Tag: FIFA08

The history man

0-0 after 0-0. A 1-0 win. A 0-1 defeat. Then back to 0-0 after 0-0… FIFA09 is a strange beast.

At this stage of the football game year I have to say that I don’t like FIFA09 as much as I liked FIFA08. I think 09 lacks one vital ingredient that 08 had in buckets: novelty.

Let’s face it. If the likes of PES2009 (and maybe even PES2008) had appeared out of nowhere, without that decade of ISS and PES history behind them, we’d probably all think they were the greatest football games ever made. But that history does exist, and we do see the so-called next-gen PES games in their proper context, and we have found them wanting. I think some of this same effect is colouring my judgement of FIFA09.

FIFA08 was a surprising leap forward in terms of… What’s the word I’m looking for? Ruggedness, I think, is the word I’m looking for. The game was heavy. The ball was heavy—like a medicine ball at times. When you caught that FIFA08 ball on the volley, you really knew about it. I don’t get the same sense of something sturdy from FIFA09.

Yes, yes, yes. I can appreciate that the well-worn complaint about the ball acting oddly when shooting is due to a dizzying combination of gameplay factors, rather than a fault in the game itself. But the overall effect, the feeling, is of a fault in the game itself. FIFA08’s long-range shooting was better than FIFA09’s. (There. I’ve said it.) Speaking as a football game-player who just loves his long-range shooting, its weirdness in FIFA09 is a serious issue for me.

All of this self-righteous hand-wringing is my roundabout way of saying that I’m in the doldrums with FIFA09 at the moment. I might go back to PES2009—and finally sample its Become a Legend mode—sooner rather than later.

Or I might go back to the PSP version of PES2008, and play that as my main footy game for the rest of the year. Or maybe even FIFA08. I think that I will persevere with FIFA09 for now, though. Like I said last time, playing with the terrible Coventry City squad is a major part of the issue.

FIFA09: The Rebirth?

After securing the Treble in my Master League career on PES2009, I went a week or so without playing any football games at all. This was a huge thing for me. My oft-repeated claim that I play PES every day has sadly become less true over the past year (curse you Seabass), but the daily football game habit is still in my gaming DNA. When I’m playing other, ‘proper’ games, I can’t help but feel that something is missing, particularly as it just takes so long to play them. Football games are particularly well-suited for ‘bite-sized gaming’, as my gaming nowadays most often is.

And so it came to pass that I have played FIFA09 again for the first time in several months. I can clearly remember the day FIFA09 landed on my doorstep last October. I had a day off work and spent several hours playing it. I thought then that it was the best football game I had ever played. Time and familiarity have muted that initial judgement. FIFA09 just has too many niggling faults for it to be judged truly great. Arguably it’s not even better than FIFA08—a view that I sometimes agree with, and sometimes disagree with.

My past few sessions on FIFA09 are threatening to reignite my illicit, steamy love-affair with next-gen FIFA. There’s a simple reason for this. I am not currently playing PES2009. I can’t play both of the games at the same time; I can’t chop and change. I cannot serve two masters. I have to play one of them and just that one, otherwise I will hate the other.

It’s going well. Instead of just playing single matches of FIFA09 here and there and then switching off in bad humour, as I was doing during the ‘PES2009 months’, I’m playing long, open-ended sessions. I’m rediscovering the joy of FIFA. It’s still tempered by the all-too-obvious flaws. The main one for me is the mechanic that allows you to simply clamp two face buttons (X+A on the 360, in the control scheme I use) and optionally squeeze R1 (my sprint button) in order to pressure the CPU ball-carrier and win the ball back. It’s far too effective. I’m not the kind of gamer who can respect a game that has such a cheap-feeling element. However, I have raised the difficulty from Professional to World Class, and this seems to reduce the efficacy of FIFA clamping, as I call it. It’s always been in PES, this damned  clamping, and I find it sad that it’s made the leap over to FIFA. It’s one thing from PES that they shouldn’t have copied.

Anyway, the matches themselves have been intense. I’ve resumed my Atletico Madrid career, which had stop-started its way past the mid-season transfer window in season 2010. I’m second in the table behind Barcelona. I haven’t lost a match all season, but I’ve drawn 9. I’m still in the European Cup after a tricky qualifying group that saw me lose a couple of matches quite badly.

I haven’t scored any great goals yet. None that’re worth uploading to EA Sportsworld and then, through the magic of Internet jiggery-pokery, splashing here for all to see. But they’ll come. I keep hitting the bar and posts with 30-yard screamers. It’s just as hard to creat clear-cut chances in FIFA09 on World Class difficuty as it ever was on FIFA08. That was one of the reasons I loved FIFA08, and one of the reasons why, belatedly, I am learning to like FIFA09 again.

The last days of FIFA08

We break up, we break down; we don’t care if the school falls down. Yes, the nights are drawing in and the ’08 range of football games are in their last days. On Friday I delivered my final verdict on the PS2/PSP version of PES2008. As could only be expected for a game that I played intensively for months, I rated it highly, a solid 9/10.

My other main football game for this year has been EA’s bolt-from-the-blue football game, FIFA08. There are still a significant number of PES fans who insist that it wasn’t and isn’t any good, that it’s just the ‘same old FIFA’ in new clothes. This type of PES fan loves to pretend to think that people who like FIFA08 do so because of its licenses, etc. In too many cases they’re wilfully blinding themselves to the painfully obvious. PES’s long-standing claim to being the most realistic simulation of football on the market has been blown out of the water by FIFA08. Which doesn’t necessarily make it the better game, of course…

This isn’t the place to rehash an unending argument. I came to sum up my year of FIFA08, not detail a war that can be found raging (tiresomely) on a dozen or more websites at any time of the day or night.

FIFA08 is remarkable. It represents a new philosophy in football gaming. It’s as if the team at EA Canada, sick to death of being unfavourably compared to their long-term rival, finally thought: To hell with it, let’s show them what a simulation can really be like. And they went ahead and did it.

With at least slightly mixed results, it has to be said. Because a full-on simulation is not necessarily a great game—as legions of PES fans have expressed in numerous ways on a thousand message boards posts.

Me, I’m on the pro-simulation side of the divide. I’m pro-FIFA nowadays—a massive departure from the past. For me, the all-new FIFA’s simulation angle just works. It does make a great game. It suits my temperament.

Ahhhh… but if I love it so much, why have I spent most of the football game year playing last-gen PES2008? Because I also still love the gameplay that PES has offered me over many years. I like apples and oranges. I’m a player who straddles both camps, who really does want to play on both sides of the (imaginary and rather childish) fence. I’m a double agent.

Next-gen FIFA08 gets 8.5/10 from me. 8 would be too low; 9 would be too high. The game has issues preventing it from being a timeless classic. I’ve always found the shooting to be unpredictably fussy and unsatisfying—although, contrary to popular belief in some PES circles, with practice it is manageable and, in its own way, rewarding.

At times playing FIFA08 I feel curiously detached and uninvolved. But I know what causes this: weirdly, it’s the official licenses. For a decade I’ve played Master League, set in a make-believe PESverse. I’m used to it. Playing FIFA’s ‘real’ leagues with actual teams is unsettling.

Another negative for FIFA08 is a couple of user-interface issues that I find personally infuriating. For one thing: the way you have to manually press down repeatedly to get to the bottom of a list, rather than pressing right once to go straight there: ANNOYING. Also, the lack of replay saves to the console hard drive. Uploading to EA Sportsworld doesn’t work for me and never has. EA Support were useless in resolving the matter. These things might be tiny, inconsequential matters for some; for me, they’re not. The replay thing in particular is a long-standing sore point that I have never got over. I will always resent it.

All of which is more critical of FIFA08 than I think I’ve ever been so far on this blog. I still say that FIFA08 is arguably the most significant football game since the original ISS on the PS1. That game changed the way gamers thought about football games; I believe FIFA08, for all of its much-maligned slow gameplay, has acomplished the same thing. The question now is whether EA are bold enough to forge ahead on the same path, or if they’ll capitulate to the arcade kiddies (we all know who they are) and revert to the FIFA style of old. Time will tell.

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This Thursday will see the release of the demo for FIFA09. After a few months now of ecstatic previews, in recent days a note of caution has been introduced with some relatively lukewarm (but still good) reviews from the mainstream gaming media.

I think it’s a healthy dose of reality. FIFA09 is not going to be a perfect football game, and we shouldn’t want it to be. What else would there be to look forward to?

It’s still going to be bloody great, though, and I’ll be up bright and early on Thursday to grab the FIFA09 demo before the masses get there, while the download speeds are still high. (I have an awful feeling that the masses—curse them!—will be thinking the same thing). I have high, but not astronomic, expectations for FIFA09. I doubt I’ll be disappointed. I’ll post a special, short ‘First Impressions’ post on Thursday night after hopefully a few hours on the demo. And then the countdown to the full game’s release on October 5th can begin.

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Before we get to Thursday, though, I do have one more post to come. On Tuesday (maybe Wednesday) I’ll have a very special post about my experiences over the past few days of playing one other football game. The game? PES2008 on the PS3. Yes, I went back. Just for fun, you understand. Just to see.

Vertical longing

I’ll get straight to it. In times of yore, the Vertical Long camera provided a zoomed-out viewpoint from behind your goal for the whole of a match. But we haven’t seen what I regard as a ‘proper’ Vertical Long camera in PES for over a decade now. In every version since ISS98, the Vertical Long camera has forced you to play ‘downscreen’ for one half of a match. And I hate playing downscreen in a Vertical view. So I’ve stuck entirely with the default horizontal Wide view for a decade—and now I want my old Vertical Long camera back.

I want PES2009 to have a Vertical Long camera that allows me to play ‘upscreen’ in both halves. I think I remember reading a month or so ago that the game will permit this feature for the first time in a decade. I keep wondering if it’s true, and hoping.

The 2009 batch of football games are so close that I really don’t think I can function properly until I get my hands on them. The FIFA09 demo will be available a week tomorrow; the full game is only a month away. PES2009 (and its demo) is now only 6 weeks away. Or 7 weeks—it all depends what release date you believe.

I don’t know whether I am coming or going. It’s all producing some strange symptoms…

The other day I spent an hour in town walking between various shops, hunting for a PS1 copy of ISS98. I didn’t find it. I could easily get it from eBay, but I think I’ll just leave it now. I’ll hang on for FIFA09. And I suspect that it’s only a matter of time before ISS98 (or any one of those early ISS titles) pops up as a PSP download on the PlayStation Network. In which case I would be at the front of the queue.

I’ve mentioned on several occasions that ISS98 is one of my favourite versions of ISS/PES. ISS98 was the one with Fabrizio Ravanelli and Paul Ince eyeballing one another on the cover. Back in 1998 I played it almost into the ground on my old PlayStation—whilst wearing short trousers… (Not really. I was twenty-something in 1998, but it was so long ago now that it feels as if I should have been wearing short trousers.)

No doubt the mists of memory are being kinder to ISS98 than it deserves. No doubt I’ll reel in horror, if/when I ever get to play it again.

Ah, but it had that 100%, ‘proper’ Vertical Long camera… If it is indeed back for PES2009 then I can see me and Pro Evo getting very cosy together again. There’s something about playing vertically, directly attacking a goal ‘upscreen’ that makes an already immersive game even more so. Shooting in particular when using a Vertical camera is extremely satisfying. Aiming is so much more intuitive.

If anyone has any concrete information about the Vertical camera in PES2009, I’d love to hear about it. Remember that it has to point towards the opponent’s goal in both halves. Otherwise, I’m not interested.

I doubt that any of the early playtesters—at Leipzig and elsewhere—took the trouble to test all the camera modes. Even if they did, I bet none of them played with the Vertical Long camera. And even if they did, I bet they never used it for the whole match. When the big PES websites—PESfan, WENB, that lot—start getting their promo copies of the game, I’ll post a question for them. But will I get my question answered? Those Q&A threads are nightmarishly fast and furious. I think I’ll end up finding this one out for myself.

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In my next post I’ll be bringing down the curtain on the game that has occupied most of my football game year. I’m talking about the PS2/PSP version of PES2008. Old faithful.

FIFA08 ran it close. I have played loads of FIFA08, more now than ever. But that shabby, classico version of PES2008 just edges it in terms of hours played. And I owe it a special post to discuss my current state of play, what I think of it overall as a PES game, and whether or not I will continue my ML career on the PSP version over the coming year.

On my next FIFA Sunday I’ll also be doing a similar summing-it-all-up post about FIFA08. That game has been another faithful servant in this grim year for PES fans.