Month: December 2015

You are tearing me apart, FIFA!

Tearing me apart FIFA

No, I haven’t decided yet. The post title and the picture above (bonus points if you get the reference) refer to my near-certainty, a week ago, that I’d be playing PES2014 by today. Instead, FIFA16 has come along to throw a spanner in the works.

PES2014 was pretty much a lock-in to be my football game of the near future. It has so much going for it. Fully patched, it bears little resemblance to the horror show that repulsed nearly all PES aficionados (me included) some two years ago.

The graphics remain poor by our new standards, and the loading times are atrocious. It takes far too long to get from the view below to actually playing. We are truly spoiled now.

PES2014 pre-match

But as every PES fan knows, you can overlook anything if gameplay scratches the PES itch. PES2014 really does do that. (Patched, I should keep saying.)

FIFA16 was always a possibility, but a lesser one. I thought PES2014 should come first.

Last week a semi-regular commenter, stewdog, remarked about how good a time he was having on Be A Pro in FIFA16. Okay, I thought, and fired up my old copy of FIFA15 for a play.

One thought led to another thought, and on Christmas Eve I bought FIFA16 in the PSN January sale (thirty quid: still steep, but what the hell, it’s Christmas).

not-Greg arrives FIFA16That’s my existing EA Gameface on the player up there. It looks nothing like me. Peculiar, really, as the last time I used my Gameface (FIFA12?) the resemblance was quite strong. This version bothered me and I ended up changing it back to a generic look.

Before sampling BaP, I played a bit of regular International tournament as England, and really enjoyed it.

I like what FIFA16 seems to be trying to do. Considering I’m playing the digital download version with its multiple patches since launch, this still seems to me to do a few very important good things.

When receiving the ball, with one or two defenders at my back, I found myself often trying to perform silly three-point turns with the ball at my feet and then sprinting off into space. It’s doable, but it’s not so much a guaranteed move that it’s your first instinct. It’s a move so fundamental to PES2016 that it seems shocking not to be ‘allowed’ to do it in FIFA16.

The players often seem clumsy and slow. They have poor first touches sometimes. Contrary to current football-gaming orthodoxy, this is an overwhelmingly GOOD thing.

I don’t want my players to have instant response to input – online players do tend to want that, though, which is where PES2016 went massively wrong.

Where it aggravates many, I think, is when the unresponsiveness happens out of context, or seems overblown. It’s neither in FIFA16.

A brief word for FIFA16’s Passing With Purpose: I like it. It seems to add more tactical dimensions to general play. Individuality — for both passer and receiver — is enhanced with this feature.

I scored three goals in three matches in my fledgling Be A Pro career:

And what of PES2016? I won’t be going back to it now.

I did try to return. I fired up PES2016 and played a few matches on Superstar — really on Superstar this time.

The game felt the same. Too easy, and more than a bit too fluid. PES2016 is an online multiplayer game that solo players can get some enjoyment from too. It is enjoyable, but only up to a point, and I have passed that point. I’ve sucked all the juice out of PES2016. Maybe I’ll be back in the future, who knows? Never say never.

So the choice really now comes down to PES2014 or FIFA16.

At the moment I’m inclining toward the latter.

not-Greg scores FIFA16

If I go for FIFA16 I’ve got a new world to explore, and I’ve got all the PS4’s next-gen features to enjoy with it. PES2014 on the PS3 would be a technical step back that I might not be ready for yet. It feels awkward and intrusive to reach for the mobile phone to record a clip or take a screenshot. But something like that won’t stop me playing the footy game I want to play. Even the best FIFA has a habit of being great for a short time, and then not so great.

I really haven’t decided yet. But there are now definitely only two horses in the race.

Another day off for New Year’s Day means that my normal posting schedule will resume next Tuesday, 5th January. When the decision will have been made.

Here’s to 2016. My football gaming wish is for this to be the year when nobody says ‘The King Is Back!’, in any context, ever again.

A Cliffhanger for Christmas

Vertigo1Here’s a cautionary Christmas tale to warm the cockles of jaded hearts. I’ve got a story to tell, and at the end comes a Question. A cliffhanger for Christmas, as the title promises.

Cast your minds back to the end of Season 7, when I won a Treble on Superstar difficulty for the first time in PES2016, and for the first time in any football game since PES2013.

A Treble on Superstar! It doesn’t get much better than that.

That was last week. I switched off and forgot about PES2016 for a few days.

Then I returned to progress the timeline through the post-season 7 period, and capture some screenshots for the blog.

These screenshots aren’t part of the story, but here they are anyway — first the Team of the Tournament:

PES2016 season 7 Team of the Tournament

And second the annual awards:

PES2016 Individual Awards season 7

Pretty good, eh? Slightly surprising just to have one player in the TotT, but I swept the individual honours.

I’d had a great Season 7, winning the Treble on Superstar!

What a happy man I was.

Little did I know that my world was going to come crashing down around me just moments later.

The Old Boys game appeared on the ticker at the bottom of the screen. Before leaving PES2016, probably for ever, I thought why not just play this?

I thought I’d have a go at Unassisted passing and shooting too. I’ve mucked around in Training with these settings but rarely persisted for long in a match.

But I decided to play on a lower difficulty. You know, to offset my inevitable fumblings.

post-season 7 going to the settings

I’ll change it down to Top Player, I thought.

So, for the first time in a season or so, having won the Treble on Superstar, I tabbed along to General Settings:

post-season 7 General Settings

Look closer. Look.

When you see it…

It’s important to bear in mind that I looked at the above screenshot as a man who’d just won the Treble on Superstar…

…the Treble on Superstar…

THE TREBLE ON SUPERSTAR…

There’s a shot in cinematography that I believe was invented by Alfred Hitchcock – the ‘dolly zoom’ or ‘vertigo’ shot, commonly used to depict a moment of sickening realisation.

A famous example from Spielberg:

That was essentially me sitting in front of my PS4, realising what had happened..

I had spent the entirety of Season 7 on Top Player.

Cropped Top Player

Not on Superstar.

I worked out what had happened.

Last season — post-Season 6 — I also had a little play with Unassisted passing for the Old Boys game, and changed the difficulty to Top Player for that match. And then I never un-set it. I stayed on Top Player, with Assisted passing and shooting, afterwards.

This explains so much. It explains my Invincibles start, and much of the routine nature of this Treble. I’ve never been the greatest PES player. I’m still not. I spent an entire Season labouring under a delusion.

Cropped superstar

I thought I’d won the Treble on Superstar. I haven’t. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before on any PES.

I promptly changed the Difficulty to where I thought it was all along, and played the Old Boys game in a kind of daze. (A 1-1 draw that I lost on penalties. Casillas was the retiring player.)

And so this is the Christmas Cliffhanger: what happens next?

What do I do? What do I want to do?

Season 8 on Superstar? A tilt at a ‘proper’ Treble? Do I want to do that? There’s no way that I would play Season 8 just because I feel I ‘have to’. No way at all.

Or do I just smile about it and move on? I never bothered overmuch with Superstar on PES2015. I’m not committed to the ‘Superstar or it doesn’t matter’ viewpoint that is so prevalent in football gaming circles. I had a pretty good time on Season 7 — on Top Player, as it turned out. Perhaps this is the most fitting end for PES2016.

Maybe I should carry on and do what I intended, which is to move onto FIFA16, PES2014, PES5, or something else.

But there is goodness in PES2016. It’s like Return of the Jedi‘s Darth Vader in that respect. One more go-around on Superstar (really this time) might be just what I need.

I genuinely do not yet know. I am going to take the next week to decide.

Once I’ve decided, that’ll be it. No vacillating or dithering. Either I play Season 8 on Superstar on PES2016, or I move on.

I’m going to take Christmas Day off. There’ll be no post on Friday.

I will return as usual next Tuesday, 29th December, with a special post outlining the near future on the blog.

As ever I’m open to comments and suggestions and takings-of-piss, and will remain active in comments over the next week. (I’ll have New Year’s Day off too. All back to normal on 5th January.)

It only remains to wish everybody reading this a Happy Christmas. And check your Settings. Just in case.

Getting my David Pleat on

Captain Castledine lifts the trophy

I’ve praised Castledine to the heavens many times already this term. Season 7 has been billed as my last on PES2016. The game simply had to end with Castledine to the forefront, and it did.

Pictured above is the man himself lifting the most coveted prize in virtual European football. Castledine: the Coynborough of PES2016.

Not only is this my first Treble since PES2013, but this is the first incarnation of the Castello/Castolo/Cinalton/Castolis entity who has stayed in my squad all the way to the end of an ML campaign since… I can only just remember when the last one was. I believe it was Castello, in PES2 or PES3. Castledine has not only stayed, but easily been my most valuable player. A notable achievement indeed.

Yes, I have won the Treble in PES2016, at the end of Season 7, and so ends my time on this game. For now? Possibly. It’s a long time between now and next Autumn. With my track record, I could just as easily be back playing it next week.

The FA Cup Final against Aston Villa had worried me. PES likes to throw a spanner in the works, and a local derby difficulty escalation was just what I didn’t need.

I was right to be worried too — the game was a nightmare to navigate through, with the Villa team all snapping into violent challenges, very few of which yielded free kicks. Local derby-style games are pretty much the only matches in PES2016 where I’m sure of getting a few free kicks.

PES2016 season 7 FA Cup progress

My winning FA Cup Final goal was a special one –a lovely through-ball from my star Youth promotee, Aimar, left Giorza free to cut in from the side of the penalty box. I slammed my thumb down on the square button and absolutely lashed the ball past the Villa keeper into the opposite side of the net. This goal is in the video highlights at the end of this post.

Winning the League was pretty straightforward. I had it wrapped up with a couple of matches to spare and was able to rest key players for the two cup finals.

The final table for Season 7 on PES2016:

PES2016 Season 7 Final TableYes, I sloppily lost another match in those final few matches, blotting my almost-Invincibles copybook once more. Ah well. I’ll do that Invincibles thing again one day.

I was puzzled when it came to the trophy presentation. The great mystery being: where’s the trophy? There’s clearly a space in this tableau where a trophy of some kind is supposed to be, so what happened?

PES2016 Season 7 Clinched the title

Did it fail to load? What?

The Champions League Final against Porto was a tough game — until it wasn’t. For about 20 game-minutes I toiled to make anything happen, but then got a goal, followed by another one before half-time. Treble in the bag? I thought so.

Straight from their second-half kickoff, Porto got one back. But I soon got a third to go to 3-1 and make the European Cup safe — and it was scored by the same man lifting the trophy up there. Captain Castledine scored the last goal of my last season on PES2016. (All three of my Champions League Final goals are in the compilation at the end of this post.)Castledine scores the decider CL Final Season 7

Oh, and this kept happening at the end of each of the key games:

Greg Not David Pleat

And so to the mini-compilation of my run-in and cup finals. Spoiler alert: if you haven’t seen any of the post-match celebrations in PES2016 yet, and want to save yourself for them, skip watching this:

And that is just about that. On the whole, I leave PES2016 in a positive frame of mind. It’s been… okay, really.

There is some other wrapping-up business to attend to, but I’ll get to that on Tuesday. The post-season Team of the Tournament and other things. I’ll also chunter on some more about Master League and PES2016, and start to muse about where I go next.

POSTSCRIPT, added at 11:55am, 5 minutes before publication of this post: There is a twist in the tale. Not one that anybody could have foreseen. It will make for something of a cliffhanger over Christmas and New Year. I will reveal all on Tuesday. Consider this postscript a pre-cliffhanger cliffhanger.

Almost home

This is the last week of PES2016 on the blog – probably. Anything can happen, of course, and I’ve made abrupt reversals many times before. PES2012 sticks out in the memory.

But when it comes to feasting at PES2016’s table, I feel that I’ve all but scoured the plate clean. I’ve done pretty well to play 7 seasons in Master League. I’ve learned never to say never again when it comes to PES. And there are many satisfying aspects of PES2016 that have kept me playing through all these hundreds and hundreds of matches. But if I ever play PES2016 again after this week, it’ll be with different settings (unassisted passing/shooting).

The time for wondering what PES2016 might have been with less focus on multiplayer and more on single-player is for next summer, perhaps. But for now, I’ll say it would have been nice to see more of this:

PES2016 a sunlit day

A lot more in the way of daytime, sunlit games would have been very nice. Not enough to nullify the game’s other problems (no fouls, ludicrously overpowered slide-tackles, no fouls, limited AI scoring capacity, no fouls, etc.). But it would have made for a more regular contrast to the relentless grind of the grey-black night.

A busy working weekend meant I only got to play a few matches of Season 7, my last on PES2016.

They were good matches, mind! Over the past week or two I’ve played a lot less than before, with gaps of a day or two between sessions, and found myself enjoying PES2016 much more as an occasional treat.

6 more league matches and here is the table after 33 games played:

PES2016 season 7 table after 33

I’m through to the FA Cup Final and the Champions League Final. The Treble is very much on, and despite my regret over PES2016’s relative lack of a difficulty curve, I’m excited about completing my first one in a few years.

PES2016 beating Barca on way to FinalI got through my first CL knockout round against Barca with some aplomb, running out 3-1 winners in the end with another hat-trick from the really-quite-awesome Reyes. I made a fuss early on about Reyes embodying the lack of individuality in PES2016, but I have to say he’s overturned that view in his case. (My view on this still holds for the game in general.)

I don’t remember who I had in the quarter final, but whoever it was, I beat them. Then it was Valencia in the semi, and this time it was a tough encounter. I drew the home leg 1-1, worrying about conceding the away goal. The away leg was tough.

PES2016 season 7 Gotze winner in semi CL

Gotze came trough with the goal that secured my place in the final. It’s one of the few things he’s done since his arrival.

Here are three crucial goals from my recent session. Two from the Champions League bookend the clips. The goal in the middle came in a league 6-pointer against Manchester City:

A couple more wins will win the title. Which only leaves the other two components of the Treble to secure.

In the Champions League final I will play Porto. In the FA Cup Final, I will play Aston Villa – I hissed through my teeth when I saw Villa had made it through, as this means the final will be played as a local derby. PES is always in the mood to mess things up, and doubly so in derby games, I’ve found. The Treble is definitely on and I should definitely win it, but this Villa factor is a slight spanner in the works.

And so this coming Friday’s post will bring down the curtain on PES2016, exactly one week before Christmas. Will I secure the Treble – my first since PES2013? We shall see…

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