Month: August 2012

Please Release Date Me

My last-ever season of Master League in PES2012 has got underway. It’s been a long journey and a good one, mostly, and here I am on the last leg.

For my last-ever home kit I have reverted to a traditional all-Sky Blue kit, as modelled up above by Neeskens, my Classic stalwart DMF.

Fittingly, Neeskens scored the first goal of my final season. It’s rare enough for him to get any goals at all. When he found a touch of space on the edge of the box I decided to see if I could place one past the keeper.

Watch the veeeeery suspicious curvature of the ball in flight at around 10 seconds. That don’t look natural to me…

It was the opening goal in a 2-0 opening day victory over the cursed Villa. Satisfying all round.

But my next two matches, either side of an International fixture, were against the two Manchester clubs. City first, then United.

Manchester City used to be the soaraway top team in my ML world, but are now ‘only’ a top-three team. They came to my ground and took a 1-0 lead with their very first attack. The goal seemed unstoppable to me. Often you’re never sure in PES2012 if it’s you being bad or the game being supernaturally great. I suspected the latter in this case. I had enough defenders back, and I put in some great challenges, but if the AI wants to disregard your input, it will.

I got it back to 1-1 in the second half, only to concede a dreaded straight-from-kickoff goal immediately. The match ended 1-2 to Manchester City.

Damn! This season will be my last on PES2012 whatever happens, and I’d like to end it with some silverware. Preferably the League, and even more preferably the elusive Treble. This result was a huge setback.

After the International fixture, Manchester United came to town.

I was 0-3 down before 30 minutes were up. DISASTER.

Shocked? Yeah… I was pretty shocked. Everything that could have gone wrong here, did go wrong.

I admit to entertaining the notion of reloading the previous save and starting the Man Utd match again. But that’d be cheating by my personal standard. And on Superstar difficulty, on PES2012, if you reloaded every game that felt dodgy, or in which you felt you’d been caught cold, you could be stuck in one place, pissing about forever. And I want to get through this season.

I rolled up my figurative sleeves and decided to see if I could stage a miracle comeback. And I did get one goal back, a pretty good one from Forlan (a strong contender for my Player Of PES2012). Then the CPU’s steel shutters came down, I didn’t get another kick, and the game ended 1-3.

No real complaints.

I won the next match, against West Ham, 3-0. It felt good, but it’s a bad start to season 18 however you look at it. I’m 6 points off the lead after 4 matches, having been beaten by two of my rivals for the title.

I still think I’ll be there or thereabouts at the season’s end, but I’ve made things difficult now.

And I’m still checking for the PES2013 release date every day. When did it come out last year? I remember it as being settled earlier than this, but may be incorrect. (I’m far too lazy to check.)

With every day that passes, it seems less and less likely that the mooted pre-FIFA September release is going to happen. In fact, I would now put money on a standard mid-October release date for PES in the UK & Ireland. Unless…. unless this silence is due to a deliriously early release date that they want to keep under wraps for as long as possible in order to wrong-foot EA—something like Septemeber 14th—which would make me very happy indeed.

That’d be a miracle, and very un-Konami-like. This silence has to be because we’re going to be crestfallen when we hear the actual date, surely? I don’t know.

A season to be cheerful

I have just—about half an hour before this post is due to appear—completed season 17 in my Master League career on PES2012. The final table:

Look at the difference in goals scored. You have to go down to 9th to find another team that scored fewer goals. It’s disappointing because I’d done quite well on that front in recent seasons.

My low total this season is reflective of my decreasing engagement with the game on a number of levels. Time has been the biggest factor. This season has taken me ages. I’ve played it in bits and pieces, sometimes with a day or two between sessions. Most recently, I had 4 whole days off. It shows.

Season 17 ended without any kind of trophy, then. I’ll have one more chance to win silverware, and possibly complete the fabled task of a Treble on Superstar. I didn’t even come all that close when I was playing intensively every day, so what chance will I have in my current late-summer/semi-casual mode?

We’ll see. I suppose stranger things have happened. Whatever happens in season 18, it will definitely be my last on PES2012. I’ll be starting it later today, with high hopes.

I had a great end to the season. Really enjoyed the last few matches that I played this morning. I beat Tottenham 5-0, in a game where everything I touched seemed to work. Then I beat West Ham 3-0. Then Blackpool 3-0 again. It was a proper goals-fest, almost to the point where I checked that I’ve still got the difficulty on Superstar.

The season’s First XI was chock-full of my players—albeit somewhat bottom-heavy with defenders and midfielders. Probably reflective of my lack of goalmouth prowess this season.

That financial crunch I mentioned a while back is still around. Id be in trouble if I was planning to play on and on, but I’m not prepareing for anything more than the season immediately ahead, of course. So I can afford to ignore the finanical timebomb.

My overall club ranking went up despite the lack of trophies. Being at number 3 is my highest placing since the season I won the League-and-Champions League Double on Professional difficulty, and then the Supercup/World Club Cup combo.

It’s been a pleasure playing PES2012 this past week or so of occasional action. Work and life have conspired to keep me away from almost all gaming, so my snatched sessions have felt like illicit treats.

One of the great pleasures of football gaming is just stroking the ball around and enjoying the kinetic sensation of it all. PES2012 is a slow-paced game at its heart. A few days ago I played a half where I did not touch R1 at all. It felt like a dream of excellence (although I soon relapsed when I scored, and the CPU promptly ramped itself up to hyper-mode).

If PES2013 wasn’t around the corner, would I still be planning to make the forthcoming season my last? Yes, I would. I’m enjoying these sessions, but knowing the end of PES2012 is in sight is part of that enjoyment. It’s like the last few days of a great holiday when you know it’s all soon going to be over, and so you try to notice the scenery and enjoy where you are a bit more intently than before. It’s that feeling.

Compressed air

Uh-oh, it’s another post where I haven’t actually played any PES since the last post. Life’s too busy. Work’s too busy.

I’ve been busy before and still made time for PES. But these are the end-times for me and PES2012. I still hugely enjoy it when I play it, but I find myself wanting to play it less and less.

This is natural and only to be expected at this time of year, with a new game just around the corner. It’s the loosening of the apron strings. If this winding-down process wasn’t happening naturally, I would probably have to make it happen. So I’m glad it’s happening on its own.

I’ll next play PES2012 over the weekend, when I’ll hopefully finish my season 17. I’ll play a season 18 after that, and that’ll be me done with PES2012.

In the meantime, on my menu today is the PES2013 buildup. And one aspect of it in particular.

It’s been Gamescom this week, the phase where we all watch shaky YouTube footage of sprint-clampers playing endless multiplayer (yawn) on the showroom floor. (Incidentally, there’s nothing in any of these videos to make me examine my antipathy to multiplayer. Constant turnovers of possession, little or no shooting, always trying to walk the ball into the net… Good grief.)

One aspect of Gamescom week always tickles me. In many videos the game looks faster than anything else we’ve seen or played by this stage.

And the forums have a ready response: the increased speed of PES2013 at Gamescom, they say, is due to the way YouTube videos are compressed after upload.

Bollocks, frankly.

I’ll mark 5 years of the blog this October. In all that time, I must have filmed hundreds of goals and uploaded them to YouTube. I’ve also filmed parts of matches and whole matches, and uploaded them.

Each time I upload something, I watch it at least once after uploading, and usually many times if I’m talking about the clip in the post.

Never, not even once, have I ever thought the uploaded YouTube version was faster than the original recorded gameplay.

There has always been a perfect 1:1 correlation between the speed of the original, and the speed of the YouTube replay.

Which leads me to conclude that PES2013 at Gamescom looks faster because it is faster now.

This is normal. This is what Konami does. They push out summertime preview builds that are slow and steady, and reap all the praise that comes their way. Then the final game pops out in September/October and it’s at least 10% faster across the board.

This is what they have done every year since PES2010. EA does something similar with the FIFA games. 1) Slower-paced preview and demo builds. 2) Faster-paced final game. It’s the way they work.

The game looks faster at Gamescom because the game is faster. And it’ll be faster again on release day. This YouTube compression nonsense is just another myth, repeated so often now that it’s taken for truth.

After release, when the game is here and undeniably faster than anything that has gone before, another myth rises to explain why. It’s because ‘the animations have been tightened up, making it faster’. Watch out for that one in the weeks after release day.

Speaking of release day… still no news at time of writing, and I’m starting to get worried. Mainland Europe and North America seem set for mid-to-late September joy. But could it be mid-October for the UK & Ireland again? Weeks after FIFA13??? Bloody hell, Konami. They don’t like to make things easy for PES, do they?

Aggregate aggravation

After qualifying from my Champions League group pretty easily, I was drawn against Sporting in the first knockout round. This filled me with some dread. On Superstar difficulty, the Champions League mode is absolutely brutal and unforgiving of even the slightest lapse.

So when I lost 3-0, away, in the first leg, it seemed as if I was out. I hadn’t even grabbed an away goal, which would have given me some sort of hope. Away goals are like gold-dust in Master League European tournaments, as in real life.

For the return leg, I cultivated one of my special PES feelings. You know, that certain glow before a big game where you face a tough opponent and/or impossible odds and/or a juicy prize awaiting? The feeling that you’re going to take this game by the horns and by the scruff of the neck, and damn well impose yourself on it.

I licked mental lips and set up my team. My gameplan was simple. Go all-out from the first whistle, 5-bar attacking, and get an early goal. My minimum requirement was to be 1-0 up by half-time. I’d back myself to get two in the second half and take things to extra time.

I played with four up front—two CFs with a flanking SS on either side—and an advanced AMF just behind them. One solitary DMF and my back four were going to have an important role.

My players seemed up for it! From the first whistle they felt responsive, nimble, aggressive, skilful—everything you could want your team to be. It was a ‘good’ night on the pitch, clearly. I got my goal after 20 game minutes. A nice Forlan header. I punched the air. Game on.

1-0 to me on the night, but I was still 1-3 down on aggregate. I was still playing catchup. And here’s where it all went badly, horribly wrong.

The CPU team had no idea that it was still leading on aggregate. Sporting switched instantly into hyper-aggression mode. And my team were more or less switched off.

Suddenly my players couldn’t run, pass, trap a ball, cross, or shoot. It was total and blatant handicapping. I adjusted my formation to a more moderate, defensive one, trying to prevent the drearily inevitable.

From the time I scored my goal until half-time, it was almost total possession from Sporting. They were forcing the goal. You can feel it. You know what the CPU is doing, what it’s aiming for, what it’s going to get.

Just before halftime, the killer Sporting away goal went in. And it was bullshit. A CPU striker squirmed through, evading five solid challenges and one last-ditch vicious scything tackle that he just ran though as if it wasn’t even there.

1-1, and now I needed to score 5. It didn’t happen.

My team and players had been handling wonderfully, as free-flowing and intuitive as I’ve ever known them. Until I scored. Until I scored! That triggered a typical PES CPU response script that should never have been triggered, because I was actually still behind.

After all these years, PES still can’t manage to model the behaviour appropriate in matches where aggregate scorelines are a factor.

I took the defeat well. Season 17 is winding to a close anyway. In league title race news, I lost another game. Against Millwall, in the last minute. I had 14 shots on goal, Millwall had 2. They scored one of them. I scored none.

Which gives Manchester United a 6-point cushion with only 8 matches remaining. I’ve already played them twice, so there’s no 6-pointers. Season 17 might be ending trophyless. There’s almost certainly only one more season of PES2012 remaining. At least I know I will finish in the Champions League spots whatever happens. There will be one last crack at the Treble.