Month: August 2015

Huh? What was that noise?

PES2015 Extra Time Continues

And so we come to the final post for the month of August, with September and PES2016 just over the top of the next hill. It’s not going to be long now. Two weeks plus change.

I enjoyed a daring interlude earlier this week when I gave a whole day to PES2014. I had great fun installing, updating, and Option File-ing it on PC, and then the gameplay was, frankly, a revelation. The game handles and plays well, featuring many agreeable elements that we may never see again in PES. We probably need to look back through PES2015-tinted spectacles to really appreciate what they were trying to do with PES2014 and how close they came to succeeding.

It’s not just PES/FIFA that can’t be played at the same time. Different editions of PES too.

Nobody has ever played two different football games concurrently to any great depth. I’d be very interested to hear of somebody who, for example, played PES one day and FIFA the next day, and cycled back and forth like that for any length of time, and managed to play both games seriously. It simply can’t happen.

Ditto two PES games. So my experiments with other PES games this year haven’t been very extensive. A bit of PES2013, a bit of PES5 (as ever), a bit of PES2014, and I’m done.

At this time of year I’m always possessed by curiosity as to how past PES games will feel after they’ve spent another year in football game Valhalla. Time catches up with them all – all the past football games – in an advancing wave of obsolescence from the past to the present. This time last year, for example, I would have said PES2 was still playable. I wouldn’t say that today. PES3 is barely hanging onto playable status. Will this pressure front ever reach PES5? I shudder to think of that day dawning.

Season 15 is not going to be a thing on PES2015. I had thought there was a chance of making it to mid-season. I doubt I’ll even make it to Fixture 10 in the league campaign, never mind mid-season. A certain other blockbuster of a game is due to arrive soon. I will be giving every minute of my gaming time, bar the odd hour or two of football gaming, to that.

For now, PES2015 Reloaded continues.

Another couple of matches, and here are a couple of goals from Lionel Messi, a player I’ve had in this career for only for the second time in my entire lifetime of Master League.

The first time I had Messi was in PES6(360), where he was a wonderful player in a very good intermediary PES that bridged the gap between two generations. The second time is here on PES2015, where he is a wonderful player in a very good intermediary PES that bridged the gap between two generations…

Here are the two goals – neither of them really special, but the manner of the second goal’s arrival was interesting for two reasons that I’ll get to:

The first one is a bog-standard goal of the sort that you barely even notice yourself scoring after a while. The second, though, came from a first-time cross, and was a header from Messi.

Goals from crosses like that are rare in PES2015. The cross itself, delivered by my RMF, the Youth Bellarabi, was lovely: he wraps his foot around the ball and delivers a perfect in-swinger right on Messi’s bonce. Messi (rather unrealistically, but what the hell) outjumps the defender to nod the ball down and up into the net.

A remarkable goal that I enjoyed scoring, and then watching again at my leisure before continuing with the match. If I’d scored that goal online, I’d have been lucky to see half a second of the replay.

And the goal also reminded me of a previous, very similar moment on PES2015. Remember this from a month ago?

That Messi miss, in an almost identical scenario, cost me my last shot at the Treble in my last proper, real season of Master League on PES2015.

I’m not the sort of computer game player who throws controllers. Is that even a real thing? Does anybody actually throw controllers? Or is it like hiding behind the sofa from Doctor Who?

I’m not the sort of Master League player who blames players and holds an irrational grudge against them thereafter.

But you know what – all things considered, I don’t think I’ll be looking for Messi when the time comes in PES2016.

Pro Evolution of the Daleks

PES2015 the Great TransitionAn accidentally artistic picture snapped at a moment of transition. On view are three of my key players in my unexpected Extra Time Squad in Season 15, superimposed onto a pitch in a kind of dreamy tribute to the ineffable Soul of PES or something like that.

No, resuming PES2015 wasn’t a flash in the pan or a passing whim. I have indeed kept on with my renewed Master League on PES2015 — playing on in a parallel world where the end of Season 14, as recounted a month or so, ago never happened. I left that save well alone. Original, proper ML history is always sacrosanct. I reverted to a backup save from about 6 matches before the end of that season and have played on from there.

In this new reality I lost out to Arsenal in the chase for the Title, and lost in the Champions League on penalties. I won the FA Cup though.

Two more sessions have been played since the one that inspired Friday’s post. I’m about 7 matches into Season 15.

Peter Crouch Season 15

I never thought I’d see this again. New pics of my old players, in a new kit — just another vaiant on my favourite stripey theme, this time with a darker blue that pops out of the screen more.

One thing I’m looking forward to with PES2016 are proper, bright visuals appropriate to the current generation of consoles. Whatever anyone says, PES2015’s graphics were chalky and dull compared to FIFA15’s, for example. PES2016 is a step up.

Metal Gear Solid V’s arrival at the end of this week (ShopTo/Royal Mail/Bank Holiday weekend willing) will slam the brakes on PES2015’s Indian Summer. When it comes to games other than football games, I rarely follow through and make the time for them, but MGS is a once-every-five-years special occasion for which time will be made.

Doubtless I’ll still have odd sessions on PES2015 here and there between now and PES2016. The football gaming habit is too deeply ingrained. If you have a spare 45 minutes you know exactly where you are with a football game. You know exactly how to spend that 45 mins and there’s no danger of overrunning. Everything is just neat-o.

So time spent on PES2015 and football gaming won’t stop when MGS gets here. It’ll shrink, though.

Top Player and 1-bar passing is a great setting for me. I tried 0-bar but the games degenerated into — dare I say it — FIFA-style midfield tussles for the ball that never seemed to end. 1-bar is a nice halfway house between where I spent most of my 14 seasons (2-bar) and the 0-bar that is probably the long-term aim. Maybe not unril PES2016 though.

I lost the Charity Shield opener against Arsenal. I lost my first two league matches. It felt a lot as if I was playing a new game. PES2015 is a game that has had many moods and personalities over the months, and it’s showing me another one now. I’ll save more musing on this front for my end-of-year retrospective in a few weeks’ time.

Here are two goals from my most recent session, First of all a completely ordinary goal of the sort I score quite often, to correct any impression that all PES2015’s goals are the same. This is a straightforward training ground-style goal, complete with a so-called ‘cutback’ of the sort that you’re somehow not supposed to do, despite lateral passes to teammates in the box being as basic a part of football as the ball itself being round:

Forlan is a better striker than Crouch now. Peter Crouch hasn’t been the top player he was for some time, and I’ve kept him around for sentimental reasons. If I make it to mid-season here (unlikely, but if I do), Crouch will be moved on, with Lord Sugar-style regret.

Now here is a better goal — Robben jinks away from a defender and slams one into the top corner with his good foot. The way the AI player is left behind wouldn’t really happen on Superstar, or so seldom as to make no difference:

Lastly, after some thinking on the topic of all things PES and football-gamey over the weekend, I talked myself into wanting another look at PES2014. That’s the one that everybody hates and has forgotten all about.

I played two matches in my old Master League save. I’m not just being playful or contrariwise when I say I had a good time and I found the game more than playable in its fully patched state. I repeat my oft-repeated claim that this game, patched, is a neglected mini-classic of PES.

Whatever else PES2014 is, it’s certainly a curiosity piece. It’s not the monster that most people think. It’s simply not.

Rather than being a monster, PES2014 is a kind of tragic hero. If PES2014 were a TV hero it’d be Bill Bixby in a clean white shirt, thumbing a lift while the lonely tinkling piano music played in the background. If PES games were Doctor Whos, PES2014 would be Colin Baker.

Here’s the best goal I scored in my two PES2014 matches, with me voiceovering experimentally:

My flat Midlands tones reverberate across the Internet.

I’m toying with some ideas for PES2016 release week, one of which is recording and posting in full my first England vs Scotland match. Indeed, it’s most often a dull affair watching somebody else play a football match. But I might enliven it with some spoken commentary. We shall see.

Extra Time

There has been an interesting development. I’ve started playing… well, you’ll see what I’ve started playing.

Before getting to that, I persevered with my attempt to play FIFA15 again after a gap of several months and several hundred matches of PES2015.

I stand by my initial judgement that FIFA15 is a great game and one of the best football games ever made, but in a by-now-familiar story (that seems to happen every year), I can’t play it now.

It was going quite well. I scored this long-range beauty at the start of Season 7 of my Career Mode career:

(Note how Alan Smith in commentary refers to the ball flying into the ‘top-left’ corner of the net, when in fact it screams into the top-right corner of the net. A silly basic error that’s been in PES commentary for years, and persists in FIFA too.)

PES scholars have long disputed the merits of scoring long-range goals in FIFA, but the nay-sayers are, frankly, just plain wrong. It’s not 1999 anymore. Nowadays FIFA long-rangers are rare enough to be deeply satisfying.

There are different kinds of goals, too, and random moments like the following. Already 0-3 down to Chelsea, I plugged away looking for a consolation, and got it via a peculiar looping deflection – watch for a very realistic crowd reaction behind the goal during the replay:

Two good moments among many such moments.

But they don’t count, on the greater scale of things. FIFA is over for another year.

The problem with me and FIFA is that I’ve spent most of the past year conditioning myself to play PES, to the point where I automatically, instinctually, emotionally associate good football gaming with PES football gaming. This is a trend that’s been going on now for, oh, about 20 years, give or take.

This year as every year, FIFA’s time has passed. Its primetime was last September-November, with a brief flare-up in December. When I get to my end-of-year overview of the game, that primetime is the period I’ll be overviewing. It seems to me that FIFA15 was a much better game before the updates and patches started arriving.

Which all left me somewhat high and dry for a football game to play now, in these long, dead weeks before PES2016.

What would I do? PES5? PES2013? PES2010? What?

Well. In something of a PES Chronicles first, I have resumed playing….

pes-2015-logo

Yes.

The game that I thought was done and dusted some weeks ago.

The game that I ardently desired never to play again.

The game that I reached the point of exhaustion with, and ploughed on past it.

The disc was still in the PS4. That’s what did it. It was so easy just to start the game up. I had time yesterday afternoon before going to work and thought, why not?

I found a backup save that I’d made just before the end of my final Season 14 (as I thought at the time).

At that stage I was in the second leg of the semi-final of the Champions League, with a 4-0 aggregate lead form the first leg.

I knocked the difficulty down to Top Player, mindful of the slog that the game had become on Superstar, and jumped straight into that second leg.

Perhaps predictably, I absolutely loved it. Especially when this happened:

I know, I know. Peter Crouch as the floated through-ball specialist. Robben tucking it away with his weaker foot. (So what? And anyway, where did all the purists come from who snipe against things like that? What are their voices doing in my head? Why do I pay them any heed at all?)

Doesn’t matter. Played PES, felt great.

That felt good enough. Loved the feel of the passing, the shooting, the  pace of the game, the general ebb and flow of gameplay. PES2015, I needed reminding, is a GOOD game.

So I was already happy, and then this happened. This is the best I’ve seen from my PES2015 Stevie G in a long while – I loved the delicate little touch with the right knee to tee up the shot – BOOM:

That’s the explosive, joyful power of PES, right there. The ineffable something that FIFA still lacks.

This match was a bit of a cakewalk in the end. There were more goals and it ended something like 8-1 on aggregate.

I put the difficulty back up to Superstar and played a dour-by-comparison 0-0 league match, and reminded myself of how I reached the point of exhaustion with this game a while back.

So I’m thinking of playing on Top Player with zero-bar passing assistance, and seeng how I get on.

Poor old FIFA. It’s great, but its best-ever edition can’t compete even with this flawed edition of PES.

Am I brainwashed? Absolutely. Am I going to put myself through any kind of un-brainwashing, deconditioning process? Nope.

Will this last? Will I be playing PES2015 by Tuesday?

There’s a very good chance I will. I have other games to play, and I’m playing them, so PES2015 will likely just be a session here and there every other day or so. This feels like a good way to await PES2016.

Or is it possible I could squeeze in Season 15 before the middle of September?

Calling in on FIFA15

I’m officially done with the PES2016 demo. There are many who’ll play it for hours every day from now until release. But for me, after 20-odd matches, it’s served its purpose. PES2016 will be a good game.

For the record, I did finally draw a few fouls. Two in the same match. After about 15 matches. As for the rest of the matches — there were NONE at all for me, and I only managed to foul the AI a pitiful handful of times, even when trying my best to.

The PES2016 fouls situation seems so strange that I’ve decided it must be just because it’s a demo. The matches in the demo are Exhibition matches — friendlies.

Refs let things go in friendlies. It’s got to be something like that. There’s no other reasonable explanation.

It isn’t possible that anybody on the PES development team actually thinks no-fouls football is a good idea. Is it? It’s not possible. Is it?

Whatever — a month from now, we shall see. All I’ll say now is that if this turns out to be the final fouling model for the full game, it’ll do well to last long. There’s a threshold of credibility that no football game can afford to drop beneath. A football game completely devoid of fouls and free kicks would be like one without corners and throw-ins. It couldn’t be taken seriously.

Yesterday morning I fired up FIFA15 for the first time in a while.

It was back in June when I last played this game — just one match, out of idle curiosity, that I recall switching off after failing to engage with.

I was still playing PES2015 at the time. Truly, when it comes to football gaming there is no mixing possible. You have to play one and not the other. There can be no ‘just popping onto the other game for a quick go’. It doesn’t happen, or if it does, it doesn’t happen for long.

This week I rediscovered my FIFA15 team — Coventry City, natch — sitting mid-table in the Premier League in April of Season 6 in Career Mode.

FIFA15 CM Season 6 after 34

Yes, that’s Season SIX.

It’s worth remembering that PES2015 wasn’t released until the end of November last year, over two months after FIFA15 made its appearance. In those two months I played over 5 seasons of Career Mode. And had a great time, mostly.

This blog was on its extended hiatus back then. If it had been going, I’d have been waxing lyrical about FIFA15.

FIFA15 CM Season 6 Squad

That’s not exactly a stellar lineup for a Season 6 team, is it? By PES2015 standards, that’s not even a starting Default team.

But I still know all the players. Jarstein in midfield is a Youth player whom I’ve nurtured and seen become a first-team regular over three seasons.

I played two matches. First on the difficulty that I found it set at, World Class.

Away to Arsenal, I lost 1-0 and didn’t really enjoy the match. The gameplay was much too pacy and frantic.

I was, of course, trying to play like PES, and trying to replicate my preferred PES moves. Most significantly, I was trying to hold sprint almost all the time when defending, and too often when attacking.

Second match, I bumped the difficulty down to Professional, and laid off sprint, and things were much better.

Home against Swansea — here is the first goal of the match, in a 1-minute clip featuring the preceding chunk of general gameplay:

In realtime, I was convinced that Swansea defender’s last-ditch sliding challenge was going to be a foul and penalty. But some hidden dice-roll of the game kept my player on his feet, and the ball was in the back of the net. Keeper should have saved it, but as I said last year in many comments over on Ultra Soccer Blog, the FIFA15 keepers are the best I’ve ever seen in a football game, and I stand by that to this day.

The second and final goal of the game is in this clip:

A very realistic punishment dished out on the breakaway against a Swansea team that was pushed all the way up looking for an equaliser.

Neither of the above goals would really happen on World Class difficulty or above, I think. I’m saying this because quite often when I talk about FIFA in a praising way, objections are lodged.  Snippets of video are dissected to highlight moments that fail to meet basic footballing standards — standards that PES itself also often fails to meet, but of course that’s different.

All in all a fine return to a fine game. I’m planning more FIFA15 sessions this week. It’s a long 4 weeks from now until PES2016.

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