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Mid-Season Musings

It’s been a while.

So, I have been playing PES2013 a fair amount over this weekend after a couple of weeks break, deciding that I just want to try and have as much fun as possible and for it to be a less intense and demanding experience. Don’t get me wrong, “intense” and “demanding” can be loads of fun, and is probably how I would prefer to enjoy my footy games but it was time to simply enjoy my time playing more and besides, I simply don’t think this game is optimised well for zero bar passing and no assists thanks to some technical limitations and gameplay flaws, thus it often proves to be a horribly frustrating and inconsistent experience.

I decided to knock up the assistance to three bars and play 10min matches on Top Player. Yes, many will say that this is effectively putting the stabilisers on but I would argue that what are apparently widely considered to be best the PES’ (5 and 6, if you take a measure from community discussion) had these stabilisers on in any case. It’s true that footy games have moved on since then, as has fans demands of what a footy game should be doing but I can’t shake the feeling that current footy games can’t live up to their lofty ambitions and that developers are currently in a transitional phase and perhaps we aren’t fully aware of it. That doesn’t mean they get a pass but when I think about it, the last truly great footy game for me was FIFA09, and that too was a game that was largely based on “last-gen” design parameters, albeit sprinkled with some what I would say were manageable, non-invasive innovations such as depth in the trick system and other progress in mechanics. That was an eight-way directional game too it should be noted. Those who know me will be aware of how I believe 360 dribbling/movement is not the game-changer it was promised to be…yet.

The first thing I noticed is that while the game is a touch faster to the point of being pretty damn jarring, at least initially, I was being far more expressive with my play and as result the possession spread and overall ebb and flow of matches was more balanced. I still find myself having higher possession than the opposition but this frequently sits around 60/40 in my favour and not the 65+ mark as is often the case when I play with zero bar, even on Super Star difficulty – there have even been a few games where it has been near but not quite 50/50. Pass completion does vary but again it doesn’t quite hit the high levels I would have on zero-bar, which was often the result of me playing arguably too cautiously, thus lacking a cutting edge.

There is a general consensus that having less assistance – passing being more of manually driven discipline – offers greater opportunity for expression. What I am finding, at least with PES2013, is that the opposite is true. It may well be the case that having more assistance in place makes for a lower risk experience when in possession, but it also means that I am inclined to take more risks (in passing and dribbling) as a result, ergo the more balanced possession spread that has manifested in my recent play. Don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that three-bar passing is flawless; weird logic and AI override is still to be found, and that initial step down from zero-bar can exacerbate matters.

Playing PES2013 like this is proving to be far more enjoyable an experience and it isn’t lacking in offering a genuine test of my abilities either. It might not be as testing as playing the game on zero-bar, but I just find that it offers more of a “fun” test. It feels almost like I am playing the game at a level that sits somewhere between Professional and Top Player. A sweet spot given the positives and negatives of playing the game on either Professional or Top Player, with zero-bar passing especially. I will concede that it is probably the case of trying to engineer enjoyment out of the game, and that it should be able to offer that enjoyment regardless of how I set-up, but whatever works…

It should be noted that I am not saying that this personal discovery would apply to all – this very article is a recommendation of sorts but it certainly is no guarantee that others will share my views. Everyone will have their own “sweet spot” for playing the game, whilst others have simply given up on PES2013 and are looking forward, be that with optimism or pessimism, to what PES2014 or even the next-generation has to offer.

The Controller Shuffle

Yep, that time again were I once again suggest a switch-up of the control scheme for your consideration. When I posted similar last year I was challenged somewhat vociferously on this, with some commenting that there is no possible way that doing something so simple could potentially enhance a users play. Much like my previous segment, I am not guaranteeing that one’s personal discovery applies to all and that the game suddenly becomes a masterpiece, merely that it might improve some aspects of play for some users. The option to do so is in the game after all, so why not experiment if you feel so inclined?

It’s the same as last year then, in which I have switched R1 (Sprint) with R2 (Deft-Touch), then switched L2 (Manual Modifier) with R1. The resulting switch-up means that you will have Super Cancel and the Knock-Around/Nutmeg/Speed-Burst moves assigned to R2 + L2, while Manual Modifier can now be found on R1. Another positive is that that manual lofted through balls are performed by  pressing R1 + L1 then triangle, which I find has me using this manual variant more often than before. Handy for precision crossing when close to the oppositions penalty area.

I personally find that having the controls laid out in this fashion makes for greater ease of use of what I believe to be key mechanics in this year’s game. Super Cancel shouldn’t be as key as it is, but that is the hand we have been dealt for some time now and having it simply be activated by pressing both triggers feels more intuitive than the “roll-over” method I tend to do when an input requires pressing both the R1 + R2 buttons simultaneously. Hey maybe that is just me and others find that particular adjustment easy, or that they use two fingers, but it has never felt comfortable to me. Be warned that if you are a player who is struggling with the game for whatever reasons in its default controller set-up, then it will take some time to re-adjust.

Looking Ahead

PES2013 is a game that many will have now made their mind up about now and naturally around this time we start looking forward in anticipation of what this year’s release has in store. The good news here is that we will be getting a tantalising glimpse of not only PES’ immediate future but perhaps what the long term future has in store in the form of Edge magazines article written by seasoned PES veteran @DanDawkins , former editor of the sadly missed PSM3 which ended it’s twelve year run in December last year. The final issue was crammed full of references regards the impact the PES series has had on the magazines life-span and it’s staff, both at and away from the office. Their championing of PES, even in the franchises…erm…complicated period on this generation will be sadly missed. PES 6 was ranked number 2 in the top 25 Playstation games in the magazines history, beaten only by another Konami title in the form Hideo Kojima’s wonderfully crafted Metal Gear Solid 3. Praise indeed!

Those who are aware of Edge magazine will be fully aware of the respect it has within the games industry, so for a PES related feature to be the cover story should not be underestimated. Don’t expect a full-on reveal of PES2014, more an insight into the teams ambitions and how the new technology being used will hopefully allow them to realise theirs, and by extension the franchise’s fans, long term ambitions.

It is only mid-March and the “big” reveal for PES2014 may well be a while away yet but things are moving forward in the world of PES… in more ways than one.

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