Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Emlyn Hughes has a lot to answer for (a gaming odyssey)

Written by OnlineSoccerGamr

A trip down memory lane. Much like the majority of you, I started my football gaming addiction at a young age and this meant it traversed many franchises across a number of different consoles. It all started out with the time I received a Commodore 64 for my birthday, it was 1989 I was eight years old. That game was...

Emlyn Hughes International Soccer

I’d never had a computer before but here I was with a tape deck and a joystick and endless hours playing with the international teams, editing the kits, changing player names, epic tournaments with friends recreating the following years’ World Cup Italia ’90. 

The beauty of this game as you’ll see from the clip is the simplicity, you could even lob the keeper! In some respects this game’s hardwired into the way I rate any game now. 

1. is it playable/realistic (I had no idea)
2. can you personalise it? 
3. Are you free to create.     

This game had all those things. 

Kick Off

Then the Amiga came along swinging Kick Off and Manchester United Europe (dev’d by Krisalis) into my life, only I didn’t own an Amiga. I was the kid sat eagerly next to the rich kid from down the road, as he adventured deep into Europe, getting the odd five minute at the end of a session to check out the magic. Yes that’s football played on a keyboard!

It was the first game that really felt like you were running the club, the players had real names, I’m not a United fan, but the whole experience felt like a European night with mysterious teams like Ajax and Ferencvaros to play, desperately I longed for that similar experience and eventually it arrived. 

One Christmas, good old Santa popped a Sega Megadrive in my sack! (No metaphors here), along with it came...

World Championship Soccer.

Yet more improvements, and a few quirks this was a vertical play rather than the traditional side scroller that we are all used to, (those crazy guys at Sega/Mastertronic diving into the Sensible Soccer style of things) 

This game was brutal, fouls galore and relatively difficult, it was heartbreaking to go out yet again to Argentina and there was no saving the action. The goalies were abysmal but it didn’t matter it felt physical and real. The ball even got bigger when it was closer to you in the air! 

Nothing can compare to what happened next when Virgin/Krisalis brought out...


European Club Soccer

This was THE game I’d been waiting for. The perfect mix of Emlyn Hughes free game play, the graphics (at the time!) was unbelievable and the sheer number of teams you could play as!!!! (Wrexham, Torpedo Moscow, Kuusysi Lahti, Rapid Vienna, Norrkoping and Carl Zeiss Jena to name a few!) 

I must have spent hours playing two legged European affairs, avoiding the away goals rule and romping to victory!

Most of my friends were on their own gaming journeys NES/SNES Mario Kart/Mario etc, but this was my game and I hammered it, but it was surprisingly difficult I don’t think I ever felt I truly mastered it. 

We all know what happened next though and I suspect this is where a lot of us older gamers converge. 

FIFA International Soccer

This was released in 1993, and yes that was David Platt (of Sampdoria) on the cover. FIFA was the first of many game changers, it killed every other football game I owned overnight. 

It had a new slick presentation that little did I realise was a benchmark EA Sports could only bring, the catch phrase was there its in the Game! 

You shared a coin toss, the exotic South American referee offered sides or kick off, the new isometric camera angle, the sound of the crowd, you had controls at set pieces, there was 48 playable teams (yes I checked that bit), but most of all there was the game play! So long games felt like you were playing on predetermined rails,  early FIFA felt like you could truly run anywhere, pass the ball anywhere, do anything… well it turned out you could, frequently I was seen running around the pitch avoiding the ref’s yellow/red card :) and so was also born the run button!!!!

That first FIFA really united us as friends we would busily crowd around running tournaments and drawing names out of the hat as we ran our own world cups. (Hong Kong and Qatar were to be avoided!!!) 

Yes they didn’t have real names but for once it didn’t matter as the game really was awesome to play!

The game swiftly made way by its successor FIFA’95 and so began the real Fifa era, Erik Thorstvedt on the cover, penalty shoot outs, the ability to play four mates on a team and the first look at Premier League, and leagues from around Europe, the model of a game a year was now upon us, and I lapped it up! 

Unfortunately for FIFA, a new boy was swinging into town. 


International Superstar Soccer 64

The N64 arrived in our house and along with it Konami and International Superstar Soccer 64.  Maybe I was naive but I was always hooked early on the realism and simulation elements (shadows on the pitch wow!), Konami added great graphics and a showmanship that was more akin to the arcades to the game. It was fast frenetic and people were scoring bicycle kicks!!!

I can distinctly remember one of my friends one sunny afternoon rinsing me with Nigeria in a game I felt I couldn’t lose, but every time I was beaten, 5 nil, 6 nil, 7 nil it didn’t even matter I couldn’t get near him! The funny fake names didn’t matter the game play was mental, it was the beginning of a new phase and little did I know the beginning of the Golden Age of Football gaming. 

One last hurrah for FIFA was FIFA’98 with Becks on the front a decent game, decent commentary, and real names too but when you consider it now, it was the end of FIFA’s dominance and the arrival of the King. 


Pro Evolution Soccer

As things in my own life changed I gave up gaming for a fair while until on a sunny September morning I bumped into my new flatmate as I entered uni. A Manchester lad with a playstation under his arm and a copy of not ISS but something called Pro Evolution Soccer, sharing a liking for football and Guinness, we quickly dived into co-op on a grand scale.

Pro Evo was here and it was here to stay. R. Larcos anyone

Pro Evolution Soccer 2

Some amazing games and it only got better with PES2, this for me is still the best football game I’ve ever played, maybe I’m nostalgic and others have undoubtedly been better (PES4 & PES6 come to mind). Master League gripped us as we wasted away days, weeks and months with a bit of study and a whole lot of gaming, gear and booze. 

This was where those classic names came out to play Ivanov, Stromer, Ducic, Valery, Iorga, Cellini, Ximenes, Espimas, Miranda, Bolatta, Vorlander, Eddington, Harty, I could go on, they will always be legends, but they were quickly joined by the signings, transfers were a thing! And bloody difficult too, weeks and weeks and then eventually, he signed the boy wonder, Pablo Aimar, he who would get us to Europe!

Following those glory days, work beckoned and gaming fell away as life took hold, I still bought the game and dived into Master league occasionally but never with the same feverish eager anticipation of the uni days. PES2 I salute you!

Pro Evolution Soccer 4 & 6

Konami went through an odd stage of having Pierluigi Collina, the bald Italian ref on the cover for a couple of games before that fateful release of Mr. 99 shot power himself Adriano graced PES6.

PES4 was where I really feel the game resembled what we have today, its lucid, its detailed the we’ve got the licences and the big names, and also crucially now a real sense of the kits bringing added realism, PES like so many things had really began to become a bit of a side show, without friends to game with regularly, they too had selfishly chosen work, money and women over gaming or online gaming it was master league or nothing.

PES6 The Adriano game as it will forever be known, is arguably the pinnacle of the series. I played it a fair bit but like PES4 it suffered for me, as I just didn’t have any competitive gaming, I just did master league, I don’t have the memories! 

That Inter team though holy cow! What a team they were Ibra and Adriano in the same team: Toldo, Cordoba, Zanetti, Materazzi, Walter Samuel, Dejan Stankovic, Figo, Vieira, Cambiasso, Ibra, Adriano, Crespo and Recoba. Now if that ain’t a team on crack! Potentially the best team in gaming history? (That’s another thread right there). Recoba, alongside Dejan and Adriano would get in most best computer game players elevens.

Forgot about the Penguins - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ttEiqAGaf_Y


Pro Evolution Soccer 2009

The years went by before I ended up at PES2009, I’d just bought my first house and had time on my hands, this was the reawakening!

This was an excellent game, a very young Lionel Messi on the front cover and a Barca team which would make husbands leave their wives! (I’m definitely writing that second thread now) I can’t really talk to what FIFA were up to they’d been left in the wilderness for years, I sort of forgot it existed.


Pro Evolution Soccer 2010

PES2010 saw my boy Torres on the cover, still no shifting Leo, but a quality instalment of the game and a seminal moment, this was when I started online gaming.

As I mentioned before I got my first house and with it a stable and awesome internet connection, so now gaming was a thing, I met a few lads online and before I knew I was involved in a gaming site.  It was great to be part of a community, I’d never really had this. Eventually I found my team Evian Thonon Gaillard. A rogue bunch of complete wasters with little talent between em, but a lot of heart!!

I never achieved anything with them but it was never about that, they were my low level losers, always on down arrows but brutal and classy in equal measure, Jerome Leroy was a magician on his day, (roughly once every 10 games) and Mohammed Rabiu the 67 rated dynamo of my midfield permanently Up arrowed. I even had Sidney Govou in one season!! He had shocking form so only featured rarely in the luscious pink of Evian. 

And most importantly this is where I met fellow PEN boys and all round decent chaps, Kaiser-1, zeemeister, Sami3lungs, swinny, Brizzle (Buzz in those days),  djquantum, AMOSS201177 and I think even fungusking! (This may have been later, I can’t remember exactly) 

Unfortunately the community didn’t last, a lack of resources and gripes about one thing or another drove people away, it was a real shame, for along time after I missed the place. (And you think this is the bad part of the story) 

FIFA 2014

Battling on with PES until 2014 I eventually succumbed to FIFA’s lure. (This is the bad part of the story)  It was FIFA 14 World Cup Edition that did it, was feeling a bit bored, and fed up with PES and so bought it on a whim and didn’t turn back, FIFA had upped its game, the presentation was really slick, but in a way that felt believable again and not showy, the controls were refreshingly free and the fast pace was exactly what I needed after battling the bounce of later day PES.

More over my, son at 5 was beginning to love football too, so we had common ground and a game he thought was real life! The only issue with the World Cup edition was Andy Townsend but nothings perfect. Several more FIFA’s went by without me realising they were all just the same game repackaged and badged for the season.

A particular favourite was the Marco Reus covered FIFA 17 and the arrival of Alex Hunter and his slightly contrived journey, playing with a few mates online it was a decent game but the ping pong effect of FIFA was starting to grind, 18, and 19 came and went and despite building impressively awesome Ultimate Team squads.



Increasingly dissatisfied with FIFA’s ice dancers I downloaded the demo for a game curiously called eFootball PES 2020 (obv I knew it as PES) and as if by magic those memories of great football games came rushing back, the weighted and accurate passing, off the ball movement, the attention to detail in moves I forgot were even a thing. 

I was surprised by the fluidity and most of all how well a game offline held up, it felt difficult, it felt well earned and diving into Master League, it felt like I’d never left. This year I hammered ML I mean seriously hammered it, I’ve won nearly every league going, Copa Libertadores, European Cups I’m the most decorated manager in history in my ML, even with the regens I needed more. 

That’s when I found PEN on a forum and thought I’d sign up… little did I know I’d find so many old friends, and make a few new ones. 

Good luck this season chaps, it’s great to be here.

And one more thing...

How about the highlights of one of my recent games on PES to finish;

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