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.
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.
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.