Month: January 2016

Crouching panther, hidden treasure

Photo 22-01-2016, 12 34 37It’s not a bad-looking game, PES2014. I’m one of the few who thinks the PS4 graphics for PES2016 were excellent, and a decent step up from PES2015’s chalkiness. So one of the trickiest things about stepping back a generation to a PS3 PES is the graphics – as well as the loading times, and the lack of convenient record-to-HD features, of which more later.

Of these niggles, the graphics are the least nigglesome to me. It’s great footy gaming I crave more than anything else. I’m capable of playing PES5 on PC without batting an eye at those graphics. So PS3-level graphics are not an issue at all.

There’s my new kit for Season 7 on show, by the way. The Option File I’m using has official kits for all other teams, but I’m doing my own season-by-season, as in the old days. The familiar mashup of sky blue, darker blue, a random stripe, some piping on the shorts…. It’s good to be home again.

The season has started not badly at all. I’ve stayed on the same settings for now: Top Player; 1-bar passing; normal shooting; default gamespeed.

I feel that I’m getting a great game of video-gamey football each time I take it out for a spin. The feel of a great match in PES2014 is more like the old PES feel than the more recent games can ever hope to get to. That feeling of working hard for a result and relishing the grittiness of a victory. PES2014 as a whole – the PES game nobody played – is like discovering buried treasure.

There are also dull, forgettable matches, which Konami have worked hard to eliminate from PES2016, but these are the salt on the meal in my view. After the success of PES2016, and the nerfing of FIFA16 to make it more like PES2016, no football game will ever be published again that meets the ‘old-timer’ criteria of greatness. From now on, button-mashing and goal extravaganzas are the order of the day. Yes, I know I’m being unkind. The thing is, I’m not being that unkind.

New signings: mainly Youths. Among the unknowns, I recruited regen GOMIS. Seems good so far. A goal or two. We shall see how he develops. I’m glad he’s stopped scoring in real-life as I dislike that prowling panther celebration, and am very glad it’s not replicated in this game.

Here’s a distance goal from the kid, which also shows me trying a different free kick routine:

Re. the terrible picture quality: it was a sunny day, and the light played havoc with the phone camera. I could have closed the curtains, but I was already breaking my immersion by recording to begin with. This is the biggest problem with going back to the PS3, for me. Over the next few weeks and months of PES2014, I’ll only be recording very special moments, that’s for sure.

Next up is some AI goodness – this is very interesting indeed. First round of the FA Cup, I came up against Liverpool. After 7 seasons in this ML world, they’re a team made up of almost nobody recognisable. But they’ve still got Suarez, and he did this against me:

So very Suarez, and so very PES. It’s moments like the above, from the AI, that I almost never saw in either PES2015 or PES2016. I’m saying ‘almost never’ mainly out of respect for what ’15 and ’16 both did well. I don’t remember anything like the above example of AI individuality in those games.

Part of my whole PES2014 adventure will be frequent musing on how PES has changed in the two years since its peculiar year of non-life, and what those changes mean for the future of the series.

I beat Liverpool 1-0 in this match, at their place, in one of my most satisfying results of this born-again PES2014 career.

I also met Chelsea and Manchester City back-to-back in the league, and lost badly against them. Chelsea beat me 3-0, Man City 2-0. There was a definite sense of being in a boss battle during all three matches against the big boys.

PES2014 season 7 after 9

Now my Heart is full

Photo 21-01-2016, 13 17 42Season 6 of PES2014 has ended with the clinching of promotion — albeit in 2nd place instead of the 1st that seemed so likely for so long.

‘Promotion already? That seems quick,’ some might ask. Well, this is a Master League campaign that I’ve been playing, on and off, for over two years now. This is by no means a quick promotion. In terms of real-world calendar time, it’s easily my slowest.

And it nearly didn’t happen. With about 8 matches remaining, my team suffered a substantial Heart-related wobble, and results went pear-shaped.

In PES2014, the Heart feature is more fundamental to player performance than the trusty old Form arrows, or so it currently seems to me.

In fact, when was the last time the Form arrows really, really mattered in PES?

For the past three or four editions, I cannot say, hand on heart, that a red-arrowed player handles or performs substantially better than a green-arrowed player. I still automatically de-select purple-arrowed players, but I have come to suspect that I’m just doing so out of habit.

Since roughly PES2012/13, I strongly doubt that there’s been much of a gameplay penalty to fielding a purple-arrowed player. A purple arrow still inflicts a -10 stat reduction across the board (we hope) — but what does that really mean these days? Individuality isn’t what it used to be in PES.

Individuality manifests in PES2014 due to the excellent player modelling and contextual lack of responsiveness, but what of PES2016 with its instant, silky-smooth handling? I have dark doubts.

Where was I? Yes, that’s right, my team’s wobble toward the end of the season, and why Heart is more important than Form in PES2014.

It started with a draw, followed by a defeat, and those things combined were enough to take my Hearted players from having full-on radioactive glowing chests, back to having sober, drab, green chests. Which seemed to be enough to sabotage nearly everything I tried to do. A run of results followed that threatened to spiral me out of the promotion places.

There was a stage when there was a serious chance of dropping out of the top 3. There are no playoffs in PES2014, so it was top 3 or nothing.

Photo 21-01-2016, 13 18 41I dug deep, ground out a couple of results, got some of my players’ Hearts glowing again, and went on a winning run that secured second place.

It could have been so much more. I drew my final match, and discovered afterward that Norwich had drawn theirs too. A win would have secured the title. I’m jinxed with these D2 titles in PES, Down the years, I don’t think I’ve won more than one or two D2 titles in any of the Master Leagues I’ve played.

Photo 21-01-2016, 13 19 41

I had only one player in the Best Eleven, my versatile and reliable striker MASSANA, one of the notable individuals.

Only having one player in the Best Eleven is about right. I’ve got a few other players who stood out for me, but my overall performance this season was too up-and-down to make the game take notice.

ADEBAYOR retired at the age of 34, which the game kept nudging me to remind me about as the last game approached. I took him off with a few minutes left at the end of the final game, expecting to see a cutscene of him waving at the crowd. Nothing. What was the point of the game making such a fuss about it then?! The bizarre world of Pro Evo.

Onward now to Season 7 in the Premier League. I’ve already started it, and I am loving it. Still loving PES2014 too. A football game with actual weight and inertia, with sustained build-up play, with frustrating goalless draws, with fouls, with a satisfying degree of player individuality, with goals that are hard to score and meaningful! Oh my.

No R1 was pressed in the making of this post

PES2014 for the fansSeason 6 of my born-again PES2014 Master League adventure has continued all week.

My enthusiasm for this venture hasn’t faded. I had been kind of prepared for a fade. I’d just finished 8 seasons on PES2016, a decent-if-unremarkable experience overall, and wondered if I was burnt out. And maybe going back to play regularly on the PS3 would prove too much. I wondered if I would soon be looking for the exit to FIFA16 and the home comforts of the PS4.

But now I’m starting to think I’m here with PES2014 for the long haul — at least until a Superstar Treble has been seriously attempted, and hopefully won.

This is a very good game of computer football. The most neglected runt in the PES litter does seem, to me, to be one of the strongest instalments of the series.

I’m about to start harping on a theme. It’s a theme that will recur again and again over the coming weeks, maybe months. Here is the theme: the reasons people give for disliking PES2014 are much the same reasons why it is a good edition.

I’ve now played well past halfway of my first full season. That’s Season 6 overall, of an ML career that I started in November 2013.

Here’s the current league table after 23 matches:

PES2014 season 6 after 23I’d like to think promotion is a certainty, but as I type I’ve hit a patch of poor form that has seen my team’s Heart rating dip dramatically.

Lack of Heart means that the team is less competent. Shots have less chance of going in. Tackles fail more often. Players in general are slower, dopier, and more rubbish. All of which means that a Keegan’s Newcastle-style collapse may be in progress – more on Tuesday. Today is more about PES2014’s general gameplay.

Perhaps the number one complaint people had/have about PES2014 is ‘button lag’.

This is where the game is slow to react to your button presses. Such an outcry went up about it that the word ‘responsiveness’ has since entered the PES lexicon as an unquestioned pro-word. Leading to the likes of PES2016 with its distinct lack of individuality and arcade handling. Arguing against silky-smooth responsiveness in football gaming is like arguing against democracy and human rights. People are shocked when you try it. But I will try it.

PES2014’s infamous lack of responsiveness isn’t a problem for me. Why? Because I don’t hammer R1 while playing PES2014.

We all hammer R1 when playing Pro Evo. We all hammer R1 when playing FIFA. People like to pretend they don’t hammer R1, but those people are all secret R1-hammerers too. In attack or defence, whether the ball’s at our feet or running out of play, in the first minute or the ninetieth, there’s one button we hammer more than any other. That button is R1

PES2014 is the only football game in my experience that overtly punishes misuse of R1. The way it does this is by delaying its response to your button inputs while you’re pressing R1.

The most notorious example of PES2014 button lag is when you’re sprinting a striker in on goal, and you press shoot – and nothing happens. The game completes a few more running animations first, and then allows your player to shoot — by which time the defenders and/or goalkeeper have smothered the shot. Aaaargh! Many a temper snapped numerous times over this, back in 2013-14.

But when you don’t hammer R1, when in fact you lay off it completely, the problem is — mostly — solved. First-time passes and first-time shots are all perfectly possible in PES2014 when R1 is left well alone.

This game won’t let you sprint willy-nilly. Well, you can, but there’s a cost. Sprint assumes ‘animation priority’, and will disrupt all your other actions. If you’re mashing R1 (and when is the modern football gamer not mashing R1?) and you press shoot, don’t expect PES2014 to peacefully cooperate

Here are some R1-free goals from a recent session.

Soundtrack courtesy of one of Coventry’s finest, there.

As you watch the above clip, shape your hands as if gripping an invisible controller and shadow my players’ movements as if you were the one playing – and feel your right forefinger wanting to bear down hard on R1 almost all the time.

See the moment at 0:05s when my player is running onto the ball in the box? If you’re mashing R1 in that situation and then press circle for a cross, then all that happens is the player runs the ball out of play. But I wasn’t pressing R1, and so the first-time cross was delivered for a first-time finish from Adebayor.

In any other football game — even The Greatest Football Game Ever Made, and regular readers know which game I mean there — I’d have had my finger on R1 at several points during the above vid, notably after playing the give and go at 0:45s. On PES2014, that would have wrecked the turn, the lay-off, and then the turn-and-shoot at 1:00 (strong echoes of PES2012 with that turn-and-shoot mechanic in PES2014, incidentally).

So there we have it. This is by no means a scientific conclusion. But every match, and dozens of situations in every match, bear out the truth of what I’m saying. PES2014 is a sprint-unfriendly game. We’re all R1 addicts. PES2014 tried to wean us off R1. Unsurprisingly, it failed.

PES2014: The Road Not Taken

PES2014 thumbshot

It’s here! The PES game that nearly everybody back in 2013-14 — me included — abandoned in dismay and disgust after a month or two!

The PES game that could have changed football gaming forever, but manifestly… didn’t.

Obligatory thumb shot on the left here. This blog was on hiatus for the entire length of PES2014’s ‘life’. The game was never covered. That will now change.

I’ve been wanting to play PES2014 for a long time, since summer 2014 in fact, but I was waiting for a decent opportunity to give it an extended run. That time is now. PES2014 is my current football game, and the early signs are that it will be so for some time.

I’m playing the fully patched PlayStation3 version of PES2014. That ‘fully patched’ business is very important to me, because it means I’ll be able to score long-range goals.

On release, one of PES2014’s big issues was the complete lack of goals from 20+ yards. You could bag the odd one from a yard outside the box, but no farther. It was literally impossible.

Thankfully, the game was eventually patched (around April 2014), and now you can do this:

(Yes, slightly shaky, somewhat blurry handheld vids and pics are back on the blog.)

I scored that one in a session over the weekend just gone. Very… PESish, isn’t it? Well, that’s the stuff I like. And they’re still not very common in PES2014, even with all the patches. Scarcity breeds value, and I value these goals in PES2014. I’ve played the equivalent of half a season in the past week and not scored another like the above.

There’s a school of thought out there that the original release version of PES2014, warts and all, is the purest PES game ever made. I think there’s an argument to be had there, but I also think there’s a strong case for this final patched version of PES2014 to occupy that lofty place. More on this question in future posts, no doubt.

PES2014 end of season 5I’ll be picking up the same ML savegame that I started way back in 2013, and have played on and off since. I’ve got a decent Option File installed that I don’t remember ever installing. I grow old…

My settings are: Top Player difficulty, 1-bar passing, normal shooting. On PES2014, 1-bar assistance feels much like PES2016’s Unassisted setting.

My team, the usual ersatz COVENTRY CITY, finished 10th in Division 2 at the end of Season 5. I’ve started Season 6 in good style:

PES2014 season 6 after 12Of course I was tempted to completely start afresh, but I wanted to see this original save through more than I wanted to start again. I’ve built my current Season 5-6 squad up over a long time and don’t want to throw away the most lengthily-assembled ML team I have ever had.

Here’s my Squad — this is the view that show’s PES2014’s notorious ‘Heart’ feature. Note the full red chests of most of my players. More on Heart in the weeks to come.

PES2014 XI and SquadThey’re all individuals, too. ISMAIL at left-back is a little dynamo of a bustling full-back, the best at that position since Ruskin. LAPREVOTTE, in central AMF, scored the goal above. I’m going with a single DMF for now in classic PES style.

So I’ll play PES2014 until I reach some sort of closure. The usual rule of thumb — a Treble, preferably on Superstar — will probably be that closure, but we’ll see.

Amid all the gushing, the game has plenty of issues. Every footy game does. I will address them as I find them.

On the issue of PES2014’s famous so-called ‘lack of responsiveness’, I say HALLELUJAH. A football game where you actually have to think ahead and plan a few passes in advance. How utterly shocking! In my first post-PES2016 sessions on PES2014, I grinned every time one of my players clumsily failed to turn on a sixpence, or ran the ball out of play, or whatever. I GRINNED.

I hate how ‘responsiveness’ has become the watchword for football games. Just one instance where PES2014 singularly failed to change the course of gaming history, I suppose.

Anyway, perhaps the worst thing about PES2014 isn’t its so-called lack of responsiveness.

It’s the L O A D I N G  T I M E S….

L   O   A   D   I   N   G      T   I   M   E   S

L      O     A     D     I     N     G          T     I     M     E     S

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IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER

(I have a feeling I’ll be echoing this often.)

My opinions and enthusiasms are all my own. Based on my current findings, the next few weeks and months are likely to see an overall positive account of my experience of playing PES2014 in the year 2016. My views do not and will not constitute any kind of recommendation that anybody goes out and gets a copy of PES2014 and/or a PlayStation3 or Xbox360 to play it on. (You wouldn’t be able to patch it up anyway. Konami switched off the update servers last year.)

If my imminent PES2014 posts seem intriguing, and if you go to extraordinary lengths to get the game and play it (PC owners always have options…), I cannot be held responsible for financial costs, marital discord, spiritual turmoil — or even just plain old disappointment. I seem to rather like PES2014; a great many people never will.

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