Category: ps2

Battle of the Pro Evos

This is a special post for Christmas Day about my current (I have to stress CURRENT) opinions on the best Pro Evolution Soccer games since 2001. I’ve been posting about my Master League and my day-to-day experiences with PES for a long time now. A variation from my usual kinds of posts (“so yeah, I kicked it and it went in the net, and I was well happy, like”) is long overdue.

Below, in traditional ‘chart countdown’ reverse order, is my personal and idiosyncratic selection of the best PES games from the dawn of the PlayStation2 era until today:

8: PES1

This is my least-favourite PES for several reasons, but the main reason is that it’s my least-played. I didn’t get a PS2 until the year after it came out, by which time PES2 was on the shelves. That was the game I bought and played incessantly.

I only got a copy of PES1 much later in the year, out of curiosity, and I only played it for about 20 hours in total. I know that many PES purists really rate this game highly, but many also dislike it as crude and unrepresentative of the heights that the series would later get to. That was my opinion, overall: it was relatively stiff and uninvolving compared to the delights I was then experiencing in PES2.

Another big reason why I disliked PES1 was that it came on one of those dreaded blue discs! Those were the discs that made the PS2 sound like a vacuum cleaner… or an Xbox360. The noise always unnerved me and a play-session never lasted as long as it might otherwise have done.I remember the PS2 versions of Age of Empires II and Quake III also coming on blue discs, and they suffered a similar fate.

Most vivid memory: That damn blue disc! I used to grimace at the screen and lose all focus as I heard my PS2 doing a convincing impression of a lawnmower.

pes4-box7: PES4

Okay, I have to say one thing immediately: PES4 was a great PES game and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It’s only down here in 7th place because there are 6 other PES games that I think are even greater. Even the lowliest PES game is still pretty special. And PES4 is no different.

On the Wednesday of the week this came out (it was due to be released on the Friday), I remember reading rumours on PESfan that most stores had broken the release date. That was enough for me. I immediately went into town on the off-chance. I had no other reason for going into town. PES was the only reason.

And I found that everywhere had indeed started selling it early. A HMV staff member was writing the news on a whiteboard outside the store as I walked past. I have a clear visual memory of standing in a queue at GAME, holding the shiny PES4 box and hardly daring to believe it. There was incredible excitement among the community as word spread on the internet. Those were the days when PES’s lofty status was unquestionable. They were great times. Will we ever see their like again?

Most vivid memory: Heskey! Playing my traditional warm-up International Tournaments with England, I was astonished to find how good Heskey was in PEs4. Big and strong and skilful, with a powerful shot. I went on to purchase him for my ML team and he was just as immense.

6: PES2008 (PS2/PSP)

What a relief this game was for me back in February and March of 2008. PES was in the absolute doldrums. I had just given up on the long-awaited next-gen PES2008, which I think was so bad that I’m not even giving it the recognition of occupying  bottom place in this list.

The last-gen version arrived like a cool drink of water on a hot day. The perfect tonic. Playing this game restored and sustained my belief that PES could still count for something.

Most vivid memory: Komol, a journeyman striker, half-volleying a screamer over the keeper’s head from 30 yards early on in my ML career.

Hang on. Let’s see that again:

5: PES6

PES6 is still the #1 PES game for a lot of PES fans. I think the main reason PES6 still rides so high in the fans’ affections is down to the calamitous non-game that was next-gen PES2008 [*hawks and spits*]. When the fans turned their backs on the catastrophe that was Konami’s first next-gen game, what were they left with? PES6, of course.

PES6 was—and is—a great game. But it’s never been right up there among the great PES greats, for me. My criteria for a great PES almost solely revolve around Master League. I found PES6’s Master League to be relatively easy. I won the Treble after 5 seasons—my quickest-ever achievement of a Treble until next-gen PES2008 came along.

Most vivid memory: One of my earliest Master League purchases was a nippy right back called Zoro. Struggling with the Default players (had they just changed from Castello & co.?), I’d hardly scored any goals from within the penalty area, never mind from outside it. Then with Zoro I went on a forward run, cut inside the CPU defender, and unleashed a soaring, dipping, curving thunderbolt from a wide position, 35 yards out. It nestled beautifully in the far top corner.

4: PES2009 (PS3/360/PC)

Ah yes, the flavour of the month. I suppose this will end up being downgraded. At the time of writing, the first cracks may just be starting to appear (more on this in January), but for now I’m sticking by my controversial assessment of PES2009 as a perfectly decent, perfectly acceptable PES game.

No, it’s not quite enough in the post-FIFA08 era. No, we will never forget PES2008 and the betrayal of the finest gaming legacy in the history of gaming (IMO). But I like PES2009 and I like playing it. At the moment it ticks all the right PES boxes for me. Having said all that, I know why some fans dislike it, and I join them in resenting Konami and Seabass for all they (haven’t) done over the past two PES releases.

Most vivid memory: It’s too soon for there to be one, really. PES2009 is ‘live’. It’s now. The standout moment for me so far has to be a certain goal from Kim Cyun Hi. Even after 100 hours’ play I still haven’t come anywhere near scoring another one like this:

3: PES2

Having this one at #3 in my personal list is partly down to sentimental reasons. The game itself was pretty solid, as I recall, but it was also my first ever ‘proper’ PES. And you never forget your first.

PES2 was also my first-ever PlayStation2 game. I got it bundled with the console in November 2002. I remember getting home and unpacking everything in a frenzy. I set up my new PS2 and put in the PES2 disc… and entered a new gaming world.

I loved everything about PES2. I was amazed by the PS2-quality graphics, and blown away by the gameplay, which was a whole order of being greater than anything I’d come across even on the PS1’s late-era ISS games.

Most vivid memory: That first day. I took a taxi home from town with my new PS2 and PES2, I was so excited. It was a Sunday. I remember eating Sunday dinner in a complete daze, hardly tasting it. I played PES2 all day, and then had to go out that night on a prearranged drink with some friends. I was so reluctant to go out, but I had to. I couldn’t stop thinking about PES2. I’d brought the instruction manual out with me, and I kept taking it out to look at it. My friends were gamers, but not PES gamers, so they took the piss a little.

2: PES3

pes3-box

For many purists, PES3 is the best-ever PES. It’s my #2. After a year of playing PES2 into the ground, I really struggled to adapt to PES3, but I cracked it in the end. It was a great game with a fabulous shooting mechanic. You could really ping them in in PES3, I recall. PES2 had a floaty shooting mechanic by comparison.

Most vivid memory: Stoichkov. Still the best left-sided forward I have ever played with in PES. I had him as a Regen in my ML team and he was brilliant. For some reason, the only goal of his that stays with me after all these years is an ‘eyebrows’ header from a cross at the near post. Remember the way the real-life Stoichkov used to attack the near post as a cross came over? It was exactly like that. I remember going into work the next day and loudly telling everyone about it. There was a silence afterwards.

1: PES5

pes5-box

My #1 choice isn’t really controversial—it’s lots of other PES fans’ favourite version of the game too. It’s no accident that when the pre-publicity for PES2009 started to appear, it sought to position the imminent game as an updated version of PES5. Because PES5 is a genuine classic, the Konami marketing men knew they’d be on safe ground. Trusted ground.

Why was PES5 so great? Lots of reasons, really, but the shooting was a big reason for me. PES5 was noted for its spectacular long-range goals—something I later made two movies out of, thanks be to MaxDrive (remember that!).

PES5’s Master League was another delight. This was the first time in Master League where, even after I had a team of Galacticos, I was never sure that I would win anything. In 40+ seasons, I only won two or three Trebles. That career was the source of my most enduring Master League myth: the open-ended career that simply goes on and on and on… I have spent four years trying to recapture that magic.

There were minuses. There was a hugely irritating ‘auto-stepover’ that your players often did when receiving the ball near the touchline. The ball would run out of play, conceding a throw-in. Most annoying. And the stadia were all empty. And when making one or two substitutions, the game would take an age to load up a cutscene. You could be staring at a black screen for half a minute or more while your PS2 chugged away. After a while I twigged that there was no cutscene for three substitutions, and got into the habit of making all 3 subs at once—a habit that has persisted to this day.

But compared to the perfect balance of PES5’s gameplay and the immersiveness of its Master League, those are all nitpicks.

Most vivid memory: Dennis Bergkamp. The best striker I’ve ever played with in Master League. I don’t know what it was, whether it was just a quirk of my individual ML or what, but nearly everything he touched turned to gold. I got him twice, both times as a Regen (that was one long career). If he wasn’t scoring spectacular goals for fun, he was putting in sterling performances for the team. See both of my PES5 movies for examples in living motion.

Special Mention:

The PSP versions of PES5 and PES6 don’t appear on the list, not because I think they’re bad games but because they weren’t ‘proper’ PES games. PES5 had no Wide camera view, and no Master League at all. PES6 had the Wide view, and it had Master League—but there was no player development, which kind of missed the point of ML completely. They were both fairly decent games of football on a handheld device, but they don’t belong in the list above. It wasn’t until PES2008 that we finally got a worthy PES on PSP.

Bah Humbug

I’m having a mini-break for the festive period. I’m going to try to have a break from PES as well, although experience tells me that probably won’t happen. It’s far too much a part of my daily routine—especially when I’m into an ML career, as I am now—for me to abandon it for even one day.

Regardless, my next Master League post will appear on 2nd January 2009, and it’ll be business as usual with daily updates (except on Sundays) from then on.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

‘Last-gen’ PES2008: final verdict

It’s time now on this blog for me officially to say goodbye to a great game. Well, not so much ‘goodbye’ as ‘see you later, probably’. I’m talking about the PS2/PSP version of PES2008, which I have been playing, more or less continuously, since March of this year. For the benefit of any new readers (randomly Googling ‘PES2009’ as the nights draw in), a few paragraphs of back-story are in order.

Gary Neville>Pele? What the – ?

It’s been almost a year since I started playing the much-anticipated ‘next-gen’ PES2008 on my then brand-new, sparkling PlayStation3. I think every PES fan knows how that one turned out. I have to admit that for a month or so I thought the game was absolutely fine. Really I did. Yes, it was lacking in so many areas but it’d do, I thought. Then I discovered the notorious ‘wonder dribble’, as I came to call it—the ability to dribble the full length of the pitch, with almost any player, on the hardest difficulty level, and score goals at will.

I had never played PES like that before. I had always been a pass-and-move player. It was a rare day that I dribbled for more than a few yards or went past more than one player. I wasn’t used to dribbling entire pitches and beating entire teams. I completely despised the PS3 version of PES2008 for letting me do that without even trying, and I still do.

There were lots of other reasons to despise it, of course. The slowdown for one. The lack of pre-game kit selection for two. The horrific nature of online multiplayer for three. (I wasn’t much of an online player. Thanks to PES2008, that’s how I’ve stayed.) The goalkeepers for four… The list is long and shameful.

What is to be done?

So, around the turn of the year, I abandoned the game. I’d tried playing with custom rules designed to limit the regular 6-3 scorelines, but my mounting disgust just got too much. Whatever else that game was, it wasn’t a PES game. It left me in a quandary: for the first time in a decade, I didn’t have an ISS/PES game to play all year. Oh, and I’d only gone and chosen this year, of all years, to start a blog about my daily PES-playing habit… Whoops.

It was nearly Subbuteo

I dallied with various other games. Football Manager. Sensible Soccer. FIFA08 looked as if it would become my main game, and that I would spend the remainder of the year on it. That would have been no bad thing. Ah, but then I decided I might as well try out the last-gen version of PES2008 before finally moving on.

And I was glad I did. My posts from that time record my delight with the game, my happiness with the classic gameplay, my relief at finding a PES to play for the rest of the 2008 season. Yes, granted, as time went on I experienced the usual frustrations with in-game scripting (it exists and no one and nothing will ever persuade me otherwise). But at its core it was the gameplay I had come to know and love and regard as being part of my daily life.

My first post about the PSP version of PES2008 was gushing, but cautious. I’d been burned so badly by the next-gen version that I was paranoid and suspicious. As if I expected the game to turn back into a pumpkin at midnight. I didn’t want to get hurt again.

Time passed, and I decided to pick up the PS2 version. I hated the idea of giving Konami and Seabass another penny after their uber-cynical, premature release of an unfinished, broken game, so I picked it up cheap from a bargain bucket. I loved having a ‘proper’ PES playing on my TV screen again.

I started a new Master League career and struggled for several seasons. I didn’t win a single game in my first season. I only won a handful of games in the seasons immediately after. Then the old routine kicked in. After acquiring a certain amount of decent and good players, I started winning. Promotion soon followed. Up in the big division, it took me a few seasons to find my form. Then league titles and cups rolled in. Then the Treble. Over time I had a squad of galacticos, one of the best squads I think I’ve ever had in any PES. The game was still diverting, but no longer really challenging. And so we come to today.

Footballers’ apostrophes

Right now in my Master League, it’s season 2022. I picked up a young Kaka’ in the pre-season negotiations, to add to my already staggering squad. I didn’t need him. I just wanted him, is all. It’s Kaka’! Incidentally, is the apostrophe in his name the most peculiar footballer’s apostrophe since that of Stephane Guivarc’h? I think that it is.

The End of Days

It’s the end of the 2008 season as far as football games go. In less than a week from today, next-gen gamers will have their hands on the demo version of FIFA09—and PES2009 (I heard this evening, after typing up most of this post. I love rewriting, me!). Thursday September 11th 2008 is one of the most keenly-awaited days of the gaming year so far—for football gamers, at least. And so I’ve decided that, as of now, it’s time to move on. At least as far as the blog is concerned I’ll be dealing exclusively with the next-gen 2009 set of games from now on.

As for the PS2/PSP version of PES2008… What’s my final verdict? Not that it really matters what I think of it. I’m under no illusions there. But I’ve played it as intensively as any other version of the game, albeit over a shorter timescale. After several months’ continuous play, where does it stand in my personal list of favourite PES instalments?

Psssst

(I should add here that although I’m treating them as the same game, there are enough differences between the PS2 and PSP versions for them possibly to warrant separate treatment. The PSP has major control issues—lacks the second shoulder buttons, and it has a cramped face buttons setup, etc. The PS2 version, played on a big screen with the full-sized controller, is a qualitatively different experience. But I talk too much as it is and don’t want to type the extra 500 words that treating them separately would require.)

The all-important, world-shattering final verdict

Here’s where PES2008, on the PlayStation2 and PSP, stands for me. I don’t like it as much as I remember liking PES5. So I have to be strict and leave PES5 where I have consistently claimed it is—at the top of my list of favourites.

After PES5 would come PES3. I always meant to get around to replaying PES3 this year, but never had time. (Maybe—no, definitely—next year. At some point.)

And after PES3 comes PES2008. Just ahead of PES6, which I know is many people’s pick for Best PES Game Ever.

After PES6 comes PES2, then PES4, then poor old PES1 trails in last. (I won’t offer next-gen PES2008 any kind of place on this personal ranking. As far as I’m concerned it doesn’t even deserve to be considered a PES game.)

Now. Most reviews—and my blogging about the game constitutes a year-long review, of sorts—end with a score. A rating out of 10 or 100, or a percentage. That kind of thing.

I won’t beat around any more bushes. I’m giving the PS2 and PSP version of PES2008, jointly, a strong 9/10 score. For me, an 8/10 would be too low, and 10/10 ridiculously too high. The game just became too easy, in the long run, to warrant a fat 10. But in terms of its more-ish playability, it’s right up there with any of my other favourite versions.

I’ll be back, Osasuna…

None of this means that I am saying a final goodbye to PES2008. My bringing-down-the-curtain finality of tone is misleading. PES2008 will almost certainly remain my sole portable football game for the next year. I doubt very much that I will get the PSP version of PES2009. I will certainly return to my ML career and take my team on towards 2030 and beyond.

And I’ll mention it on the blog from time to time.

Coventry City 1-8 Sparta Rotterdam

*cringes with shame*

Yes. I lost 8-1. The CPU put eight goals past me. I conceded EIGHT times in Pro Evolution Soccer—a resounding first and, I hope, a last. I don’t know how I even managed to get 1. Take a look at the CPU’s Shots on goal…

sparta-8-1.jpg

Now is it obvious that I’ve never been ‘playful with the truth’ by saying I’m only an average PES player? At the moment I’m not even average. I’m way below average. I’m playing terribly.

In mitigation (there isn’t much), I was playing on the PSP for the first time after a long weekend on the PS2 version (played on my PS3). The game is just different enough on the two consoles for things to feel awkward immediately after a transition from one to the other.

newsquad-2011.jpg

It still doesn’t excuse the scoreline. Nothing excuses it. Not even my new slimmed-down squad can really be seen as a reason why I lost 8-1. The screenshot on the left shows exactly what I see when I look for substitutes mid-game—it’s scary stuff, having so few players to choose from.

But this was the first game of the season and none of my First XI—all decent players—were even tired. No excuses there.

I was hoping for a good start after having to lay off a load of players to avoid a Game Over after last season. And this is what I get. 8-1.

I also had four players sent off. It was due to my old bad habit of getting one sent off, and going a few goals behind, and trying too hard to get a goal back while defending deperately, and having another sent off, and conceding more goals, and losing all hope and discipline…

When I was 6-0 down I received my fourth red card—Handanovic, my keeper, dismissed for bringing down a Sparta player in the box. I was so befuddled and demoralised that I let Jaric go in goal for the rest of the game.

With 7 men on the pitch I did try my best to get another one sent off and the game abandoned. Would the CPU have been awarded ‘only’ a 3-0 win? I never got to find out. The CPU scored another two goals, and I somehow got a consolation goal, and that was humiliatingly that.

At times in PES you just have to lick your wounds and get on with it. I played game 2 of the new season straightaway. Things couldn’t get any worse. Could they?

It was tricky to field a team. Four of my players were suspended. Lehmann stepped into goal. Don’t get him sent off whatever you do, I told myself. I had to play Che Hyon-Hon at left back.

With my trimmed-down team and squad, I dug deep. I concentrated. I defended with discipline and care , and ground out a precious 2-1 victory.

I’m 6th in the table, just 3 points from the top, although my goal difference is naturally the worst in Division 2 by a long way. I could still do something this season, I think. But will those 8 goals conceded cost me at season’s end?

Wanted: patience. Last seen in September 2007.

I drew 0-0 in the opening game of season 2010. It was a respectable enough start. I was pleased with the clean sheet and the point. I had a man sent off in the game and felt I’d got away with it slightly.

But then I lost my second game to RC Strasbourg (yet another bogey team candidate). The score? 1-5. Oh dear…

The pattern for me and PES2008 on PSP/PS2 is becoming clear.

Either I concentrate and defend properly—standing off attackers, bringing across a second defender, executing perfect sliding challenges, shepherding the CPU away from danger areas—and thus keep a clean sheet, or I cave in after I concede just one goal, and go on to concede a hatful of goals.

It’s all to do with my current lack of patience that I mentioned a few days ago.

When I go 1-0 down in this last-gen version of the game, my next-gen version instincts kick in and I start to play as if this PSP/PS2 version is the same quasi-arcadey mess that the PS3/360 game was and is. (Sorry to all fans of next-gen PES2008. This is just my opinion, of course.)

I tear forward recklessly, losing the ball often and inviting the pressure that leads to the hatfuls of CPU goals.

I need to wake up and accept that I’m not playing the PS3 version any more. The PSP/PS2 version is a ‘proper’ PES game, i.e. there has to be some semblance of realistic football gameplay involved.

In the end it does all come down to that one word: patience. Before this year I had it in abundance for nigh on 7 years of continuous PES gaming. And then the so-called next generation came along and I unlearned all of my patience—the core of my PES nous, if you will. I need to relearn it again, in full, and fast.

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