Back to the Future

Real life—life away from gaming—has intruded once again. Over the past four or five days I haven’t had time to do anything more with my main consoles than look at them longingly, and think of the days when I could (and did) spend 10 hours a day gaming, for days on end. Those days are a long, long, long way behind me now. I suspect that there’s a whole generation of gamers out there in much the same situation as me. Where do all the years go?

Up steps the PSP. Last year I spent several highly enjoyable months playing ‘last-gen’ PES2008 on PSP (and on my backwards-compatible 60GB PS3). For me, that version PES2008 was almost the best football game of the 2007-2008 season. FIFA08 just edged it out, in my opinion (other opinions are available).

Last-gen PES2008 was a great PES game, a classic of the PS2-era PESes. I preferred it to the public’s darling, PES6. I found PES6 rather lacklustre after the pyrotechnics of PES5… But, whoah. This isn’t the time or place to get into another ‘best PES’ discussion.

So last week—I think it was Friday—I found myself once more sitting with my PSP in hand, playing PES2008. I resumed my Coventry City career in Master League. It seems to me that I am always resuming some Coventry City career or other. It’s like one of those recurring archetype things. Yes, I really do need to get out there and try meeting other people/game modes/teams every so often. (Become a Legend here I (be)come…)

It was season 2019 in that PSP ML career. After the first third of the season I was top of the table, but not doing so well in Europe. I’d been away too long. I’d forgotten most of the little tricks and touches that enable you to play any familiar PES like a favourite old fiddle. Somehow I was putting together wins and draws in the league to keep me in the #1 position. But in the Champions League-equivalent I was bottom of my group after two matches and two resounding defeats.

I managed to win the next fixture to give me a fighting chance of qualifying. But then I lost the fourth match, and drew the fifth. I was out of Europe by the close of play of this sequence of matches—which was just last night. Yes, between Friday and Sunday I only had time to play about 8 matches on the PSP. These are lean times indeed in my gaming life

The way old-school PES handles is just sublime. Yes, its engine is open to abuse—more than open to abuse. If the fabled ‘true next-gen’ PES ever does come out, it needs to come out without the defensive ‘squeeze play’ technique, whereby you simply clamp Square+X+Sprint and win the ball back more often that not. It also needs to ditch the transparent scripting of tackles, for example, where you win the ball but your player then pauses for just long enough to allow the same player you tackled to retrieve the ball and race off with it. I also hate to see my players visibly being slowed down to allow loose balls to run out of play for CPU throws and corners. All of these and many more are familiar moans.

Those quibbles, though, are far outweighed by the greatness of old-school PES. If Konami and Seabass (curse him) can somehow, somehow, stitch together a genuine next-gen game engine, and marry it to the intuitive feel of old-school PES, well, that’ll be FIFA knocked into a cocked hat. And not before time.


  1. I managed to get out and buy myself PES2008 on the PSP. Since about a week after I got it my PSP has been sitting just about untouched but with PES2008 now on the cards I’ve gotten right into it. I downloaded an option file and as I felt like a change from the year and years of starting with the defaults, I started up as Wolves in an all English league structure (plus Celtic and Rangers).

    It’s been highly enjoyable, starting with the real players and a much higher wage target ha provided an interesting challenge. My players are all below the ability of the rest of the league but I’ve done pretty well so far. I’m now 3 games from the end of my first season in the 2nd division and have crashed from being 2nd at the mid season break to 6th after a series of snatching draws from the jaws of victory (scripting anyone?)

  2. *sigh* I understand your predicament entirely not_Greg… gone are the days of sitting with mates and playing ISS all day and following that up with an all night shift on Championship Manager. I don’t think the missus would put up with that every other day… neither would the boss

  3. stinger – ahhh, the popular meme of the untouched, dust-gathering PSP… Resist the ‘everybody says it, so it must true’ voices! I still say there’s a lot more to the PSP than its detractors would have you believe. Mind you, I have peculiar taste in games, as the 90+ hours I’ve sunk into Monster Hunter Freedom 2 over the past 18 months would attest. And there’s PES2008, of course—a truly handheld PES game, something we’d all have given a testicle for several years ago. Well, I would have….

    And the ‘macro-scripting’ of the leagues in PES2008, and all the old PESes really, is pretty damn obvious isn’t it? Always has been.

    Chris – I’ve learned to mostly ignore the throbs of regret whenever I look at my stack of unplayed and half-played games. I’ve accepted that it’ll be months, in some cases years, in some cases never, before I get the chance to play them. It’s better that way. One game at a time (sweet Jesus…) is all I’m asking for now.

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