Month: June 2010

A casual gaming weekend

After Friday’s declaration of a final parting of the ways with FIFA10’s Manager Mode, I’ve actually been playing it all weekend. Logic and consistency are not notable features of a regular journal, or blog, as anybody who has kept one or the other will know.

It’s all down to the World Cup and Football Manager 2010. The World Cup has suddenly got very interesting. The games are better and there are endless talking points. Watching the matches on TV and reading about the tournament in newspapers and online is taking up a lot of the time I would ordinarily devote to gaming.

Most of the gaming time left over has been devoted to Football Manager 2010. FM2010 is becoming to me more or less what Master League was a few months ago. An obsession. The other night I caught myself applauding one of my strikers after he tucked away a 1-on-1. I said out loud: “That’s why you’re in the team, son, that’s why you’re in the team…”

I do yearn to start up a Become A Legend career in PES2010. But right now I don’t want to, not with the twin distractions of the World Cup and Football Manager diluting the time and attention I could give to it.

In this context, over the weekend, I just fancied some pick-up-and-play football game action. Manager Mode in FIFA10 seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

It’s a relief to allow myself to like Manager Mode for what it is. It’s a chintzy piece of rubbish, a bauble with about as much substance as a cheese and onion crisp. I played a lot of games one after the other, hardly taking any notice at all of where my team was in the table.

I’m far more interested in the gameplay. I’ve found it very absorbing. FIFA10’s got a wonderful passing game. I don’t care what any FIFA-sceptic says to the contrary. No wonder so many former PES fans who try to come back to PES soon run away shrieking with horror.

I’m scoring a satisfying variety of goals. The old canard about ‘the same type of goal’ is not something I’ve ever really come across in next-gen FIFA. I score a good mixture of close-range shots (1-on-1s and otherwise) and shots from middle-to-long distance outside the box. I can play direct and I can play tippy-tappy Arsenal passing style. It’s good stuff. (Until I get sick of it.)

Granted, I’m still playing on Professional difficulty. I’m also still playing with the water wings of assisted settings—this late in the fooball game year! I should be ashamed of myself. I’ll move the difficulty up and the controls to semi-assisted if I’m still playing in a few days.

The lack of real player individuality is a continuing worry for the next-gen FIFA series. And the sprint-clamping method of retrieving possession from the AI is still a major annoyance. Knowing it’s there means I have to use it, and it’s ridiculously effective. Will the player individuality issue be fixed for FIFA11? Does EA regard the sprint-clamping as a problem? You’ve got to hope so on both counts.

Brief and to the point

I’ve been playing FIFA10’s Be A Pro exclusively—no PES2010 for several days now. I’m still playing Football Manager 2010 and other games, but FIFA10 currently is my only console football game. But that might be going to change. I’ve got my eye on PES2010’s Become a Legend.

Yes, I’m on another backswing in my on-again/off-again relationship with FIFA10. I’ve got to say it again: I love FIFA10’s gameplay, but I don’t love its game modes much.

Manager Mode? I’ve tried. I’ve tried so hard with it. I liked it in FIFA08. I liked it a lot in FIFA09. But it seems that this is the year when I just cannot get anything out of it. It could be due to PES2010’s all-singing, all-dancing Master League, compared to which Manager Mode is like a feeble candle in the full glare of a midday sun. And it could also be that I have simply finally lost all patience with EA’s slovenly efforts after three years of, er, slovenliness.

Manager Mode might as well not even be in FIFA10. I really despise Manager Mode, and when I’m playing it I despise myself for wasting my time with it. I know there are Leagues and Cups in FIFA10, and there is Ultimate Team as well, of course, and online play—so many goodies to be enjoyed, and I know that plenty of people do enjoy them—but I just don’t like any of them.

Perhaps I’m an odd case in the football gaming world. It really is the career mode or nothing for me, on the whole. I’m not one of those football gamers who can play a few Exhibition games a day and be satisfied. Be A Pro has nearly ticked all the boxes for me, but the game world you inhabit whilst playing it is, like Manager Mode, ultimately a hollow shell.

At the time of writing I’ve just finished a pretty enjoyable session of BaP. So I am getting something out of it at least. But it’s not enough. Become a Legend calls.

An unsafe bet

I’ve played a couple of decent sessions in my BaP career on FIFA10. It’s the same career I started a few weeks ago using my Virtual Pro at Coventry City. Since that time, I’ve had a minor rebirth on the Manager Mode front (which is faltering again now, but we’ll see how that ultimately plays out).

When I started playing BaP again I thought it seemed a lot easier than the last time I played it. I was passing much better, getting more shots on target, scoring more goals, and finishing with higher average marks. Then I remembered. I’d switched my controls back to fully Assisted.

Did I switch back to my favourite mixture of semi-assisted and manual settings? No. I was enjoying myself too much for that. I will, at some point, go back to the semi/manual settings. They served me well all last summer in FIFA09. But my several months of PES2010 have somewhat reconditioned me to expect my football game controls to be assisted. It’ll take some time to shake it off.

I’ve spent some more time with Final Fantasy XIII. I’ve still not finished it. I’m bogged down in a late chapter of the game that’s supposed to be good for levelling-up. I could move things along to the latter stages of the game but I don’t want to just yet.

I found an online browser-based golf game called World Tour Golf that’s actually decent, unlike most online golf games. It’s got an unforgiving shot mechanic and the fastest greens I’ve ever come across in a golf game. I’m still playing its single-player game. I haven’t worked up the courage to play online multiplayer yet, partly because I know that when I do, it’ll annoy me. A few years ago I dallied with another online golf game, Shot Online, and was driven close to tears by how long other players would take over their shots.

And then there’s Football Manager 2010. I’ve just bagged a Manager of the Month award there. My team are top of the Championship and it looks—fingers crossed—like promotion is on the cards. Which means I’m already worrying about whether I have the squad to compete in the Premier.

The World Cup continues to impact my desire to play PES/FIFA. It’s not been a good World Cup so far, it has to be said, but it’s still the World Cup. (And you can’t help but notice the omnipresent ‘FIFA’ everywhere. Just a relatively innocent branding exercise, or something else? Could there be remote whispers, somewhere, of a breakaway club/world football federation? It’s happened in other sports.)

It’s the first World Cup since I started doing the blog. Two years ago I put my money on Spain to win Euro 2008, and they came through for me. This time around I’ve put my money on… Holland. I know, it’s a crazy bet (Dirk Kuyt? Dirk Kuyt?!).

Brazil, Argentina, and—once again—Spain would have been safer bets, but their odds were poor from a betting perspective. I like a bet with chance of a good return. The main reason I went for Spain a few years ago were their generous odds at the time. Holland are in a similar position this time around. I’ve put £30 on them to win at 9/1.

I was going to talk about the iPhone/IPod Touch version of PES2010 today, but I haven’t played beyond an exploratory match. It’s the time factor again, and I’m not a fan of touch gaming anyway. But what little I have seen shows a game with the kind of stately, methodical pace that we’ve (mostly) been crying out for since PES6 (IMO) went all arcade-frantic on our collective ass.

There should be more PES2011 news over the course of this week from E3. I’ll try to mention that, and hopefully discuss more about the iPlatform version of PES2010, on Friday’s post. From a PES perspective, these are the long, hazy, strange days of summer, no question about it.

Manager Moan

Is it me, or does the World Cup make football gaming somehow seem less urgent—less relevant? I don’t know exactly what I mean. Possibly I’m less bothered about playing PES2010/FIFA10 because of Football Manager 2010, which I am playing. Oh yes. I’m playing it a lot. When Emile Heskey lumbered through for his one-on-one chance against Tim Howard in the England-USA match on Saturday night, I had two thoughts: he’ll miss was one of them; and the other was I wonder what his Finishing stat is in FM2010? For the record, it’s 12 (out of 20). About right.

I can’t face looking up Robert Green’s stats. I was a goalkeeper myself, a long long time ago now. Oh the horror…

A few weeks ago I said I would refrain from posting about my Football Manager exploits—unless things crossed a certain threshold, which I am very near to now. I’ve got Coventry City to the top of the table after several matches of my second season. My team is now almost entirely my team. Only three or four of the original squad members remain in the First XI. I don’t know what’s sparked me off with this year’s Football Manager. Whatever it is, I’ll probably end up cursing it as the game sinks its fangs deeper into my precious free time.

I am still playing ‘proper’ football games—the sort you pick up a joypad and play, rather than click a mouse on occasionally. And I am flouting one of my own rules again. It’s long been a principle of mine that it’s impossible to play PES and FIFA at the same time. Not literally at the same time, of course. I mean playing them in back-to-back sessions, swapping back and forth between the two. And I stand by this. It might not be impossible, but it is inadvisable if you want to experience the best of both games.

But I’m more or less doing it at the moment. I’m playing a session of PES, then a session of FIFA, then a session of PES… I should probably excommunicate myself or something.

The sessions aren’t long. The multi-hour sessions of winter have shrunk to the one-hour (sometimes half-hour) sessions of summer. For now. I have unfinished business with a certain game called PES6(360). It’s waiting in the wings—waiting for the World Cup to end, and for a few other factors to fall into place—to truly relight my fire.

I’m persisting with FIFA10, and with Manager Mode. It’s a sign of how piss-poor Manager Mode is that I can’t say for sure what my team’s position in the league is right now. And I’ve just had to think for a few seconds about where I am in the season. I think I’m in 7th place in the table, and I’m pretty sure it’s the January transfer window. I have zero interest in looking for new players right now. Until I can afford the super-duper-players, what’s the point?

You’ve got to hand it to EA. Their premier sports title’s career mode is one hell of an anti-achievement. For me the very phrase ‘Manager Mode’ is now synonymous with dreariness and disappointment and dreariness. I said dreariness twice on purpose. Manager Mode should be FIFA’s jewel in the crown. It’s definitely not.

FIFA10 is all about the gameplay. And who says you can’t score goals from outside the box in next-gen FIFA? Actually, I’m not sure that anyone says that any more. I don’t keep up with any of the FIFA forums at all. But, if people do still say it, I score enough to keep me going. I get one or two every session. Not as many as in PES2010, but perhaps that’s a good thing. Here are two from my most recent session:

Link: 2 FIFA10 distance goals

***Late, breaking news***

I’ve got my hands on the iPhone/iPod Touch version of PES2010. I’ll post more about it on Wednesday, but at the moment two things occur to me. Firstly, sports gaming on the i-Platforms will never be comfortable, because touchscreen d-pads and buttons provide no tactile feedback and just get in the way, really. Secondly, at least Konami got the speed of the game right. It’s very slow compared to its bigger siblings. Loving that so far.