Month: September 2011

Wired for sound

And that’s that—I have now finished with the demos for both games. There’ll be no more demo playing for me.

Between now and full release I might play the odd one or two demo matches here or there if I’m feeling frisky, but otherwise I am now officially waiting for the full releases. Both will be qualitatively different experiences from their demos, and the matches will mean something. I can only take so many Exhibition games.

I’m stunned by some of the demo exploits I’m seeing on the forums. People who have played hundreds of matches, and who will play hundreds more yet. How will they avoid demo fatigue, or even contempt? Perhaps they won’t avoid them.

I estimate that I’ve played about 50 matches on PES2012 (demo 2) and 20 matches on the FIFA12 demo. In both cases it’s been enough for me to like what I see. I’ll now wait for the full game(s). FIFA12 is just a week away; PES2012 won’t be much longer.

I was teetering on the brink of mail-ordering a Euro copy of PES2012, but I’ve decided I can wait after all.

Particularly if I’m able to get my hands on an early copy of the PC version.

I finally got to play the PC version of the PES2012 demo 2. It ran beautifully—a little better than PES2011 ever did, truth be told.

I made sure to play a couple of matches of the ‘vanilla’ version first, by way of orientation.

I enjoyed two of the best matches I’ve played on either of the PES2012 demos, period.

First I played Spurs vs Rangers, on Regular difficulty, with passing assistance set to 0. I also left the game speed on 0 for this one.

The game speed felt perfect, the passing was perfect, the gameplay was just perfect. I lost 0-2, not because I wasn’t trying—I certainly was trying—but because I underestimated the AI. I had chances galore but couldn’t finish.

The keepers were terrible again, mine in particular. Neither of Rangers’ goals were a result of his eccentricities, but it’s still more than a little demoralising.

That’s the word for PES2012’s keepers as they are now: demoralising.

The only reason I’m not throwing myself off a roof about the PES2012 goalkeepers is the prospect of them being fixed in the final game and/or in a Day Zero patch.

My second match was Inter vs Bayern. I cruised to victory 3-0, with the butterfingered Bayern keeper contributing two of my goals. Again it was an absorbing match. It was a pleasure just to knock the ball around, looking for openings.

After my two warm-up games I installed one of the Demo 2 expansion patches that increases the playing time and adds about a thousand extra teams. I used Jenky’s patch, obtained via EvoWeb forums.

I played Liverpool vs Man Utd, 15-minute halves, Professional difficulty.

As ever, it was a thrill to suddenly be playing PES2012 with different teams, and in a longer match.

Sadly, I had some technical problems that marred the experience. Graphics were juddery and, most distractingly, I had no sound at all.

After playing one half I quit to the desktop to investigate. For a few years I’ve been one of those nose-in-the-air Macintosh people, so my PC skills are rusty. But I still know enough to have a root around and try to fix common issues.

Could I restore sound to my PC? No, I could not.

I uninstalled the patch and the demo. Then after trying the most obvious fixes I went into device manager and attempted to reinstall the soundcard drivers. Somehow that went wrong. Not wanting to waste any more time, I decided to hit the nuclear button and went for a System Restore, which did the trick.

For the record, I’m not sure it was the PES2012 expansion that did it, although that’s the most likely culprit as the problems happened immediately after installation.

Bloody PC gaming. With its updates and endless technical wrinkles. It’d be the greatest gaming platform ever but for this kind of thing.

Before shutting down the PC I had to have a few matches on two other installed games: PES5 and WE9LE.

It’s always instructive to look back at the old games. See where we’ve come from, and where we’re going, and if it’s worth going there.

I played two matches of my ML career in PES5, and two of my ML career in WE9LE.

WE9LE is the better ‘pure’ game of football, no doubt in my mind, but on this occasion, I enjoyed PES5 more.

PES5 is plagued with incessant fouls, yes—picky fouls by later games’ standards—but wasn’t that very feature the making of PES5? Didn’t its fouls make players play with more restraint than in any other PES game? Producing a legendary game of football in the process.

Late last night I found myself firing up the PC for another sneaky few games of PES5.

It occurs to me that PES has been a successful, indeed legendary games franchise because of the self-expression that its gameplay encourages. You can paint pictures on a canvas and create majestic moments that lift you above yourself and the game. That’s the genius of PES, really.

So, what will I be doing between now and next week? Playing PES5(PC)—or maybe PES6(360)? Either or both of those will more than tide me over. This time next week, I’ll have FIFA12 (ShopTo and Royal Mail willing). I will be very interested to see what all the Career Mode buzz is about.

We all live in a football submarine

I’m just about finished with both demos now. Browsing the forums yesterday I came across one poster who claimed to have played 180 games of the PES2012 demo. That really shocks me. How will that hardy fellow not be jaded by the time he gets the full game?

I won’t have that problem. I’m ready to bide my time until Wednesday the 28th, when FIFA12 should arrive.

After I do just one more thing I’ll be quitting both demos. I’ll reveal what that one-more-thing is at the end of the post.

I’ve tasted the flavour of what both games have to offer, and currently I do like both—however ‘controversial’ that may be in the football gaming world. If I hadn’t already known, I certainly know now that there is real passion involved in the eternal PES-FIFA wars. It is very important. The weekend’s discussion on Friday’s post illustrated that the debate is focused around the nuts and bolts of football’s representation in both games.

Not so much to me, with my cheerfully naive love of Master League and probably vain hope for something similar from FIFA. The rarefied levels of discussion about animations and polygons and AI are only of tangential interest to me.

I appreciate and respect the fact that there are many who follow and care about football games in a different way than I do. But I’m not going to change my attitude any more than they are. And why should either of us change, anyway? We’re all just shadows in Plato’s cave, ultimately.

Perhaps next year it’d be best if they release the FIFA13 and PES2013 demos a week or two apart, like previously. I’ll have to drop a note to Jonathan ‘Jon’ Murphy and David ‘Dave’ Rutter. They listen to me.

——-

I haven’t decided yet if I’ll pre-order a Euro version of PES2012. I’ve already got the PS3 copy on order, for its Option File goodness. If I get a Euro copy too, it’d be on the Xbox360.

What’s stopping me is that I swore never to get two copies of PES ever again, following last year’s silly interlude when I bought a 360 copy of PES2011 to go with my PS3 copy. I’d been infected by the widespread delusion that the 360 game was actually a different version. It turned out to have better loading times and graphics, but that was it. The gameplay was identical in every aspect. Never again, I told myself firmly.

So I’m reluctant to break that promise so soon and get another copy of PES, albeit for a different reason. Would it really be worth it for the sake of an extra 10 days or so that I might be happy enough to play FIFA12 in? I’ll decide today or tomorrow.

——-

Before moving on from the demos there’s just one more thing I have to do. I’ve downloaded the PC version of Demo 2 and its expander patches as well, and will be trying that out over the next few days. I got them both when they came out last week, but haven’t had time to install them, never mind play them, until today. Such is life as an adult working gamer.

A couple of 25-minute matches with some new teams, and I’ll have had my fill. I’ll report back on this on Wednesday. And then no more demos.

A supple little mannequin

It’s been all about the second PES2012 demo for me since Tuesday night. If Konami’s early release was a spoiler tactic aimed at the FIFA12 demo, it’s worked in my case. I’ll have to get back to FIFA12 sometime over the weekend.

I’ve never gone along with a certain kind of stance towards next-gen FIFA that could be summed up thus: “It is not enough for PES to succeed; FIFA must fail.” Granted, in a month I might be as cheerfully indifferent to FIFA12 as I have been to its two predecessors. We’ll see.

The PES2012 demo promises a great game. If it comes through on its promise, it’ll be a turning point in the series. Could be. If.

History shows us that Konami can do strange, game-altering things between demo and full release. If they mess this one up now, I don’t think even PES’s hardcore fans will find it easy to rationalise and forgive.

Goalkeepers are a worry, but that worry is slightly receding after some good sessions where they played quite well. Still TERRIBLE, of course, but not utterly abysmal. They need fixing.

I’m also a bit worried about an increase in game speed. Konami just keep on doing this with the speed. Demo 2 is considerably faster than Demo 1. If history is any precedent, the final game will be faster yet again.

Other than the keepers and the speed, I’m not worried about anything. Yes, yes, yes, I’ve read all about the worries over wingplay being predominant and the fullbacks not pushing up and all the rest of it. They don’t impact me the way they do others. Compared to many, I’m a simple man with simple needs from a football game.

I scored a lovely long-ranger. It came from Stankovic whilst playing with Inter. Here it is:

Yes, that is a lot of space he’s in. I’d done a lot of passing beforehand. The AI was out of position in some areas.

I liked the turn and instant knock-on that made the opportunity. I was often frustrated about not being able to do that consistently enough (in my view) in PES2011.

PES2012 has brought us responsiveness and a more intuitive gameplay, without—in my view—compromising its core values. Individuality. This includes the representation of football’s underachievers. Jermain Defoe is a supple little mannequin in this game, fast and competent, but he’s never quite the deadly striking weapon that he perhaps should be—just like his real life counterpart.

I’m a bit weirded out, if that’s the right term, by the level of scrutiny the demo is getting on the forums. I don’t remember it being as in-depth and, frankly, nerdy as this last year.

It’s definitely going to be a long few weeks on the PES-related internet. People will be playing the demo for hours every day and writing up their experiences blow-by-blow. By the time we get to release day, some will have played the demo for 50 hours.

It’s all getting too much for me. The weight of expectation around PES2012 is like being crushed to death. Perhaps this is a measurement of PES2012’s potential.

Ahhh… potential. Arguably the saddest word in the PES lexicon. Filed under the sub-category of ‘Next-gen’.

Keep everything crossed.

Super Tuesday

Well, that was a demented kind of Tuesday, wasn’t it? Both of the 2012 football game demos released. FIFA12 in the daytime, and then, with deliciously evil timing, PES2012 appeared late at night. Konami spoiler tactics? Who knows.

It was a most incredible day, the best day this side of October 14th. I’ve felt a bit jaded about football gaming over the past month or two (did you notice?), but Super Tuesday has jolted me back into life.

Both demos are, in my opinion, pretty bloody good.

FIFA12 is slightly innovative—no more sprint-clamp autotackling. That is huge. Make no mistake. The official FIFA12 forums are quite entertaining at the moment.

PES2012 brings together a few gameplay strands that have been waving in the wind over the past few years and attempts to consolidate them in a single package. With some success, I find.

I was surprised that I really liked the FIFA12 demo. I’ll get to that. With this being PES Chronicles, I’m mainly concerned with PES2012.

My PES2012 download slowed to a crawl, then picked up around midnight. I was able to get a few matches in before bed. These are my very early impressions of PES2012 Demo 2.

What a game we could have on our hands here. Those of us who play football games for hundreds of hours every year (instead of just a couple of hours every September, like the magazine and website reviewers) know all too well that the nature of the experience can change. All I can say is what I feel right now.

PES2012 handles very well. The introductory blurb promises that this is the consumer experience. With at least one reservation, early signs are that we’re in for a treat.

Shooting has weight and zip. I was actually fine with the floatier, PES2011-style mechanic in Demo 1. Having experienced the heft of Demo 2’s shooting, I don’t want to go back. A great improvement, and I’m looking forward to firing in my beloved 40-yarders in the full game.

Here’s my first Demo 2 goal, scored with Modric whilst playing with Spurs:

Defoe’s turn and lay-off on the edge of the box wouldn’t have been possible in PES2011. The turning animation would have taken aaaages, by which time the defender would have recovered the ball.

Passing feels better too. I took the time to play around with the assisted passing settings. I lowered it to 1, and then to 0—but I didn’t notice much difference. Some on the forums are raving about it, saying it’s superbly effective. Hmmm. Maybe it’s just me. I’ll take another look later.

Players on the ball handle intuitively and fluidly. Whisper it, but it’s akin to FIFA10’s and FIFA11’s model of player handling, albeit with copious amounts of PES magic dust sprinkled on top. For years I’ve been calling for PES to steal FIFA’s best ideas.

I think the overall speed has increased from Demo 1, where I always felt comfortable at the default 0 speed. In Demo 2, I have to go down to -2 speed to feel the same kind of comfort. It seems to be a rule in football game development that the closer it gets to the final product, the faster the game becomes. Why is this? Who knows.

Alas… the keepers are still terrible. I have never felt so frustrated and dismayed with keepers in a PES title. I scored a decent header with Van der Vaart (a lovely powered header directed back across goal) that seemed, in the replay, to trickle past the keeper’s ear as he collapsed vertically in a sort of falling-down-on-the-spot animation. It was embarrassing to behold.

The standard keeper problem in PES2012 is that they don’t hold onto shots that they should hold onto. They pat the ball back out into play, and back into the danger area, when they shouldn’t. It’s ridiculous how incapable of basic goalkeeping they are.

I’ve heard that there’ll be an early patch for keepers. I hope it’s a decent one that doesn’t imbalance the game in other ways.

And just WHERE are the diagonal runs we were promised and shown in that early promotional video? I kept a keen eye out for them but, yet again, didn’t see a single one.

I need to play more, find more stuff out. All in all, I’m as excited about PES2012 as I’ve ever been for a next-gen PES game. Fingers crossed.

———————

And so to FIFA12.

I wasn’t expecting much. I’ve been fairly indifferent to next-gen FIFA for a couple of years now. The series has declined from the heights it reached with FIFA08 and FIFA09.

But I really like the FIFA12 demo.

The big news with FIFA12 is the removal of the sprint-clamp mechanic. This was where you could sprint around and barge into opposition players and take the ball.

Over the past two iterations of the series, this problem destroyed pretty much all respect I had for next-gen FIFA. A homing button for defenders? Dear God no.

It’s been in PES for years (it was invented by PES, I believe), and is still in PES to this day. But it’s only partly effective, and a last resort. In FIFA, they made it hideously effective and it became a terrible, game-destroying travesty.

It’s been removed from FIFA12. Now, when you squeeze the button that usually homes in on and retrieves the ball, nothing happens. Your players still approach the ball-carrier, but they don’t act automatically. You have to press another button, consciously and deliberately, to make a tackle.

It works very well, and makes for a very different and very interesting game of football.

I’m officially intrigued by FIFA12.

The pace of the game seems perfect. EA will do the usual thing and speed it up for the final version. (I say again: why does that keep happening?)

Shooting: love it. I always said that FIFA11’s shooting was one of that game’s few highlights for me. FIFA12’s shooting continues the satisfying upward curve on this front. And it’s HEAVY shooting. Get the ball with a good shooter 20 yeards out, lots of space, no defenders nearby, and unleash what you think will be a hefty shot towards the corner… and just watch as the ball rolls along the ground to the keeper. It’s that heavy. Your fingers take a while to adjust.

Here’s my first FIFA12 demo goal, scored with Pato:

Yes, that’s a next-gen FIFA ‘sweet spot’ for scoring. Finesse shots from that kind of position always stand a good chance of going in. It didn’t matter. I enjoyed it.

More about both demos on Friday.