PES 2011 LATEST BUILD HANDS ON IMPRESSIONS

I have been pestering the kind folk at Konami in the hope to play some sort of build of the game, thankfully I was informed by Steve it was indeed the latest build of the game!

Now if you want to know anything you don’t already about the menu’s then feel free to ask but I didn’t spend much time with them, instead choosing to goto an exhibition match, picking my beloved (but at this time beloathed) Merseyside Blue against Fat Sam’s team Lancashire.

First thing was the camera panning back and you will be pleased to know I wasn’t having any of the tracking issues I found during fast exchanges, the reason, it was on Wide cam, fear not, it is there!

Another thing that struck me immediately was the true 360 movement, it may have just been me not used to the PS3 pad for this game fully as I spend most of my gaming time with the Xbox pad, it was very difficult to stay in a straight line, I pointed this out straight away to Steve.

Secondly after passing the ball about there does not seem to be that remote control ball to foot curl I noticed at times in the beta, an almost artificial assistance that ensured short passes would find their man, short passes appear just like old with the added control of the power and angle should you wish to play the ball in space, passing seems less powered than the beta, you can easily underhit the pass and also what some considered to be an exploit which was to free the striker with one full powered pass down the centre never happened once, you can hit him but it was far less powerful on full power and the defenders were positioned correctly anyway.

The worrying issue was I won my first game very easily, breezing past players, AI standing off and could easily shoot from outside the box, I even scored a soft goal from outside the box with Cahill as my first goal, but I wasn’t impressed, the good thing though was that the difficulty was on Regular, so changed that right away, was going to show off and go straight to Top Player but decided against it as Professional (4 stars of old) always eased me in without letting me exploit it, the change was immediate the following game as long shots were charged down easily when I was not making space and they have a new urgency when attacking your goal, but I was still doing well enough to scrape by one goal advantages.

Decided to start a new Master League with Merseyside Blue, had a look at the default tactics, said I was a “Long Ball” team, I agreed and set to play with the default formation, was held to a scrappy 0-0 draw by Middlebrook, second game was away to Man United, took the lead with a Saha header from a corner and held my own, but they always score and they did again, then in the final minute Cahill headed in a cross from close range to get me the win, I know it sounds a little far fetched but bear in mind my new found optimism that I was awesome was chopped down when I failed to win any of the 3 following games, ah just like old times!

Now let me talk a little of what I think is the best part of the game, the animations, I could not see one recycled movement from 2010, every replay up close helps you understand as well, the sense of weight to the players and the way every touch is context sensitive, whether reaching because they know the defender may get there first, ensuring the ball does not go out of play (which was a massive problem in the beta), even the shooting which I criticized earlier in the beta is so realistic in the way they will run onto a loose ball to hit with venom or planting a foot to gain more accuracy in a tight space, I cannot think of any time when I thought a real life player could have taken that differently, the replays just highlight how smooth this all moves, I was looking for faults but could not see any, it just moved so smooth, the unneccessary backheel when a simple side foot pass would have been more effective was toned down as well.

An issue that was in the beta was when a player was tackled he was stunned and could not move out of the stumbling animation, this has been totally fixed and I confirmed it in the replay where my player was tackled from behind but regained his composure before the ball ran out of to play to cross for a headed goal by Cahill, to add to this players are more aware too when the ball is close to going out of play and will make more of an effort to do keep in play.

Goalkeepers are terrific now, commanding their area and not allowing soft near post goals, I only scored one long range goal and one moment when I thought the goalie was at error I checked the replay and he was wrong footed and could not adjust in time, just like real life, and they also come off their line when the situation demands it, due to the feedback from the beta I wonder if they may have been made too good, but time will tell.

I was critical of the new defending system but more time with this and I found it useful, gave away quite a few fouls by sticking a leg in too early but did manage to block and intercept a few times, it will be something to master over four weeks not four hours though.

Trick wise I did not have the rainbow flick in my preset tricks so honestly could not try this to see if it has been remedied in time, hopefully if it has not then it will be something that can be patched up in time for release, the demo next week you will be able to see this anyway so I am not holding any information back about this.

There are two actual types of tricks too, one set where you are running with the ball and another where you have the ball standing still, the running kind is quite effective if timed correctly, using Cahill I was able to flick the ball with my trailing leg into space to move past two defenders, with the tricks being simple to pull off time will tell if it is too effective, I must say though you can’t just hold L2 and lightly flick the right stick, it needs to be pushed in that direction quite purposefully to register, me being old fashioned does miss the double tap bumper to do feints, square and x pressed in conjunction still does the shot feint but is it used in conjunction with the stick and is less exaggerated too but still does the job when timed right.

One thing I should also point out I never actually messed with any tactics apart from changing formations for a game when I was going through a slump but when I was 1-0 down in a match in the last 10 minutes of the match and my team made a very visible move up the pitch to squeeze the play and push for the equalizer, this was done on its own so I am not sure if it assigned to that team tactically by default or this genuinely happens no matter what but I thought it was an excellent touch and really increased the urgency.

Sound wise the commentary was in there and it is pretty much the same as it has always been but Jim Beglin was more understated than Mark Lawresnson, it was hard to grasp the sound as I was playing this in Steve’s office where he was busy on the phone but one moment which made me laugh out loud was when I had Leighton Baines out wide ready to cross the ball and Jon Champion shouted “ITS HIM!” like he was pointing out a murder suspect to the police!

For my last two games before leaving I tried the Copa Libertadores mode, whereas the main menu’s in the normal game modes are dark backgrounds with pictures of Messi and your team in ML mode the Copa Libertadores is bright and warm, a white background with an orange/red swirl through the middle of the screen and of course some south american music to accompany this.

I had to try my idol’s team from PES’ past Roberto Carlos and Corinthians and you are greeted with a nice cut scene before going into the draw.

Before kick off the change in atmosphere is apparent, it is bright with confetti streaming down, flares in the stands, different advertisement boards and the crows chanting natively.

Once you kick off I felt as if I was in a carnival so proceeded to play it that way using tricks, one-two passing and generally just treating it like an exhibition, my loving moment came however when I was awarded a free kick, I said to Steve I hope it defaults to Carlos…and it did, standing in his own familiar pose took his massive run up and I hit in the corner but the keeper managed to palm it away, whether it was the lower stats of the players it just felt a joy to play and a nice light hearted alternative to the scrap of the Master League where I went 5 games without a win!

I never tried online because there wouldn’t have been anyone to play against so I never ventured onto any menu’s on that side, I did look at the PES shop and looked at some serious and also rather amusing additions to the stadiums from Konami days of old.

There was a couple of small niggles I pointed out, which happened twice was when crossing the ball the cursor selected my man at the back post, but the man that was AI controlled at the front post headed the ball on its own accord, also another slight niggle which happened twice in 17 or so games was an underpowered slightly floaty shot which felt as if the keeper would have had more than enough time to reach actually travelled in the goal, these were not in any way game breaking but I thought I should mention amid all the positivity as you may be thinking I have taken a bung!

Oh and a quick edit, penalties are the same as last year, so it looks like no change for those that hated them, I pointed them to Steve and he quickly sighed “I know”.

Summary

To be honest I wasn’t as excited going into the playtest as I could have been, partly due to the MLO beta which I thought provided me with a sufficient overview of what this years game was about and I could have easily waited for the demo which I knew wouldn’t be far away.

What did literally shock me though was how far advanced the final code was compared to the beta, I did not expect them to have the time to achieve what they did, fixing literally every issue I had, I was even happy with the responsiveness of the player dribbling once I mastered this in the beta so I thought that was the way it was going to be but they totally improved that too, now if you press to turn you don’t need to plan it one step ahead, it is instant.

I can honestly say if PES was the game you loved four years ago and walked away (understandably) then this is the game to bring you back, it will demand your patience as always, you will know the amount of dedication to be become good at the game.

The acid test will be in two months time on the forums, are we all still enjoying it, is it too easy once mastered, is there any obvious exploits etc.

If you left the game after losing faith in the series this is the one to bring you back in, give it a chance.

Master League Online – Impressions

It feels a bit weird to post impressions on the game, firstly I know because these impressions are obsolete now as there is obviously newer code out there which people have played and commented on, secondly the purpose of the Beta was not to test gameplay but to test how the network was responding, but since I was lucky enough to be selected I thought I should pass on what I have found.

The Master League Online Mode

Just to outline so far what this does, you pick a team and you can rename it to whatever you wish, you then start out with the default Master League players, Espimas, Castolo, Stremer et all.

You start out with a set amount of small cash and you have three options:

Quick Match – Player vs Player – you pay an entrance fee which if you win the prize money is greater, if you lose you generally lose money and even if you draw depending on how many star players on high wages you have can descrease as well.

Quick Match (Coach Mode) – Think Football Manager, you watch the match and make the necessary changes.

Competition – At set times of the day there are competitions combining both the above modes, you win a lot more money in Gate Receipts from the competitions even if you lose, so they are worth entering despite the higher cost of the entrance fee.

There are 5 divisions which then calculate you points won seemingly every 24 hours and decides if you are promoted, relegated or stay in that division.

You can sell your default players (but you must have 16 members in your squad at all times) to raise funds for other players, the more people buy players their value raises with their popularity, Rooney for example started at around 5.5 million and is now valued at the time of writing just below the 10 million pounds mark.

Tactically you have seen the grid which is very much like Football Manager or the Wii PES, where you drag and drop players onto any position on the pitch, what I didn’t realise was the Role of that player (CMF, LMF, DMF) can be selected by pressing the X (360) and you can see what rating they have in those positions, I have still not found how to set the attacking mindedness of the players, so if it does exist please let me know, also I am unable to drag and drop any of the new preset tricks.

Then you are ready to play!

Camera

The new broadcast style camera follows the action from the point of view as if you are watching an actual game on tv, so instead of staying centered at all time it has an isometric type angle when you are in the final third, the default Normal Long camera is too close to the action so you can change this in settings to Wide, which I did.

This works very well and seems natural at first that some may not even notice this if they have been away from PES for a while, sadly sometimes though if a ball is cleared quickly (and it does move very quick) the camera can struggle to keep up with the this, so if you are defending sometimes the ball will land at a defender you didn’t realise was there until it practically hit him.

Another issue for me is when the ball is in the final third the camera zooms in closer to the action, the problem with this is when attacking the far side of the pitch you cannot see somebody further than the post closest to the screen, so picking out a run can be tricky.

It may be fixed now with new code but I would like to see the old wide camera angle from previous games making a return or less zoom in on the current camera.

Passing

It is pretty immediate how different the passing is, you can still aim the ball in the general direction of the player and tap the pass button and it will arrive at the player fine in most cases, when applying more power this can replace the through ball function in certain situations, I found myself able to carve open a lot of scoring opportunities just by spotting an early run and threading the ball through, long passing seems a little less a bullet now with a bit more loft in the ball, this can lead to an opponent able to run onto the ball and run clear of the defence, so better to use sparingly, the manual pass works as it should, but hard to pull off when under constant pressure from the opposition which the aim of winning at all costs that online play brings, offline in the demo will be excellent to test this fully.

Some issues with passing and also cursor confusion when trying to pass in small spaces between more than two players, sometimes the ball will hit a player as the cursor did not change, leading to losing possession.

Players also do not seem to have situation awareness, ie when they are near a touch-line there is no extra effort to keep this in play, they just stroll along unaware, same when the goalkeeper makes a mistake, the lack of urgency can lead to a forward who is way behind you able to sneak in and score.

At the moment as well the ball does seem to have a little bit of ball to foot trajectory about it when using a simple pass, like it is a remote control car.

Crossing does feel very floaty at the moment, it feels like it takes an age whether using middle or low cross to arrive at the attacker in the centre, high cross seems to have too much height and due to the camera issue that I have can lead to you just blindly pressing the shoot button in the hope that someone is there.

Overall though I am very pleased so far with the changes made and believe this will add newer ways of playing the game once mastered.

Defending

I would love somebody to physically show me the new system for tracking the player because at the moment I am trying this but the attackers seem to sprint past me, it has probably cost me most of my goals trying it out, it would be something I would need to test more thoroughly in offline mode, at the moment everyone online is just sprint pressuring at the moment which is a shame.

Shooting

I have always loved the shooting on older PES games due to how the logic was worked out, tending to favour the players correct foot so you would be better slowing down and finding the better angle to ensure this is hit with the correct foot, or else if hit with the wrong foot it would trickle along the ground, the same seems true in this one as well, players open up when one on one situations with the goalkeeper and side footing the ball home.

One animation which I don’t like is the toe poke, it feels over powered and unrealistic, when I am 25 yards out there is no way I would want to to poke a ball, I would want all my weight behind the ball, now the issue I have is if it is a toe poke it should be underpowered but it seems to fly off the foot, mostly this is seen when faced with an open goal, rather than a calm side foot finish it aims a rash stab at goal which when combined with the reactive net physics just for me makes it feel unrealistic.

Other than that gripe the shooting in general is highly powered and looks like it have more curl in air,  players can sometimes try a scissor kick from 30 yards rather than staying ground for more accuracy, this may be due to holding the shoot button at wrong moment though.

In general positive again but I would love the toe poke to be reworked, it should only come into play when stretching for the ball ahead of a rushing goalkeeper, just my opinion.

Dribbling

When you start with the default players you feel forced to pass constantly because of the lack of confidence in the close control of those players, first thing I had to do was buy Mikel Arteta, now he is a dream to control, looking for the pass if none is available you feel confident enough to turn your back to play which offers more shielding from the constant pressure and you can calmly turn your way out of trouble, the default RT dribble offers better control for those better players in turning and fooling defenders if you have a skillful attacker, Theo Walcott is very effective when moving at different angles with this held down.

With the normal dribbling there is still a little bit slowness when trying to turn, improved with the better players but still slightly slower than I would have liked.

Skill dribbling using LT and right analogue stick works as it should and feels responsive enough, I don’t feel confident using this online yet though due to constant pressuring of the opposition and lag/slowdown concerns when attacking in some games, it would really be something to try on a lower difficulty level or in Practice Mode to see how this can be added to your game.

Goalkeepers

I think you all know now from reading other impressions that the standard ranges from the ridiculous to the sublime, they can save some shots that you cannot believe would be possible and allow goals the same way.

They appear to leave their goal line easily for none pressure situations, ie a stray punt down field while staying on their line when the situation is more urgent.

What I hope is fixed however is the amount of near post goals they allow, even weak shots lead to them looking like they have been asked to divide 1,247, 321 by 12.7 and they either allow the ball to squirm under them, push the ball out or into the net.

I would also like to see less goals where the keeper has got a full strong hand on the ball only to loop over their back, you feel embarrassed when it should be saved or the keeper has enough time to get up and dive on the ball before crossing the line.

Referee

Well, he is a typical referee, he misses the obvious fouls, calls for fouls that were not there, in fact there is a set list of comments you can trade with your opponent when a replay has occurred, the one usually traded when replaying a foul is “NO WAY”.

You do get penalties now though!

It is clear they are very early in development.

Lag

It feels very stable so far, only had around 3 disconnection in 60+ matches and you sometimes don’t realise you are online, there is noticeable 5 second lag after either player has entered the pause menu to change tactics and sometimes at odd moments of the game but if there is too much the game seems to recognise and stops the match not punishing the player either.

I would say 80% of the time I have been untroubled to the point of noticing and feeling frustrated.

Overall Impressions

Now I know I have listed some bugs and also a lot of negatives with the above but in truth I could not be happier at the moment that the series we all love now is finally something that can be loved again, especially if we have had an affair with another.

No game has made me feel as angry and as happy as this has in the last five days, I have assembled a very good team at the moment thanks to the cost of winning a competition I was able to afford Fabregas and build from there, when the game is smooth network wise I can play some amazing one touch passing and movement, there is no feeling like it, other times there can be games which the opponent presses you all the way and you simply cannot play the game you want so you may have to go more direct or sometimes I have been very thankful for the draw.

The thing is as well I am not an online player, I want to use the game as usual for offline Master League but this seems a mode that I could easily become involved in, maybe if private leagues are allowed too it would be excellent for the community.

I am hoping to visit Konami very soon for a play on recent code so will update the blog then, as I said at the beginning due to the older code being employed in this Beta my impressions are out of date but it would be good to read back and see which issues have been resolved.

I can say with some confidence if my queries so far have been resolved and it plays a tough, competitive match with the same randomness and freshness each game it will be played up until the next release, from where the game has been to where it is now is a massive leap.

Thanks for reading

Follow me on twitter @PES_EVOLVES

 

I have not forgot about this!

Just a quick post to let you know, you already know about the beta for the ML online, I will hopeflly be playing that, also in two weeks time I will also be playing the latest build at Konami HQ, so a massive load of impressions coming up!

Stadium Editor – Konami’s Trump Card?

Going to this post with  nothing officially confirmed but some whispers about what the new Stadium Editor can do has me drooling.

What I hope it will do is allow every team in the game to at least have their own stadium custom-built, I hope this can happen, space should only be an issue if your particular console’s hard drive does not have enough room so I will let my mind wander for now.

What this could do is wonders for the PES community as a whole, not just the many talented and dedicated editors who release countless patches and keep the game up to date in both stadia and kits.

What I hope the stadium editor will do is allow separate files for each stadium whereas much like a sticker album you can download and insert into an empty slot, if everyone could create their own team’s stadium and share on the web or even out in the real world by giving their friend a USB stick for example and import into their game it could really lift the whole community and swell the numbers.

Fan sites could even run a competition on the best stadiums as voted for by their readers.

Another thing on my wish list but probably will not be in the game is when starting with the default Master League players you have a bit of a barren stadium to reflect this, say a capacity of 12-15,000 and when you earn money you have the choice to buy players and improve your team, such players may also take the poor quality of your stadium into consideration and reject you.

You then have the ultimate choice, use your money to buy slightly better players or use the money you earn to improve the stadium’s capacity or even buy a brand new stadium which could potentially have been uploaded (remember this is going to be online Master League too), which although slowing down your transfer activity will then reap the rewards later in the game, new sponsors could also be a part of this increasing revenue.

You could buy new stand’s, executive boxes, pitches, which would take a lot of money at first but would attract a richer supporter so you could increase your ticket prices, I am a little too excited myself just thinking of this (thinks of Mrs Mangle from Neighbours, better now).

I would also love a lack of enthusiasm to reflect the default players and stadium, ie what supporters do attend the stadium are not very vocal, something that has never been in a PES game, which always has a loud atmosphere no matter where you play.

So, it could most likely to turn out to be wishful thinking but as usual I am interested in hearing your thoughts.

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!

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.