Onward to a better tomorrow, citizen

xcom 2 loading screen 1

The nights starting to get lighter traditionally sees me starting to play other games, and this year is no exception. I have a new gaming passion, and there’s not a football in sight. The game in question is XCOM2. It’s shaping up to be one of the greatest strategy games I have ever played, and I’ve played a few.

The pleasure of a challenging, difficult game is what motivates my love of football gaming, and is what’s sent me to PES2014 currently. A high difficulty curve is intensely pleasurable – barely half an hour into XCOM2, a time when most strategy games are still holding your hand, my starting XCOM squad was completely wiped out. This is the pain I need in a strategy game.

The Soviet-style screenshot above is one of a collection of themed images that appear on XCOM2’s loading screens, meant to evoke the shiny dystopia of human society under the alien jackboot. It’s one example of the attention to detail and atmosphere that characterises greatness in gaming.

It feels good to have another game to play in parallel with my football gaming. It prevents the feeling of suffocation that sometimes overcomes even the most committed football gamer.

Back on the ranch, PES2014 season 8 is proceeding at a slightly slower pace, given the time I’m spending on XCOM2.

Here is the table after 12 matches:

PES2014 season 8 after 12I’ll do very, very well to mount any kind of title challenge from this far back. It looks like Season 8 will be another tussle for the top 4, which is within reach. Top-4 was my target at the start of the season. I’ll continue plugging away.

Master League famously allows chasing teams to pull close if they can string together enough results, but closing what is already a 15-point gap on the top spot against a rampant Man Utd will be a tall order.

At the time this game was published the Red Devils in real life had yet to start their current, ’80s-Liverpool-like swan-dive into relative mediocrity. So they’re tough as old boots to play against in PES2014. Not as tough as the typical XCOM2 mission, but getting there.

I’m top of my group in the Europa League after 2 matches. Tempting fate, I’ll say qualification for the Round of 32 is a formality.

Nothing’s really changed for me in gameplay terms. The overall experience is still of the most satisfying simulation-oriented PES gameplay that we’ve seen in many a year.

Fouls are here in their proper proportion. I firmly believe that we will never see AI fouls in single-player football gaming ever again, beyond the token one or two every so often. Over the last few years, EA and Konami have both clearly signalled their intentions on that front. So I’m enjoying the experience of playing a football game in which play is often broken up by free kicks. Imagine that! The game even dares to be quite dull sometimes. Imagine that!

I have tinkered with the camera in an effort to get more of a handle on the slow midfield play that sometimes bogs the game down. (What a condemnation of the direction PES has taken, that the ball often being ‘bogged down’ in midfield play is something of a novelty. Olympus truly has fallen.)

I played a few matches with the Blimp camera for the first time. It’s decent, and gives you a good sighting of all your other players, but the distance from the action overall makes things feel curiously remote. You need to be closer – I do, anyway.

So I went back to my favoured Custom Wide camera after a decent stab at Blimp and that’s the end of that story.

For the record, XCOM2 has its fair share of camera issues. The maximum zoom-out view isn’t quite far enough to get a good tactical sense of the maps, but that’s probably deliberate.

Thinking back over the past ten years of PES, when was the last time we never had to consider what the best camera view was? The PS2 years, surely. Since then, there’s never been a single camera view that’s hit the Goldilocks zone.


  1. NG – With regards to the camera situation as you know I am a bit of a camera angle geek and seem to remember a zoomed out mid or long camera angle suited the game nicely.

  2. You’ve noted the Man Utd danger NG but city are above them in your table. I’d hate for you to overhaul the former and start thinking you’d won the league, it’d be like that 2016 top player “win”…

    First game in season two started badly as relegated Fulham turned up a whole 12 points overall better than my team. I had the better of the game but lost 2-0. I can partly blame what I think might be another fracture to one of my fingers, I dropped a metal gate post on it this morning and it now looks like a saveloy.

  3. Turf – Next you are going to say the rat was responsible for pushing the metal post onto your finger. Your house sounds like a Tom and Jerry episode.

  4. Darryl – the camera issue on PES harks back to the PS2 era, when the one we all got used to back then – Wide, with Angle – has never been on offer in PS3 and now PS4 versions. It can get close, but just isn’t the same.

    Uncle Turf – good spot, and I must have been seeing Man City ‘as’ Man Utd up there at the top out of the corner of my eye all season.

  5. I had another 6 games on 2014 and time puts this game in a whole new light. You do wonder why we all got so venomous towards it. Yes the vanilla version has its faults but the positives far out way the negatives. No game will ever be like this again. You have to get to grips with the jostling idea as I remember from memory if you were against the last defender the key is to knock the ball in front of you and then hold the attacker off. I scored a goal this way this morning. The other big element to get used to is knocking the ball on instead of sprinting in other situations. Better players seem to have greateer control, adding to the individulity.

    As NG pointed out EVERYTHING is about weening yourself off it and only using it in situations you need to. I also think in this version the shooting seems more in the hands of the person with the controller and not situation based. I also scored a couple of decent headers, which also require timing. The issues may get more annoying over time but I don’t think it got a fair crack of the whip and we all must be held accountable for this. An enquiry is demanded.

    Werd – cheers sir. Just send them anyway that is best for you.

    Turf – I had a penalty as well this morning.

  6. Darryl – What happened to PES 2011?

  7. John – nothing yet as I am halfway through season 2 but have to say playing 2014 May have put a spanner in the works. Yep I know what you are all thinking I shouldn’t really have played 2014 because that was inevitable. So I don’t know, we shall see which way the waves take me. I have given up concerning myself about such things a long time ago. Right now it would appear that I can see 2014 looming in the distance.

  8. Darryl – no we never will see another footy game like PES2014, it really is one of a kind even among the ‘sim’ bunch of PES games. PES2014 was hammered in its day! For all that we rage against the turn the series has taken since ’14, given the reception it got (from me, from you, from just about everybody), can we really blame Konami for pursuing the more populist angle? PES2016 (and ’15 before it) isn’t a bad game at all – just not the sim-focused one that the series used to do so well, and PES2014 does in particular.

    A great shame you can’t get the fully patched version up and running (there’s no way to do it), as that has better keepers (much better keepers) and at least some long-range shooting.

  9. NG – I think it probably needed about 2 years to produce, such was the scale of ambition. I really liked 2015 after the last patch as it was a more defence based game and I have always liked the art of defending. I don’t think I will ever be able to say anything nice about 2016 as cricket scores and zero fouls will never be my kind of game. We already have no doubt that 2017 will be much of the same.

  10. Darryl – the cognoscenti on the PES forums often muse about what the strategic thinking might be from Konami, e.g. having put out an arcade-style PES in the form of PES2016, might it be time for a sim-style one again in PES2017? etc. That isn’t going to happen. I’d put a fair few hundred quid on PES2017 being even more fast and furious and stats-light.

  11. glad you too are enjoying PES2014 Darryl, it really is excellent. I missed out on playing it at release, but in retrospect my journey of PES2012, 2013, FIFA14 and then FIFA15 have set me up perfectly to relish the game

  12. You didn’t miss it abbeyhill, it really was a dog on release after the short yet glorious 2013. In retrospect there were maybe just too many niggling issues – loading times for a start – for most of us to see what might be buried in it.

    Disasterous start to season two, lost league games, out of the cup, everyone else seems to have improved while I trod water. I can see how the transfer challenges and developed opponents can lock you into a cycle of lower placed finishes, it’s why I won’t be remotely concerned if I get a good regen or two. Also I’m noticing a little more script power than in the later games, one or two mysterious defender jumps to the side and so on. I used to get furious about them but now I just laugh.

    Any of the fantasy readers tried the red wolf conspiracy? One of the most unusual books I’ve read in many a year. Very enjoyable but just about every concept of the genre crammed into a pirate/politics story.

  13. Turf/Abbeyhill – the thing is looking back now I don’t think it was a dog on release. I am on the Vanilla version and it is holding up nicely. Had a mini session just now and all three games played out differently. As NG stated I like it when you get the bogged down midfield games as it adds a different element to them. Tactics count a lot in this game due to the different playing styles of teams.

  14. I played the original release of PES2014 for about 2 full ML seasons before mostly abandoning it. The lack of long-range shooting and the frequent keeper howlers got to me. But there is a sense in which I just didn’t appreciate what the game was trying to do at the time. I didn’t get that we were meant to grapple with the control input lag – a baked-in feature, not a problem or glitch. We were meant to wean ourselves off R1, for one thing, which is just never going to happen. I know that R1 is bad in PES2014 but I still lovingly caress it almost all the time. That, in a nutshell, is why football gaming is heading the way it is.

  15. NG – How where we meant to know these things were deliberately meant to be in if nobody explains it? Life is all about balance though and at the same time it is a video game and if I had the skills and knowledge of a professional footballer I would not be spending my time with a controller in my hand. The games now have moved to much towards the arcade direction. The NBA 2K series is interesting as sliders are all there but you also have pre-set slider selections with simulation/arcade etc. The Rory golf game does this perfectly as well.

  16. Turf – you should be able to get at least a couple of really good regens in season two January transfer window which will help a lot. Agreed that the scripting of your defensive players can be amusingly blatant in this edition, there is some quite farcical stuff going on when the AI wants a goal. A bit worried that I have fractured or dislocated a finger too – went to punch away a deep cross yesterday morning but also caught the striker’s head. Entire right hand is swollen up and purple

    Darryl – could you elaborate on that knock on and hold off the last defender as an alternative to sprinting? You mean a double tap R1 followed by holding R3 against the defender?

  17. Abbeyhill – Exactly as you have put it and is all about timing as people thought the defender catch up was a fault of the game. Yep burst away from the defender to get yourself slightly in front using a double tap of R2 and then click R3 but the key is to point back towards the defender when doing so.

  18. thanks, ah clicking R3 rather than just pushing it, maybe that’s where I have been going wrong

  19. I was cleaning the rabbit out yesterday and giving the back yard a sweep out in anticipation of the puppy being able to go outside. I put on Smooth FM as I like chilled out music for the task. Bright Eyes came on the radio causing the rabbit to run in. The shame about the song is that it is associated with that rabbit film and has stopped me from properly listening to the lyrics. I took notice yesterday and it transformed the song. This is the problem with PES 2014 as people have always associated the game as being unresponsive but there is a huge depth to the game when you change your focus and drop the pre conceptions.

  20. Remember Darryl uses a much-changed control scheme, so his R2 is probably our R1. But what is this R3 witchcraft?! Darryl, do you just mean the right stick? Or by R3 you do mean what R3 usually means, i.e. the vertical-pressing, clicking-in of the right-stick? What does that do? I think I’ll just go and find out…

  21. Watership Down the film is a horrific introduction to evolution and social behaviour, I can’t imagine showing it to a class of young kids (as they did when I were t’lad).

    The rat mystery deepens as well – large holes have reappeared in the borders despite me trapping one and leaving the traps out. I even checked to make sure it wasn’t some Pet Sematary rat resurrection. There’s another one out there and he’s much craftier.

    Little PES for me this weekend but much thought. My team as it is needs numerous players; 2 new keepers (I’ll take 2 youthies), 3 CBs (1 good, 2 youth), 2 DMF/CMF (1 good, 1 youth) and 1 good striker. The wings in my 3-5-2 are ok. I forsee no real promotion challenge till at least season 3, maybe 4.

  22. I had a nice sesh on Fallout 4 on Sunday and bathed in self glory as I found a vid of myself beating the Cleric Beast on my first go in Bloodborne.

    I also realised its nearly 7 months til PES 2017.
    Frater – you have planted the 2014 Vanilla seed…Damn it!

  23. Uncle Turf – you might be able to get some surprisingly decent players. The question is whether you have the patience to look for them through the slow menus. I managed to get Adebayor whilst in D2, and paired him with a journeyman striker whose name I’ll withhold in case you happen upon him too. Their goals between them got me promotion (all on Professional/Top Player, needless to say).

    werd – it’s a bad idea. I’d stick with Fallout4 if I were you. You don’t really play football games! Yes it’s about 7 months to PES2017, but you won’t really play that either 🙂

  24. Yes, I’ve already had some boredom from the advanced searches, especially as there should be a way of eliminating all the ones that say ‘0%’ chance of signing. I’ve also been quoted some silly prices which haven’t been reciprocated in bids for my players, Gellacza and Voleimann went too cheaply but I had little option. It’s all shaping up to be a masochist grind which does make any glory or blips in my favour worthwhile.

  25. NG – Don’t worry I cant be bothered to dig around in the loft for the ps3 🙂

  26. Very little game time over the weekend other than a couple of ML matches on 2016. A win and a draw keeps me still five points off Chelsea in first come the end of January.

    I was in town over the weekend and saw a copy of PES 2014. Picked it up, then quickly put it down again. I’m not going there – even with the promise of the patched version (I just about played it that long originally). I need a break from the ML format.

    No, my plan is to finish this season of PES 2016 ML and then revert to FIFA 15 (never played PS4 Fifa) as a cheapo footy game option. Star Wars Battlefront will continue and I’m intrigued by this No Man’s Sky game I’ve just read about. Anyone else tempted?

  27. NG – yes R3 as I call it is basically clicking down on the right stick.

  28. Uncle Turf — I wish we could sort by % chance of signing too. 3 or 4 sightings of 0% and I’m fed up with it. Which leads to the arguably more interesting scenario that you end up taking a punt on journeymen who sometimes become gems.

    Shed — I’m following No Man’s Sky closely. I’ve just taken the plunge on Superhot, a short PC first-person shooter (concept: things only move when you do), which is causing ripples. I am about to play it right now. It’s billed as a 2-hour game which is just what I need. You’re very wise not to dilute your gaming pool with PES2014. If Superhot wasn’t being marketed as a 2-hour game (some even say 1-hour), I doubt I’d have bothered.

    Darryl — R3 does a rainbow flick for me. Nothing else. Have you changed the control scheme to that level that you’ve changed R3 too?

  29. Just put PES 2016 back in for the first time since 2nd Jan, been playing farcry 4 and then the witcher 3 – the witcher has been the best game I’ve played in a long long time, thoroughly enjoyed it to the point that as soon as I finished the main quest line I went straight online to buy the season pass and played the first big dlc chunk, hearts of stone, to completion. The world CD projekt red made in that game is so lived in and alive and even some of the side quests put games like skyrim to shame.

    Anyway back onto PES now, glad you are all still enjoying PES 2014

  30. Pete – I made the mistake of trying to play Witcher3 immediately after spending 70+ wonderful hours in Metal Gear Solid V. Of course, I was still mentally in the world of Metal Gear and couldn’t settle in another one. That’s what game-games do, of course – they create entire worlds and let you live in them. I saw enough of Witcher3 to know I’ll love it once the Metal Gear glow has faded.

  31. NG – No I haven’t changed it that far. I did have the same problem at first until I realised I was pushing the stick before clicking as right stick is the tricks when you first receive the ball.

  32. NG – I will have another look tonight and report in the morning.

  33. NG – It is also possible to sort by % chance of signing as I have been doing so.

  34. Darryl – I take it the sort by % is one of the options when you press Square button in order to ‘Sort By’… If that’s so I’ve lazily overlooked it, too used to other PES games. How true that we only see what we’re used to seeing, eh?

  35. yes it’s right at the bottom of the list when you press square to sort, you have to scroll down to see it

  36. It surely wouldn’t have been much more of a stretch to include an option in the search parameters alongside age, height, etc so you can cut down the list. I bet Grendel had it back in the day…

    Scored some real 25 yard howitzers last night, an echo of 2013 if not from the same distance. Unfortunately I conceded some stupid goals and remain stuck in the bottom of the league with just three points.

  37. NG – you are right R3 is the Rainbow flick. I thought I had been clicking it but in observation of myself I have been holding the right stick in the desired direction. I genuingly thought I had been doing so as it is hard sometimes when you are away from the game as you do some things automatically. The brain is so fascinating when you observe things like this.

    With regards to the player hold of I made some observations this morning and it does make a huge difference who you are doing it with. I have two main strikers and one is more effective at doing this than the other. You also have to take into account the quality of your marker. So many factors to consider in this game it is staggering. If you do want to be successful at this the more zoomed in cameras are better as it is much easier to see what you are doing and judge the direction you push the stick in. I have saved a clip to demonstrate the effectiveness of this. I have not filmed it on my kindle yet as it was 4.30 in the morning but will put it up at some point. My striker was put through with a through ball and was on the shoulder of his marker and by doing this he put his arm across the defender so he could get in front of him. Also on the subject of camera angles, give this one a go I have been using in recent additions.

    Customise Pitch Side Camera
    Zoom: 0
    Height: 10
    Angle: 10

    It acts more like a zoomed in blimp as it gives a more overhead projected view and opens the play up more like blimp does but still retains that PES feel.

  38. Pete – I got Witcher 3 after my son was born, big mistake as I couldn’t give it the time it deserves. It looked stunning and as you said they did a great job on an emmersive lived in world.

    Fallout 4 is in for a pounding (ooer)as I didn’t realise I have 9 days annual leave to take before April. I have requested them, bar mini werds birthday and a few jars with my Dad its the house to myself for the first time in ages. boom, Boom BOOM!!

  39. wow, how did you score howitzers with the defaults Turf? I never manage any. Looks like you’re enjoying the superstar season 2 ramp up in difficulty, which gets worse season 3. Don’t forget the ‘exploit’ for signing regens on 0% if you’re nearing the January window

    Darryl – would love to see the player hold off vid if you’ve got time to post it up

  40. abbeyhill – Castolis, Orelaine and Houleigeu can all lamp a ball in my experience, the trick is generating the angle. I regularly play it into Castolis’s feet and try and get a quick yard on the turn. The other two are simply unmarked outside the box from corners. I never attempt the r2 curl from outside, it’s always a full hammer or one of those double press wobblers. Someone like Niellednder I wouldn’t even try, it’d be like knocking a nail in with a cream bun.

    Season 2 is much harder, if I don’t get players season 3 will be a nightmare.

  41. I also want to see this right-stick holding-off video. It’s going to be like seeing video evidence of Bigfoot!

    I did find something on YouTube with a quick search – its maker claims it shows use of the right-stick, but this could just as easily be an automatic contextual animation of one player holding off another, rather than something consciously triggered:

    Darryl, I am a Doubter and you must Convince me.

  42. Happy Saint David’s Day to one and all!

    Had no footy over the last week, apart from PES Club Manager on my phone. I’ve been watching Deutschland 83 on demand instead. 6 hours in, 2 to go.

  43. werd – I chanced upon that link too, but until you see this ‘Bigfoot jostling’ for yourself it’s all hearsay isn’t it? I remember back in the year of 2014 itself feeling mystified about the right-stick jostling malarkey. No matter what I did I couldn’t reproduce the action. Now we shall see! I have faith in Darryl…

  44. Chris99 – I could mention daffodils but I won’t. I’m currently working my way through season 3 of The Walking Dead and enjoying it. I stopped watching years ago in season 2 after the group holed up in a church for a while. I distinctly thought ‘if anyone starts talking to a statue of Jesus, I’m not watching this again’. Rick immediately started imploring a statue of Jesus. It’s taken me 4 years to get over that.

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