Category: International Tournament

The Myth of Castello

For the second time I have reached the final of an International Tournament with Slovakia. I’m playing tournaments with a variety of teams, in a game—PES2011—that I have, frankly, come to despise. Stumble. Step-around. Elephant touch. Player selection. That is all.

PES2011’s days are numbered, and this time I don’t think I’ll come crawling back. I’ve got other gaming options now—football and otherwise—of which more later.

I started this would-be sequence of international tournaments with Slovakia, and this was my umpteenth attempt. I haven’t kept count, but I’d estimate this was attempt #15.

For this attempt, I hopped over to the PS3, complete with its option file. As regular readers will know, a few weeks ago I picked up a copy of PES2011 for the Xbox360, knowing that it was exactly the same game. Like so many PES fans wandering the wilderness, I was delusional. I made myself believe in the hair’s-breadth of a possibility that the other console’s PES2011 might actually prove to be a different version, with none of the gameplay features that I loathe so much.

PES2011 is the same game on PS3 and 360. End of. I repudiate all beliefs and anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

In my latest tournament the gameplay was really shocking. A lot of the time I sincerely believe that PES2011 is the most awkward, stumbliest, crappest football game ever made. Worse than PES2008(PS3) at its worst. Oh yes, I’m going there.

I got out of the group, slogged my way through the following rounds, and saw that Germany were my opponents in the Final.

It was as tough as my last Final against Spain—tight, dour, and I was always up against it, as you would expect.

They went 1-0 up after 50 minutes, and to be honest I really thought that would be it. The time limped on and nothing was happening for me. In the last five minutes I went 3-4-3, then subbed my entire knackered front 3. Time for one last mighty effort.

With a minute left, 30 yards out, I squared the ball to that hero of Slovakia, a great midfielder called Welden, and aimed for the top corner. It flew in. 1-1. Extra time.

I hit the post in extra time, and enjoyed a lively spell of pressure that seemed certain to yield the winning goal, but somehow never did. There was a grim inevitability about penalties against Germany, and so they came.

I scored my first two. So did Germany. I’m good at saving penalties in PES2011 and dived the right way for both, but the ball squirmed in. I was playing with a blue-arrowed keeper, and this was some of PES’s legendary stats-modelling, I’m sure. No real complaints.

I missed my third penalty, and Germany scored theirs. I scored my fourth, but it was moot as Germany slammed home the deciding penalty, and that was that.

Another final lost. Gutted.

Will there be another attempt? Maybe, but probably not.

I’ve been off work for the past week, supposedly to work on a university assignment. I haven’t bothered with that yet (I’ve got two days left—it’ll be fine…).

Instead I have turned my attention to the gaming laptop that I bought last year. PC gaming could be the future for me, you know. Just an inkling I have.

Do you know there are still hundreds of people playing CounterStrike, at all hours of the day and night? It’s 5 years or so since I was a regular player but I can still remember my way around the maps. I’m still rubbish, too. If I get 1 kill it’s a good round.

I’ve caught up with Mount and Blade, a fantastic indie game that has become an established name over the past three years. It’s like a first-person Total War with beefy strategy/RPG elements. I played for 10 hours like a true noob, wandering around the world with no men, no weapons, and frequently no shirt on.

Once I knew what I was doing I started again with a new character—who bears a grand old Pro Evo name…

I haven’t got time to waste on games that I don’t really want to play—games that I’m only playing out of habit, because there’s nothing else on.

There are other football games available, including the greatest football game ever made in my view: PES5.

Over the past week I’ve been playing the PC version of PES5. Probably about 20 matches all told. I like to play a few either side of a Mount and Blade session.

The only thing I’ve got against PES5 now is that it’s fast. Too fast for my taste nowadays. But for that speed issue, I’d already be playing a PES5(PC) Master League right now. I’m trying to get used to the speed before taking that step.

At the time of writing—Sunday evening—I don’t know what Wednesday’s post will be about. The chances of it being about PES2011 are very slim, but not impossible. Never underestimate the power of convenience, which is what has kept me going for so long despite my overall disgust with the game.

The pain in Spain

And the quest goes on. I’m trying to win International Tournament mode with a select few teams. So far I’m still at the first one on the list, Slovakia. I’ve now tried and failed on at least 8 separate occasions. This is still a lot of fun, though.

I think I’m on attempt #8 with Slovakia. It could be anything up to #11 or #12. I have lost count. All these attempts are partly due to my stupidity on a couple of occasions.

Twice now I’ve started up the mode, played a few matches—usually the group fixtures, and maybe one or two knockout matches—and then quit the game. Then I’ve come back for the next session to discover that I’d forgotten to save my progress. Whole sessions, gone just like that. Might as well have never happened.

That has only happened twice so far. It hasn’t happened since. My first order of business at the start of each tournament now is to save the game and turn autosave on.

And the attempts are getting increasingly close. Chile knocked me out at the quarter final stage a few attempts ago. I thought my latest attempt was going to be the one.

I’m now very used to Slovakia and their players. My chance-creation and chance-conversion ratio has crept up and up. I’ve probably played 50 matches with Slovakia by now. And this time, I got to the Final.

Spain were the opponents. Unlucky for me, as I really feel that against almost any other team I’d have won. They kept the ball a lot more than any other CPU team ever has (i.e., I ‘only’ got 55% possession instead of my usual 60-65%). There was a momentum about them that seemed irresistible, and so it proved.

Midway through the second half, the score 0-0, I was creating chances and starting to believe. From my corner, they broke away and Torres popped one past my keeper.

There was still loads of time left to get an equaliser, and I so nearly did. I rattled the post from the edge of the box, and tested Casillas several more times even at the death. But the fnal whistle went and my players sank to their haunches. All over now.

And so I go on to the next attempt. When I started this new phase of PES gaming, I did say that each team could take me a while.

There’s nothing like a long-range goal to cheer me up. Here’s a clip of the first—and so far only—long-ranger I’ve scored with Slovakia. This came against Tunisia, en route to the Final. It’s a peach of a 30-yarder, right into the top corner:

And to close today, I have put together a mini-compilation of stumble animations that occurred in my latest session. Why? Because I’m obsessed with PES2011’s stumble animation, that’s why.

These are representative stumbles. If I’d stopped to record every stumble, I’d never have played the game. Watch until the end, where you will see a farcical double-stumble. First to go a-stumbling is Spain’s David Villa, and then my player joins in immediately afterwards (with some accidental good editing from me!):

Many people say that they never see the stumble animation. I don’t want to say I don’t believe them, but I am genuinely at a loss to understand how that could be. The stumble animation is tightly integrated into the mechanics of PES2011. Almost any kind of physical contact with another player can trigger it. The stumble animation is not a rare event at all. Even taking into account my self-confessed obsession, it’s not something I have to make an effort to notice. Its there in front of me, in my face so to speak, all the time.

When I come to do my end-of-year PES2011 review in September, much of it will be coloured by my opinion of the stumble animation.

PES2011 has been ruined for me by the stumble animation, among other things. Whenever I loathe PES2011, it’s mainly because of the stumble animation. PES2011 is poisoned by the stumble animation. I fucking hate the bastard.

The Miss of Sisyphus

I said that playing International Tournaments with teams outside the top tier could take a while… And so it is proving. Currently I am on my 5th attempt with Slovakia.

Each time, I have started from the start, in the Group phase.

It’s because of my tournament mode House Rule: if I am knocked out, at any stage, I am NOT allowed to reload and play that one match again. I have to start the whole thing over, from the start of the Group phase.

It’s a tough rule because it means that one slip, one unlucky moment, or one missed chance can undo a lot of work.

It brings an added air of tension to the knockout matches, knowing that one slip-up and I’ll be back at the bottom of the mountain. And indeed, International Tournament with Slovakia (and, I’m anticipating, with 90% of the teams I’ll use) is proving to be a Sisyphean task.

Sisyphus was the mythical hero doomed to spend eternity pushing a huge rock up a hill and watching it roll back down again. At which point he had to start pushing the rock back up the hill. And that was his life, forever. (“We have to imagine Sisyphus happy,” said Albert Camus, a goalkeeper, once. My italics.)

Not that Slovakia and I will go on through all Eternity. I should get to the final and win it at some point. And when I do, the pleasure experienced will be proportionate to the effort expended.

I was eliminated in the group stage of attempt #3. 0-0, 0-1, 0-0. Nothing much to say about that.

Attempt #4 was so nearly the one. I made it safely out of the group, trouncing Canada 5-1 as I did so. I beat Austria in the round of 16, then met Saudi Arabia in the quarter final. It has been a very long time since that goal at USA ’94. I was justified in thinking this would be almost a walkover. But no, it was a frustrating 1-1, and extra time brought no goals. A penalty shoot-out would decide matters.

I pride myself on having spent the 2 minutes necessary to learn PES2011’s penalty system. Astoundingly, lots of PES2011 players have decided they’re above spending the 2 minutes, and persist in blazing their penalties down the middle, or miles over. And then complaining about it.

However, my knowledge of PES2011’s penalty system is still lacking. It’s useless when it comes to tournament penalty shootouts.

The altered perspective screws things up. You view the penalty old-school style, from pitch-level and behind the kicker, rather than high up from the side as in a match.

But I have discovered at least how to take a ‘Cantona penalty’ in this viewpoint: the ball is hit firmly at ground level to one corner or the other. The drawback of these is that if the AI keeper ‘guesses’ the right way, it’s almost a certain save.

I missed my first one after leaning on the stick too hard. But I scored all 4 of the remainder, and saved two of Saudi Arabia’s. And so I had won my first ever tournament penalty shootout. I was elated. This mode really does lay a lot of meaning on individual matches and moments.

In the semi-final, my opponents were Uruguay. At 1-1 again, it went to extra time (again), and it was looking like another penalty shootout until I conceded the dreaded last-minute free kick about 25 yards out.

I was expecting the shot, but the AI kicker floated one across to Forlan at the far post. He chested down, shot, and my keeper saved. But Forlan picked up the rebound and slotted it home.

Even then I wasn’t finished. As we restarted I knew I’d get probably one attack and then the final whistle would go. I probed down the wing and lofted over a cross. A Uruguay player met it and conceded the corner.

I brought up my keeper to take the corner. The ball was cleared to the edge of the box. There stood Welden, my trusty midfielder. I took a first time half-volley, feeling it was hopeless. But somehow the ball zipped through a crowd of players, hit the outside of post, and rebounded to the feet of Silanok, my reliable striker, on the corner of the 6-yard box.

It was more or less an open goal, albeit from a narrow sort of angle.

I stabbed at the shoot button. The ball went over the bar.

I trudged my way back to the bottom of the hill, and applied my shoulder to the rock.

A check on Slovakia

I know I’ve said it before, but this time I really mean it. I’ll be keeping the posts as short as possible from now. 600 words, max. Even an Open University assignment doesn’t just write itself, you know.

For the near future, I’ll be playing Tournament modes in PES2011. International Tournament mode occupied all my ISS/PES playing time a decade or more ago.

I started with England, for no reason other than to get the buggers out of the way. I lost the first campaign in the final, 0-1 to a superb Brazil side. In my second attempt I met Brazil again in the final, went 0-1 behind again, and had a player sent off: Milner, for nothing.

It was one of those melees where your player seemes to oeprate without your input. Milner slid in from the back on an attacker, and got a straight red. It was a shame as Milner was one of my players of the tournament, scoring a lovely lacrosse-style ‘nestled in the net’ goal during a group match against Argentina (the goal appears in today’s mini-compilation, at the end of the post).

I could have done two things. One, resign myself to defeat and then to a third campaign with England. Or two, exert all my focus and what little skill I might possess to see if I could pull off a miracle here.

And I did. With a few minutes of the 90 left, I scrambled a deserved equaliser with Gerrard. In the first period of extra time, I scored a thumper with Rooney from 25 yards (also in the mini-compilation below). I held on grimly for the final whistle, and that was that. Now I could move on.

On Friday I took suggestions in comments for teams to play with. That list (closed for now) stands at: Slovakia, Uruguay, Chile, Japan, Senegal, Mexico, Croatia. It’ll take me a while to work through those, I think.

I’ve already started with Slovakia, and I’m already partway through my second attempt with them.

My first Slovakia campaign ended in the Quarter Final. Group stage qualification was a nightmare. Slovakia’s players are only just above average, no doubt about it, but there are some gems. I like WELDEN and the strong centre-forward SILANOK.

I played Croatia in the round of 16 and won, just, 1-0, with a scruffy goal. This match was notable for seeing me go down to 8 players late on as I defended a little too desperately. This always used to happen in 1998-2001, when tournament mode was my main mode.

Holland in the quarter final were a different prospect. I withstood the pressure, but just couldn’t get myself a goal. I should mention that I’m using each team’s default formation and tactics. Slovakia’s is a very attack-minded 4-5-1. I often push the wide midfelders up to make a 4-3-3 when I need to press. Even this didn’t help much.

There was an amusing glitch where two players got stuck together in the first stage of a challenge animation (it’s also in the mini-movie below).

The match went to penalties, and despite knowing full well how to take a good one, I was confused by the altered ground-level perspective. I miscued my first one badly. I fluffed a further 2 out of the remainder, scoring just once, and was eliminated.

This morning (Sunday) I started another tournament with Slovakia. I drew with Canada and beat Nigeria in the first group matches. The third group match, against Uzbekistan, was going well—1-0 up—when my TV’s screen went black. The 360 shut down with a click and a whine. Only a powercut, not a RROD or similar. Phew.

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