re not all about to be taken up by a football gaming Rapture anytime soon. Which everybody already kind of knew anyway, one hopes.

The one thing I am very worried about is something I latched onto in several throwaway comments on the forums.

Several of those who’ve played retail PES2012 since Saturday allege that the final game’s AI pressure has been cranked up again, and that the stumble animation is back again.

I spent most of the last football game year deploring PES2011’s stumble animation mechanic. If I see anything like it in PES2012, at anything like the same level of frequency, PES2012 will go straight in the fucking bin, and this I swear most solemnly.

I wouldn’t even try to live with a PES2012 equivalent of last year’s stumble. That is a pledge I would have no trouble keeping.

For me, Konami’s track record of meddling with the game immediately before release is one of the most dismaying aspects of recent PES games.

I hope and expect that the forum comments I saw were from people with only a few hours on the full game. It takes many, many hours—about 10-20 hours, minimum—to get to know the true character of a new PES game, as we all know.


Back onto happier topics, by which I mean: PES5.

The old-school classic PES game has been keeping me entranced for the past 5 days or so. I just can’t get enough of the thing at the moment.

It’s all destined to end this week with the arrival of FIFA12 (probably), but it’s nice to know I’ve got options on the backburner.

Between PES5, PES6(360), and indeed WE9LE—with a new fan-patch incoming—my football gaming life doesn’t depend solely on the fate of the 2012 games.

One thing I will say about PES5: I’m taken aback by how much AI pressure there was in this game. It’s not how I remember it being in the roseate hue of memory. But that’s how it is. The AI puts you under intense, charging pressure nearly all the time. It shows that the more recent football games’ use (and abuse) of AI pressure as a difficulty-raising technique hasn’t come entirely out of the blue.

But PES5 provides the player with the tools needed to play football even while it lets the AI bear down constantly. It’s possible to play some lovely stuff—as in every PES game, to be fair.

I’ve played about another 10 matches, winning roughly half of them by narrow scorelines, drawing a few, and losing another few. I’ve not had a win or a loss by more than a single goal yet. My team, Coventry ‘PES United’ City, are 3rd in the Division 1 table.

I’m having a great time with the old-school PES and the old-school Master League. It’s the perfect tonic to steady the nerves in what will be a very anxious week or two. I might join many people of good sense and boycott the forums between now and October 12th.

The Myth of PES5

So I’ve been giving PES5 a few days’ play. I picked it up again whilst messing around on my PC recently.

I’ve continued a Master League career that I started many months ago now. This is my umpteenth ML of this football game year, and I haven’t finished a single one of them. Shocking. Curse you, PES2011!

Where I picked up, my team—Coventry City (an edited PES United)—were about 9 matches from the end of our second season in Division 2.

I have since played all the way to the end of season 2, with sheer unadulterated enjoyment. PES5 was the greatest time I’ve ever had on PES. It’s always a pleasure to revisit such hallowed territory. This game has become one of the PESverse’s foundational myths. But PES5 is one myth that still holds power over me.

I love the gameplay in its offshoot, WE9LE, perhaps a little more, however borderline-sacrilegious that might be to say. But currently PES5 has a fully-featured and logical Master League component that the fan-edited WE9LE lacks. As I have said many times (many, many times, just recently), I’m a Master League fan first and a football game fan second.

Here’s a brief goals highlight reel I made. There are only a few goals, none truly amazing, but all of them decent enough. And there’s a nice susprise for those with their PC speakers on who recall with affection a certain other old-school game called PES2:

I think I’ll set all my goals to that music from now on.

I achieved promotion to Division 1 by the skin of my teeth. Going into the final match, I was 6th in the table on 19 points. The four teams above me were all on 21 points, including the 2nd-placed team. I knew if I won and they all lost I could make it, but I didn’t think the game would actually let me do it…

When my players’ arms went up at the final whistle, I was incredulous. I’d done it!

The final table:

Okay, it stinks more than a little. We all know how that Master League tables are frequently moulded to keep the human player involved, but I still loved the moment.

I have played on for a few matches into season 3. I snapped up Schwarz as a 17-year-old from the Youth list. I signed a young Jesus Navas in a swap deal for Castolo (not so much of a Myth in PES5, but still tradeable). When the action started I drew with Spurs and beat Newcastle.

I might get a few more sessions in before the first 2012 game lands on my doormat next week.