Category: psp

‘Twas the day before June 1st…

Over the weekend I literally blew the dust off my PSP to play a few matches on PES2008(PSP). I’ve also played another four or five matches in my ML career on PES2010(PS3). I squeezed in a few BaP matches on FIFA10. I’ve played Final Fantasy XIII and Football Manager 2010. I didn’t have time in the end to try out Red Dead Redemption (I should get time later today). Currently I’m enjoying a broader gaming life than I have been able to over the past 6 months, when my PES2010 ML career occupied 99% of my play-time.

My save file for PES2008(PSP) showed the last time I played the game: mid-November 2009. The ML career I’ve got going in it is one of my longer-term ones. I’m in season 2023, having covered roughly the same amount of time as in my PES2010 career. I’ve got an amazing squad of uber-galacticos.

Yes, it’s a very old-school Master League squad. It’s the kind of squad you can only dream about now, in the new age of Master League.

Can you imagine the wages bill for a squad like that in PES2010? The mode’s revamped internal mechanics now pretty much guarantee that a squad like this one would be almost impossible to assemble, much less keep. I say that’s a good thing. If I have a hankering to own every great player there’s ever been, I can always fall back on these older games.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Last-gen PES on the PSP is absolutely wonderful. It plays like a dream. There are a few issues (atrocious loading times; occasional penalty box slowdown) but the issues are nothing compared to the overall package—which is what PES used to be, when you think about it: an unmitigatedly great game with a few annoyances that you could easily overlook.

In my first match against Deportivo la Coruna, I went 0-1 down early on. I didn’t really know what I was doing. The muscle memory that we play individual football games with soon rusts with disuse, as we all know. 0-1 was how it stayed for most of the match. How to play the game returned to me gradually over the 90 minutes, but wouldn’t fully click until my second or third match.

However, in the 91st minute of this first outing, I fed the ball to Schwarz on the edge of the area. I took a pretty speculative shot that curled deliciously around a defender and inside the far post. The keeper never moved. Here’s the replay—wait for the second angle at pitch-level to see the extravagance of the curl:

Link: PES2008 PSP goal

I quite enjoyed that. As I did the following few matches: another few League matches that I won comfortably, 3-0 and 2-1; and then a D1 Cup match, which I lost badly, and crashed out of the tournament; and then I lost 0-4 to Benfica in the European Cup.

It’s been a challenging few years for the Pro Evolution Soccer franchise, I think it’s fair to say. But PES2008 is worth buying a PSP for on its own, IMO. Could anybody honestly say the same for the PS3/360 version of PES2008? Or even one of the better versions since? In 2010’s case, Master League, maybe, would be worth it on its own. But not for the core gameplay, not really.

Playing PES2008(PSP) yesterday I couldn’t work out why I’m not always playing it. The reason is that there’s a huge new matte black console on my shelf that demands a newer, shinier, better version of PES than the old-school version. It’s still waiting. We’re still waiting.

And the Oscar goes too?

A very encouraging end to season 2 in my Master League career—which I started with such pomp back in week 1 of PES2010 (and doesn’t that feel like a long time ago now?)—filled me with confidence for season 3. Too much confidence.

I’ll thumbnail today’s post. At the start of season 3 (2011-2012) I drastically overspent in the transfer market. I put the club in so much debt that when it came to Wages Day (at the end of August in the new ML calendar), the notional board took equally drastic measures to rectify things. I lost all of my staff upgrades and some of my best players. As a result of this and several other factors, I’ve decided to start Master League all over again, from scratch. It’s against my tradition, but now that I’ve done it I feel happy.

I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how I got it so badly wrong. I just thought I’d get in a few more players, and ship out a few of the old ones. The old routine. I didn’t think there’d be a problem. Looking back now, I think the new all-year-round negotiations might have led me into danger. There’s a law of some kind that says ‘negotiations expand to fill the time available’. Now that searching and negotiating can be conducted all season long, it might be too easy to go overboard.

Expected Earnings showed me emerging from Wages Day with a positive £600,000 balance. And yet I was being warned, every week, that I was in debt and would need to remedy matters or else they would be remedied for me. I was confused. What to do, what to trust? I trusted Expected Earnings, of course, and it was my downfall.

What was it, a bug? I’m capable of reading numbers on a screen and understanding the difference between positive and negative, and I am 100% sure that Expected Earnings promised me I’d get through Wages day with plenty of room to spare.

Whatever happened, the outcome was pretty catastrophic. I was something like £2,000,000 in debt. The board swung into action. It all goes ahead without any input from you. I had all my backroom staff downgraded to level 1, their starting level. And I had players sold without notice. I could live with the likes of Macco and one or two other Defaulters being sold. But they only raised about £150,000 between them.

My most valuable player was worth a cool £1.2m. That player was Oscar. They sold Oscar too. The bastards got rid of Oscar, the one player I was taking delight in nurturing and developing. The left-footed, play-anywhere midfielder who was holding my team together. My bottom lip quivered…

ML-Season-3-kits

But I carried on. I created new home & away kits, and I just got on with it. I’ve actually been in worse corners in Master League down the years, and come out the other side. I still had some decent players. Those new players who had cost me so much were actually better than Schwarz and Oscar had been. So I could still do things, right?

Form-Arrows-in-ML

No, apparently. The downgrading of my staff seemed to have a palpable effect on the pitch. Suddenly it was like playing in season 1 again, albeit with slightly better players. All the form arrows went back to being blue or purple a lot of the time. Some matches I was forced to play with only a couple of green-arrowed players.

My progress of last season might as well have never happened. I was lucky to get shots. My game was suddenly all over the place. I began to obsess about restarting Master League

There were other factors pointing towards the simple logic of a restart. I’d come to really dislike—bordering on outright hate—the made-up teams in Division 2. I just wasn’t noticing who I was playing from week to week. “Oh, it’s another game against a team called a bunch of random letters…” Yatherplop Unitedpool FC. Rimmagong Athletique. I had thought this was lovable Japanese whimsy. I don’t think that now.

There were other things. It took me a while to fully grasp the ins and outs of the tactical and strategic systems in PES2010. I still haven’t fully grasped them, but I’ve got a good working knowledge now that would make a new ML a lot cleaner, unlike my initial fumbling around in this career. Another thing I regret from my setup was choosing to play English-style one-off cup matches instead of the traditional Master League two-legged affairs. It didn’t feel right, and of course this wasn’t helped by Konami getting things badly wrong by having those cup ties played at a neutral venue (at Wembley Stadium, for God’s sake).

I played as well as I could. I got a few precious wins, but mostly slumped to tame defeats and suffered through tedious 0-0 draws. In truth my motivation had gone. The thought of restarting was just too attractive and wouldn’t leave me alone.

Season-3-table-suspended

And so I’ve decided—that’s it, it’s back to the start for me. It goes against my settled tradition, but so what. I’m setting up a new Master League with a proper array of teams in Division 2. It’ll be super-hard. I’m going to start on Top Player difficulty and leave it there. I’m going to have traditional two-legged Cup ties. I’m impatient to get going. I regard this suspended career as time wasted, really. I’ll hold onto the save file. Possibly I’ll return to it, out of curiousity, at some point in the future.

Before signing off this career, I present one final goal replay from it. Gutierrez, the new superstar of the Defaults, got me a great goal in this accursed season. It had me on my feet and gesticulating at the blank walls. “Ha-haaa! Suck on that, you, you… wall…” The replay shows the standard view and then a slow-mo pitch-level view that beautifully captures the flight of the ball.

PSP-return

Also, popping up after Gutierrez’s goal replays, there’s a bonus item. I have played several matches of my old PES2008(PSP) Master League career, which is now in season 2024. My team of galacticos feels familiar and strange at the same time, thanks to the long breaks between sessions. I should play PES2008(PSP) more: it’s one of the great classic PES games, in my opinion. I rate it above PES6.

The PES2008(PSP) goal on show is a very sharp goal I scored with Del Piero. I had tried to pass to another player completely, but the pass went astray. So far so Pro Evo, hey? Then Del Piero, ghosting in from the wing, was perfectly placed to deliver one of my favourite kinds of PES goal: the first-timer with placement into the top corner of the net. Players with Del Piero’s technique can produce goals that just feel exquisite.

Link: Gutierrez and Del Piero

PES2009(PSP): off and on the shelf

The home of PES gameplay for the past few years has really been the PlayStation Portable and the PlayStation 2. Sad but true.

I’ve given some attention to the PSP version of PES2009. I’ve played my usual slew of warm-up Exhibition matches, and a couple of International Tournaments, on various difficulty settings.

The graphics are certainly improved from PES2008(PSP). They look smoother, less grainy. The pitches look lovely.

The game’s speed is roughly the same as PES2008(PSP). Possibly a little slower on occasions, but overall no different. Shame. I was hoping for a slower match.

It’s not just me who thinks fast-paced football, 100 mph all the time, is a bit 1990s, is it? Am I being too harsh in suspecting that the trend of the past few years to make football games play at dizzying speeds from one end of the pitch to the other (FIFA08 and UEFA2008 honourably excepted), is a concession to that bogeyman of modern sports gaming, the hypothetical ADD-afflicted 13-year-old?

My traditional first fixture: England vs Scotland, ten minutes, Regular difficulty. Say what you like about PES in recent years (and Lord knows I’ve done that), I still experience a frisson of glee at starting up a new PES for the first time. I won 2-1, with a scrappy couple goals, nothing special. The shooting seemed featherlight. Shots that would have rocketed goalward in PES2008(PSP) instead went at 45 degrees into the virtual stands.

Up to Professional level for my traditional next game against Germany. This is where I ran into a wall. I was still on Professional after a few hours: playing on Professional, and struggling. I was lucky to get 40% possession in most matches. The CPU has an uncanny ability to keep the ball. I can appreciate that saying this is a little like saying ‘water is wet’.

In the family tree of PES games, I think PES2009(PSP—and presumably the PS2 version as well) slots in somewhere between PES5 and PES6. In gameplay terms, I mean—what it plays like, how it handles. Maybe its got PES4’s nose, PES3’s chin, and PES2’s quick temper as well.

One massive drawback for the PSP version, as ever, are the loading times. It can take a couple of minutes to get from one match to the next. Staring at my own grim visage in a darkened screen while the UMD whirs away is not something I should be doing to this extent, I feel. It’s pretty poor in-game as well, with cut-scenes and substitutions entailing frequent, infuriating pauses in the action. Waiting 10 seconds just to see a linesman raise his flag? 20 seconds to bring on two substitutes? Not good enough.

My PSP is one of the old ‘phat’ ones (bought on PSP launch day 4 years ago), but I can’t imagine the loading times being much better on the newer slim models. It’s almost enough to make me want to get a UMD-less PSP Go when they come out—but at that price? No. I love my games and my games consoles, but there is a limit, even for me.

Overall, PES2009(PSP) is a good game, probably just as good as PES2008(PSP), but I’m already split between too many games as it is. No matter how great this new handheld PES experience might be, I’ve got no room to accommodate it in my gaming life right now.

It’s so tempting to start up a Master League career to tide me over the next few difficult months to PES2010 and FIFA10. But several factors are against that right now.

The number 1 reason is that my PSP is occupied for the foreseeable future. Another game lives inside it, and won’t be coming out much—if at all. For I have other grand gaming passions beside PES, and one of them is called Monster Hunter. This franchise, although big in Japan, is hardly known at all in the West. I’m one of its adherents. The latest MH game—Monster Hunter Freedom Unite—just came out last month, and it has more or less lived in my PSP ever since. I racked up 90 hours on the previous MH game and even so I barely scratched its surface (500-1000 hours’ playtime isn’t unusual in the MH community). So I’m going to be busy with the new one.

Another reason why I won’t be burrowing into PES2009(PSP) just yet is that I also have a perfectly fine ML career going on PES2008(PSP), thank you very much. I’d more or less ‘completed’ this career in year 2021, but after picking it up again a month or two ago, I found that I could barely string two passes toegther. The game is very much back on. I’ll be going back to that when I go back to PES on the PSP (Monster Hunter permitting).

And I also have FIFA09 to be getting on with on the big console. Yes, it has its ups and downs (more downs than ups at the moment), but I’m still getting things out of it that I never thought I would. Some great, satisfying goals for one thing. Friday’s post will feature some more of them.

Never say ‘never say never again’ again

I was never going to get PES2009 on the PSP. I was quite proud of this stance. I already had PES2008(PSP) and that was all I needed. PES2009(PSP) was reportedly just a minor update. Why get it? Why be a robot, automatically buying anything with the words ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’ on it? The whole point of being a PES fan nowadays is that we’re not helping PES by following the franchise no matter what. So, no, I wasn’t going to get PES2009(PSP). This was going to be the start of the rebellion.

But now I’ve ordered PES2009(PSP). It’s on its way. (I know—how quaint of me to be buying games to play on the PSP. I keep meaning to, er, arrange for God or someone to make new games materialise on a memory card, but I still haven’t got around to it.)

I made sure to get it online, from an Amazon seller, preowned. It’s costing me £11, which is very reasonable. Every penny is going to the seller on Amazon.

pes2009-packshot

It’s all PES2008(PSP)’s fault. PES2008(PSP) is an amazing game. It has re-whetted my appetite for quality handheld football gaming.

I thought FIFA09(PSP) would be the place to go. I had that purchase all cued up, my finger quivering over the mouse button. Then something stayed my hand, I know not what. I went and had a look at some reviews and videos. I wasn’t too impressed with the FIFA09 videos. The game looked just like bad old FIFA to me.

Then I had a look at PES2009(PSP) in action, and instantly knew that I was going to get it. It seemed indefinably different from PES2008(PSP), both in the speed of gameplay (slower) and in the animations. And there are a few new ones in there. I’ll see, anyway, when it arrives, which should be next week now.

———-

In other news, I carried out an experiment in Edit mode on PES2009(PS3). Me, in Edit mode. It’s a whole new world in there.

Over the past few months I’ve heard occasional rumblings about in-depth ‘realism editing’ on PES2009. This is where you reduce all players’ Speed and Agility stats by 30%, and boost their Stamina by about 10%.

It should make for a slower-paced, more simulation-oriented PES2009. I could see the appeal of it in theory. Sadly there is no Global Editor for PS3—something to do with its save files being incompatible with something, or something—so it has to be done by hand.

There’s no way I was spending tens of hours Editing every player. All I wanted to do was test this theory out. So I edited just two teams: England and Germany. I went through their squads and reduced all outfield players’ Speed and Agility stats by 30%. A player with 90 for speed went down to 62-ish,for example. Most players were in the 75-85 zone and found themselves reduced to the 50s. I boosted Stamina to around the 80-90 mark, across the board. Every other attribute remained the same.

Rooney still has his strength and shooting power. It’s just creating the chance for him in the first place that is made so much harder. With this Editing regime, you can no longer burst away from opposition players. I’m used to receiving the ball, jockeying for it, then bursting away from the defender, arcing in on goal, and having the shot.

That signature PES move is about a thousand times harder to pull off with these Edited stats. In fact, I never managed it once in the space of three 15-minute Exhibition games on Professional difficulty. Every chance I made had to be worked hard for, with pass and move wholly taking the place of kick and run. It could be argued that this is just as unrealistic as the default gameplay, that a happy balance should be found. But it’s a welcome change. If it wasn’t for the game’s crude 8-way directional movement, I could almost have been playing FIFA08 through a PES-tinged looking glass.

One drawback is that I found it encouraged even more ‘sprint abuse’. My finger wanted to squeeze that sprint button all the time, even more than usual, because the players were now just so slow.

It was a successful test. I really enjoyed the games. It was a completely different PES2009 experience, and worth exploring in more depth. It’s tempting to plunge right in and start mass-editing every player in the game, and seeing where it might lead. (How would Master League work? Player growth would have to be disabled, and I don’t think I’d like that.)

But I’ll save it for a rainy day. I’ve got quite a few back-up plans now if PES2010 fails to impress. FIFA10, of course; the PSP version(s) of PES; even the older PES games. Now there’s another back-up plan.

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