Category: manual controls

Not switching to manual just yet, thanks

Today brings my shortest post in a while. I’ll be back to posting thousand-word walls of text before too long. Right now we’re very much in the ‘phoney war’ phase of the football game year. There’s lots of talk and lots of bluster from various sources, but nothing concrete to get your teeth into.

A week on Thursday there’ll be some answers in the form of the FIFA10 demo. It’ll be a good demo, but I suspect there’ll be more questions raised after it. PES2010 has certainly got the banners raised among the long-suffering PES community. A rather premature sense of jubilation is taking hold, but I still have a queasy feeling about PES2010. I almost wish it was November already and the discovery phase was behind us. I just want to know.

Recently I’ve been talking about how I seemed unable to play FIFA09 any more. This followed a heady few weeks on the Xbox 360 version of PES6. I found myself unable to get back into FIFA09, and blamed my time with the PES game for ‘deprogramming’ me. I had come to regard FIFA09 quite highly, possibly more highly than at any time all year. My sudden inability to play it was as puzzling as it was distressing.

Well—duh, as they say. Just yesterday I found out that I’d left the shooting setting on manual. A few weeks ago I tried out manual shooting to see how I liked it. I forgot to change the setting back to my preferred setting of semi-assisted, which I see as the best of both worlds. When I was unable to play and enjoy FIFA09 the way I’d got used to playing and enjoying it, it was because I’d fundamentally changed the game by leaving the shooting on manual without realising it.

I plan to go full manual on FIFA10 at some stage. It’s the logical thing to do after playing fully assisted on FIFA08, and semi-assisted on FIFA09. But not just yet. I’m not quite ready.

I changed the setting back to semi-assisted, and now everything is fine. Well, nearly fine. I still am seeing FIFA09’s faults a little too clearly, but I’ve also mostly re-settled back into the good groove I was in recently.

Barring the unthinkable scenario of both 2010 games being turkeys, these are my last sessions on FIFA09. I might still play it after September 10th, but I might not. I’d love to take my Atletico Madrid career in Manager Mode to some kind of conclusion. A league title would be nice; a Double or Treble would be fantastic.

In my current season I’m nowhere near the title, but I am in Europe thanks to last season’s Cup win. I met Juventus in an early round and lost the first leg at their place 2-1. That away goal was so vital. In the return leg at my ground it was 0-0 until the 80th minute. Then I fed the ball to Pavlyuchenko on the edge of the Juventus box, and smacked the ball into the top corner. It felt damn good.

Link: Winning goal vs Juventus FIFA09

Now I know how Joan of Arc felt

Looking back over the past 18 months of PES Chronicles, I can see that I have often played the martyr, frequently posturing as a wounded—even persecuted—football gamer. It’s usually been the dreaded scripting that’s had me weeping salty tears onto the controller and then going postal on here.

But something else has bothered me lately. As I’ve got back into FIFA09, I’ve seen more and more of the quiz questions that (dis)grace the game’s loading screens. Just yesterday, waiting to be returned to the main menu after a particularly traumatic match against Sheffield United (of which more below), I saw this horror:

In what year were the Blackburn Rovers founded?

Read that question again. What is wrong with it? If you don’t see anything wrong with it, read it again, closely. If you still don’t see anything wrong with it, I would have to deduce that you are American or Canadian. Possibly even a member of the FIFA09 staff—perhaps even the staff member responsible for drafting this question. This rank abomination in the eyes of God, I should say.

The Internet is full of British English speakers being snippy, and indeed snooty, about instances of ‘Amerispeak’ creeping into places where they have no right to belong. Thus we get constructions like ‘The London Times’. There are sundry such examples, stormy little disputes that rage 24/7 in various corners of the Internet. I am non-nationalistic, non-tribal. I can look at the raging debates with an amateur socio-anthropologist’s hat on. Because it’s all good edutainment, in the long run.

But even I—-with my would-be faux-ironic, multilayered, cool detachment from the linguistic-nationalistic hurlybury—even I must draw the line somewhere. And that line is labelled ‘the Blackburn Rovers’. This is the kind of thing that I cannot smile at, overlook, forgive, or forget. Ever. I still cringe just to think about it.

The offending question popped up in the wake of a 0-5 drubbing I took at the hands of Sheffield United, so I wasn’t in the best of moods. It was a peculiar FIFA09 match. I’ve gone back to all-Assisted controls, remember, so this thing is supposed to be getting easier. If anything it seems to be getting harder. I went 0-2 down early on, then had my right back, Stephen Wright, sent off for (I confess) a dirty professional foul when their striker was clean through. I capitulated after that, and shipped another 3 goals. It was my worst-ever FIFA09 defeat.

I’m still safe in the managerial sack race. I still believe—nay, I know—that I will take Coventry City on to great things, albeit next season now. But this game is proving no cakewalk, even on the supposedly easy Assisted settings.

And then, after a 0-5 drubbing, the game had to go and show me its Canadian heart like that. ‘The Blackburn Rovers’ my hairy arse, mate…

Working class hero

Going back to Assisted controls in FIFA09 was not an easy decision. I grappled with it for days. But it’s something I felt I had to do in order to remain playing the game on World Class difficulty. I had to correct what I perceived as an imbalance of difficulties.

For a long time I played FIFA09 on Professional difficulty. After a time, using my former mix of Semi-Assisted and Manual control settings, I found that too easy. So I made the move up to World Class difficulty. Now I was faced with a core game that felt too hard when using the Semi-Assisted and Manual settings. I persisted, partly out of belief that I really should be good enough by now to do well. But mostly it was through simple, stubborn pride.

Over the past few years of the ‘new FIFA’ (i.e. the ‘next-gen’, simulation-style, good FIFA, as opposed the old, arcadey, bad FIFA) a kind of upstairs-downstairs mentality has sprung up in regard to the control settings used to play the game. Players who use all-Manual controls are the elite—they’re First Class passengers. Players who use a smorgasbord of Semi-Assisted and Manual settings are the Second Class. Players who use the default Assisted control settings are the Third Class, unwashed oiks. You can see the various levels of this conflict simmering along, and occasionally boiling over, on any FIFA forum.

Last year on FIFA08, I was a lower class oik all the way, and happy to be so. I barely dabbled with the control settings. When I did, I was horrified at what they did to my game, and changed them back almost immediately. This year I decided to make more of an effort, and indeed with a good team (my Atletico Madrid team in Manager Mode, for example), the mix of Semi-Assisted and Manual does make for a good game of football. (I wouldn’t say brilliant, mind. Just good.)

But I want to play with Coventry City. My Coventry City squad at the start of a Manager Mode career handles pretty much like the Default squad in PES always does. Badly. I just need to get started. I felt that there were two options. Either drop the difficulty back down to Professional, or drop my control settings back down to all-Assisted.

I decided to do the latter. A working class hero is something to be. With the default control settings, FIFA09 is easier, but it’s still tough on World Class to do anything with the Coventry City players. All my strikers seem to want to take an age to control a bouncing ball. After a good start to the career with a few wins and a draw, I’ve taken a beating or two. I’ve also drawn a string of matches. I’m 12th in the league table after ten games.

Manager League Mode

It’s time to get into FIFA09’s career mode in a big way. I’ve had my few getting-to-know-you weeks. I’ve also spent several days playing PES2009 just to see if things could be like they were between me and PES again (no, they can’t—not at the moment, anyway). It’s time to put my money where my mouth is. Time to walk the walk. I’m heading into Manager Mode, or as I will try to make it: Manager League Mode.

This name reflects that I will be playing with House Rules designed to make the experience as much like PES’s Master League as possible. I know—it’s absolutely crazy that the PES career mode is more realistic in many ways than its supposedly fully-licensed, official, FIFA equivalent, but there you go. Life’s not obliged to be consistent.

I’ll expand on my House Rules for Manager Mode over the coming days and weeks. They’re not that complex. There’ll be no consulting a rulebook every time I want to make a substitution. Most of my House rules will limit my coaching staff upgrades and my acquisition of new players on the transfer market. After 4 seasons in my Manager Mode career on FIFA08, I had Michael Owen, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Jesus Navas playing up front for Coventry City. I won’t let that happen this year.

I’ll be playing again as Coventry City on the PlayStation3 version of the game. Yes, the PS3—the console with the dreaded through-ball bug. It’s still not patched. Doubtless I’ll be moaning my head off incessantly about it until it is patched. I have noticed fewer issues since I switched to manual through-balls, but it’s early days.

I’ve mostly played FIFA09 so far on the Xbox360. The game is—just slightly—a better game on the 360. Better graphics, and better overall pace. Just better. Sadly, my 360 would seem to be on its last legs (after just 14 months, and relatively little use) and it’s not reliable enough for me to trust it. I have little enough time as it is. Constantly restarting after freezes and crashes is not something I can be bothered with.

I’ve been playing as Atletico Madrid in the Spanish league on the 360. I’ve just finished my first season and ended up in 4th place. The whole season was played on Professional difficulty. Early on I switched from all-Assisted controls to a mixed bag of semi-manual, manual, and assisted. This instantly made the game harder for me without having to change the difficulty level.

It turned out to be a rollercoaster of a season. Going over to semi-manual shooting in particular saw my goals dry up, and I slipped down the table. I rallied toward the end of the season and but for a few poor performances I might even have challenged for the title in the closing weeks.

What can I say about my Atletico players? I’ve loved playing with them. Forlan. Aguero. Maxi Rodriguez. And quite a few more. I think I’ve loved this season with Atletico so much because it’s been one of discovery for me. I taught myself how to shoot straight without the game helping me so much. Semi-manual shooting makes even the most straightforward goal something that you really have to work for. For example, this goal—

—is the quintessence of a bread and butter goal. But when using a manual through-ball, and semi-manual shooting, I was grinning as if I’d just netted a 40-yard screamer. The ordinary can feel that good in FIFA09. I can’t wait to see how my Coventry City career shapes up.

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