Category: Xbox360

The turning points

September the 1st tomorrow. Which means the end of summer is just around the corner, if not already here.

This precise time of the football gaming year always feels a little unreal. The next games (if we include FIFA, and I think we must) are just around the corner. The demos are either out or soon to be out. Preview code and review code is in the hands of various sources.

It’s precisely now that you start to get a real idea of what’s ahead, and also to take serious stock of what’s behind.

The forums are full of technical talk that’s a long way outside my expertise. I’m sure that the participants do know what they’re talking about when they’re analysing individual frames of animation and everything else. It all sounds very interesting, but even if I had the inclination to immerse myself in that side of things, there’s no time.

I’ve not been playing the PES2012 demo. I haven’t even downloaded the expanded PC version of the demo, the one that introduces all the other teams and match times. I will. I just haven’t had the time to do so yet.

I’ve been focusing on PES6(360). Those brackets with 360 in them are very, very important. They signify an utterly different game from the one that appeared on PS2, Xbox, PC, and PSP.

As I’ve remarked once or twice, I believe that last-gen PES6 marked the beginning of the series’ downward curve. Oh, the game was still right up there on the high part of the curve, no question. Any serious historian of PES would have to acknowledge last-gen PES6 as one of the great football games. But I just felt that last-gen PES6 was faster, more ‘arcadey’, and notably easier than its predecessors. It seemed to be the moment that PES started its journey down from the lofty heights.

PES6(360) is a different game—a better game—that just happens to share the name. Over the past three or four days I’ve played every day for an hour or two.

PES6(360) represents a good deal of unfinished business for me. Since I started playing this series a decade ago, there are only two PES games whose Master Leagues I have never ‘completed’ (i.e., won a Treble in—or at the very least a Division 1 title).

They are PES2011, which I stopped playing because of certain atrocious gameplay elements that I could no longer tolerate.

The other is PES6(360), which has no such gameplay problems in my estimation. The gameplay is sublime, some of the best pure PES gameplay ever seen, particularly on a next-gen console.

The reason I’ve never ‘completed’ a PES6(360) ML is because I missed out on it during its original year. Didn’t have a 360 back then. I have only ever played it for a month or two during summer over the past three years.

Progress has been stop-start, it’s fair to say.

But here’s where I am today with my team, PES United (there’s no team name editing in PES6(360)):

The in-game year is 2015. As can be seen, I am closing in on the D1 title. My team is 2 points clear with 2 matches left in the season. I would love to win this title.

Sadly, I’m out of the Cups, so there’s no chance of a Double or Treble. Realistically I doubt I’ll have time to play another full season before the second PES2012 demo and the FIFA12 demo both show up.

Back along the road not taken

I’ve got a bad habit. No, I’m not talking about playing loads of different football games at random, never settling down for long… Although I currently have that bad habit too. I hope PES2012 (or even FIFA12) will help me address it.

The bad habit I’m talking about is, I think, a common one to gamers. It happens when you’re changing game discs, and you put the previous game disc in the next game’s box. Over time, you end up with so many discs in so many wrong boxes that it’a major operation to put it all right again. You can end up ‘losing’ discs for a long time in all the box-hopping confusion.

I have an additional bad habit of piling up two or even three discs per wrong box. Years can pass before some games return to the light of day again, stuck in unbelievably obscure places.

Yesterday morning I went looking for my copy of FIFA11. I plan to play it for at least a week pretty soon, so I can give it a proper end-of-year review.

The first place I looked for FIFA11 was, of course, the FIFA11 DVD box—gathering dust along with so many other games. (Work is the curse of the gaming class.)

However, inside the FIFA11 box was my copy of PES6(360). Which meant I’d probably find FIFA11 in the PES6(360) box. But I hesitated. Hmmm, I thought. How about some PES6 on the 360…

Long story short: I put the PES6(360) disc into the console instead. I played a good long two-hour session (Mondays are days off for me). How would the game feel?

Pretty bloody great, actually. Spookily like WE9LE in the general rhythms and handling. A bit like PES2011 with the annoying AI pressure and the measured approach you have to take.

But most of all, PES6(360) felt like itself. Time and again I have to reflect on the road not taken with PES6 on the 360, Konami’s first—and arguably best—stab at translating PES gameplay on a next-gen console.

Konami got it right with PES6(360). Then they floundered around for the next 5 years (and counting) in search of something they’d never really lost.

Why is PES6(360) so great? Why has it endured in my esteem?

It does the simple thing well: it plays football. It plays PES-flavoured football. Everything else is just an add-on. Not that there is much of anything else in PES6(360). It barely has more than the gameplay itself. And that’s enough.

Take this goal for example—scored by that stalwart striker, Kim Cyun Hi:

Nothing special, really. It’s a delicate sidefoot past the keeper. It’s always nice to score one that grazes the post.

But scoring this goal felt special. Okay, so it was contextually important, a winning goal in a tight league match. (My team, PES United, are 7th in a tough Division 1. No chance of the title, but I’d like to finish in the European spots.)

Analysis of something so subjective is a risky business, but this is why I think this goal felt so much more satisfying than the typical next-gen effort:

I think it was the pleasure of playing a through-ball that worked, and then deciding to take the ball slightly wide and seeing it work, and then deciding to try to dink it past the keeper (instead of chipping or blasting), and seeing that work too. In short, the three major decisions of the move—through-ball, taking it wide, trying a dink shot—were all in my hands, and could all be made to work.

That basic level of decision-making is suffocated by PES2011 far too often. It’s a key component of classico PES, which I suppose PES6(360) was and is still representative of.

What’ll I be playing from now on? I don’t know, truthfully. Wouldn’t like to speculate. I played PES6(360) again this morning, just before typing this, and enjoyed myself hugely once again. I might get to FIFA11 tomorrow. Or I might not.

The nine lives of PES2011

For the past few weeks I have been having regular, guilty sessions on PES2011—and enjoying them hugely. Replaying all my football games—for the book’s sake—has drawn me back to PES2011 with a refreshed eye. I’ve liked what I’ve (re)discovered so far. God help me.

I’ve hinted at PES2011’s renewed life on the blog and in comments, but it was too early to come right out and say it. I had to be sure. Now it’s time to come clean.

I’ll admit to being influenced by the community on this. The forums are still full of those for whom PES2011 is one of the great PES games, despite its problems. Several commenters on this blog who are still playing and loving the game have also given me pause for thought. And my options in other areas may be shrinking.

I think WE9LE’s Master League is sadly on the point of falling apart. The gameplay patch is currently very multiplayer-oriented, and it shows. If it does fall apart, I’ll start what feels like my 97th ML career of the year on PES2011 on the Xbox360.

Playing WE9LE on the PC has been a problematic experience in any case.

The game itself is superb, albeit hobbled in single-player. The brilliance of the PC platform is its power and versatility. Patching the game is a matter of copy-pasting the right files into the right folders. (A fully patched PES2011 on the PC, incidentally, is a wonderful experience.)

But the PC has to be specially set up and then laboriously brought to life every time I want to play. I leave it in Hibernate mode, so at least the boot-up process isn’t very long.

When it’s finally awake, though, it wants to update everything in sight. Anti-virus updates, Windows Update updates, .NET framework housekeeping…

My main computer is a Mac. The PC is just for gaming. I’m not tempted to go back to the PC for my general computing needs, put it that way.

One day a few weeks ago, the PC decided it wanted to update those .NET repositories, and that it was going to take its sweet time about it, and that it was going to use near enough 100% of CPU as well. I quit the relevant process in Task Manager, but it just restarted itself. WE9LE started up, but ran as if in treacle. Heavy, thick treacle.

I left the PC alone to get on with its bullshit, and booted up the 360 instead. The PES2011 DVD was still inside. The Umpteenth Coming of PES2011 all re-started from there, really.

I’ve played PES2011 almost every day since, sometimes just for 20 minutes, sometimes for a couple of hours. After all the stick I’ve given it, it’s drawn me back in.

I haven’t gone back to either of my old Master League saves on the PS3. I’ve just been playing Champions League tournaments on the Xbox360 instead. (How weird is it that there are PS3 advertising boards in the 360 version (see picture at top)? How could Microsoft allow that?!)

I play 15-minute matches on Professional difficulty. It’s all been pretty sweet, as I believe the kids still say.

The 360 ‘version’ of the game is installed in full on the console hard drive. Loading times are short or non-existent. The overall experience is a lot better.

I don’t take back a word of my PES2011 criticisms. The stumble animation is despicable and I hate it. I avoid it as much as possible by being very careful in possession and moving the ball around a lot quicker. I just have to accept that in PES2011 you’re not allowed to keep the ball if there’s an opposition player anywhere near you. He’ll most likely take the ball from you and send you stumbling. That’s just one of the ‘rules’ of PES2011.

But many would say PES2010 was packed with issues too, but I loved that game. What I loved most was its Master League, of course. That’s what I hunger for still.

I’m loving PES2011’s passing and shooting. The graphics, the features. I scored a free kick in one of my early Anderlecht CL campaigns. Here is is, one of the very few I’ve scored in PES2011


The Myth of Castello

For the second time I have reached the final of an International Tournament with Slovakia. I’m playing tournaments with a variety of teams, in a game—PES2011—that I have, frankly, come to despise. Stumble. Step-around. Elephant touch. Player selection. That is all.

PES2011’s days are numbered, and this time I don’t think I’ll come crawling back. I’ve got other gaming options now—football and otherwise—of which more later.

I started this would-be sequence of international tournaments with Slovakia, and this was my umpteenth attempt. I haven’t kept count, but I’d estimate this was attempt #15.

For this attempt, I hopped over to the PS3, complete with its option file. As regular readers will know, a few weeks ago I picked up a copy of PES2011 for the Xbox360, knowing that it was exactly the same game. Like so many PES fans wandering the wilderness, I was delusional. I made myself believe in the hair’s-breadth of a possibility that the other console’s PES2011 might actually prove to be a different version, with none of the gameplay features that I loathe so much.

PES2011 is the same game on PS3 and 360. End of. I repudiate all beliefs and anecdotal evidence to the contrary.

In my latest tournament the gameplay was really shocking. A lot of the time I sincerely believe that PES2011 is the most awkward, stumbliest, crappest football game ever made. Worse than PES2008(PS3) at its worst. Oh yes, I’m going there.

I got out of the group, slogged my way through the following rounds, and saw that Germany were my opponents in the Final.

It was as tough as my last Final against Spain—tight, dour, and I was always up against it, as you would expect.

They went 1-0 up after 50 minutes, and to be honest I really thought that would be it. The time limped on and nothing was happening for me. In the last five minutes I went 3-4-3, then subbed my entire knackered front 3. Time for one last mighty effort.

With a minute left, 30 yards out, I squared the ball to that hero of Slovakia, a great midfielder called Welden, and aimed for the top corner. It flew in. 1-1. Extra time.

I hit the post in extra time, and enjoyed a lively spell of pressure that seemed certain to yield the winning goal, but somehow never did. There was a grim inevitability about penalties against Germany, and so they came.

I scored my first two. So did Germany. I’m good at saving penalties in PES2011 and dived the right way for both, but the ball squirmed in. I was playing with a blue-arrowed keeper, and this was some of PES’s legendary stats-modelling, I’m sure. No real complaints.

I missed my third penalty, and Germany scored theirs. I scored my fourth, but it was moot as Germany slammed home the deciding penalty, and that was that.

Another final lost. Gutted.

Will there be another attempt? Maybe, but probably not.

I’ve been off work for the past week, supposedly to work on a university assignment. I haven’t bothered with that yet (I’ve got two days left—it’ll be fine…).

Instead I have turned my attention to the gaming laptop that I bought last year. PC gaming could be the future for me, you know. Just an inkling I have.

Do you know there are still hundreds of people playing CounterStrike, at all hours of the day and night? It’s 5 years or so since I was a regular player but I can still remember my way around the maps. I’m still rubbish, too. If I get 1 kill it’s a good round.

I’ve caught up with Mount and Blade, a fantastic indie game that has become an established name over the past three years. It’s like a first-person Total War with beefy strategy/RPG elements. I played for 10 hours like a true noob, wandering around the world with no men, no weapons, and frequently no shirt on.

Once I knew what I was doing I started again with a new character—who bears a grand old Pro Evo name…

I haven’t got time to waste on games that I don’t really want to play—games that I’m only playing out of habit, because there’s nothing else on.

There are other football games available, including the greatest football game ever made in my view: PES5.

Over the past week I’ve been playing the PC version of PES5. Probably about 20 matches all told. I like to play a few either side of a Mount and Blade session.

The only thing I’ve got against PES5 now is that it’s fast. Too fast for my taste nowadays. But for that speed issue, I’d already be playing a PES5(PC) Master League right now. I’m trying to get used to the speed before taking that step.

At the time of writing—Sunday evening—I don’t know what Wednesday’s post will be about. The chances of it being about PES2011 are very slim, but not impossible. Never underestimate the power of convenience, which is what has kept me going for so long despite my overall disgust with the game.