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Goalkeepers: A Unique Breed

Following on from my editorial on penalties, and with a lack of ‘hard’ news hitting regards PES2011, I thought I would take the opportunity to think out loud about the men between the sticks in Konami’s franchise.

After the jump I will be throwing some ideas out there as to how this vital component of any football game could be addressed.

The keeps in recent instalments of PES have been by and large pretty poor and in this players opinion plunged new depths in PES2010 on next-gen. Who can honestly say that they have even the slightest degree of confidence in there ‘no.1’ between the sticks when the opposition are in and around the area even with manual keeper control at the players disposal? In PES2009 they were not the greatest but having gone back to that game for a spell I can safely say that their overall performance far outshines that of what followed in PES2010…yet they still don’t play like a real goalie should and are susceptible to making truly horrific errors. Keepers are prone to making mistakes in the real sport granted, but not anywhere near the shocking regularity as can be found in PES of late.

I think the problem within the game is that goalkeepers are basically programmed as outfield players with the ability to use there hands(though not very well) and are equipped with some bare-bones animation and a unique default stance to see them by. Now you could argue that this is not dissimilar as to how a keeper performs in the real sport anyway – a player whose only discernible difference is his ability to handle the ball within a certain area in the field of play – and that it is only size, agility and a modicum of positional sense that differentiates one from another and helps define their quality as a result. Okay, so I have perhaps dumbed it down a tad there but you are reading the words of a man who over the years has watched some keepers to whom this basic description is akin to proclaiming them the van Gogh of their ‘art’!

So how can Konami solve this potentially game breaking issue? Well for a start there has to be more variety in keeper animations, and perhaps even some player specific animations to boot. What certainly needs to be looked at is keeper stance, movement and command of their area. One particularly jarring thing about the manual keeper control this year is how your keeper moves – he just runs in the chosen direction – when perhaps it would better to have him move and ‘make himself big’ in the way keepers often do. Pressing triangle orders your keeper to rush anyway, so the manual control you feel would be better suited to allowing the player to fine tune positioning.

Under the hood what Konami could look at is more keeper specific special abilities. I am thinking along the lines of abilities like ‘GK Strong Hands’ which would mean the keeper in question is strong in the parry and handling, ‘GK Reflex’ which could enhance a goalie’s ability at dealing with point blank headers etc. along with his response on the rebound, and ‘GK Area Command’ which influences a keepers likelihood to come for crosses and even improve his team mates positional awareness at set plays. Keepers could also do with some additional base stats to go along with special abilities such as handling, agility, diving, reflex and positioning all ranked out of 100.

So in closing, Goalkeepers are truly a unique breed and as such Konami would do well to realise this and innovate upon this analogy. A football game can have it’s illusion of realism completely destroyed if the men between the sticks are not fit for purpose.

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome as always.

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