By dankempster 11 Comments
Hey guys! This blog, I figured I'd focus more on the games (what with this being a games site and all). So I have some demo impressions to share with you all, followed by an update on what I've been playing recently.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 Demo ImpressionsI've been a fan of the Pro Evolution Soccer games more or less since the franchise's inception. I own and have extensively played every instalment in the series, both alone and in the company of friends. As such, I feel like I'm a pretty good candidate to provide some opinions on the demo of the latest iteration (Pro Evolution Soccer 2010), which hit Xbox LIVE last week. Instead of writing up an extensive mini-review, I'm going to stick with simple pro and con bullet points just like I did when I played The Lost & Damned. In fact, I think I might make this a regular occurrence with anything I download from LIVE, whether it be a demo or DLC.
- Improved player control - One of my biggest issues with PES2009 was the rigid player control, which seemed to be stuck in eight planes. This feels like it's been addressed in PES2010, because players seem to be a lot more manoeuvrable. It's not 360-degree dribbling by any means, but it does give a great deal more freedom and, for the first time in the series, makes the analog stick feel like a more viable control option.
- Better off-the-ball movement - AI-controlled players seemed to have a little more sense of spacial awareness than they did last year. Off-the-ball, players appeared to be better at looking for and getting into space, which made the execution of attacking moves (particularly counter-attacks) feel a bit more intuitive than it has been in the past.
- Improved visuals - Maybe it's just me, but the game seems to be a big step up on last year from a visual standpoint. Player likenesses are much-improved, and the stadia seem to look better as well. Everything and everyone looked a little less... plasticky, I suppose.
- Better loading times - One thing I did notice was the practical absence of a loading time when transitioning from the pre-match settings menu into the match itself. I don't know if that's just because it's a demo, but it was nice to get straight into the action without any annoying transitional screens.
- Awful presentation - The menus in this demo version of the game are simply hideous, even more so than last year in my opinion. The pre-match settings menu is nigh-on unnavigable. I think that the developers hit on the right menu aesthetics with PES4's crisp, clean menus, and it's a shame to have seen them take so many steps back since then. In the demo's defence, though, the actual formation settings screen looks better than it's ever done. Swings and roundabouts, I guess.
- No Post-Demo Information - Normally, when you finish playing a demo, a few screens will pop up telling you what extra things to expect from the finished product. PES2010 had none of these, which leaves me rather unsure as to what improvements might have been made off-the-pitch. Are there any tweaks to be expected for the Master League and Become A Legend modes? I guess we won't know until the full game hits.
I think that just about covers all my opinions. By and large, it feels like a new Pro Evo game, which is fine in my book because I've never expected Seabass' development team to re-invent the wheel. I probably won't be picking it up on release, but that's more to do with money issues than because of any beef I had with the demo. Plus, I'm still pretty engrossed in last year's entry. I'll definitely be picking it up at some point in the next twelve months, though.
Progress UpdateI've been playing a few games recently. Here's a quick update on what's going on with everything I currently have on the go.
Lost OdysseyI've been having a hell of a lot of fun with Lost Odyssey. I've just moved on to Disc 3 with my party's average level at 31, and I'm absolutely loving the game. In particular my praise has to be directed at the game's gripping combat, which has hooked me in a way that I haven't felt since I played Final Fantasy VII for the first time nine years ago. The sheer level of strategy that goes into any given battle is immense. Being able to switch rings and accessories on the fly keeps things interesting, and the implementation of the Guard Condition system adds a whole new layer to depth to what could otherwise be dismissed as yet another game with turn-based random encounters. The game has some seriously amazing boss battles, too; personally I'd go as far as to say the best boss battles of any JRPG I've played to date. Away from the combat the game holds itself together well, with gorgeous visuals and some surprisingly good voice acting for a Japanese import. The story is surprisingly engaging too thanks to the presence of the Thousand Years Of Dreams, which are so well written that a couple have almost moved me to tears. The pace may be a little on the slow side, but after spending well over a month in the company of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, it charges along by comparison. I can't wait to pour more time into this incredible JRPG, which I genuinely believe is the game I've been waiting for ever since I finished Final Fantasy X.
Pokémon YellowA bit of a strange one, this. At the start of September I felt myself hankering to play a first-generation Pokémon game. Having never really given it a chance due to my loyalty to the Blue version, I decided to give Pokémon Yellow a spin. I'm really glad I did. With the ability to pick up all three of the original starter Pokémon from Red and Blue over the course of the game, combined with the slightly steeper difficulty curve, it felt like a more complete experience. I ended up training a team consisting of Pikachu, Venusaur, Charizard, Blastoise, Sandslash and Hypno, caught a total of eighty-four different kinds of Pokémon, and managed to best the Elite Four after forty-five hours of gameplay. At some point in 2007 I played through Pokémon LeafGreen, and while it was a pretty faithful reconstruction of the original games, it didn't have that charm that accompanies nostalgia. Thankfully, that was something the Yellow version was able to deliver. The limited colour palettes, the primitive audio, the original translation... There's just something about the original GameBoy games that can't be replicated in a remake. Playing Yellow has rekindled my appreciation for the franchise, and has encouraged me to check out a game in the second generation of the franchise. Given how complete Yellow felt as a package, I'm feeling inclined to go with Crystal in the hope it will deliver the definitive second generation Pokémon experience.
Forza Motorsport 2I have very mixed feelings about this. I think Forza 2 is an incredible game with a hell of a lot going for it. It looks amazing, it plays really well, and offers just the right mix of racing and customisation that I've come to expect from the personally-dubbed 'car porn' subgenre of racing simulators. It offers a range of different difficulty options, ensuring that anybody (even someone as terrible at racing games as myself) can have a good time with it. On the other hand, though, I hate Forza 2 with a passion. As with every racing game that's come before it, and almost certainly every racing game that will come after it, Forza 2 has an uncanny ability to stimulate the part of my brain that secretes completionist hormones. In layman's terms, Forza 2 has a hold on me that won't loosen until my game completion percentage reads 100%. The presence of achievements makes matters even worse, because I know that completing all the races and achieving that 100% statistic would net me a substantial amount of Gamerscore and probably turn Forza 2 into my first A rank on Giant Bomb. With my current driver level at 46 and my percentage sitting at a solid 84%, I know my quest is nearing an end. It's going to be one hell of a grind getting there, but I intend to make it to the summit of this mountain before the year is out.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2009I picked this back up a few days ago after playing the demo for PES2010 (see above) and realising that I still had a lot to do in last year's iteration of the franchise. Despite spending a lot of time with the game, I seem to have achieved next to nothing. The Master League, usually my sole dominion in the world of Pro Evo games, remained worryingly untouched. So does the new Become A Legend mode, and I haven't even won any of the leagues or cups. I've vowed to change this situation, and I've finally started a serious stint in the Master League. I also intend to win a few of the domestic leagues before my time with the game comes to an end. With money the way it is right now, I probably won't be looking to pick up PES2010 until it drops in price to around £20, meaning I probably have a good six-to-nine months left with PES2009. That's plenty of time for me to achieve what I want to, and hopefully earn something to show for all my time spent with the game.
I think that just about covers everything for now. For those of you who read on a regular basis, I'm sorry about the somewhat sporadic nature of the recent writing. Rest assured there's a lot of content to come. I've got two or three pretty heavy blogs sitting in the back of my head, along with a concept for a serial blog that I'll most probably follow up on. In the meantime, thanks for reading guys. As ever, I'll see you around.
Currently playing - Pro Evolution Soccer 2009 (X360)