Calm before the Storm!

Amid all the positivity of the previews and playtests the Konami have organised I would still try to advise long term fans to try to keep their expectations reasonable.

I don’t think this can be the best PES game yet but it can be the foundations on which the best PES football game ever can be made.

Konami have in effect started something brand new, not built upon PES2010, graphically yes but gameplay wise is a new baby called “Freedom”, in the blog previously I have alluded to why this is the way forward for the series but the reason I am cautious is because this cannot be road tested in two games, three hours or even five minutes (looking at you IGN).

The time for reflection will be in November/December when we are all Neo (sorry first time readers, I am a Matrix fan) and have ploughed through ten seasons of Master League, we will all be reading stories on the blogs and forums about fans arguing that the game is broke because of stated examples while others will debate that even more.

The Master League should be what reviews are based on in my opinion, covering a career where player form and injuries determine the way you playing and forcing you to learn how to play different tactically, that in short, is football.

Another reason for calm is understanding, the gaming press do not have the time to put together a fair review of sports games, on FIFA 10 last year this was gaining 90-100% from websites and magazines (91 average on Metacritic.com) the words I read were “Manager Mode has 50 changes this year” but they never actually played this part, they were not allowed to in the build they were given, strange that this mode also had 73 bugs attached to it then and only half a dozen or so could be patched, so that is a broken mode, one which I played for two months and it killed the game in effect for me, the biggest bug was when you moved to manage another club you would be rewarded with -2.5 billion to spend!  I have already mentioned the game on the pitch on the previous post.

Funny thing is as well I am possibly coming across as an EA hater, to clarify nothing could be further from the truth, I have bought every game since FIFA 08 and spent a lot of time with them which is why I am frustrated it is seen in the light it is.

To add to this EA have also created one of the best sports titles I have ever played in NHL 10, this is almost perfection and this again raises my point, I knew very little about the sport, struggled to hell with the pace and controls for at least a month and then it just had that certain something I can only compare to what Konami once did, at least if both football titles don’t hold my attention this year I can fall back on NHL 11!

What makes that Konami did previously with PES is remarkable, they did not have the forum support then that they do now so in effect they were just making the game they wanted to make, it took them five attempts to reach PES5, the peak if you will, this is now their fourth attempt since then, hopefully PES2011 will become the experience where the majority of the hardcore fans agree this is the direction they should be going.

Just for fun I am predicting right now a metacritic rating of 82 for PES2011 and 92 for FIFA 11!

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A case for Freedom!

I was playing PES6 last night as usual in the Master League, I had a situation where my right midfielder Nicolita had the ball close to the right touch-line just in side the opposition half and I was on a breakaway from a corner, my options were Higuain running through the middle but tightly marked or Silva who was totally unmarked on the left making a run.

Now what I wanted to do was to send a lotfed ball just ahead of Silva to run onto, pressing the long pass button would have just sent it across field and onto his chest, holding up play and stopping the break.

What I tried was to hold down the LB button (Playing using the 360 controller) and holding directly up into Silva’s position while pressing the through ball button, hoping this would send the lofted through ball into Silva’s path for a one on one with the keeper.

However the game interpreted that I wanted to pass to Higuain, the defender was already goal side so ran onto the through ball and cleared the danger.

It was then I thought it was time to move on.

Playing the game last night I kept on thinking that maybe I would have liked to play that ball inside the left back rather than outside and maybe rather than having to used the through ball option when wanting to run onto the ball maybe I could have used the pass button to create an opening, it maybe has too much of an emphasis on the through ball to create whereas if you watch Xavi for example he spreads the play with passing to create space.

Thinking of PES2011 I am hoping this creative and more free passing will mean no game ever plays the same, I hope there is nothing to exploit and no sure-fire way of confusing the opposition.

A lot of people are calling for a button to send a player on a run as in FIFA, however I see that as lazy programming from EA, as part of the players stats is awareness and positioning, this should be the deciding factor in whether Craig Bellamy for example decides to make his move anticipating the perfect ball for him to run onto.

I am opposed to the rainbow flick in the new game and will most likely not employ that in my skill set, I have only seen it attempted once by Jay-Jay Okocha for Bolton and then by Ossie Ardiles in Escape to Victory.

I am also hoping that that although Konami acknowledge the (reported by WENB and godisageek.com) keeper AI being an issue I really hope they have time to resolve this, playing Blue Samurai on the Wii is a terrific game let down by the Goalkeeper AI, in my last post I put this down to the possibility that the Wii version of these games are dumbed down to help control with the wiimote but it really is a game breaker, admittedly this game was developed by Greyhound Studios. For me the reference should be PES6 for the goalkeeping, more times than not the are superhuman seemingly but you always feel you have the advantage which a good forward should.

My hopes for PES2011 is to be entirely frustrated with the game when it is first released, I want it to punish my lack of skills, I want to not be able to score for hours as I look forward to that moment when everything does click together it releases the same type of Euphoria which can only be compared to Neo when he realised he was pretty awesome in The Matrix.

Feel free to discuss.

It started with a miss…..

It is at times like this I compare myself to Jerry Maguire, we have so many similarities, both were unhappy with current jobs and were outspoken about it, both were fired by somebody who was smiling too much and due to lack of sleep and writing this at 4:53 on a Friday morning, both are having a breakdown, almost, the similarities end there however as he is a handsome sod who can snap his fingers and pull a bird whereas I use my fingers for erm….other kinds of pulling.

Now the only thing to be thankful for at this time is I have been made redundant which of course means I have nothing to wake up for in say 90 mins but it also means in that crazy trying too hard to sleep mode I have been going through for the past four hours I have been thinking of my passion, the one consistent thing that has kept me going since I was around 14 years old or even earlier than that going back to my Spectrum days, and that is football games and in particular the series that would never let me down, Pro Evolution Soccer, but I am getting ahead of myself here, it was not always called Pro Evolution Soccer (which for sheer cannot be bothered to type that name again shall be known to as PES, bet Konami wish they thought of that….oh) but was called International Superstar Soccer (ISS is shorter to type thus better) but I know those purists who read Wiki will correct me by saying “actually ISS had its origins with Konami Hyper Soccer on the NES” and that may well be true but since I never had a NES and it is my blog I will just change history, that ok? Good.

So, International Superstar Soccer (1994) was released on the Super Nintendo and was pitched against the isometric new upstart FIFA International Soccer, now all I remember about this was the goals looking massive, too big to miss apart from one minor detail, the superhuman goalie, it seemed to take an age to do the animation to take the shot, but that was ok because the left hand side of the goal was totally unmarked so took my shot but I did not count on the keeper being faster than John Terry jumping out of Wayne Bridges bedroom window, oh and I believe this game got the likeness in for Carlos Valderama and he was ace.

ISS Deluxe came out a year later, a couple of small differences, one being you could now do a sliding animation for shooting and I think this may have actually been in the previous year but one ace thing was if you shot off target the added bonus was you could knock over a photographer! Never been seen since this feature? could be a trait for Emile Heskey I suppose.

Now after those two short paragraphs and into my college days (1997), me and my friends always visited this indie games shop where a woman with a serious smoking habit and yellow fingers stood behind the counter and advised on everything in store “great game that mate”.

They were a cracking shop for imports and in CVG (Computer and Video Games magazine) I saw a picture of ISS for the new N64 and it looked the most photorealistic image I had ever seen, anyway sitting in their Japanese display machine was a copy of J-League Perfect Striker, I had a go…for an hour, luckily for me I still had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket so thought sod it, handed over £300 and ran home, unboxed the console and had a look at the weird rectangular shaped connection that was supposed to go to my TV, well erm this only had a small round connection round the back, checked my parents TV and this had what was known as a Scart connection so I had to play the damn thing on there sparingly, I loved everything about the game though, the one-two button, the 360 degree movement, the real looking nets and the ping the post made when hit, if you held the left yellow button on the controller while standing still the player would even do keep ups, incredible.

Due to not wanting to have a quick game every time the advert for Coronation Street/Emmerdale was on I traded the console and game in when ISS64 was released and the PAL machine had the small round connector.

ISS98 was then released in erm…98 with the cover of Paul Ince staring at Fabrizio Ravanelli for some reason, maybe one of them was a role model for JT back in the day? This featured as far as I can remember fully licensed kits certainly for England and the one thing I remember clearly about this even though it only happened the once in about 100 hours was the first time I had seen a player dive, I tackled Zidane fairly, he took two hops then dived, the ref then showed him a yellow card, you may not have ever seen this happen on the game yourself but I will take that to the grave it is true, the games were also released on the newer Playstation console and they gave most players a massive Elvis style quiff but just changed the hair colour, charming,

A year later and the KCET division released ISS Pro Evolution Soccer on the Playstation, from starting the game up this was different to the more Arcade offerings that KCEO were doing, so instead of offering high thrills, high scoring games it actually made the bold move to make the player work a little more, for me what worked in its favour was the game was such a joy to play, you could do the basics very easy but it wanted to make it feel like an achievement when you did go through on goal and score, hard to think that we take for granted now but the player names were still fake, but only just, Ronnaldo, Caffu so you had a genuine affection for those little bugger sprinting everywhere, as you can see from the youtube video (not mine) the first signs of the signature free kick!

That game clearly had an effect on me as ISS Pro Evolution 2 was released a year or so later, I remember this very clearly, I had just started work and my 3rd day in the office I rang my indie store as they were keeping me a copy for that Friday after I finished work, when I rang them on the Tuesday before they told me there stock was coming in tomorrow and could have it later Wednesday afternoon, so my 3rd day in my new job where I was very keen to impress I decided to tell them I had a doctor’s appointment and I would be buggering off around 2 hours early, they were ok with this as I still had a job when I got there on Thursday. As for the game, it is what we then became accustomed to, those incremental small tweaks which have a profound effect on the game forcing you to learn it again.

Knowing that my favourite football title was coming to the bigger, better, faster, harder, more console, the Playstation 2 I decided to go to Currys and buy one on credit there, it was dead easy, I just had to sign a few forms and for the rest of my life I would be paying them £24 a month.

I can now draw comparisons with Wayne Rooney, on the Monday before the Friday release of Pro Evolution Soccer I was looking around WHSMITH when I noticed a box just opened behind the counter, these hide shiny new copies of PES give me serious dirty looks, aroused I walked to the counter as there was an older lady working there, she was probably in her 60’s I would say, I asked her all innocently if she has PES in stock as I could not see any on the shelf, she looked behind her and asked if that was it in the box to which I replied yes, so she then scanned in the game and sold me it 4 days before release, so yes, like a certain bloated England striker I also took advantage of a granny. The game itself was a natural progression from the previous console, lovely visuals with the life changing Master League mode now incorporated.

Now I don’t have a story about Pro Evolution Soccer 2, I cannot remember how I bought this, I know I did because I played it 23.5 hours a day, I think this is mainly due though the massive jump that PES3 made.

I seem to remember playing a demo at Old Trafford with England possibly versus Germany, pretty sure I also had to pre-order Metal Gear Solid 2 to play this demo, the massive difference for me was the individuality, now in previous games everyone had their stats and this is what defined them, however on PES3 they made an effort to have players having their own animations and likeness, you could almost squint and feel like you were watching a real game, it seemed less on rails and more loose, you felt you had total control over every small movement your player made.

It was at this point I decided to join in with the PES community, so set me up an account on what is now PESfan and found that people were actually getting to play PES even earlier due to their PS2 consoles being modded in some way, they were then able to import the game usually 2-3 months earlier from Japan, that is amazing!

Found the easiest way for me to do this was to but the slide card and swap magic, the only modding needed to be done on the console itself was to remove the screws on the front disk flap, so did this and snapped it off! Still worked though.

Managed to buy the update to PES3 which was Winning Eleven 7 International, the change was absolutely huge between the two and had me cursing as I had to relearn the way to play this again! “you have ruined it” was my most common words for a couple of weeks, they seem to have taken the pace away but this in the end relearned me how to genuinely play PES, not just with pace but also clever movement and close control, I cannot thank this game enough.

Winning Eleven 8 was my first real encounter with being totally lost in translation, from what I remember WE7i was more English friendly but WE8 was a mind scratcher, trial and error on the menus, even those that were the same a previous games and you used how many times were still confusing, it made Master League fun for sure. This game obviously went on to become PES4 which took over my life for a while, think this was the game that had me call off a date because I was “sick”.

And now the series of games which will always be my favourite but one which you may never have played, obviously I bought WE9 which turned out to be the fans favourite for those who were able to import followed by PES5, it is hard to explain why this was so good, it did not feel like it at the time but looking back it was the peak, possibly the slower, more tactical approach to the game helped or even the ability to go on the new console, Microsoft’s XBOX and be able to play your friends on there with almost perfect connection speeds normally.

The defining moment came after that and I must encourage if you can to try Winning Eleven 9 Liveware Evolution, it only came out in Korea on PS2 and PC, if you can play this on PC you can get this fully patched up to date with the friendly members of various forums, the main advantage of this over PES5/WE9 was a slower paced game with even more control and individuality, they also improved the shooting to a more realistic level and fixed that pet hate of mine when passing the ball out wide the player used to jump over the ball and it goes out of play when under no pressure.

Playing WE10/PES6 was a progression on from the last installment in that it seemed to be a more free game again but the pace was upped significantly, for me there was an exploitable move where you could approach a player and if timed right sprint past him at an angle, the speed was emphasized too much in this to a certain point you knew if you passed to a quick striker there was nothing the defence could do, I am still also playing this however on the PC where an option file I am using has dropped the top speed down around 30%.

And now onto PES2008, sigh, I will be honest here, due to the good reviews FIFA 08 was receiving I decided to try it and to my surprise could see some potential, it was tough even on default level but the poor close control and too much emphasis on strength and acceleration let it down, knowing PES2008 was due for release I traded it in and went back to my true love, almost apologizing Tiger Woods style for my infidelity, I took it all back however after a week, the perfect simulation had been changed into the most horribly arcade oriented mess, just testing I managed to run straight up and down with one player across the edge of the box without even being pressured, it got traded back for FIFA 08, I needed a football fix.

We are up to date now that you know the rest pretty much, PES2009 was the lowest point possibly and the animations let down that game and also PES2010 which actually had a decent game of football underneath, I have also tried the competition each year and while seeming incredible for the first two weeks unfortunately the exploitative nature of the games show after that and become a bore and a chore to play, example scoring the winning goal of a World Cup final to make it 3-2 in extra time should have me running around the house screaming, not thinking “the game just let me do that”.

I actually missed out on a couple of games, Winning Eleven 6 Final Evolution on the Gamecube had purists saying how good it was and also Winning Eleven Advance was always elusive to me, I never even heard it was out in Japan and when I finally did hear it was out of print!

I have also been to a certain extent enjoying the games on the Wii using the classic controller, I just find them a little too easy as the game was clearly programmed with the wiimote in mind and the goalies in particular have been dumbed down.

Hope you enjoy the blog, will be along with some more updates with me having time on my hands now, just to take this opportunity to say thank you to the other PES sites that keep me and everyone else up to date with everything and keeping the passion for the game alive and well.