Category: FIFA08

The trouble with dribbles

What a weekend that was. The long-awaited first peek at PES2010 appeared in a PSM3 magazine article. It wasn’t the most encouraging article in the world, it has to be said. It kicked off the most intense weekend of activity across the PES forums since… Since last year, actually. Why, PES? Why can things never be simple and straightforward with you any more? Why can’t you just be routinely great every year, as before? Why can’t it just be like 2004 again?

In Wednesday’s post, I’ll kick through the ashes and doubtless end up looking on the bright side. There really is a long way to go before I’m ready to turn my back on new Pro Evolution Soccer games. I still have a crazy hope that just won’t die.

For today, though, it’s a FIFA09 goals post. Perhaps this is very appropriate. If the sum of all fears comes to pass, FIFA and I will be spending a lot of time in one another’s company in the months and years to come.

I’ve assembled three goals from a single session played on Saturday morning in my Manager Mode career. Before I started the session, I’d made up my mind to save every half-decent goal I scored. There were four goals, but I messed up one of the uploads and only saved the celebration and subsequent kick-off. You can see loads of those kinds of cock-ups at any one time on EA Sportsworld. Now I’ve done one too.

(NB: All goals scored using my usual controls set-up, which features semi-assisted shooting.)

First up is a rare dribble. It’s not rare because it’s Maradona-esque (it’s not). The only rare thing about it is that it’s a dribble, by me. Seasoned dribblers may smile indulgently, but this was a different kind of goal for me and I enjoyed it.

I got the ball with Pavlyuchenko and just headed for goal (laying off the sprint button). Big Pav is my favourite striker in either of the next-gen FIFAs. I really rate him. He’s got the lot: strength, height, speed, skill. He’s the Schwarz of FIFA09 for me.

Link: Pavlyuchenko Dribble Goal FIFA09

Next up is a fairly standard shot with my skilful Brazilian midfielder—who goes by the singular name of Joao Luis Locke. This was notable for being outside the box, and being driven quite hard and low. All three (outside of the box, hard, low) are tricky to pull off in FIFA09:

Link: Locke goal FIFA09

And now finally—a goal from ‘me’. Way back in November or thereabouts, I set up a Be A Pro career. I only played a few games of it. The player I created, ‘not-Greg’, was allowed to join Coventry City at the start of this Manager Mode career. ‘I’ have cheerfully played in the first team, in various midfield berths, ever since. I’ve got pretty good too. Arsenal offered to buy me for £4m in the last transfer window.

This season I’ve moved myself back to central midfield after a few seasons out wide. I’ve scored a few goals. This goal was scored from a lay-off from a  free kick. I’ve kind of specialised in these goals over the months of FIFA09:

Link: not-Greg freekick goal

The opponents in that match were Bayern Munich. It was a must-win final group match in the Champions League-equivalent. I won the match 3-0, but got knocked out anyway when the other result didn’t go my way.

I’ll probably only play Manager Mode until I win the Treble—League, Cup, European Cup—with my Coventry City team. I could have a team of galacticos if I wanted them. But I’m sticking with my existing squad. Pavlyuchenko and Bojan up front. Djemba Djemba and ‘not-Greg’ in the centre of midfield. A couple of bog-standard wingers on the flanks. Some journeymen central defenders. Lahm at right back. A 31-year-old Ashley Cole at left back. A good goalkeeper.

That’s the peculiar thing about Manager Mode: the lack of immersion. I’m playing and enjoying Manager Mode, but I don’t really care about my team (Pavlyuchenko excepted). In Master League I’d know all my players’ names. Sitting here now, I can’t remember my Manager Mode goalkeeper’s name, and I’ve had him for a few seasons. He’s pretty good too, a Casillas-type who’s rated 85 overall. Not the tallest, but a great shot-stopper. Manager Mode—and next-gen FIFA—won’t have really, really arrived for me until I know all my players’ names without trying to remember them. FIFA10, I await your pleasure…

Bring me the head of Alfredo Smith

Still with FIFA09. Things have cooled off slightly since the love-fest of a few days ago. I keep trying to replicate those volleys, particularly the Pavlyuchenko one. But the game won’t cooperate with me. It stubbornly makes my players tamely head the ball, or weakly kick it into the keeper’s gloves.

It’s my timing that’s off. Now that I know the power volleys from distance are possible, I’m trying more of them—which gives me more opportunities to mess up the timing. Which has to be absolutely dead-on. Otherwise, no volley. I’m still working on it.

I did score a good ‘normal’ goal from distance. I scored it with my talented midfielder, name of Locke. I found him in a search and snapped him up. Despite the name, he’s Brazilian. It’s very common, of course, for people to have surnames from outside of their culture groups. But whenever I do a Player Search in my Manager Mode’s game world, there are a disproportionate amount of South American players called Alfonso Jones and Diego Robinson and the like. I’ve never come across anything like it in a football game before. Have  I triggered a glitch somewhere in FIFA09, or is this an intended feature?

The goal was a comparatively rare distance shot. This was scored using semi-assisted shooting and no modifiers (no finesse, etc.)—it’s a full-on laces shot:

Link: J Locke - goal against Atletico

This goal came against one of my former Manager Mode clubs, Atletico Madrid. It was odd lining up against them. The match was the first leg of the semi-final of the EFA Cup. The goal above gave me the lead, but I went on to ship two late goals. The second leg ended 0-0, and I was out.

The season is over now. It ended with a surprising flourish of career-mode realism. Pavyluchenko, the best striker I’ve played with in FIFA09, picked up an injury in the last few weeks of the season that peculiarly kept him out of action for all four matches of my run-in. I say peculiarly because it’s one of Manager Mode’s ‘highlights’ that your players  almost never get injured. And when they do, the most that happens is they miss one match. Not four matches, as in this case. I didn’t know whether to be happy or sad.

I was happy, then sad. Without Pavlyuchenko up front I lost all four of my last four matches, which included the second leg of the EFA semi-finals. Blackburn thumped me in the League 6-0.

Six-nil. I really took my eye off the ball in that match. That’s what can happen to me on World Class difficulty when I lose focus. Despite the losses, I finished 4th in the Premier League table and qualified for the ECC (i.e. the Champions League).

fifa09-endofseason

This time last week my plan was to finish the current season and then abandon Manager Mode—and possibly FIFA09—for the rest of the football game year. But now I’ve decided to carry on. While I’m enjoying FIFA09 again, and not seeing Manager Mode’s many faults so clearly, I might as well carry on. There’s a long summer to go before we even get a sniff of FIFA10.

And I’m keeping a beady eye on PES2010. But I’m not expecting much. It’s for the best. If I accept now that PES is gone, life (and blogging) will be a lot simpler. As ever, though, there’s just too much wonderful history between me and PES. I refuse to abandon all hope. At this crucial stage of the franchise’s history, a great PES2010 would be akin to the Second Coming of Christ.

Mr Bojangoals

…And I’m still playing FIFA09’s Manager Mode. I’ll never believe it’s anything other than a weak shadow of the majestic Master League. I’m happy that FIFA10 will surely see the mode become what it should have been all along in the next generation (instead of an afterthought once online had been taken care of).

FIFA09’s Manager Mode was overdue some extra attention from me. This current period of activity is the first time in this football game year that I’ve mounted a concerted ‘push’ in Manager Mode. I’m playing as Coventry City, building my team, forging ahead.

One of my recent acquisitions has been Bojan. His surprise move from Barcelona to Coventry City in the first season in the Premier League was secured for two million pounds—the bargain of the century. Ahem. Along with Pavlyuchenko, Edilson, Djemba Djemba, and a certain attacking midfielder called not-Greg Downs, I’ve got good players in all the major positions.

bojan-at-coventry-fifa09It took me time to get used to playing with Bojan. I didn’t like him at first. I rarely dribble in football games, relying almost totally on pass and move. Bojan’s great strength is dribbling. He’s a nippy little player. After a period of adjustment I’ve finally started knocking in the goals with him.

I know that 99.9% of FIFA09 players are used to playing online 24 hours a day with Cristiano Ronaldo and running and running and running and running with the ball. For me this is an alien way to approach the game, but I’m learning fast with Bojan. He’s probably my first experience of playing with a fast skilful dribbler in FIFA09 over any length of time. I’m starting to see clearly what everyone has been saying about certain aspects of the FIFA09 game engine being unbalanced.

Which isn’t to say I’m not enjoying playing with Bojan and doing the things I can do with him. For all that people carp on about the various exploits that enable people to play the way they do online, it’s a feature of the game engine and it just has to be coped with. (You can tell from this sentiment that I never play online…)

Here’s a goal I scored in my last session. Bear in mind this was ‘only’ a League Cup match against Doncaster, which accounts for the defenders’ lethargic reactions to Bojan’s dazzling run, spin, jink, burst of pace, and lovely shot high into the opposite corner of the net. Who says you can’t dribble in FIFA09? Or that shooting is broken? Dribbling and shooting are just harder than in PES, is all.

Link: Bojan goal in FIFA09

Bojan and Pavlyuchenko are my golden two up front at the moment. Apart from the players I’ve mentioned above, I haven’t really got anyone else. I have replaced the entire defence, including the goalkeeper, with cheap identikit squad players from the transfer market. Players in the high 70s/low 80s, no-names to a man. They do the job required, and they do it very well. You don’t really need great defenders in FIFA09 in order to defend well.

One of the great flaws of FIFA09—which may not have been rectified for FIFA10 from what I read—is that the secondary pressure button is way, way overpowered. People talk about Ronaldo and Barca and Man Utd and the rest, but that secondary pressure button is far more unbalancing IMO. It seems that 90% of the time all you have to do is squeeze it, and wait patiently until you get the ball back. The remaining 10% of the time you just sprint your defender into position and then start squeezing.

I’m nearly halfway through the season and I’m going to finish in mid-table. I’ve considered dropping down a difficulty level. For all Bojan’s and Pavlyuchenko’s goals, for all that I only have to look at the secondary pressure button to win the ball back when I want to, the accursed CPU is pretty darn good on World Class. I do still keep getting beaten by the CPU, sometimes badly beaten. I’m talking 0-3 and 0-4 scorelines. It’s June and I’m still learning how to play FIFA09. That’s got to be a good thing, really.

I’ll be back to Become A Legend in PES2009 soon enough. Talk about unfinished business. But there are other things to do at the moment. There’s Final Fantasy VII to be downloaded from the PSN store onto the PSP, and then gleefully played on various buses. It’s almost ten years since my one and only playthrough of FF7. I’d always promised myself another one when I got the chance, but that chance just never came. There’s no excuse now.

FIFA09: Ultimate Team – 1st impressions

I’m on record as calling Master League in PES the best game mode ever created. I’m also on record, many times, as judging Manager Mode in FIFA (particularly in FIFA09) to be an empty, rather pointless experience.

I’m not into playing online. So, for the past 6 months, it’s been Manager Mode or nothing for me and FIFA09. I’ve been trying to get into Manager Mode. I’ve tried to milk it for what it has to offer. Things were progressing recently… but now along comes something called Ultimate Team.

Hmmmm…..

There is one thing I want to say straight away about Ultimate Team. I want to shout it from the rooftops. For the first hour of playing Ultimate Team in FIFA09 I was reminded, again and again, of Master League.

Is Ultimate Team a Master League for FIFA? No, not quite. But it’s getting there. It’s approaching the ballpark.

Ultimate Team is a downloadable expansion for FIFA09. You get a five-match demo for free, after which you have to pay to unlock the full game. I paid my money after playing two matches in the demo. I knew it was going to be worth it.

It’s now 3 days since I first played Ultimate Team, and I have to say that I’ve already got my money’s worth. (About £8.50.) Even if it’s all downhill from now on, I’m satisfied with my purchase. And it won’t be all downhill from now on. All the signs are that I’m just getting started.

It’s a tough one to summarise. Before, I had only a vague idea of what Ultimate Team was. Imagine Master League re-engineered with Pokemon-style playing cards, and without a league mode… No, that’s doing UT a disservice. Let me try again.

You start off with a Default team of no-hopers (sounding familiar) that you have to build up into, well, an ultimate team capable of beating the very best. You play matches—tournaments, or one-off ‘club matches’, online or offline—that accrue ‘coins’ which you use to buy new card packs, that can contain new players, new grounds, new skills, new contracts for your existing players…

I created my club, and named them Allover Rovers. It seemed like a good name at the time. You have one permanent player whom you create before starting, just as in Be a Pro. I created myself, naturally, as a skilful central midfielder. Here I am playing in my team’s dodgy current home kit:

not-greg-fifa09

There’s a huge amount to assimilate. It’s intimidating at first. There are purchasable/tradeable cards for everything. Stadia, kits, attributes, managers, coaches… all these and more can be picked up or laid down, traded in, or pasted into a virtual Panini sticker album…

I was lost for most of that first session. What the hell is this? That? Uh? Luckily the anchor is the game itself, FIFA09. As in Master League, there is real pride and a sense of achievement—of incremental progression—to be had from playing Ultimate Team matches with your team, with your players. There’s a whole Team Chemistry gameplay mechanic that’s much more important (and involving) than its Manager Mode equivalent.

I lost all but a few of my first games. I scored no goals. After about ten matches, and enough ‘coins’ earned, I had enough to search online for the Left Midfielder I badly needed, and a better striker to replace my Default striker. Results picked up. Then they dipped once more. At the moment I’m on a weird losing run of several matches, and I desperately need to save for a speedy winger, or another good striker.

Again: does this all sound suspiciously familiar, or what?

Ah, but Ultimate Team lacks a sturdy, comprehensive offline mode. If I could play with my team—Allover Rovers—in an offline Master League-type setup, I’d declare the eternal football game war eternally over, and FIFA the winner. But as things stand all you get to do with your Ultimate Team is play online against other Ultimate Teams, or play offline against single-instance CPU teams. However, there are a range of offline tournaments to play, and I will do so next. I also may—may—play online, just to see what it feels like.

Oh, and this new expansion pack has a new commentator. Step forward Mr Clive Tyldesley, the commentator whom I rate as the best I’ve ever heard on a football game. Icing, meet cake.

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