Month: December 2017

Happy New Year’s Pro Resolution FIFA Soccer Sensible Eleven!

Just over a week ago, in the midst of one of my frequent bouts of loathing for the latest FIFA imitator to bear the name of PES, I picked up a second-hand copy of FIFA17.

PES2018 has increasingly come to seem like nothing more/less than a PES-flavoured version of FIFA. My thinking was: well, if I have to play a version of FIFA, why not just play FIFA?

I have since played FIFA17, off and on, over the past week or so. I’m about a quarter of the way through a season in Career Mode.

Much of my reaction to the game has been documented in my comments on the previous post, but here are the highlights – in list form, in keeping with this time of year:

  1. FIFA17 is a professionally-produced package that meets my expectations for the content of a football game in 2017.
  2. Career Mode has many surprising and welcome customisation options. I was able to move Coventry City into the Championship, and play with them from there. What a fillip this was! I knew I wanted to start in the Championship, but wasn’t relishing starting with ‘Birmingham City’ or whatever they’re supposed to be called.
  3. I was profoundly shaken by the gameplay. Not because it’s bad. It’s not – it’s very good. FIFA gameplay has been consistently playable and interesting on various levels ever since FIFA08 on the PS3, which I strongly championed at the time, all those years ago. What shook me was just how similar FIFA17 feels to the current family of PES games. The same lighter-than-air feeling. The same urgent, insistent, back-and-forth rhythms. The same feeling that almost any player on the pitch could be on the ball and it’d make no real difference. This is the major eye-opener for me of the FIFA17 experiment. PES has moved more towards FIFA than FIFA ever moved towards PES. I suppose when you set out to make a football game for online multiplayer, something like FIFA/PES as they both are today is just where everything has to end up.
  4. Career Mode deserves an accolade all on its own. Hell, it deserves a game all of its own. It is exactly what Master League should have evolved into from PES2010-PES2011 onward. Those two PES games contained the seed for what Master League should have become. Why was this seed plucked from the ground and tossed away? You tell me. I couldn’t possibly even hazard a guess… (Imagine here one of those cough-cough aside things, and ONLINE MULTIPLAYER writ large.)
  5. FIFA17 is not a better game on the pitch than PES2018. There. I have said it. PES2018 is better than FIFA17. PES is still better than FIFA to play, for me anyway. The pitch really is PES’s. Still. Even now. But not by much.
  6. Critics of this judgement might point to lots of refinements in FIFA17’s gameplay engine that are roughshod or missing in PES2018. Shooting, for one. And admittedly, the shooting variety is wonderful in FIFA17. The goal replay at the end of this list satisfied me no end.
  7. Football games are more than just the sum of their parts. PES2018 is better than FIFA17 in my judgement – but they are so similar that the gap is not much at all, and that is the most shocking thing. PES2018 is only marginally the better of two almost equally good games.
  8. Neither game is anything special. In the year 2025, if man is still alive, nobody will be getting misty-eyed about either PES2018 or FIFA17 (or any other football game since 2014-ish). The experience just isn’t the same anymore. What am I saying? Am I saying that PES was better in the old days? Yes, I am saying that, because it objectively was so.
  9. I’m not sure how much longer my FIFA17 spell will continue. Traditionally I run back shrieking to PES after a week, and it’s been a week. I think I’ll give it a bit longer yet. I have had the distraction of Christmas, and continuing to play with the new PC I got a few weeks ago. One of my projects is installing all the old PES games onto it – and I mean all of them. This week I started on the PS2 versions, via emulator. The PS2 era of PES games were the best that PES ever was, and the best that PES likely ever will be.
  10. Can I award rough review-style scores for FIFA17 after one week? Not really, but I will anyway – I’ve still played it more than any reviewer probably ever did. Off the pitch: 9/10. On the pitch: 6/10. No, the fast-flowing-fun style of football gaming really isn’t to my taste. I can see good in it, but I am congenitally incapable of appreciating it for long. It will always be a lesser product to me. Always.
  11. For comparison, how about a review-style score for PES2018? This will anticipate my End of Year Review somewhat, but what the hell. It’s Christmas. Off the pitch, PES2018 gets: 1/10. On the pitch: 6.5/10. Master League is an abomination that’s running entirely on fumes and nostalgia. There are about a million AMF/SS/CF hybrid players in PES2018. They are all exactly the same as each other.
  12. The above scores, playful or not, indicate the lie of the land. FIFA17’s Career Mode is worth persevering with for at least half a full CM season, to see if the game overall ‘takes’.
  13. I’ve been installing all the PS2 PES games on a PC, and playing them upscaled to quasi-HD graphics, and the experience is just incredible. Off-the-scale excellence. Unbelievably high quality, proper footballing PES values. And yes, their Master Leagues were something of a cartoony joke, but look at the rock-solid 10/10 environment they existed around, and weep. Weep
  14. I have called nuPES (the current ‘family’ of PES games) a poor FIFA knock-off. Because that’s what it is.

Here’s a goal from FIFA17 that gave me pleasure:

So what’s the conclusion? Other than ‘the old days were great and everything now is rubbish’?

I will play on with FIFA17, but I will inevitably drift back to PES2018 sooner rather than later, I think, there to ‘complete’ my Master League.

Then I will count myself done with all modern football gaming.

I will dive without any apology whatsoever into the glorious past of Pro Evolution Soccer, where I will probably live for the rest of my natural life.

That whole dismal summertime preview/demo/release cycle can proceed without me. PES2019 can swivel. I’m not doing any of this shit again.

The ghost of Christmas FIFA

This is the state of my Master League club, after 4.5 seasons, heading into Christmas 2017:

Second from bottom. 4 wins from 29 matches, which is shockingly bad, possibly the worst form I’ve shown in any Master League for many a year. I just cannot seem to crack this Superstar AI. Which is no bad thing.

I’ve moved down to Top Player difficulty since the above screenshot was taken, and notched up a win and draw that have already moved me in the right direction. I don’t believe I will be relegated – I just won’t let it happen. I’ll drop down to Regular if I have to. Really. Master League no longer feels worth the effort of another season in D2.

I’ve had most of this week off work, and with it the chance to play PES2018 every day quite intensively.

At least two sessions per day, consisting of at least 4 matches each, and one or two late late night ones extending to 7 or 8 matches.

I’ve blitzed through mid-season of my Season 5 and am already almost at the end of February.

I’m in a peculiar place with PES2018. Too many matches feel exactly the same as each other. I don’t like it very much at the moment – but then I haven’t liked any PES all that much since PES2015.

PES2016 saw the series take an overt step away from its serious, simulation-oriented roots, and embrace the casual, ‘fun’ arcade approach that we still see today.

Right at this moment, I wouldn’t say PES2018 was even as good as PES2017, but it’s clearly better than PES2016 – and it’s clearly a good football game.

It’s not a proper PES game, though, and that is what really counts. We haven’t had a genuine PES since… since when? I’d say PES2014, and that took a few attempts. If I’m being generous, PES2015. Other views are available. It’s arguable that PES2012 was the last ‘pure’ PES game.

We’ve had a series of decent PES-flavoured FIFA-wannabe knockoffs since that time, but we have not had a good PES game.

PES since PES2014/15-ish has been Konami’s idea of what a FIFA game should be like. The laser-guided, ruler-straight backheels. The utterly wretched player individuality. The relentless spin-cycle churn.

I know that a great many lurkers and occasional commenters may be disgruntled by my ‘negativity’. Well, if you can tell any real difference between most of your players, Imma real happy for you.

Yesterday I went into town and picked up a pre-owned copy of FIFA17. (‘You criticise PES for being like FIFA, but then you go and get FIFA! Whyyyyy!’ If I’m going to play FIFA, I’d actually prefer to just play FIFA. That’s my answer.)

A special mid-winter’s day thumbshot, there. The game cost me £4.99, preowned, from GAME. It was the first time I’ve been inside a bricks-and-mortar game shop in a few years. I didn’t even know there was a still a branch of GAME in Coventry until I walked past it by accident a few weeks ago.

I waited in the queue, which was as long as you would expect it to be, a few days before Festivus – and painfully interacted with a nose-ringed young man at the counter. He called me ‘dude’ twice and tried to sell me ‘disc insurance’ for an extra 50p, at which I politely refrained from laughing out loud.

And here we are.

For the next ‘however long it is’, I’ll be playing FIFA17. I played the demo of this game over a year ago and really didn’t rate it. So this might just be one-post wonder. Might be a week, two weeks.

No FIFA that’s ever shown up at this point of my footy game year has ever really lasted long, that’s for sure.

How long will this one last?

Traditionally on PES Chronicles, FIFA has acted like a springboard back to PES. There’s been nothing like a spell on FIFA to restore flickering faith in PES.

Sorry, FIFA lovers, but that’s just how it’s gone, over the years.

  1. I get jaded with PES, for whatever reason.
  2. I play FIFA.
  3. I love FIFA.
  4. I get jaded with FIFA – usually very quickly – for whatever reason.
  5. I return to PES with renewed perspective and appreciation, and stick with it for most of the remainder of the footy game year.
  6. Rinse and repeat.

We shall see!

No post on Tuesday, remember. My first formal FIFA17 post will be next Friday at the usual time. I will remain active in comments on this post and providing updates on how things are going.

At the time of writing I’ve played the first couple of Exhibitions… and was not overly impressed. Fast and frantic, all the players just bundles of pixels that can all do pretty much the same thing… It seems to play just like PES2018 – which is more an indictment of the direction Konami is going than it is on FIFA.

Carry On Clamping

I’ve just passed the mid-season point of Season 5. I spent the January transfer window chucking anonymous players overboard like so much ballast from a hot-air balloon. I can barely remember their names now.

Player individuality in our modern PES continues to be a highly contentious issue. I say that player individuality – PES’s principal reason for being PES – is all but gone from the series. Some swear passionately that it’s still around. Some even say that player individuality never really existed – that it is I who has changed, not PES.

Verratti arrived some time ago, a star signing, with the same physical stature of a Shaqiri (or a Shimizu), and the same intriguing cocktail of player stats. He had everything he needed to be an individual star in this ML. I’ve now played I think a full season with him. He might as well have been called Player 321-A, or something like that. I got rid of him without a moment’s thought.

My big signing was Lacazette from Arsenal. They sold him to me for a bargain £14m. His wages were affordable.

The CMF is R BENTANCUR. The DMF is L TOUSART. Both look very good, with very strong back-screen stats. Whether those stats will manifest themselves in any meaningful way is, of course, in the lap of the nuPES gods.

The table! I have quietly been plummeting into the relegation zone. Look at the state of this:

3rd from bottom.

I’ve won and drawn a match since this screenshot was snapped. I still think I will survive. I keep getting threatening messages from the Board. What is the point of them?

Lacazette made his debut, and got a goal that was noteworthy for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, it was noteworthy because it was Lacazette’s goal on his debut. It’s always special in real life when a new player does that. It gets the whole thing over and done with.

Second, this goal was special because I consciously recreated a real-life situation that I had just watched on MOTD2 on Sunday night.

The boys in the studio were looking at Lukaku’s goal for Man Utd, and praising Ashley Young’s cross from the left wing. I remember absorbing the way Young cut back, looked up, and curled one over to the back post area.

In PES2018, about an hour later, my LB, Kenedy, was in a similar position. I cut back with him, and noticed my new boy Lacazette hanging off Chelsea’s last man, Dier (who promptly darted a few yards forward for no reason). Thank you very much, I thought, and sent the cross over in a virtual carbon-copy of the Young-Lukaku goal. Except Lacazette chose to guide the ball home with his instep rather than his head.

When PES echoes real life it is always good. The counterpoint to that point is that I always expect PES to be better than real-life football.

The festive season has us by the throat, and we know what that means. It means discovering the likes of Carry On Camping where you expected Newsnight. And it means an altered posting schedule for PES Chronicles.

Friday 22nd December: normal post.

Tuesday 26th December: no post.

Friday 29th December: normal post.

Tuesday 2nd January 2018: possible post (i.e., no text, but I might upload a special video highlights reel of my festive season exploits).

Friday 5th January 2018: normal post, and all back to normal. The evenings will be noticeably lighter by the end of the month. Roll on PES2019!!!

I will of course be active in comments over the entire period. I have some time off work, and anticipate putting in quite a few hours at the ML coalface.

PC you, Jimmy

A perfect storm of events in work, life, and gadgetry means that today’s post cannot be longer than it is.

I have played a few matches in my PES2018 ML since Tuesday’s post. I continue to find flowers among the weeds and enjoy myself more than I don’t. I also continue to perceive nuPES as the ruin of PES. I find it very hard to distinguish my players from one another. I find it very easy to switch off after a few matches.

No matter. The die is cast. I AM enjoying more than I’m not. After several goalless games (where the AI scored and I did not), I got an amusing own-goal that ricocheted in off the defender and keeper. I grabbed a replay of that and uploaded it, but accidentally made it a 5-minute clip. So here you get to watch me starting the game up – from the KONAMI logo onward – and going through my pre-match routine, and then all the gameplay leading up to the goal. The actual goal is around the 4-minute mark:

I lost this match 1-2.

I won the next and drew the next, to leave me looking like this in the league table:

Still worrying. But I think I’ll be OK.

One of the reasons for the shortness of this post? The arrival yesterday of a new gizmo in my life. A new PC rigged for gaming:

Yes, modded PES is a possibility. Modded PES is the only way nuPES will figure in my gaming life once PES2018 is done.

I’ll be talking PC talk in the comments to this post over the rest of the day and weekend if anyone’s interested. Also up for discussion is how this relates to PES and the future of the series on the blog.

16GB of RAM! It’s like living in the future.

My first PC, in the early 2000s, was a laptop with 256MB of RAM. My first computer of any kind, in the early 1980s, was a ZX81 with its celebrated 1K (ONE KILOBYTE) of RAM. I remember adding a 16K RAM pack to the ZX81 and thinking it was the business.

Whether this becomes a PES machine is down to what I find, or don’t find, in the modding scene.