I had a long session with the PSP version of PES2008 the other night. What can I say? It was a hot old night, and I didn’t fancy putting my 360 through its paces. The PS3 is a lot happier in the heat, of course, but I can’t face the thought of PES2009 right now. It was nice to just relax with the PSP in my hands, playing a genuinely great game of Pro Evolution Soccer. By the by, I can’t keep saying ‘the PSP version of PES2008’. I’ll be referring to it as PES2008(PSP) from now on.
The year is now 2022 in my Master League career on PES2008(PSP). I have a large squad of 30 players. It’s a squad of uber-galacticos. It’s the most star-studded squad I think I’ve ever had in PES. I’ve got Kaka, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Maldini, Giggs, Lampard, Vieri, Prieto, Bradley, Pirlo, Schwarz, Camacho, Rio Ferdinand, Cech, Buffon, Saviola, Del Piero, Roberto Carlos… These are just the ones I can remember off the top of my head.
I have over 450,000 points in the bank (so I can confirm that you can have more than 99,999 points, oh yes), but no desire to spend any of them. Not with this squad. I was top of the league with four matches left in the 2022 season, and in the final of the Masters Cup.
Valencia were always my strongest challengers in the PES2008(PSP) Master League. They lay in 2nd place, and were my next opponents. Now bear in mind that it’d been about a month since my last game on PES2008(PSP), and I’ve spent most of that month on FIFA09. I thought it was bound to be a bit strange. And it was, at first. I adjusted, and won the match 3-1. And that, I assumed, was that: the title in the bag.
My next match was the final of the Masters Cup against Real Betis. A Regen version of Michael Owen was their lone striker. I won the match easily, 3-0. And then Real Betis were my next opponents in the league. This should have started alarm bells ringing immediately. I lost it 0-1.
My penultimate League opponents were Barcelona, who I’d always found easy prey in PES2008(PSP). Not so now—or was the game up to shenanigans? I had 16 shots on goal and hit the right post, the left post, and the bar, but couldn’t score. Nor could Barca—it ended 0-0. I checked the table heading into my final match against Atletico Madrid and was shocked to find myself in 2nd place with Barcelona top by 2 points. I won the match against Atletico 3-2 (having been down to 10 men), but Barca won their match as well, and took the title.
I wasn’t too downcast. We all know what old-school PES is like. Putting up with bizarre and suspicious turns of events is part of the price of admission. It was an exciting end to the season, and a great way to run my PSP battery all the way down over the space of an hour or so on a hot summer night.
All I can say is, comparing last-gen PES with this-gen PES, where did it all go wrong? And it definitely did go wrong. PES2009 on PS3/360/PC is a decent game, but decent isn’t good enough for PES. If a PES game isn’t great, it’s a failure as a PES game. Good simply isn’t good enough.
What happened to the magic formula? I think they dumbed it down. I think they tried to give PES a bit more of a mass-market appeal. They tried to pinch some of old FIFA’s territory, and things spectacularly backfired. The strategy blew up in their faces—and, sadly, in ours.
Today’s playtest of PES2010 by WENB, PESfan, and selected others is welcome news. It’s unfortunate that the playtest will be wrapped in the swaddling clothes of Non-Disclosure Agreements. We might as well not know that it’s even happening.
Possibly some hints will leak out, though. If PES2010 is a great game, if it’s the major step up that we were all anticipating two years ago, then I don’t think some of the participants will be able to contain their excitement. On the other hand, if PES2010 is, like PES2009, just a good game—just PES2009 with better graphics and a few extra animations—their reactions will be more muted, more controlled, more in the “it was an early build” kind of territory. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out over the weekend.
Of course, they might say nothing at all. Konami will be watching to make sure the NDAs are respected. That’s fair enough. So it may be a few weeks before we know for certain.
For me, PES2010 is the burning question of the summer and of the entire gaming year so far. It’s the franchise’s last chance. It’s now or never. Nothing, and I mean nothing, would give me greater pleasure this year than hearing PES2010 really is a step-change for PES in this generation.
That’s the dream, anyway. And it could happen. Will it happen?