Month: September 2012

PES2013: very first impressions

My first impression, unsurprisingly, is that I love the game. NB: I have never not loved a new football game to begin with. Even the ones I went on to dislike, or even hate.

What’s a great tradition in PES? Playing the new game and feeling unsure about it. That’s a great tradition. Your muscle memory remembers playing a different game all year. Your hands feel all confused…

PES2013 recycles the same tradition of day-one strangeness. My passing started off all over the place. Admittedly I started on zero-bar assistance, but soon went up to 1-bar just to get a handle on the new game. (I’ll go back down to zero-bar eventually.)

Passing values are different, animations and animation speed are different. It all affects the speed and quality of the gameplay.

The first session on a new PES game should be at least partly confusing. It should sow a few doubts. If it didn’t, there would be something wrong.

I played my usual round of England matches in Exhibition, as every year. I started with two warm-ups against Scotland, on regular, one on Professional. Then Germany on Professional. Then an International Tournament—all with England. They’re a useful calibration tool, being a good team (still overrated, of course), but not a great one, and with a nice mixture of familiar players.

I probably played 10 matches in total.

First thing that hit me was the game speed. This is a triumph for us oldies (of all ages) who simply can’t be having the dizzying game-speed that’s threatened to become de rigeur over the past few years.

It’s exactly the speed I would have chosen for the game if they’d let me. This is the first time Konami didn’t piss about with the pace of the game. If anything, it’s slower than the demo(s). I heartily approve. Could this be the first time ever that I stay on default speed after day 1?


PES2012’s shooting was, most people agreed, shite. Really, really bad and unintuitive and unsatisfying. I called it the worst shooting in PES history and I totally stand by that. I appreciate that not everybody suffered to the same degree, but I can only go by what I saw and felt.

Over-aiming was never a satisfactory workaround in PES2012, but it’s what we got into the habit of doing. Pushing or pulling the stick all the way up or down to try to get the ball to go to the goddamn corners (and then sighing when it went straight to the middle of the goal).

The good news is that AIMING WORKS in PES2013—but there’s a stiff price to pay for our year just gone of over-aiming. Muscle memory again. I found myself continuing to over-aim, and almost hitting the corner flags at times. It’s going to take a while to learn to trust the proper PES aiming system again. This is a day-one oddity that I am very, very happy to have encountered.

Next, shooting power. The forums, bless them, are crying about shooting power having been nerfed from Demo 6.4 (or whatever the fuck they’re always going on about).

Bollocks. Thanks to my annual routine, I get to play my opening matches with a range of shooters, from weak to strong. Step forward, Rooney and Gerrard. Need I say more? Need I even hint at the festival of shooting practice they gave me, on Regular difficulty? Eh?

Cannonballs. Blockbusting thunderbolts of whizz-bang, rootin’-tootin’-shootin’.

Rooney and Gerrard. Even Welbeck was getting in on the act. Even Carroll.

PES2013 has removed the R1 knock-on that we used in PES2012 to get the ball out of feet and generate a powerful strike. PES2013 relies on stats and context. The ball can feel as if it’s stuck under the feet and shooting is hampered. But no: space and time and technique, that’s what it’s all about.

I’m a big early fan of the shooting. It’s fair and balanced. Shooting with weaker players—Henderson, Parker, Milner—is noticeably less powered. Not underpowered. (Underpowered in comparison to what?)


I’m quietly a bit worried here. I was happy with the difficulty levels in PES2012, and see no reason why they should be changed. It’s too early to be sure, but I have a feeling the difficulty levels have been ‘rezoned’, and not in a good way.

Playing on Regular felt a whole load easier than last year. Professional felt a bit harder (and indeed, I lost two of my three International Tournament group matches, against Serbia and, uh, Panama).

Probably not a serious worry, but I’ll be keeping an eye on it.


Keepers are my big early worry. Three times in my very first match the CPU keeper flapped at tame shots that he should have caught. This led either to corners or the ball staying in my possession. Once, it led to a goal. (After which Jon Champion yelled It’s a goal to remember forever… Oh yes, there are some new lines for him and Beglin.)

Sorry to end on a negative, but it’s something to keep an eye on. PES2013 feels like a great football game, but all football games, even great ones, have their Achilles’ heel. Please no, not keepers—not again!

I’ll be back at noon tomorrow with my usual Friday post. I should get two more mammoth sessions on the game tonight and tomorrow morning. Second impressions are always better than first ones.

Great Expectations, Reloaded

I really haven’t known what to do with myself for the past few days. How’s it been for you?

If Thursday’s postman delivers at the usual time, around midday, then sometime in the afternoon I should be snapping the now-traditional picture of me holding the new PES game still wrapped in its shiny cellophane.

Tuesday morning saw me play my last football game before PES2013. I am currently in the middle of 48 hours of abstinence. It’s like an athlete abstaining from sex before a big race.

I returned to the greatest ever football game, PES5, to pay my annual respects. Playing a few sessions on PES5 has become the equivalent of an annual pilgrimage to Mecca. But does the game still deserve its holy-site status?

Yes, on the whole, I think it does. But it’s getting less clearcut as the years go by.

We’ve got used to a new paradigm in football gaming where passes tend to go more or less in the direction you aim.

Time and again in PES5, I aimed a pass at one player and the game sent it in another direction completely. These arcade-style passing mechanics of old-school PES now feel very old-fashioned indeed. But still, the game as a whole functions. That is the amazing thing about old PES.

Other than PES5, I have played no other football games, and won’t now until PES2013 arrives.

I’ve continued my Dwarf Fortress obsession, where I’m starting my first ever mega-project (an above-ground castle). I’ve played a bit of Civilization V (the expansion pack has made it a good game at last). I’ve also played an indie ‘strategy roguelike’ called FTL that I’ve been following for months. I’ve watched a few films, read parts of a few books. I’ve even worked some more on my PES book. Yes, I will update that sidebar one day soon…

Yesterday afternoon I watched a slew of PES-related videos on YouTube, of which there are a pleasing multitude. One of the weirdest highlights was seeing the PES2008 intro video, which I always found strangely compulsive (and probably—no, definitely—the best thing about that game).

So. Is PES2013 going to be The One?

By which I don’t mean a perfect game. No PES game, and no football game, has been, or ever will be, a perfect football game.

But could it be anything like The One that we all (most of us anyway) expected to see back in 2007, however naive that might have been?

Just a really great game of Pro Evolution Soccer on the next-gen console(s)?

PES2012 and PES2010 were both very close for me, but neither game was universally loved in the way that the PS2 classics were loved. PES2010 could feel stiff and crude; its passing model was decidedly old-school. PES2012 had the most deflating, uninspiring shooting system of any PES game in history.

So, in this sense, could PES2013 be The One?

I’m pretty much exhausted just thinking about it. There are so many factors here that the best option is just to get on and play the game. That’s what I’ll be doing tomorrow (hopefully).

A different League

It’s release week. Bloody hell—it’s release week. Again.

“Another year flies by,” as Master League would say.

It seems like only yesterday that I was putting together the header image for last year’s blog template. Goodbye, last year’s blog template…

Just a few days to go, and the PES2013 scares and controversies keep on coming. The latest one, which bubbled up over the weekend, is the apparent removal of League Mode from PES2013.

I say ‘apparent’ because there’s some chatter about it possibly being restored via DLC at some point. Which sounds a bit sketchy to me.

Which doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course. One thing we have learned about Konami in this generation of football games is that they are capable of taking bizarre decisions that make no sense.

PES in this generation is very much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never really know what you’re going to get. Until you get it.

Which is why, for all that I anticipate Magic Master League Bootgate-o-rama (or whatever the hysterical PES forumites are calling it now) being pretty much okay, I still nervously wait to see it in action for myself.

As for League Mode, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I don’t play it and haven’t played it for 10 years.

League Mode was all I ever played on ISS and early PES games, in the days before Master League established itself.

But on the other hand I agree with the prevailing view on the forums that League Mode’s apparent removal is a disgrace. Such a mode is—or should be—a staple part of any football video game. Only a truly batshit insane football game developer would ever remove a cornerstone of the genre.

Which makes me kind of confident that a DLC solution will happen. We’ll see.

All the fuss made me think about League Mode for the first time in a long time. I decided to give PES2012 one last whirl in my PS3, and have a few matches in a League Mode career.

In truth, I have missed PES2012 a lot since quitting my mammoth Master League career a few weeks ago. So I wanted to take one last look.

I also had another motivation. Having taken a shine to zero-bar passing on the PES2013 demo, I wanted to play with that setting for a longer period back on PES2012. I’m thinking of playing all of PES2013 with zero-bar passing.

I started in Serie A, playing as Fiorentina—a decent middling sort of team, with a few good players.

I set the difficulty on Top Player, and knocked the passing assistance down to 0 bar.

Now, I don’t know if it was the effect of me being away from the game for a few weeks, or the 0-bar passing, or a change of difficulty between mode, or what. Probably a combination of all of ’em.

I found it very hard to make anything happen. I played 5 matches and lost 4, drew 1, scoring only two goals.

Playing with a just-above-average side on PES2012 was very tough. It really brought home to me just how much of an advantage my stellar squad gave me in Master League.

I scored one goal that made me smile and cheer. Great goals in PES make you want to put the controller down and give a round of applause (to the game, not to yourself).

I was struggling to put three passes together, and found myself playing very cautiously, never going for the risky pass. I carved this chance painfully, as if chipping away at a stone block:

After that short session, I took the PES2012 disc out and put it away. Barring a PES2013 catastrophe, I might not ever play it again. Maybe in a year or two when I’m on one of my nostalgia trips.

While I’m here, I’ll just wrap up some other business. It’s a look back at my top 3 goals scored across all of PES2012.

In reverse order:

Goal number 3—FORLAN—a classic PES boomer across the keeper from the corner of the penalty box:

Goal number 2—HAGI—a close contender for number 1, this goal gave me a true scoregasm at the time:

Goal number 1—HAGI—it simply had to be. I only scored a few free-kicks in PES2012. This was the best of them, and also my favourite goal of the whole year:

And with that, I really am done with PES2012. It is now an artifact of the past.

PES2013, your time is at hand. A hungry (next) generation has been waiting for you. Don’t tread us down.

Three more sleeps to go.