Back on 24th October, the first thing I did when I opened the PES2008 case was remove the manual. Underneath was a leaflet marked: WASTED POTENTIAL? At the time, I thought it was just asking for trouble…
I have now spent 24 hours with the game since Konami released the PlayStation3 patch yesterday.
The pesky framerate jitterbugs that scarred the initial release – the initial release that should never have happened, as the game was unfinished (curse you Seabass!) – have all but gone. The offline game now plays very smoothly most of the time. It’s not perfect, but it is acceptable. This was #1 on my wish-list for the PS3 patch, so I’ll take it and say thank you very much.
Some niggles remain. Most matches still feature the traditional ‘PES prickle’ of slowdown at isolated moments. But this has been present in every version I can remember, especially PES4. What slowdown remains in PES2008 is nowhere near as bad as that.
The Bernebeu and one or two other stadia are still occasionally problematic. I don’t think I’ll ever feel comfortable playing on pitches with concentric circles. The time has come to edit all of those pitches out of my Master League.
So the 99% resolution of the offline slowdown is very welcome. But this has come at a price.
Those clever programmers at Konami seem to have given themselves a leg-up by reducing the game’s graphical quality. Textures are rougher, and the grass on the pitches is less detailed – it looks duller and glassier than ever. Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t think so.
Nothing has been announced by Konami. There is no official word on what the patch has and has not changed. The download was a whopping 130MB – almost a fifth of an average full game – so there’s been some pretty substantial changes. We just don’t know what, exactly. So many people have reported a drop in graphical quality that I think it’s safe to say it’s not just my paranoid and bruised PES-related imagination at work.
Konami has taken with one hand whilst giving with the other. They really did rob Peter to pay Paul.
PES2008’s graphics were already relatively poor when compared to other games on the PS3 – games like Call of Duty 4, Oblivion, FIFA08, and even launch titles like Motorstorm.
Call of Duty 4 features chaotic screens full of true whizz-bang, next-gen action that never lets up, and nary a frame is dropped. It’s a hell of an achievement. Likewise Oblivion and Motorstorm. FIFA08 suffers from odd glitches, but these are so rare that they’re a non-issue for me. Graphically, EA’s football game is a true next-gen experience.
I am not a graphics junky. I have never loved PES for its showstopping graphics – it’s never really had them. Gameplay supersedes graphics when the game’s as good as PES always has been. But I do expect that the graphics should be at least decent. Otherwise, why bother with a next-gen console? Let me rephrase that: why bother with the PlayStation3?
Pre-patch, PES2008’s graphics on the PS3 were decidedly PS2.5. This patch has further degraded them. We’re now looking at PS2.25-style graphics.
It’s not good enough at all.
After I had played several games offline I visited the online section of the Main Menu for the first time. I am not much of an online gamer – PES has always been a solo experience for me – but from time to time I do mingle with those exotic creatures known as ‘people’ on the internet. I was curious.
I’ll get straight to it: the quality of online gameplay on the PS3 is absolutely shocking and unforgivable. Players who instantly teleport from one side of the pitch to the other aren’t even the worst of it. Quite often the ball itself will magically disappear and reappear in ways most strange and unnatural. The action can jump from one moment to several moments later without any warning. During one match I was attacking down the right wing, when there was a momentary flicker on the screen and suddenly my goalkeeper was diving to save the ball down at the other end.
I played around 8 full games. All but one was horrendously unplayable. The one good game was ‘only’ marred by occasional player teleports, which I strangely learned to cope with. I happened to win that game 5-0.
I played as England against Spain. Andrew Johnson was rampant. I was gratified to discover that my offline style of play translated very well into an online match. My opponent didn’t get a single shot on goal. (Possibly he was suffering worse lag than me, but who knows.) I’m only slightly embarrassed to report that I fully exploited my strategy buttons‘ alt formations. My players were always in his way. I ran riot in front of goal.
I could get to like this, I thought. But if the online code is irrevocably broken, and no one knows how to fix it, I won’t be playing online again.
The online session ended as it had mostly gone on – farcically. Playing as Spurs against Arsenal, the game seemed to be doomed from the start, with player teleports galore. Every few seconds the camera would zoom to another area of the pitch, leaving the ball behind. Then I kept seeing the ‘Waiting for another player’ message for several seconds every time the ball was ‘out of play’ (even when the ball was in play, it was effectively out of play, but never mind). After the game had stuck on this message for more than five minutes, I quit in something like disgust and went for my dinner.
Later, I double-checked that my internet connection was still working fine with other PS3 titles in my collection. Warhawk, Motorstorm, FIFA08, and Call of Duty 4 were all working online as they always have done – perfectly. I loaded up PES2008 and went online to see how things were now (this was after midnight) – and it was still a dog’s dinner. If anything, things seemed a little worse than earlier. Sheesh.
But I’m an offline, average, Master League player, so I’m all right, yes? Well, no.
I care about the franchise. I don’t want to see it trashed and trailed through the mud like a common whore. I’m also very keen not to be swindled out of my money by a product that promised next-gen graphics, online play, and a lasting PES experience, and delivered relatively little. I also care how my fellow PES gamers are feeling about the game. We’re a tight community, and my brothers in PES ain’t happy…
What must a very common type of PES player – the type who loves Editing, and loves nothing more than to play online – think of PES2008?
For the first time, I can really understand the anger that is out there amongst the wider PES community. I’m angry too, but I’m less angry now that the offline framerate has been sorted. If I had bought PES2008 primarily to play it online, I’d have been spitting nails during the month since release. After seeing the online game in action, post-patch, I’d be speechless with outright disbelief right now.
At this point, I’m going to execute a rhetorical handbrake turn and re-emphasise what I have stated many time before, here and elsewhere: that I like PES2008. Yes, I like PES2008. I like PES2008 because I’m a Master League player through and through, and I can overlook the game’s graphical shortcomings because I find the gameplay to be satisfying – for now.
Along with everybody else I hate the goalkeepers. I hate the fast pace of the game sometimes (let’s have a FIFA08-style pace for PES2009, eh lads?). I am concerned that I’m suddenly the world’s greatest dribbler after seven years of not being able to dribble at all, but – I like it. It’s still PES, warts and all.
However, for the first time in my entire PES life, I doubt that I’ll still be playing this game regularly in six months’ time. I might not even be playing it regularly in a month‘s time. FIFA08 is burning a hole in my shelf right now. So much about this PES year is unprecedented. Perhaps FIFA08’s serious challenge is the most unprecedented thing of all.
PES2008 on the PlayStation3 is nowhere near being the next-gen game that it should have been. It’s not even halfway there. An offline mode that only just passes muster (after a 130MB patch) simply isn’t enough nowadays. It fails on too many fronts for even a dedicated fanboy like myself to continue making excuses. Wasted potential? I’ll say.