Category: PlayStation3

Requiem for a PS3

Just over 8 months ago, my 60GB PlayStation 3 suffered the Yellow Light Of Death (YLOD). I sent it away for a repair, the repair was successful, and from that day to this—8 months later—I had enjoyed trouble-free gaming on my faithful old PS3. Post-YLOD, I must have played 350+ hours on a variety of games, chiefly PES2010 of course, but also Valkyria Chronicles, Final Fantasy XIII, Uncharted, and several others.

On Monday just gone, the YLOD returned to spoil my morning. There was no sign of anything unusual right up until the moment it all went kaput. That’s always the way with catastrophe. In retrospect you look back and marvel how normal everything was until the dreadful moment.

I had some breakfast as normal and then switched on the PS3. I started up PES2010, after first signing out of PSN to prevent the game downloading new advertising boards from the Internet, which has caused occasional freezes of the entire game.

It’s season 17 of what has turned out to be my most epic Master League career since the balmy days of PES5. I still haven’t won a Treble in this career, and I’m very keen to change that fact. I’ve actually been struggling in my Champions League group. I won the opening fixture but I lost and then drew the next two matches. My fourth match, against the current group leaders Besiktas, was a mammoth game. That was to be the first match of Monday morning’s session.

I spent a minute or two picking my team. A lot of injuries recently, and more blue and purple arrows than usual, gave me a selection headache. My final team choice was a bit of a patchwork job, with Pires playing up front and Gattuso—still young and unreliable—having to play at DMF. I started the match. Besiktas kicked off.

I will remember the next few seconds for a very long time to come. I won the ball just outside my penalty box, played a pass up to Munitis, and turned with him and started to run at the AI defence. And the screen froze. Hmmm, I thought. I have never had freezes during a match. This is something diff—

There were three rapid beeps from the console. The screen turned black, then the universal blue of the HD era. My PlayStation3 expired there and then.

As a YLOD veteran, I knew immediately what had happened. My console had just died and this time it would not be coming back. I went through the routine anyway. Switching it off and on. Pulling all the leads out. Pressing and holding various things while pressing and holding various other things. Going out of the room for a few minutes and coming back in, pretending it made a difference.

No. Nothing brought it back. After last year’s repair, I had a 6-month warranty from the company that carried it out (the excellent Console Doctor). I’m 2 months past that warranty now. I would not pay to get it repaired again.

There was one pressing problem: the PES2010 disc was stuck inside the console. There is a trick to get them out even in the aftermath of a YLOD incident. It didnt work. I ended up having to buy a special screwdriver with which to take apart my beloved 60GB PS3. Look at the obscenity of these pictures and pray that it never happens to you.

It was fairly traumatic, digging into my PS3, seeing things I was never meant to see. Just removing the faceplate (picture 1, above left) was torment enough. Things were to get much worse as I delved deeper into the innards. I had to unscrew an awful lot of screws to get at the blu-ray drive (picture 2, above right), and then a lot more screws on the drive itself to make a gap to slide the disc out of (picture 3, left).

When it was all over I didn’t put everything back together. No. I scooped together all the screws, (about 20 of them, of many differing sizes) and put them into a small jiffy bag. Then I went into town and bought myself a new PS3. This month is a tough one financially and I had not planned to spend £250 on a new games console, but that’s what I did. How could I not?

Back at home I set up the new Slim PS3. First thoughts: okay, so it’s slim, but why is it so bleedin’ wide? And as I sat there in a mess of cardboard and polystyrene and miscellaneous wrapping material, I couldn’t help thinking: this shit again? I have now had 2 Xbox360 consoles and 2 PlayStation3 consoles in this generation of gaming.

I put the old PS3 in the new one’s empty box, carefully placed the jiffy bag with the screws alongside it, and put it somewhere out of the way. Technically, it could all be put back together again, and possibly even returned to working order. I don’t want to think about it for now. I’m still kind of grieving.

I remember the day I got my 60GB PS3 home. August 2007. It was a Monday, the same as the day when it finally died. I think I had more hair back then. I was so thrilled to be a part of the next-gen, finally. Oh, and I was looking forward to PES2008, which, AS WE ALL KNEW, was going to take the PES franchise to the next level. It would be like no other football game on earth, the greatest football game ever… Oh, such innocence!

Ever since the YLOD first hit me last year, I have meticulously backed up all my save games and other data to a USB stick after every session of play. This disaster has robbed me of my 60GB PS3, but it has not impacted my Master League at all. My previous session was on Sunday, and I backed up after it as usual. After I signed into PSN on the new PS3, the saves transferred over and worked, in-game, absolutely straightforwardly.

There was just one little wrinkle. Whenever I change my kits, usually at the end of every season, I back up my Edit data too. But this season I had forgotten to do so. The Edit file on my USB stick was from a whole season ago, and it reverted me to last season’s kits (left and right). I could have re-designed my newly Edited kits for this season, but I didn’t. I’ll keep the old ones as a reminder of this sombre period.

If I do win the Treble this season, it’ll be in memory of my 60GB PS3. Farewell, old friend. I will never forget you.

Rank

Winning two Cups last season has seen my team ranking shoot up to 20th in the Master League world. When I was winning league titles on their own—for 4 seasons in a row—I wasn’t ranked anywhere above 50th. The top 10 ranked teams in my ML world makes for interesting viewing. Atletico Madrid are the top team. I’ve never met them yet and so I can’t vouch for their quality, but I’ve played all the others (Roma possibly excepted) and they’ve mostly all been tough opponents.

I’m seriously craving a Treble this season. It’s my 16th season of the career, my 9th in Division 1, and it’s about time I did it. I’m still riding high in the league. I’m winning games in style, but still drawing just enough to keep me in 2nd place. Arsenal are currently in the top spot. They would seem to be the team to beat, or at any rate they’re the pace-setters. It was Man Utd last season, Porto the season before. Every season the big teams seems to have a rotation thing going on.

My Champions League group stage campaign didn’t start too well: a win and a loss. I’ve continued that patchy form, winning another and losing yet another. I’m second in the table. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting the one win from my last two matches that’ll ensure my team’s progression (probably). But I’ll have to be careful.

I’m through to the next round of the D1 Cup after a good performance against Rosenborg. It was 0-0 in the first leg at their place, which always makes the second leg at my ground a nervy affair. If the game is out to get you it can do so very easily with an away goal. But I came through it a 2-0 winner. Capuano got the first goal from a corner. PES2010 is notable for the many different approaches you can take from corners. I love to play a ground pass for a player running towards the box to have a first-time shot. Just before I took the corner, I activated ‘All-out Attack’ via a strategy button to start Capuano’s run from the left-back position:

Link: Capuano goal from corner

I’ve spent a full season now with Capuano on boosted focus training for shooting. It’s starting to show through in his performances. The time for Capuano to move up to AMF will be when either my ‘not-Greg’ player or Nakamura start to decline sharply, which isn’t yet.

Mathieu has come on as sub a few times and played as well as a 17-year-old, 68 OVR rated player could be expected to play. Unfortunately he’s afflicted with the signature move of PES2010: the three-point turn that is slower than sin. Having players out there who turn in that way feels like a severe handicap now. The Myth of Castolo has the slow turn as well, needless to say.

In other news, I have finally resolved a long-standing technical issue with the PS3 version of PES2010. From the start, back in October, the game often froze during the tunnel entrance scene and required a hard reboot of the console. It would happen roughly once every four sessions, and always at the start of the first match of the first session. It was totally infuriating, because it didn’t take just one reboot to get things going again. It needed TWO reboots. When the PS3 came back on after the first reboot, it would tell me off for performing a hard shutdown, and force me to turn it off properly now, and then restart again… Aaaargghhhh….

But I’ve finally triangulated the cause of the problem. It was all down to the game downloading new advertising boards over the Internet (such as the one pictured, from around Christmas-time). That didn’t always cause a freeze, of course, but every time it froze, that’s what it was doing. The solution? Simple: no Internet connection while playing PES2010.

So I now play PES2010 whilst completely disconnected from the Internet (all I have to do is sign out of PSN before starting the game). I only ever see generic Konami advertising boards, and the freezes no longer happen at all. I’ll only ever play PES2010 whilst connected to the Internet if there’s a gameplay patch on offer. I’m not interested in the squad updates or similar DLC.

The loneliness of the long-distance striker

Typical. I wait ages to score a good goal in FIFA09, and then two come along at once. I’ve taken up FIFA09 again after playing PES2009 for most of this football year so far. Currently I’m coping with its dismal Manager Mode because I’m finding the gameplay—on World Class difficulty, with a mixture of semi-assisted and full manual control settings—so engaging. I love how tough I’m finding it just to create a goal-scoring opportunity, never mind actually trouble the goalkeeper.

Last week I was struggling to score goals. I went several games in succession without scoring. Then I netted a peach of a curler. And now I’ve scored a screamer from distance. Without further preamble, here it is:

It doesn’t look even a fraction of how good it felt to score it ‘live’. I’m not happy with the viewing angle I chose for the replay. The height of the camera fails to convey the sweet placement of the shot, which is indeed right in the ‘postage stamp’ corner of the net. I was in a bit of space with Aguero, and I decided to just let one rip. There’s no finesse—it’s a full-blooded shot, or a ‘laces’ shot as EA Canada calls it. The ball flies far and true into the net. I was very happy indeed. It was, incredibly, the first such goal I have scored on FIFA09.

FIFA09 has a problem, I think, with the consistency of distance shooting. It seems to me that the ball too often flies way, way over the bar at one end of the spectrum, or trickles tamely to the keeper at the other end. The middle ground—where you have a chance of scoring a goal like this one—is hard to locate. It’s definitely there. It definitely exists (viz. the goal in the replay above). But that sweet spot is so tiny, and finding it probably depends on so many other factors—ball speed, angle from player to goal, angle from player to ball, player stats, button-press timing and duration, whether the wind is blowing from the south-east, etc.—that long-distance goals are and will probably remain a rarity. But maybe this will change with time. We’ll see.

I finished this season 5th in the table. I fell out of the European Cup qualifying places with some poor late-season performances. I did win the Spanish Cup (on penalties), so it wasn’t a complete disappointment. Now I just have to decide whether to play another season with Atletico, or finally get around to starting Manager Mode again as Coventry City. I think I’ll go for the latter option. Before I do that, though, I’m going back to play another few sessions of Valkyria Chronicles. I wasn’t lying when I said it takes me ages to play through these ‘proper’ games.

———————-

Speaking of those proper games, I have just today had time to download and play the much-heralded Killzone 2 demo for the PlayStation3. It’s been a long time in coming. I vividly remember where I was when the infamous pre-rendered footage was released in 2005. It made the BBC evening news. I remember arguing about it with a work colleague at the time after he contended that such graphics were impossible and it was all fake.

It seemed that the next generation of gaming would take us to places we never dreamed possible. And now here we are—was it worth the wait? Killzone 2 seems to be a decent game, and the graphics are indeed lovely. But it’s just another generic FPS to me. I cannot shake the feeling that games just aren’t made for me any more. The wants and desires of some notional 17-year-old from middle America have shaped Killzone 2, as they have done all of its many, many FPS predecessors (and successors).

So, no, I’m not thrilled by Killzone 2. But I’m going to wait and see. The demo of Valkyria Chronicles left me underwhelmed, but I would argue that it’s the best exclusive game on the PS3—better even than MGS4. I’ll watch Penny Arcade and other forums and see what the reaction is to Killzone 2 after full release. But I have an awful feeling that Killzone 2 is a colour-by-numbers FPS with more than one eye on ‘the demographic’.

Meet Catherine O’Hara


catherine-oharaThis is Catherine O’Hara. She’s a sniper. She’s a key member of Squad 7—of my Squad 7, I should say—which is a militia unit fighting in a war in a game called Valkyria Chronicles. This game is exclusive to the PlayStation3, a games console with a singular lack of great exclusive games—until now.

The genius of Valkyria Chronicles is in the whole package, not just in the shooting. The turn-based/real-time battling is plenty good enough on its own. But the way the story and characters merge with the battles to create a unified whole is something I’ve rarely come across before.

I try to keep two snipers in my Squad 7 at all times. You can pick and choose your squad selection, mixing it up between various unit classes. (Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Snipers, Engineers.) Valkyria Chronicles shows its quality in the flexibility it permits you, the many routes you can take to achieve your goal. You could play the whole game without ever meeting Catherine O’Hara. You have to choose her from the list of available recruits.

Catherine takes her shot—with you aiming for her, and pulling the trigger—and if she hits her target she usually kills it. Then she hoists her rifle onto her shoulders and says, “I’m not done yet.” If you don’t grin and/or punch the air at least once when this happens, you may not be human. If she misses her shot, well, she misses. She does sometimes miss. It depends on various factors—the distance of the target, its type, the conditions, the terrain, how she’s feeling. This is the RPG side of the game.

I’ve managed to get Catherine killed quite a lot. I lost her at least once during every mission, in the early days, although I’m a lot better now. I know. I’m rubbish. It shouldn’t be happening at all. But it does, because I take foolish risks. I move her out into the open where enemy snipers can pick her off. Or I move her too close to the enemy shocktroopers. Because this is turn-based strategy RPG, you can do nothing during the enemy’s turn except watch it take advantage of your errors and missteps. I hate watching Catherine being machine-gunned to death.

If I don’t get to her within three turns or before an enemy reaches her body, that’s it, she’s gone. Dead for good. Gone from the whole game. I’ve already lost two valued squad members in this way. Aisha, a fine shocktrooper, died in one of the early missions. She begged piteously not to be allowed to die. I stared at the screen, helpless, as she died anyway. Then I lost one of my Engineers, just a few turns later (that mission was a disaster). I was still in actual shock from Aisha’s death and I’m almost ashamed to say I’ve forgotten the Engineer’s name. War doesn’t change.

But if you get to your fallen comrades before the enemy does, you can rescue them. When Catherine falls, all my mission goals are temporarily suspended. It’s all about rescuing Catherine. I have always done it so far. I don’t know what I would do if I failed. If Catherine died for good, I’d probably break one of my cardinal rules of gaming, and reload an old save to get a different outcome. I pray God it never comes to that…

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