Today was nearly a completely football-game-free post. In fact, I toyed with the idea of there being no post at all.
But this very Wednesday morning, with a spare twenty minutes, I powered up the PS3 and played one match of the game currently in the tray: PES2012. Hurrah!
That’s a picture of Regen Hagi at the top. He’s still only 18, but closing in on 80OVR and starting to develop some ‘whip’ in that left foot.
My current First XI and squad on the left here. It’s a bit threadbare, like this post.
20 players only, now. I had to get rid of Barnes and Sibon and Neeskens and others. Finance reasons.
While walking along the street the other day I had a fantastic idea for a football game in the spirit of New Star Soccer. Like NSS, it’d be browser/smartphone-level only. The idea I had hasn’t been done before, from what I can see. Time to dust down my Sinclair BASIC.
I’m still not greatly attracted to going back to any structured daily football gaming.
I can feel football gaming slipping further away from me day by day.
It could be that what happened to many footy gamers years ago, when PES2008 on next-gen landed with such a sickening thud—i.e., a ‘gradually sudden’ estrangement from football gaming—is happening to me now.
I no longer feel nauseous at the thought of playing a football game. Instead I just feel nothing at all. Neither attraction nor repulsion. I suppose it’s an improvement. Isn’t it?
Not playing has let me see how the other half live—how people who actually get to read books and watch films and play other games that they want to play (currently Civilization, in my case) must feel, i.e. fulfilled and happy that they’ve put their free time to good use.
Perhaps we all have an Expiry date for the things we like to do. A date that we’re ticking inexorably towards every day, like death.
I’ve previously used the example of ‘going out’ (i.e. pubbing and clubbing it).
For most of my late teens and twenties and early thirties, there I was, boozing and carousing with the best of them.
Then suddenly, BLAMMO. Door slammed. No more pubbing and clubbing. Suddenly just didn’t want to go. Had enough of it. Seen and done and felt everything I was ever going to see and do and feel, hundreds if not thousands of times over. Didn’t need it—whatever it was—any more.
Maybe I’ve hit a similar stage in football gaming.
After making 50,000 passes, after scoring 20,000 goals, or whatever it’s all been, maybe my time as a football gamer is simply up.
So I spent most of Sunday morning playing PES2010 and PES2012.
I didn’t have time to write a proper post about it, so here’s a 5-minute video with voiceover from me. All recorded, edited, and uploaded via iMovie on the iPhone.
The audio quality varies throughout. I freestyled the voiceover, starting a new audio track whenever I flubbed. I didn’t work from a script, but I should have done. If I do this again, I will work from a proper script.
For those who can’t access the video, or who can’t quite follow my whispering middle-of-the-Midlands lilt, here’s what happened: I enjoyed both games, with the sense that PES2012 in particular was like opening a favourite old book. Alarmingly, I find myself liking both games and wanting to play both games, which I have always deemed impossible. Or at least so impractical as to make it very unwise. And my conclusion is, as the title says, more study required.
The video barely scratches the surface of the experience. It was a total pleasure to play some of my old ML careers yesterday morning. But I’ll be carrying on with FIFA for now. I’ll be happy to discuss any PES-FIFA stuff in comments.
“Another year flies by,” as Master League would say.
It seems like only yesterday that I was putting together the header image for last year’s blog template. Goodbye, last year’s blog template…
Just a few days to go, and the PES2013 scares and controversies keep on coming. The latest one, which bubbled up over the weekend, is the apparent removal of League Mode from PES2013.
I say ‘apparent’ because there’s some chatter about it possibly being restored via DLC at some point. Which sounds a bit sketchy to me.
Which doesn’t mean it’s impossible, of course. One thing we have learned about Konami in this generation of football games is that they are capable of taking bizarre decisions that make no sense.
PES in this generation is very much like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. You never really know what you’re going to get. Until you get it.
Which is why, for all that I anticipate Magic Master League Bootgate-o-rama (or whatever the hysterical PES forumites are calling it now) being pretty much okay, I still nervously wait to see it in action for myself.
As for League Mode, I’m conflicted. On the one hand, I don’t play it and haven’t played it for 10 years.
League Mode was all I ever played on ISS and early PES games, in the days before Master League established itself.
But on the other hand I agree with the prevailing view on the forums that League Mode’s apparent removal is a disgrace. Such a mode is—or should be—a staple part of any football video game. Only a truly batshit insane football game developer would ever remove a cornerstone of the genre.
Which makes me kind of confident that a DLC solution will happen. We’ll see.
All the fuss made me think about League Mode for the first time in a long time. I decided to give PES2012 one last whirl in my PS3, and have a few matches in a League Mode career.
In truth, I have missed PES2012 a lot since quitting my mammoth Master League career a few weeks ago. So I wanted to take one last look.
I also had another motivation. Having taken a shine to zero-bar passing on the PES2013 demo, I wanted to play with that setting for a longer period back on PES2012. I’m thinking of playing all of PES2013 with zero-bar passing.
I started in Serie A, playing as Fiorentina—a decent middling sort of team, with a few good players.
I set the difficulty on Top Player, and knocked the passing assistance down to 0 bar.
Now, I don’t know if it was the effect of me being away from the game for a few weeks, or the 0-bar passing, or a change of difficulty between mode, or what. Probably a combination of all of ’em.
I found it very hard to make anything happen. I played 5 matches and lost 4, drew 1, scoring only two goals.
Playing with a just-above-average side on PES2012 was very tough. It really brought home to me just how much of an advantage my stellar squad gave me in Master League.
I scored one goal that made me smile and cheer. Great goals in PES make you want to put the controller down and give a round of applause (to the game, not to yourself).
I was struggling to put three passes together, and found myself playing very cautiously, never going for the risky pass. I carved this chance painfully, as if chipping away at a stone block:
After that short session, I took the PES2012 disc out and put it away. Barring a PES2013 catastrophe, I might not ever play it again. Maybe in a year or two when I’m on one of my nostalgia trips.
While I’m here, I’ll just wrap up some other business. It’s a look back at my top 3 goals scored across all of PES2012.
In reverse order:
Goal number 3—FORLAN—a classic PES boomer across the keeper from the corner of the penalty box:
Goal number 2—HAGI—a close contender for number 1, this goal gave me a true scoregasm at the time:
Goal number 1—HAGI—it simply had to be. I only scored a few free-kicks in PES2012. This was the best of them, and also my favourite goal of the whole year:
And with that, I really am done with PES2012. It is now an artifact of the past.
PES2013, your time is at hand. A hungry (next) generation has been waiting for you. Don’t tread us down.
And so it’s time to post my end-of-year review of PES2012. The whole blog over the last year really counts as my review of PES2012. This post is more of a summing up—with an overall out-of-10 score at the end that’s just for fun, mostly.
It’s certainly been an interesting year.
Back in season 2022-2023, in Master League in PES2012, my mature Coventry City side won the FA Cup.
Front and centre is my frizzy-haired captain at the time, Ruggeri. To his right (as we look) is Saviola, a promising young Regen who never quite made it for me. Barnes, an evergreen Classic, is squatting down next to him. And that’s Agostini, dynamic left-back and a World Footballer of the Year, just appearing in shot.
I could name each one of those players and say a little bit about them all. Recall dozens of moments, stories, problems, and niggles. And this was just one example XI, in one squad, across 18 seasons, played over 430+ hours, between October last year and September this year.
It’s in the very nature of Master League that it worms its way into your life. Its ups and downs become an integrated part of your daily existence for the whole time that you play it. Moments stay in your memory, some for months, others for years, a few forever.
Here’s what I said about PES2012 on Day 1, October 13th, 2011:
As I was removing the shrinkwrap, I realised something very special: PES2012 is the 5th iteration of Pro Evolution Soccer on PlayStation3.
The 5th PES on PS2 was PES5…
Which means that PES2012 has got to be the PS3′s PES5.
No pressure on the game, then.
I was jesting, but PES2012 turned out to be my first all-year-round PES experience since PES5. When it was great, it was superb, the best since PES5, maybe better. But when it was bad… Hulk smash.
“What about PES2012’s game modes?” I hear you ask. To which I answer: “Oh, we got both kinds: Master, and League.”
Master League and… yeah, the rest of them. My heartfelt apologies to readers who love to play ‘the rest of them’. I know that I can be snootily dismissive of online play in particular, which is beloved of so many veteran PES fans. My lofty disdain is partly exaggerated as a running joke, but partly, yes, I do feel that the online era has been detrimental to PES in many ways. And I hate it. I never play online, you know.
But I don’t have to give equal consideration to game modes, or judge PES2012 by any standard other than the wholly subjective one I create for myself. This is not a general PES gaming website. This is a blog. A personal diary. I don’t have to represent any point of view but my own, and I don’t try to. The blog reflects my own biases and predilections, which might or might not overlap with anybody else’s.
So let’s dive into them.
Master League is what it’s all about for me, and this year’s was a puzzling disappointment in so many aspects. Two leap out: cutscenes and player training.
Training first of all. PES2010, and to a lesser extent PES2011, led me to expect that we would at least keep some hands-on customisation and control of individual players’ training and development.
What did we get? I’m still wondering about that. Whatever it was, individual training was gone. It was abstracted away from our control, modelled on a team-wide basis. I got into the habit of changing training by rotation before every match and never paid any more than the most cursory attention to it. I still don’t understand, really, what it was supposed to be all about.
As for those cutscenes… Once the novelty had worn off, what were they, other than exercise for your thumb between matches?
Yes, PES2012’s was a bare-bones Master League in most aspects. Not even close to being a classic edition of the mode at all. In fact, I’d place it alongside PES2009’s Master League, or maybe even further back in time alongside the PS2 MLs. It really was a huge retrograde step.
Luckily for me, Master League has been bare-bones before, and still been great, thanks to the gameplay.
PES2012’s gameplay started out feeling rather good, until I made it in front of goal. The shooting system was the biggest flaw in an otherwise superb gameplay package.
There were no shooting problems in the demos. Ah, but Konami pulled the old last-minute switcheroo…
Prior to the full game’s release, early adopters told me that PES2012’s shooting model was suspect to say the least. Sometimes, they said, you shoot and the ball goes right down the middle of the goal regardless of your aim. At other times, even worse: the ball goes the opposite way to where you aimed.
Well, I tried to consider how that could be fan-wanked into some kind of acceptability. Complex shooting has always been part of PES’s rich legacy: contextual, stat-based, purposefully inconsistent.
Alas, in PES2012, time and again a highly-skilled player, in plenty of space, with plenty of time, and using his stronger foot, would lamp the ball directly down the keeper’s throat.
A particular disgust would sweep over me when I took a shot and the ball rocketed into the opposite side of the net. I couldn’t even watch the replays of those goals. They weren’t mine. Football gaming supposedly makes you feel part of the action, as if you are the originator. It doesn’t slap you around the face and totally ignore your input for no apparent reason.
I quit the game in February, but came back in March, and made this video to commemorate the occasion:
The shooting is the big negative of PES2012. But the big positive was the overall gameplay—the sense of immersion I felt, season after season, even in the bare-bones Master League. I equipped myself with a squad of big-name, top-rated players. The shooting issue receded into the background (without ever going away).
That period back in March, and the weeks immediately after, were some of the dizziest, most thrilling times on PES I have ever had. PES2012 opened like a flower, the shooting issue at bay. It still annoyed the bejesus out of me, but the overall gameplay was just so absorbing and complex and fascinating. All the things that we have traditionally loved about PES.
Out on the pitch, just passing it around was a total pleasure.
I [am] playing PES and thinking about PES with an intensity and sense of involvement that I haven’t felt for years.
PES2012 was on the upward curve—a curve that eventually levelled off, but never really dipped. Towards the end of my 18 seasons, yes, I felt pretty fatigued with it all. I should probably have quit at least one season earlier than I did.
If not for the shooting, I would be happy to call PES2012 the true spiritual successor to PES5.
But it was damn close. Apart from the shooting mechanic and a poorly-featured Master League, PES2012 had it all.
I have not been able to find where I said it exactly, but I clearly remember vowing that, whatever score I arrived at in my end-of-year review, I would deduct one point from it as a mark of my unhappiness with PES2012’s shooting.
My real final score for PES2012 would be a big fat 9/10. Based on longevity, based on gameplay, based on what it meant to me over the course of the year. It was pretty special
But I want to knock a point off for the shooting.
And that’s the final score I’m going with.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2012: 8/10
For those who are interested, my previous end-of-year reviews went like this: