Category: shooting

Parting shots

I dunno—you wait 14 years for one bicycle kick to come along, then get two in the space of one PES year. And, for similar reasons, neither of them are at all satisfying… I’ll get to that.

A couple of fine sessions, the lowlight of which was another 3-0 spanking at the hands of the CPU.

This was from Sporting Lisbon in the first leg of my first knockout game in the Champions League. I have no idea how it happened. I didn’t play too badly, the CPU didn’t play too great. Put it down to ring-rust.

I’ll really struggle to make it to the next round of the Champs League now, needless to say. My only chance of silverware in this 17th season of Master League competition may well be the title itself.

I met Manchester United in the league, at their place—and beat them 1-0. I played most of the match with 10 men. I’d had Neeskens straight-red-carded in the 4th minute for a vicious scything challenge. It came while I was trying to cancel the CPU’s straight-from-kickoff momentum by any means necessary. I succeeded in interrupting that notorious script, but lost my captain.

The rest of the match was surprisingly easy. Farinos carried the weight of being the sole DMF with ease. I held Man Utd at bay and slowly, slowly, asserted myself as the other end.

I’d more or less settled for a 0-0 when I had a breakaway with Forlan on the right, who crossed for Perrotta to score my second bicycle kick goal of PES2012, and my second of all time:

Perrotta has been one of my unsung heroes over recent weeks. Mr Reliability, I call him. He can play well in at least three positions (CMF, SMF, RB). He started this game wide on the right of midfield. Note his dynamic run to the middle as Forlan carries the ball out wide. It’s this kind of stuff that has kept PES interesting over the years.

The only downer here was the placement of the shot. I’d anticipated Perrotta actually heading the ball, and so I’d aimed for a near post glancer with the analogue stick in the 5 o’clock position. Which should have resulted in me almost hitting the corner flag, right?

I took a screenshot of the moment the ball crossed the line (those are my red lines either side of the ball):

I whipped out my pixel-measuring tool (quiet at the back, please), and confirmed what my eye was already telling me. That the ball had crossed the line in the EXACT MIDDLE of the goal, utterly ignoring my input.

My reading on the above screenshot is that it is precisely 242 pixels from the centre of the ball to the outer edge of either post. There is, at most, a +/- discrepancy of 1 pixel either way. With different screen sizes and resolutions, you may have different results. If you have your own pixel-measuring gizmo at hand, knock yourself out. (MeasureIt, a simple plugin available for Firefox and Chrome, is a good ‘un.)

So this bicycle kick, far from filling me with joy and delight as it should have done, actually depressed me and reminded me of one of PES2012’s most unattractive features.

It’s a glaring example of what we have known all along: that PES2012’s shooting, to a large extent, is dictated by the game itself, not by user input.

How many times do you think you’ve planted one in the corner, only to look at the replay and see that it barely cleared the keeper’s central flop, if at all?

How dismal to see goals constantly travelling down the exact gemoetric centre of the goal, as on this occasion, when I know that I’ve aimed to left or right.

I really don’t care about the argument from stats. Or the argument that loads of goals are scored down the middle in real-life. Etc. Etc.

In football games, especially in PES, we’ve got used to being able to aim our shots, within reason. Pointing the analogue stick (or d-pad) at either side of the goal, and seeing the ball rocket into that corner, looks good and FEELS good. I want to keep doing it.

Shooting that is remote-controlled by game-code isn’t what I want to see in a football game. Even if there is some overlap—accidentally or by design—with features of the real game.

‘PES2012’s shooting sucks hairy balls’ isn’t some terrible last-minute revelation. Far from it. It’s a testament to the quality of the rest of PES2012’s gameplay that the annoyance of shooting can be overcome.

For so many players, PES2012’s shooting is its original sin. Of all the players who walked away from PES2012 back in October, what % were largely repelled by the shooting? I’d speculate more than half.

I’m puzzled and disturbed by the contradictory reports we’re hearing of PES2013’s shooting, with many people starting to say that it replicates the issues of PES2012.

I’ve already passed one PES year with wonky shooting. I would like to regard PES2012’s central/wrong-side shooting issues as a blip, not as the new norm. I really don’t know how keen I’d be to play another year with this uninspiring, unintuitive, unPESlike shooting.

Finale

Going into the last stages of season 8 in Master League 2012, the situation was simple. With 6 matches left, such was the position:

I had set myself the goal of finishing in the Champions League places.

If I accomplished that, I would happily play on into season 9—and possibly beyond.

If I didn’t, I would set PES2012 aside for now, and turn to FIFA12.

This is just how it was. I won’t bother rehashing the various fine-grained arguments for and against. It’s all laid out in my posts on the blog for the past month or two.

These were my last 6 fixtures:

NORWICH (H)
WOLVES (A)
MAN CITY (H)
CHELSEA (A)
MAN UTD (H)
MIDDLESBROUGH (H)

Ouch. That middle clump featuring Man City, Chelsea, and Man Utd on the bounce made me nervous. But what do we play football games for? Surely it’s to have a sense of occasion, of playing for big stakes. It’s what makes football games great. Big matches that mean a lot are what Master League, in particular, has always been about.

So I was excited about the challenging nature of it all. And determined to stick to my pledge. No Champions League, no more PES2012 for a while.

COVENTRY 0-0 NORWICH

A terrible, tight, cramped performance. I had 65% possession, made a dozen chances, half of them clear-cut chances. No goals. Two were gilt-edged, clear-cut chances that there was no earthly reason for not scoring. I aimed ridiculously wide, almost to the corner flags. The ball went straight at the keeper.

WOLVES 1-3 COVENTRY

The opposite of the previous match in many ways. I was 1-0 down at half-time, but staged a Barnes-storming comeback in the second. That’s a pun on the name of my key LMF, John Barnes. I said Barnes-storming instead of barnstorming

John Barnes inspired the fightback, laying on two goals and scoring one himself. This match saw the best of PES2012. And its worst, again: I could and should have had 5 goals, but no, it wasn’t allowed.

COVENTRY 0-1 MAN CITY

A total calamity against my nearest rivals for a top 4 finish. The game was heading for a 0-0 and I was grudgingly accepting it, knowing that a point would still gave me the edge. Then, late on, a routine pass out of defence saw my veteran CB, Ruggeri, take a monstrously heavy first touch on the ball for no reason whatsoever. Tevez—playing again for this Man City, at least—nicked the ball and scored. After this match the table looked like this:

3 matches to play. My goal difference now was as good as being a point behind. Not good at all.

COVENTRY 0-3 CHELSEA

A thumping defeat. I played badly for this one, no complaints. Everything that you shouldn’t do in this iteration of PES against this AI, I did.

I over-committed players in attack. I was impatient and impetuous in defence. Chelsea could have had 6.

After the match I checked the results. Man City had only drawn their game. They were now 1 point ahead of me. Not ideal, but as often strangely happens in Master League, I was still in the hunt. The quest was still on.

MAN UTD 3-0 COVENTRY

Another heavy defeat by the same scoreline, and this time I could legitimately grumble about a couple of things.

Early on I had two one-on-ones where the shot went straight at the keeper. Then Man Utd scored a good goal to take the lead.

At 1-0 down I still played superbly, if I may say so myself. In the second half I dominated play. I was holding off the Man Utd attack with relative ease. It seemed an equaliser was inevitable. It was going to happen. I had Merson-style unbelievable belief…

Then this happened:

Between the moment when my keeper patted the first shot away, to the moment the ball crossed the line, I had no control over any player.

My defender’s bumbling touches were automatic.

My keeper’s atrocious touch that carried the ball over the line was automatic.

I think his belated clearance was my work (I was twatting the circle button at the time), but can’t be sure.

At 2-0 down my belief departed, but I kept going. You never know. I had a few half-chances, then conceded the third goal in the 92nd minute.

Afterwards, I looked at the table.

Man City had won their match and were now firmly ensconced in 4th place—4 points clear of me, with one match remaining.

It was now impossble for me to finish in the Champions League places, and that was the end of PES2012.

COVENTRY 3-1 MIDDLESBROUGH

The last match of the season. A hat-trick from van Basten. An enjoyable match. Too late.

Here is the final table for season 8:

And with that, PES2012 goes on the back-burner. It doesn’t have to, of course. I’m a big lad now. I can stay up late if I want. I don’t have to eat my vegetables if I don’t want. I can go on playing PES2012 if I want.

But as these 6 games showed me in various ways, it’s probably best that I depart the scene while I still have more than a modicum of respect for the game.

I do not rule out a return later in the year. Heck, I don’t rule out a return next week. There are no guarantees that I’ll take to playing FIFA12 full-time. FIFA09 was the last time I found a next-gen FIFA to be playable for very long.

After my PES2012 session was over, I backed up my Master League savegame to USB for safekeeping, and uploaded it to Dropbox for extra-safe safekeeping. I removed the DVD from the PS3 and put it back in its case for the first time since October.

Then I booted up FIFA12 for the first time in a week. All being well, this should be my football game for the near future.

How will I take to it after all the PES2012 hours? Will the new-look Career Mode grip me as it has gripped others?

I played one match in my existing Career Mode save, as Coventry City. (I will not be playing on with this save. I’ll be starting over, from scratch.)

The match in question was a pre-season friendly against Catania. And whom should I see on the pitch but a dear old friend from PES2010.

A good omen, I hope.

To the retirement home

Gary Twigg, a key player in my early seasons in PES2012’s Master League, has now retired at the end of season 8.

I think he only played in one game all season prior to the final fixture, when I picked him for sentimentality’s sake.

Pictured on the right is the team that took to the field for that final game. Falcao was suspended and Gillet (my top-rated keeper) was injured. I lost 1-3, at home, to Sunderland (who played like Barcelona, of course).

On show is my new-look 4-4-2 formation. The game thinks it’s a 4-2-3-1 but in this, as in so many other regards, the game is wrong.

I was using a 4-5-1 for most of the past season and a half or so. It proved more effective defensively, but was very stingy on the scoring-goals front. In PES2012, the most anti-shooting PES ever, that’s not something I could live with for long. So I’m trying a 4-4-2 as an experiment. It’s early days, but the goals are flowing slightly more freely.

I subbed Twigg early in the second half, and he came off to great acclaim. In his day he was a fearsome lower-league striker. In years to come, I’ll always remember Twigg. Even if PES2012, as a game, ends up largely forgotten.

(Here it’s worth nodding with respect at the great work done by the goalgerd/chimps option file, which I have been using from the start of this ML career. Twigg, as a lower-middle ranking striker, is a wholly successful creation of that option file. He’s not in the vanilla setup.)

I had a bad few days with PES2012 in the last stages of season 8. Really, really bad. Most matches felt like big matches, as I tried to secure at least a Europea League place. But time and again after making great chances, my players kept shooting straight at the damn keeper, despite me almost aiming for the corner flags. I finished 8th in the table.

Now that I have a superb team in just about every area, I expect to be able to do the simple, basic, unremarkable things without any fuss.

I believe my players should be capable of shooting in chosen directions, to the left and right of the keeper, consistent with my aim, taking stats and context into account in a reasonable fashion, as was always the case in ISS and PES for 15 years or more.

They changed the shooting rules for PES2012, and by doing so created yet more shades of disaffection in the long-suffering PES fanbase. I won’t rehash the shooting issue again here. PES2012’s shooting is the worst shooting I have ever come across in any football game, ever. If you’re playing PES2012 and have literally no idea what I’m talking about, we’re not playing the same game.

I still love PES2012’s general gameplay. The compulsive, immersive, intricate ebb and flow is still there after all these years. The nuances. The subtleties. It might be old hat to many, but I still love it. If that makes me crazy, crazy is what I am.

Master League helps, of course. That’s quite an understatement, of course. If it wasn’t for Master League, would I have persevered with PES2012—and that shooting—for longer than a few weeks at best? No, is the simple and truthful answer.

Master League is why I go on. 200 hours is a substantial investment. I want to see a return on it. I continue for the sake of the story.

And I also continue because, in certain situations, the shooting does work. I love moments like the below. The corner-taker at the start of today’s goal is a certain Georghe Hagi…

Here’s the final season 8 league table:

And also, out of interest, the final top scorers table:

Van Basten finished the season on fire with 6 goals in 3 matches. That superman of PES2012, Andy Carroll, pipped him at the post. I was more gutted about missing out on a Golden Boot for van Basten than I was about my team finishing outside the top 6.

For what it’s worth, I plan to go on. Having a trusty few days off always helps. I’m doing that now. I’m playing some other (non-football) games. I’m reading some books. I’m watching some films. I’ll get back on the footy game horse in good time.

Score and underscore

Season 8 is winding to a close. I might be able to hold on for a top 7 finish. Sadly, a top 4 finish—and Champions League football—is probably out of reach.

At the time of writing I’m still in the Europa League tournament. I made it out of the qualifying group and then to the Quarter Finals. Where I came up against Benfica, who played in the first leg like the most amazing football team you’ve ever seen in your life, anywhere. They thumped me 3-0. I haven’t played the second leg, at our place, yet. I’ll be hoping for an early goal, suffice to say.

The main problem for me on Professional difficulty is the scoring of goals. I dominate most matches. I usually have double the number of shots on goal than my opponents manage. But only very rarely do I score more than one goal per match. In too many, I score none.

It’s a peculiar situation. Even more so because my teams’s top scorer is also the Premier League’s current top scorer. With about 5 matches left of the league season, this is what the top scorers’ chart looks like:

Marco van Basten plays up front on his own for me, as the sole central striker in a 4-5-1 formation. My goal-scoring trouble was just the same when I played 4-3-3, don’t worry. When I switched to 4-5-1 it was all about reducing the amount of goals I conceded—which it did do. Hence my current relatively high league position.

It’s pretty significant that I have no other players in the top 16 of the top scorers’ list. Goals do come from Hagi and Barnes and Doolin. My young Regens, Forlan and Raul, chip in with one here and another there. Stoichkov scores hardly any and may have to be sold at season’s end.

I feel like another try at making a 4-4-2 work. With a few more goals, I could really start to get things done in this Master League. If, as seems probable, I do miss out on Champs League footy next season, it means at least another season after that before the Treble is a possibility. I’d like to bring PES2012 to a graceful end sooner rather than later, while I do still have considerable respect for the game.

This is one of my shorter posts today. I’ve spent lots of time on old-school PES over the past week. I’ve been trying to jog my memory of yesteryear, for the sake of the book. Shockingly, I discovered that I have fewer specific memories of the ISS and early PES games than I thought I’d have. It’s not until around PES4 that I start to have detailed recollection. So I’ve been spending lots of time trying to make up the memory gap. It’s been very enjoyable, and very sobering in some ways.

Monday should see me complete season 8 of this PES2012 ML career. I’ll pass through the full transfer window, where I hope to make some big changes to the team. A top keeper would be nice. And finding another van Basten would be even better.

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