Month: December 2011

Down the rubbish shoot

At the time of writing—Friday morning—I haven’t played PES2012 for two days. I intend to play after putting this post to bed. I am still committed to playing on in my Master League. So PES2012 continues.

It’s just very hard to continue sometimes. I’ve found that having these short breaks from the game helps me not hate it.

I can put up with just about every one of PES2012’s foibles. I only really hate PES2012 when its shooting misbehaves.

Yes, I know all about the alternate shooting method—“shoot first, aim later”—which I disbelieve in. Sorry to all those who have helpfully suggested I try it.

I believe that it can seem to work, just as the other alternate shooting method—previously known as “over-aiming” on this blog—can also seem to work. PES2012’s shooting is so screwed up that you could abandon all aiming whatsoever, and it would still seem to work enough of the time to be a plausible alternate system.

I know that many people don’t seem to have a problem with PES2012’s shooting at all, and this talk is all a bit bewildering. Lucky them.

So shooting is the primary sin of PES2012. There are others, some of them serious ones, but shooting is the main one.

It’s peculiarly dispiriting to work the ball into prime position and aim to put it low to the keeper’s side, only to see the ball bang tamely into the keeper’s midriff. Or line up a 25-yarder into the top right corner, only to see the ball zip towards the top left corner. (And when those ‘wrong side shots’ actually go in, the disgust is worse than anything I’ve ever known in PES. It’s a truly dangerous disgust.)

Fortunately, with better players in my team, and with experience of playing the game, I can minimise the wonky shooting moments. But never eliminate them fully, and that is a problem for the near future.

Life on Regular difficulty for me in the Premier League is tough.

Here’s the table after 8 games:

I’ve played most of the 8 matches on Regular. The top teams can still really punish me on this level. It’s a measure of PES2012’s boosted AI and my own averageness at the game overall.

(Having said that, if it wasn’t for the shooting issue, most of my matches would end 7-0 or 6-4 or or thereabouts. By crippling the shooting in the way it does, PES2012 artificially hobbles the player and keeps scorelines relatively low. It’s a dirty trick all right.)

The supercharged, super-dribbling players are a little annoying, and of course wholly unrealistic, but it’s a game, I accept that. Adapting myself to defend better against them is one of the attractions of this PES.

I do get annoyed by the super-AI conjuring itself up a goal from nothing, but it’s barely 1% of the annoyance factor caused by the shooting issue.

At this time of year, my thoughts naturally turn to where I was in previous next-gen PES games at the same time.

Last year, I’d already abandoned my Master League in PES2011 and was embarked on a brief spell of Become A Legend. I was bemoaning “the most technically poor PES game since PES2008(PS3)” and drooling over my new big TV, which temporarily gave PES2011 a new lease of life.

The previous year—the best year—I was in season 7 on PES2010, still in Division 2, and in my own words,”shaping up for an epic career” in a game I loved. I would go on to play 20+ seasons in what remains the best year of PES’s next-gen life for me. Say what you like about PES2010, but at least its shooting mechanism worked.

As for the year of PES2009, I was still playing at this time of the year, and it seems enjoying myself, having just signed Orellano.

The year before that, I was still playing PES2008, but only just. I was already onto my second Master League career, and hating the high-scoring matches.

So PES2012 is still in relatively good shape compared to my PES2008 and PES2011 experiences. And as I sit here typing this, I’m really looking forward to putting the game on and trying to wrestle some kind of result.

Happy New Year to all. Here’s hoping that PES2012 lasts until well into its titular year.

Hitting the sales

Somehow, I’m rich. During my first season in the Premier League I won nothing, did nothing, and scored next to nothing, but the money has flowed into my virtual coffers regardless.

As I headed into the transfer window prior to Season 6 of my Master League career in PES2012, I had about £30,000,000 to spend.

Even after all my existing wages and miscellaneous expenses were taken into account, I had £16,000,000 to spare. Enough to go shopping and still have some change left over.

GILLET (GK, age 17, 76 OVR)—my most expensive buy at about £800k. I was looking for an experienced, top-rated keeper and stumbled across this kid. Obviously I expect him to develop into a top keeper over the next few seasons. An investment.

T. SMITH (CB, 80OVR, age 26)—a steal from Ipswich, I paid a token £100k for him. A bargain, and he’s put Bikey on the bench.

DOOLIN (SMF/AMF/WF, age 22, 90OVR)—I found him in the Free Agents list and placed a bid for him at the same time as Weiss, a similar player on the out-of-contract list. I thought I’d be lucky to get one of them. I got both. A £2m-per-year wage easily makes him the highest earner on my books. I negotiated him down from £3m-per-year, so felt happy with the outcome. He’s got a shedload of skill cards, too.

WEISS (89OVR, age 26)—Another high wage-earner at £900k-per-year, he’s also too similar a player to Doolan, I wish now that I’d declined Weiss and saved up the cash. He’s got a ton of skill cards just like Doolan, and is naturally a right-sided midfielder just like Doolan, so it’s a bit of a Lampard-Gerrard scenario with these two. My best player of the past few seasons, James Morrison, is also a right-sided midfielder first and foremost. Something’s got to give.

Should I try to sell Morrison in mid-season? I’m thinking about it.

Not that anybody’s likely to buy him. I just put loads of players up for transfer and/or loan. I had zero offers. At one point my squad size was 28 players. I ended up releasing Mandelli, Clarke, Pentecote, and Ahmet, and got it down to 24.

I ended the transfer period dissatisfied that I hadn’t got the one key new player I’m really desperate for: a top striker. I tried for about a dozen, all told, making sure they had 85+ in shooting power and accuracy. I’m still getting the old ‘doesn’t wat to drop down a level’ excuse. My club ranking must be the crucial factor here.

I feel able to start playing with my most beloved formation, a 4-3-3, for the first time in this whole ML career. Usually in PES I’m on 4-3-3 before the end of the first season, even with the Defaults. In recent years I’ve grown more circumspect, and waited until I’ve had the players to justify the switch. This is the latest I’ve ever waited.

At the last, with a day or two left of the transfer window, I stopped trying to get that striker and turned my attention to my backroom staff. Most of them were Level 2. The Scout was still on Level 1.

I had enough cash to raise most of them to Level 5 instantly, and did so. I raised the Scout to Level 3. It’ll be intriguing to see how this quantum leap in backroom staff affects all the aspects of my team that it should affect. I’m particularly hoping for a more consistent, logical change in the form arrows from week to week.

With my better defenders, and Camacho as DMF, I feel better able to cope with the magic AI.

The PES2012 AI is good to play against, but also overrated, no question: when it scythes through your defence with magical evasive manoeuvres and lightning passing, it’s not being brilliant. It’s just obeying its programming.

Knowing that Camacho is alone in front of my back 4 makes me very conservative with him. Particularly as he’s very little use up front.

My Camacho could not shoot his way out of the proverbial paper bag. My Camacho has got a severe double dose of what might be called ‘PES2012 shooting-itis’. His shooting power is weaker than a day-old kitten, and he can’t shoot straight anyway. If I have Irjescu on the pitch I’m always forcing him upfield to let ’em fly from all ranges and angles. It’s probably for the best, defensively speaking, that my Camacho doesn’t cut it up front.

I’ve played the first few matches of season 6. A win, a loss, a draw. The loss was a heavy one, 4-0 at home to Chelsea. It’s too early to say whether my new-look team can actually do anything this season. I desperately need a top-rated striker with at least 85 for shooting power and accuracy. There are only a few of them in the game world and none of them seem to want to come to me, but I will keep plugging away.

A Christmas miracle

So the news is that I like PES2012 again. This is the miracle. When I finished the terrible session that gave rise to Friday’s rather negative post, I never thought I would find any great joy in PES2012 ever again. I thought it would be just a dutiful, grim slog towards the Treble and a final, blessed abandonment of the game, if indeed I made it that far.

I didn’t play PES2012 for two days. And that was all it took for the game to feel fresh and absorbing once more. It’s the strangest thing.

I played FIFA12 during the two days that I didn’t play PES2012. Whenever I’ve played FIFA12 since its release I’ve thought: “This is bloody good”, and I thought so again. When I turn my attention full-time to FIFA12, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens.

Yesterday, Christmas Day, I put on PES2012 and after only a few minutes’ play thought to myself, “Bloody hell, this feels good too.” That renewed warmth lasted all the way through two long sessions.

I suppose I’m lucky to find both games to be playable and enjoyable this year (or I’m deluded and/or misguided, if you dislike one of them).

And football games are always helped by scoring goals that make you feel good. Here are two—a James Morrison 30-yarder, and a stylish volley from Irjescu:

Those were two instances when shooting worked, or felt like it worked.

My current feeling is that I can forgive PES2012 for almost everything except the damn shooting. A certain proportion of your shots will always go straight to the keeper, no matter where you aim; and a certain proportion of your shots will be directed to the opposite side from where you aim.

PES2012’s shooting will never be forgiven, in this world or the next. When it comes to September 2012 and my end-of-year review-style score, I’ll be knocking off 1 point for the wonky shooting alone. So, if I end up thinking that PES2012 is an 8/10 game overall, I’ll give it 7/10 because of that fucking miserable shooting.

I think I understand why PES2012’s shooting is the way it is.

PES2012 is end-to-end and action-packed. It’s the most open game of football ever to bear the PES name. It is arcadey, in the best and worst sense of that term.

And therefore if PES2012’s shooting wasn’t how it is, many games would end 9-7.

Bah. Enough of the theorising and chest-beating. I’m playing and enjoying Master League in PES2012, despite its faults.

I have slogged my way to the end of season 5, and finished a creditable 12th in the end. I finished with a barnstorming run of 5 wins and a final, solitary defeat (a bizarre 4-1 thrashing away at Blackpool).

Here’s the final table:

Andy Carroll ends the season in which he won the World Footballer of the Year award with the Premier League’s top scorer trophy:

My club ranking went up. I’m above the likes of Rosenborg now, and hot on the heels of Verona.

I can’t argue with this ranking. My performance so far in Master League has been mediocre at best. Even my promotion year in Division 2 was pretty average.

Now, though, I’m equipped with the experience and the cash to make things happen. I had £17m in the bank at the end of the season. I got another £2.5m for finishing 12th. Then I got another £5m from sponsorship and merchandise. I’ve started pulling in £1.1m for every home win. At this rate I’ll easily be able to upgrade all my staff and get some top new players, and then still have money left over.

All things considered, I have got to go for a top-six finish in season 6.

In off the bah humbug

As we head into the festive period and towards the end of 2011, season 5 of Master League is almost over. Here’s where I currently am:

I was holding out faint hopes of a top 10 finish. But after 31 matches, the gap is too wide. I’ll do well to finish 12th, I think.

Mid-table is a lot higher than I would have been if I’d left the difficulty on Professional. I’d have been relegated by now, no question—not that I’d ever have got to that stage. I’d have had a Chairman-induced Game Over long before relegation. I’d never have been given the opportunity to go down with the club, rebuild the team, and come back up. This strikes me as a key flaw in PES2012’s Master League, one of sadly many this year.

It might seem wrong to say it at this time of year, but PES2012 is not a great game. It’s not a terrible game either, in my view. My current ranking of the next-gen PES games would go something like this:

1. PES2010
2. PES2009
3. PES2012
4. PES2011
5. PES2008

What, PES2009 at no. 2? What have I been smoking?! But there you go, it’s what I believe.

This is all just ‘in my view’, of course. There is probably no such thing as an objectively good or bad football game. Not even next-gen PES2008, which I loathed but many people liked, or even loved.

If PES2012 didn’t have Master League, I would have no reason at all to play it. And this Master League isn’t even one of the best versions of itself. It’s damned weak in many places. But it’s still good enough to save PES2012, so more power to it.

I had a few matches on FIFA12 the other day. I loved them. Some people hate FIFA12 because it’s not like Pro Evo. I love it because it is different. I love the heaviness of FIFA12. After a few matches, your fingers really know they’ve been doing some work. When you connect with the ball and let one rip, it’s satisfying in a way that PES2012’s shooting almost never is.

Ugh. I feel sick just thinking about PES2012’s shooting: easily the least satisfying shooting in any PES game, ever.

I cannot stand the sense of deflation and disappointment when I finally carve out that precious goal-scoring opportunity, only for the game to override my input and send the ball to the keeper—or worse, to the opposite side of the goal completely. Yeah, yeah, I’ve heard all about the ‘shoot first, aim after’ technique. It doesn’t work.

As soon as I’m done with Master League, I’m done with PES2012. I’ll move on without looking back.

I’ll be honest: sometimes I feel like walking away from PES2012 right now, and Master League be damned. I did it last year. It was a wrench, but I did it. And I reserve the right to do it this year too, if I want to.

But I suppose familiarity can breed a lot of contempt. I’ve now played PES2012 for upward of 160 hours. Let’s see how I like FIFA12 after a similar amount of time, when its time comes.

In the meantime, I have a Premier League status to consolidate, players to sign, a team to build, and a Treble to work towards.