Stand by your PES, man

Another Sunday, and another quick look at how I’m getting on with any other football games that I might have played recently.

My newfound love for PES2008 in the guise of its PSP/PS2 version (*hawks and spits at the very thought of the next-gen version*) has led to a few casualties among my other games. Well, casualties is a slightly exaggerated way of putting it. ‘Games that I’ve stopped playing’ is what I mean.

I’ve got about a dozen great games on the backburner. I’ve got about another dozen very good games on top of that. I’m a games hoarder. Just looking through my drawer here, there’s a copy of Homeworld2 that I bought when it came out over 4 years ago. I still haven’t found the time to play it.

I’ve had an Xbox360 for a couple of months. Halo3 and Assassin’s Creed still haven’t seen any action for longer than about 30 minutes apiece. It’s almost criminal of me, I know. PES really does edge out everything else.

I’m most concerned about the PSP games that I’ve played a lot in the past but abruptly abandoned as soon as last-gen PES2008 came into and then took over my life. Disgaea in particular is one that I’ll really have to get back into soon. Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops. Patapon. The list goes on.

But the foremost casualty has got to be FIFA08 on the PS3. EA’s remarkable football sim has been hit by a double-whammy: last-gen PES2008 is great, and the UEFA2008 demo has just come out. I’ve played UEFA2008 a lot this week, and now FIFA08 just feels wrong.

I played three games of my ongoing Dagenham & Redbridge career. I’m second in League 1and an almost certainty for promotion to the Championship at the end of the season. Within three seasons I should have Dag & Red in Europe.

I should be utterly transfixed by it all and, to be fair to FIFA08, a couple of months ago I was transfixed. I’ve been pretty open on this blog about something that most PES fans have found to be quite shameful to acknowledge: FIFA is pretty damn good on the next-gen consoles. It was and is a truly scary proposition.

But time passes and attitudes can change—in both directions (eh, Seabass?).

Suddenly, FIFA08 doesn’t seem so good. I pushed my players around the pitch rather listlessly. The scripting in FIFA08 now seems very obvious and very annoying. Scripting, for me, is when the game initiates any sequence of play that is predetermined. It’s most overt when the CPU decides to keep the ball and you just can’t get it off them whatever you do. Even if you make up your mind to foul them, they’ll know when to jink sideways, when to accelerate, when to stop, when to change direction. You can’t catch them. They’re demons in the corners of the pitch in particular, always getting their crosses in. Scripting in FIFA08 is a reality. It’s just different from PES scripting, is all.

UEFA2008 could be a very early glimpse of what EA has in store for us with FIFA09. Most striking is the camera: it’s the first true Wide camera in a next-gen football game. It’s disconcerting at first, and after half a year of making do with the existing next-gen games’ faux-Wide cameras, you almost think the UEFA2008 camera is pulled too far out. But it’s not too far out. It’s perfect.

Next is the gameplay. It’s a development of FIFA08’s gameplay, I now feel—not a retrograde step as I thought last week. The animations are smoother, the passing crisper. The shooting still feels anti-intuitive to me, but that’s probably the recent weeks of intensive PES2008 playing with my mind.

I won’t be buying UEFA2008. No matter how great its gameplay, I’m not attracted by its Euro2008 tournament setup. I need club football in a football game; international teams are only there for occasional amusement. UEFA2008 is an all-International affair, which is what it’s meant to be, so I can’t complain, really.

Maybe in June or July if I see UEFA2008 in a bargain bin for a tenner then I might be tempted. But otherwise, my next football game purchase will be the other side of the summer, in September. FIFA09 is only five months away. PES2009 is six months away. It’s going to be a tense summer, wondering what the respective studios are up to, although in all but a few cosmetic aspects I’d say both games should be already substantially complete right now.

In other other football game news, I downloaded the FM2008 demo on the Xbox360 but haven’t had time to actually play it. And I finally checked in again to the Beta version of Football Manager Live. After spending almost two weeks absent, I spent 30 minutes tweaking my team. I put some players up for transfer and bought a couple of others. Then I had to go. I didn’t even have time for a quick friendly (we’re between competitive seasons at the moment).

I simply don’t have the time for gaming—really, I’m not joking. I shouldn’t play games at all. I really, really, really have zero spare time. But I make time, I steal time, and I tend to want to use it to play PES. Everything else is just an impostor.