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Old 09-05-2011, 14:55   #1
Thumbs down BAL in 2011 has actually managed to regress from 2010

Over the past 2 years the amount of hours I've spent on BAL would add up to weeks. It's practically the only mode I play. Maybe it's my fault for deciding to try a little PES to distract myself from a bad mood, but the last 2 hours has brought me to a lucid realization: Today's the day I finally throw my hands up, admit defeat and trade in PES 2011 for some credit towards a game that doesn't unnecessarily make me want to throw my controller at my TV. Here's why:

1. The ridiculous AI manipulation: Stop trying to make the game seem "difficult" by predictably manipulating my teammates' AI and ability depending on the squad we're playing. My club's starting XI is pretty scary. Each position is usually occupied by a player of 85+ overall rating. And yet the most difficult matches I wind up playing are constantly to vastly inferior teams. Inexplicably my teammates transform into drooling idiots unable to do anything but turn the ball over to opposing players rated 15-20 overall points lower than they are. My back line insists on ignoring open outlet passes, preferring to dribble aimlessly until they're double or triple teamed and turn the ball over into an undefended counter-attack. My 98 overall striker comically and consistently manages to miss a wide open net in the 6 yard box, etc.

And yet when we're playing a club stocked with superstars (Barca, ManU, etc.) the exact opposite happens. My good-but-not-great midfielders break down back lines consisting of 90+ defenders routinely, fire off wizard-like passes and highlight reel goals from 30m out, and my defenders shut down players like Messi and Ibrahimovic without batting an eye. A particularly damning sequence of games I played recently saw my club dispatch a superior London FC squad in the CL semis 7-1 on aggregate, and the following match get humiliated 4-1 by the last place club in Ligue 1. Didn't help matters that their collection of 60s and 70s overall players with green and blue form arrows from top to bottom accomplished this against a team playing 80s and 90s with mostly orange and red.

2. Free kicks are broken. Teammates taking kicks from just beyond shooting range play the same ball in everytime. If they taking FKs from in front of the net the ball is blooped harmlessly over everyone's head into the GKs hands. If they're taking kicks from an angle they always go back post. Occasionally I'm able to run my marker far enough off to pivot back and sprint backpost and get a diving head or volley on it, but 90% of the time the ball rolls out over the endline. When an AI player takes a FK from shooting range the frequency with which it's converted into a goal is insanely high. A recent match I played was lost 4-3 on the strength of 4 FK goals from an opposing player who went 4/4 from 20-25m away. Unrealistic to be sure, but made even more insulting due to the fact that this particular player was rated 80 FK Accuracy/82 Swerve and accomplished this feat against my 93 OVR keeper. C'mon guys, the best FK scorers on the planet earn that distinction by converting 33% of their attempts if they're lucky. There's also the bug that convinces every AI player who finds themselves in position to get a foot on a ball headed out of the area on a CK to launch a volley back at the net and 90% of the time booms it 20 rows into the seats.

3. AI needlessly gives possession back to the other team on balls destined to go into touch or be easily scooped up by the GK. Incredible that in 2011 on platforms as powerful as XBox 360 and PS3 it's still seemingly impossible to fit however many lines of code onto a bluray disc that would prevent AI players from trying to trap balls 6 inches from going into touch or defenders racing their own GK to a ball in the area and booting it out of bounds.

4. Opponent AI constantly applies the proverbial full-court press when my team has possession and it's shockingly effective. My teammates seem incapable of recognizing this tactic and hold the ball until they're surrounded by multiple opposing forwards sprinting around like madmen deep in my end of the pitch. And they'll do this for the full 90 minutes and somehow still have enough stamina late in the game to run circles around my exhausted defenders. Interestingly the only time this doesn't seem to be a problem is when my team is trying to run down the clock and preserve a lead. Seems backwards to me.

And forget about trying to utilize the same tactic on the computer AI. They calmly play catch throughout their back line while you desperately use COM pressure to try and trap one of them into a double team. Because while you and the nearest AI teammate sprint around forcing the computer to get rid of the ball, the rest of your squad saunter about the midfield and have no knowledge of the computer player 10 feet away from them that's wide open to give their besieged teammate an uncontested outlet pass.

5. The passing scripting causes some very head-scratching sequences in play. The fact that one player gets activated to go after a loose ball is made worse by the fact that it's often the same player who has no chance of getting there first. This leads to situations where an AI teammate attempts an errant pass to me and the ball rolls past 1-2 teammates who could receive that pass but opt instead to let me sprint past them and lose the footrace to the computer defender who initiates a counter-attack. It happens in the defense all the time too. A side back will hold his position and watch while a ball loose on the wing rolls past and is chased down by a center back who has no chance of getting there before the opposing winger who now has a gaping hole in the back line to play a through ball to his striker.

6. Strikers with 85/85 speed/acceleration ratings will invariably be chased down by 70/70 backs regardless of the fact that they were played through 10 yards behind the back line. That very same back will invariably dispossess that striker via slide tackle or at the very least apply enough pressure to cause the shot to miss by a country mile. Cue Jim Begich offering up such pearls of wisdom such as "He did well to get a shot off with a defender glued to him." Just once I'd love to hear him say "How in the fuck did he catch up to him!?!?" 1 on 1 breakaways are practically extinct, and it's nonsense.

I'll just call it a day there because I think I've illustrated my point. I don't mind that Konami can't really do much to prevent EA from writing huge checks for exclusive licensing agreements and thus resorts to fictional teams, leagues, and players. For as long as I've been a soccer video game addict PES has always trumped FIFA's offerings in terms of gameplay and enjoyability. And for years I've taken the annoying little AI glitches that leave you scratching your head in stride. But I've finally hit the limits of my patience watching the same little problems never get fixed. Instead the increasing capabilities of modern game consoles are used to offer more visual bells and whistles and unnecessary gameplay "tweaks" paraded about with clever marketing slogans. "Engineered for Freedom" indeed :ok:

By the time PES 2012 comes around I'm sure I'll have had enough time to block out how utterly frustrated this year's incarnation left me and curiosity and wishful thinking will convince me to see what Konami's come up with. But I guarantee I'll remember to rent it for a month or two before I blindly cough up my annual $60. Thus concludes my unnecessarily long yet cathartic diatribe.

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