The nights starting to get lighter traditionally sees me starting to play other games, and this year is no exception. I have a new gaming passion, and there’s not a football in sight. The game in question is XCOM2. It’s shaping up to be one of the greatest strategy games I have ever played, and I’ve played a few.
The pleasure of a challenging, difficult game is what motivates my love of football gaming, and is what’s sent me to PES2014 currently. A high difficulty curve is intensely pleasurable – barely half an hour into XCOM2, a time when most strategy games are still holding your hand, my starting XCOM squad was completely wiped out. This is the pain I need in a strategy game.
The Soviet-style screenshot above is one of a collection of themed images that appear on XCOM2’s loading screens, meant to evoke the shiny dystopia of human society under the alien jackboot. It’s one example of the attention to detail and atmosphere that characterises greatness in gaming.
It feels good to have another game to play in parallel with my football gaming. It prevents the feeling of suffocation that sometimes overcomes even the most committed football gamer.
Back on the ranch, PES2014 season 8 is proceeding at a slightly slower pace, given the time I’m spending on XCOM2.
Here is the table after 12 matches:
I’ll do very, very well to mount any kind of title challenge from this far back. It looks like Season 8 will be another tussle for the top 4, which is within reach. Top-4 was my target at the start of the season. I’ll continue plugging away.
Master League famously allows chasing teams to pull close if they can string together enough results, but closing what is already a 15-point gap on the top spot against a rampant Man Utd will be a tall order.
At the time this game was published the Red Devils in real life had yet to start their current, ’80s-Liverpool-like swan-dive into relative mediocrity. So they’re tough as old boots to play against in PES2014. Not as tough as the typical XCOM2 mission, but getting there.
I’m top of my group in the Europa League after 2 matches. Tempting fate, I’ll say qualification for the Round of 32 is a formality.
Nothing’s really changed for me in gameplay terms. The overall experience is still of the most satisfying simulation-oriented PES gameplay that we’ve seen in many a year.
Fouls are here in their proper proportion. I firmly believe that we will never see AI fouls in single-player football gaming ever again, beyond the token one or two every so often. Over the last few years, EA and Konami have both clearly signalled their intentions on that front. So I’m enjoying the experience of playing a football game in which play is often broken up by free kicks. Imagine that! The game even dares to be quite dull sometimes. Imagine that!
I have tinkered with the camera in an effort to get more of a handle on the slow midfield play that sometimes bogs the game down. (What a condemnation of the direction PES has taken, that the ball often being ‘bogged down’ in midfield play is something of a novelty. Olympus truly has fallen.)
I played a few matches with the Blimp camera for the first time. It’s decent, and gives you a good sighting of all your other players, but the distance from the action overall makes things feel curiously remote. You need to be closer – I do, anyway.
So I went back to my favoured Custom Wide camera after a decent stab at Blimp and that’s the end of that story.
For the record, XCOM2 has its fair share of camera issues. The maximum zoom-out view isn’t quite far enough to get a good tactical sense of the maps, but that’s probably deliberate.
Thinking back over the past ten years of PES, when was the last time we never had to consider what the best camera view was? The PS2 years, surely. Since then, there’s never been a single camera view that’s hit the Goldilocks zone.