Month: August 2017

Rendezvous With Rafa

I have felt at a bit of a loose end in these becalmed days before things get moving on the PES2018 demo front. Friday’s post will have my full impressions on that. I won’t have much time to play the demo tomorrow (Wednesday), so Thursday will be play-time and then impressions Friday.

In the meantime, I have popped back onto the PS4 to see an old friend: FIFA16. This FIFA never wowed me in the way that FIFA15 did, but such things are often a matter of timing. FIFA15 came out well before PES2015 and so it got a couple of months of solid play. Time to bed down and build the bonds of affection. FIFA16 came out after PES2016, and never really got a look-in until after I’d racked up 12+ exhausting seasons (on what was a pretty poor PES game, hindsight now tells me).

First of all it was a pleasure to be back on the PS4. Where was I with FIFA16? Seemingly in the Championship payoffs. I breezed past Sunderland, 1-0 on aggregate, and faced Sheff Weds in the final at Wembley. Beat them 1-0 too.

Nice header back across the keeper from my on-loan starlet, Marcus Rashford. He was a virtual unknown at the time of FIFA16’s inception, who cost me only £6m in a subsequent transfer deal I made before logging off.

Note Alan Smith’s commentary line about Rashford’s header going in the top left corner of the net, when it plainly goes to the top right corner of the net. Grrrr. This FIFA-ism never fails to annoy me, every single time I hear it, and I must have heard it hundreds of times in FIFA by now. It’s not an error on EA’s part, as such. It’s their conscious decision to go with the American TV convention of describing the left and right sides of the goal from the viewer’s point of view, rather than from the goalkeeper’s point of view, which is our convention here in dear old Blighty land.

Promotion to the Premier League, and I met Newcastle in pre-season. A cutscene weirdly showed me what looked like Benitez on the touchline, but it couldn’t have been him, as I believe Rafa was unattached to any club when this game was made. Unless there’s been an update to rosters. Anything is possible with EA. One day they’ll have our matches analysed, Sky Sports-style, by virtual pundits on virtual giant iPads in virtual studios. Not even joking. I would bet they’re working on it.

I played most of that pre-season tournament, and enjoyed it – but not overmuch. The PES2017 disc was still in the PS4. I put that on for a game, and immediately felt at home. That’s the acid test: habit and routine wins out. Almost any FIFA might well be an objectively better package and even a better game than almost any PES, but the PES flavour of footy gaming is the footy-game flavour to which my taste buds are adapted, for better or worse. It would take a PES2008-style PES catastrophe to change me now.

The Nine Billion Names of PES

My PES2018 Demo 1st impressions post will appear here this time next week. I’ll also post the average AI fouls-count for the first 10 matches. I usually only play about 10-15 matches in total in any PES demo anyway.

I predict about 1.25 AI fouls per match. I’m hoping for an average of 2 AI fouls per match or even – nosebleed time – 3 per match, but that would be crazy and completely unprecedented in any recent PES.

Every year, whenever Konami – or even ‘hardcore fans’ – say that fouls are ‘sorted now’, what they mean is that the issue has been settled for good. 1 or 2 per match is all we’re getting or should want to get, because, you know, fun.

The average amount of AI fouls per match in PES5 is about 6. No, 6 is not all that high – but that’s the average, remember. So in half of all my PES5 matches, there are plenty more than 6 AI fouls.

I’ll miss having PES5 in my daily life after next week. Yes, PES5 is nearing its end. I won’t play it regularly after the PES2018 demo arrives. I will bid it a fond farewell, publicly, but as ever I will continue playing it, off and on, forever.

Where do you think this multi-season PES5 ML career came from? I’ve had it on the go for years. I’ll always have it on the go.

The greatest-ever football game – and its greatest-ever gameplay values – will stay with me forever.

I didn’t get through to the WEFA Cup Final. Spurs thumped me 4-1 in the second leg of the semi-final, in another eerily individualistic performance more reminiscent of Spurs 2017 than Spurs 2005.

League results continue to be patchy. A good win followed by a puzzling score draw, followed by a gritty 0-0. The variety of experience in the old games has never been matched, much less bettered. Well, it’s occasionally been approached in the PS3 era (PES2012) and sometimes in the PS4 era (PES2015 for sure – and even PES2017 before Team Spirit turns everything so samey).

I’m toying with the idea of giving FIFA16 (or my favourite FIFA of recent years, FIFA15) another go before the PES2018 demo hits. All depends on time.

I was going to do a jokey end-of-year review of PES5 here, but time has beaten me on this front as well. I was going to give it 9,000,000,0000/10.

That’s 9 billion out of 10. I deducted a billion for the empty stadia in Master League.

I really don’t want to hear anything about Pro Evolution Soccer 5 being appropriate for the 2005 era, and Pro Evolution Online Button Mashing being appropriate for the 2017 era. Depth, excellence, and a rich single-player experience should be a pre-requisite for any era.

It’ll all be over by Christmas

Another day, another pre-release post. The phoney war period drags on and on. This time next week will be the literal eve of the PES2018 demo release.

I probably shouldn’t have spent these weeks on PES5, thinking about it now. They have filled me with a renewed sense of zealotry regarding Classic PES. I was already irked about recent years’ progressive removal from PES of so much that matters. Fouls. Player individuality. True depth in Master League. They’re the Big 3, off the top of my head.

I was already annoyed about them before. Now, PES5 has turned that particular dial up to 11.

I’ve got through to the semi-final of the WEFA Cup. 0-0 in the first leg at Tottenham. If I get through to the final I will record the whole thing and post it, despite my firm conviction that there is nothing duller in all Creation than watching somebody else playing a football game.

The WEFA Cup Final (if I get there) will be enough of a special occasion to make an exception. Regular readers will know that I almost never have won that competition. It would be somehow fitting to snatch the WEFA Cup before PES5 itself returns to the trophy cabinet.

Goals are still blessedly hard to come by. Chance-creation is still a challenge on its own. I’ve been playing PES5 solid for several weeks now. Reliable routes to goal should have emerged. They have not. There is also none of this urgent end-to-end rhythm that you see in PES post-2012. PES2013, for all its undoubted qualities, was the beginning of the current phase of our current populist-leaning PES. (PES2014, as ever, was the Great Anomaly.)

Individuality is still markedly present in every match, not just in my players and my team as a whole, but in opposition players and teams. Spurs are different from Hertha Berlin, who are different again from Wigan.

Ah no, I definitely shouldn’t have dallied with PES5 this summer. I’m spoiling myself.

Gamescom today, which means lots of shaky vids of people playing multiplayer against strangers on the showroom floor. Lots of confident and hilariously misplaced assertions about YouTube compression algorithms (a juicy example of something invented by a community that has come to be accepted truth).

I’ll be reading the main PES forums and I expect to be richly entertained. I love the drama and the anxiety of this period almost as much as I love the anticipation of release week itself.

PES5 (FIVE) IS GUD

Look at that. I got hammered by Spurs.

17 (SEVENTEEN) fouls in the match. That’s 9 (NINE) committed by the AI. 8 (EIGHT) by me.

Another high-quality match on PES5 – they almost all are. There’s very, very rarely a duff match. And there’s never a whole session where you think ‘ugh‘ about the aggregate experience.

That is the difference between PES then and PES now. PES now is still recognisably PES, and can still provide a rewarding, deep football gaming experience, but it is capable of throwing up a shocker of a match and/or a shocker of a whole session, far too often.

This PES5 match was typical in that it was strewn with fouls and free kicks.

What do fouls and free kicks bring to a football game? Quite a bit actually:

  • they’re an intrinsic part of the sport, so their absence is counter-immersive.
  • bring variations in tempo, making fast-paced, flowing action the exception rather than the dreary norm.
  • bring about the creation of different situations: free kick by the touchline, free kick in goal-shooting range, free kick on halfway line in the 90th minute, etc. Oh, and the occasional penalty kick, in theory.
  • a punishment to the over-aggressive player.
  • an incentive to try to play football.

The positive effects of fouls and free kicks in a football game have been almost completely obliterated from PES in the here-and-now. Gone from FIFA too, from what I’ve seen in recent years. All in the name of meeting multiplayers’ expectations. I can’t think of any other reason.

Perhaps just this is what sets PES5 apart. Arguments could be made than many another PES edition, before and after, were better in lots of vital ways. Shooting, animations, features, graphics, and all sorts. Perhaps PES5 is only the best because it featured the best ruleset of all the PES games. The ruleset makes the gameplay.

I would argue than PES5’s shooting and player individuality also contribute to the cocktail of greatness. But there’s no denying that what many people moaned about the most – the fouls – makes the game what it still is today.

And what chance has PES2018 got of measuring up to this lofty ideal? To put it bluntly, fuck-all of a chance. By design.

Four weeks today, everyone reading this will have had PES2018 in their possession for at least a day.

I’ll have carried out my promise/threat to count the number of AI fouls in my first 10 matches.

If that average is greater than 2 (TWO), I will be surprised. If it’s greater than 4 (FOUR), I will perform some kind of public penance.

I’ll be stunned if it’s greater than 1 (ONE).

With a bit of luck, four weeks today I’ll have had the game for three days. At least two days has been the rule in recent years, but I’m hoping to get it earlier this year. We shall see.

The nearness of PES2018 means that every day with PES5 is precious.

Here is the first sighting of a league table in my current phase of PES5:

This screenshot also tells a story about PES5.

16 goals scored in 25 matches. 10 draws – so there have been quite a few nil-nils. PES5 would bore most of today’s PES gamers, including (perhaps especially) the self-styled hardcore fans. This is simply where we are now.

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