I like football games, possibly more than I actually like football. A couple of matches in the evening after work during the week is one of life’s simple pleasures. But recently I’ve found it difficult to find a footy game I can get on with. Not since PES 2008 (which. depending on your point of view, was either the worst of the series and death of modern PES, or the last hurrah for Pro Evo as we used to know it) have I invested a massive amount of time in a particular title, instead flitting between various reasonably modern versions of the two major franchises for a season or so without any of them really clicking for me.

Possibly they’re a bit too hard. This is difficult for me to admit, as someone who always felt that more complicated and nuanced football games represented progress, instead of constantly harking back to Sensible Soccer or Kick Off. As a hardened PES nut in the mid noughties I was fairly insufferable, demanding to play at the highest difficulty and scoffing at anyone with a preference for FIFA because it might have been easier to get to grips with. It was about understanding the game of football, us PES knobs used to say, and if you understood the game of football you’d know why PES was better. I never thought the time would come when I wanted an easier game.

*strokes beard* Of course, there hasn't been a really good football game since Pele's Soccer on the Atari 2600...

*strokes beard* Of course, there hasn’t been a really good football game since Pele’s Soccer on the Atari 2600…

These days, I find modern football games do replicate real football, but mainly in the sense that they’re a bit like playing in real life as an unfit 35 year old surrounded by keener and more athletic players: kind of familiar with what’s going on, but petrified of receiving the ball, desperate to get rid of it when it comes your way, and when you occasionally consider doing something vaguely clever you realise that to perform even a basic turn involves a delay of several seconds between thought and action.

In skilled hands, of course, I’m sure this is not the case. But otherwise they kind of feel like a throwback to FIFA ’97 – unresponsive players and animations not keeping up with the action – with stilted and frustrating on-pitch action the result. Bloody minded, dogged persistence can bring some sense of achievement and progress, but it all feels a little too much like hard work. A bit like when football games weren’t just about FIFA and PES, and there were viable, if flawed, third party options that had good bits and bad bits, and finding out provided a few hours of entertainment.

This wasn't the best year for FIFA, although there have arguably been worse since.

This wasn’t the best year for FIFA, although there have arguably been worse since.

There’s a bit of reluctance to look back in football games, as with football itself. Leaving aside the “Sensible Soccer is the best” crowd, the people who cling onto their favourite PES or FIFA from the past sort of seem a bit mad because of their refusal to move on. It seems a bit like me saying I’d rather support the 1992 First Division title winning Leeds team, or the 2001 Champions League semi-finalists, instead of the current rabble. But I think that might be where I find myself at the moment.