Month: August 2019

Hooked on Classics

I went all-out for Classic players in PES5(PC) when the middle of season 9 rolled around. In old-school Master League there were only 4 weeks in which to make bids. I had to bid high to be sure of success.

These 5 were my targets. Success with 3 of them in the very first week. I didn’t give up with Ian Rush and George Best. But it took until the very last week of negotiations, and two completely outrageous Neymar-like offers to land them both.

So I took to the field for my first match post-mid-season with something of a dream team.

This is why PES ‘is gud’. The wonderful absurdity of this team. Strangely, in FIFA and Football Manager I prize the realism on offer there. Many editions of FIFA ago it was possible to play Career Mode with a fantasy-style custom team, but it didn’t seem right to do so, so I didn’t. Likewise every edition of Football Manager offers the chance to play with any team made up of any players in any division – but that feels wrong too. Only in PES is the sight of a team like this at all tolerable.

I did of course record this full match – which wasn’t very inspiring, due to the newcomers having no team chemistry. Old-school PES had a Teamwork dynamic just as overt as nuPES’s one. It took several matches for any new signings to gel with each other and their new teammates, and this match against Spurs was a pretty frustrating one vis-à-vis trying to see how Hagi, Best, Dalglish and Rush all handled.

Here’s a very short highlights reel with 3 main parts:

  1. Just after kickoff, I pause the game to have a look at all the newcomers’ faces. I can see the ghosts of Hagi and of Best in Hagi and Best. I can see a very faint echo of Dalglish in Dalglish. But who on earth is Rush supposed to look like???
  2. A goal from Camacho. Standard one-timer, nothing special, but that’s the greatness of PES5. Creating and scoring standard goals can feel just as special as the 30-yard blockbusters. SPEAKING OF WHICH.
  3. An absolute belter of a goal from Mathieu. This kind of goal – rarer than I remember – is what kept me playing PES5 for 40+ seasons in 2004-2005, and shaped all my expectations for what constitutes a great football game from then on. A football game where goals like this are impossible – or so rare as to be tantamount to impossible – is always a lesser football game in my view. All thanks to PES5.

Here is the mid-season table:I’m going on a mini-fast when it comes to football games until PES2020 arrives. I’ll play the odd match in PES5, but nothing else. I want my appetite keen for PES2020.

So this season in PES5 won’t be finished for some time – probably around Christmas, and I doubt I’ll mention it on the blog. That is how I play PES5 now. I take it off the shelf once every week or two like a beloved old book, blow the dust from its mighty cover, and absorb its timeless wisdom. This, right here, is the King James Bible of football games.

I’m having a cheeky extra Friday off this week – so my next post will be next Tuesday, September 2nd. It will be the PES2019 End of Year post.

I will also be back to twice-weekly posts from next week.

Depending on how things shake down, Friday the 6th’s post possibly – possibly – might be at least a PES2020 thumbshot, and maybe even a 1st impressions post.

It boils down to two questions:

  1. When will the online retailers get their stock?
  2. When will they choose to dispatch?

The answers to the two questions – receipt/dispatch – should be one of these four:

  • Thursday/Thursday
  • Thursday/Friday
  • Friday/Friday
  • Thursday-or-Friday/Monday (the evil outcome)

It’ll be different for all the retailers. Amazon will be evil and won’t dispatch until the Monday (the day before official release), whatever day they get stock in, because that’s how they do it. Goody two-shoes.

ShopTo, based on past performance, will be Thursday/Friday.

Simply Games (my choice) will most likely dispatch the same day they get stock, i.e. they’ll be Thursday/Thursday – if stock arrives that day.

If are still around they’ll list PES2020 as In Stock from Tuesday of next week, in order to attract gullible pre-orderers, but any such will be fortunate to get the game before release day. (I’ve just looked and Play have relaunched themselves as something else. I doubt they’ll get any takers.)

It’s going to be a tense wait next week to see precisely which way it goes. For me personally, any outcome that results in a Friday or Saturday postal delivery is… not ideal, actually. I doubt I’d have much more than time for one or two Exhibition matches all weekend.

So the evil part of me is hoping for a Friday/Monday result across the board. Sorry.

Objectively Measuring the Greatness of PES5

The greatest football game ever made returned properly to my life back in 2013. That’s when I ‘sourced’ a PC copy of PES5.

Of course I own a physical copy of PES5 for the PC that I bought with money. As well as a copy of the game on the PS2 platform. And also a copy of PES5 for the PSP – notoriously sans Master League, which I remain quite unreasonably bitter about to this day. (I’d say I think about the PSP’s Master League-less version of PES5, with anger, a couple of times every year).

In 2013 I grabbed an Option File and started a Master League on the PC. I have played it almost every week since then, and am still actively playing it to this day. I believe I will play it as long as I live. I only play one or two matches nearly every week, with occasional spurts of longer sessions (as now). I’m in Season 9 of this career.

Why is PES5 so great? Perfection is oddly hard to convey in words – and, also oddly, perfection in art doesn’t have to be perfect. PES5 certainly is showing its age, but it can still effortlessly punt any other football game ever made over the bleachers of history.

PES5’s greatness is something you have to feel, as a football gamer, in your hands. One of the most peculiar aspects of football gaming is that its value-content is a hands-on thing. It’s like driving a car. You have to feel the way the players move, how they respond – or most crucially, FAIL to respond, contextually and in keeping with their abilities and physical types.

Look at the screenhot at the top of the post. Yes, in one match I had 10 (TEN) fouls against me. 10 (TEN) free kicks. That’s more free kicks in one match than I would have in 10 (TEN) entire matches in most recent PES games. (Not an idle exaggeration. My average AI fouls count in all nuPES games is around 0.80 per match.)

PES5 was the last PES game that penalised the mashing of buttons as a substitute for defending.

It would be 14 years before we would see that kind of punishment for random button-mashing again – in the PES2020 demo, and we all know what happened when the snowflakes of all ages got a look at that.

This graph scientifically illustrates the magnitude of PES5’s greatness. There are other great football games, unquestionably. But they’re all jostling for room more or less on a par with each other, and the football games that aren’t as good as them aren’t too far behind them, actually. PES5 is way, way out on its own. There is nothing near it.

I paid a visit to the PES Shop and unlocked a slew of Classic Players. I cannot get enough of Classics in PES. If I wanted so-called ‘realism’ I’d play – or even do – something else.

That’s Stanley Matthews who’s all greyed out by the colour scheme. I’ll be bidding for a 26-year-old Ian Rush and a 32-year-old Georghe Hagi in the next window.

If no other football game was ever produced I’d be quite happy playing PES5 forever.

The AI in PES5 isn’t the most clinical and ruthless, but it has its excellent moments. Check the AI goal in the video below. An AI that can give the human player a good game in almost every match, is by definition a good AI.

These are some highlights from a league match, away to Wigan (excuse the out-of-sync sound at the end, I was experimenting with using the PC recording software to make brief PS4-style clips, instead of recording the whole match):

I’ve also started playing the game the way it was released – in 4:3 format. It takes a few matches to get used to it that way again, after over a decade of widescreen footy gaming, but the pace of the game vastly improves. PES5 is a little fast for our current tastes. One of the few areas that it is showing its age in.

No new post this Friday, remember, as my summer half-holiday continues. Another PES5 post next Tuesday, when I will have been through Season 9’s mid-season transfer window, and I will hopefully have had a squad clearout and picked up a few notable new names.

Finally here is a full PES5 match against mid-Wenger-era Arsenal:


This Is Cousin MacAdder

Good news – the silly season on the blog is over.

It seems to have gone on for longer and been sillier this year. That’s because it has gone on for longer, and it has been sillier…

This summer I’ve been busy with work and some other matters, and not had much time at all to devote to the blog. Doing a twice-weekly blog takes up a significant amount of time. A month or so ago I almost mothballed the blog until September. The last time I took that sort of step, though, I enjoyed my leisure so much that I ended up taking a whole year off, and I didn’t want to run the risk of being tempted to do that again.

So I went with all the posts about me playing, oh, ‘This Is Football 2003 whilst riding a unicycle’, and that sort of thing. Cheap as chips.

I would like a short break before the new season begins, so I will have the next two Fridays off. I will continue with once-weekly Tuesday posts until the last week of August, when I will return to twice-weekly with my End of Year Review of PES2019 and a look ahead to PES2020.Yesterday, prompted by a comment from a regular commenter, one Uncle Turf Esq., I acquired a ROM of International Superstar Soccer for the PlayStation2. And played it in PCSX2 on the PC. And recorded the footage, which is below.

England versus Scotland, of course. I didn’t bother upscaling the graphics or making any housekeeping tweaks offered by PCSX2, so this is a bit blurry and there are occasional glitches:

ISS(PS2) is a sort of second cousin to the mainline ISS-PES series that we know. Definitely a non-canon effort, this was a port of ISS64 from the Nintendo 64 – itself a somewhat legendary game on that platform.

I remember the PS2 version coming out at the time to the indifference of the already-large ISS-PES community. The gaming press at the time was almost entirely print-based, awarding every PES game a routine 10/10 every year from PES2 to PES6, and quite rightly so. Back then you tended to have one game and you played that game alone.

So this International Superstar Soccer port pretty much died a death in the UK and European market, although it was more popular in the Japanese and North American markets, which was the intention.

I found myself enjoying my one match on ISS(PS2) a lot more than I was expecting to. The mechanics are surprisingly solid, although I never did quite get to grips with the passing system, as can be seen. The first goal I conceded – quite early on – was a poor one from my perspective, but it shows the AI dribbling and taking people on.

I never scored, and barely had any meaningful shots, not getting my first proper shot away until I stopped trying to sprint-pressure, as in modern games, and take my time.

All in all, I would rate this fleeting encounter with ISS(PS2) quite positively, and I was not expecting to. A very playable game, perhaps even a touch more playable today than the ‘official’ games of the time. The design elements from almost two decades ago (such as that big blue free kick arrow) do feel prehistoric now, but that sort of thing charms rather than bothers me.

In other news, I have finally put in my PES2020 pre-order, after kidding myself for a few weeks that I might be able to become a PC gamer. I’m a console man through and through, and I have of course plumped for the PS4 version again this year. Which doesn’t mean I can’t also go PC, though, particularly if the retail PES2020 is watered down to the point of blandness, of which there is a high chance.

I’ve gone with my supplier of the past two years, Simply Games, who dispatch the quickest of any online retailer in my experience. I’ve worked out that I could get PES2020 as early as Friday 6th September, or at least over that weekend. Which would actually not be totally welcome, as I will be hectic with work, but I’ll take it. If it happens.

And that really is the end of silly season on the blog. Back to Serious Season with immediate effect.

NO Friday post for a couple of weeks, remember, so I will return with a new post next Tuesday.

Which will be taking us back, for a couple of weeks of continuous play of The One True Game..

Back to the Golden Age of football gaming.

Back to a time just before everything started to change.

Back to the only real football game that has ever been made.

A foul please, Carol

FIFA19’s turn today to get the ‘full match on a non-standard control setting’ treatment. Semi-Assisted passing and shooting.

This is the opening match in a pre-season tournament in Season 2 of Career Mode. You can see me fiddling with the settings beforehand, and playing some of the pre-match minigame. The music from that few seconds got this video a copyright notice from YouTube. I’ll remember to edit any future FIFA vids to avoid that annoyance.

I enjoyed the first few minutes of this match, which even saw me get a free kick in shooting range, a true rarity in this game. After that I felt things degenerated into a turnover-tussle. It’s that feeling of continuous hypnotic flow that is FIFA19’s great weakness.

FIFA needs the return of solid collision mechanics. An AI fouls slider would be nice. It would also be nice if EA were as chatty about fouls as they are about literally everything else to do with their game. ‘We’ve fed this back to the developer’ is still, so far as I am aware, the only thing EA ever says about AI fouls. A classic brush-off line.

Not that its cousin across the aisle is doing much better on that front, of course. Watchers of the footy gaming PES skies over the last 24 hours will have seen the most predictable event since, uh… Damn, I hate it when I can’t think of a funny example after setting up a construction like that.

The predictable thing is the start of the climbdown on fouls in PES2020. The protesting anti-voices have had their way, and now no matter what anyone says – NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS – I’m calling it: PES2020 retail will be just another nuPES on the fouls front.

Yes, there’ll be the usual early reports from release week where somebody plays their first match and there’s, like, 3 fouls for both sides! Wow! And so on. But generally, it’s going to be 1 or 2 fouls per side – on a good day. Even the most foul-friendly nuPES (2019) has many matches ending 0-0 on the fouls front.

I am so tired of talking about fouls in modern football games. I have a feeling F1 racing game fans don’t have to wonder where their crashes are. I bet snooker game fans frequently go in-off. And platform game fans will often miss a jump and fall to their deaths. Incredible that football game fans in 2019 are missing an entire dimension of that sport.

So no, the discussion about what Konami might or might not do is moot. It is null and it is void. I’ve seen a lot of talk on the forums that a subtle scalpel could be brought to bear, and the fouls will be improved, not simply eliminated. ‘Oh, maybe they’ll tweak it so that X, Y, or Z.’ Oh dear God no. No, no, no, no, no. Fouls are gone, and that is the end of it. I’d actually prefer it if there was no more pretence on this front.

Anyway, I believe that 4 weeks today, or over that weekend, all the pre-orders will start landing on doormats. Which for me is a ‘bummer’, as I believe the kids still say, because it’s the following week I’ve booked off work. I would only have an hour or so to sample the game over that Sept 7-8 weekend. It’d be nice to have it ready to go on the Monday morning through.

And I know Carol Vorderman hasn’t been on Countdown for years.