I like a Challenge

I got underway, feeling as grand as a ship captain setting sail for lands unknown. That’s a decent avatar of me. I can’t quite achieve that whole Lex Luthor-style, billiard-ball-bald look, though. There’s always a shadow of hair, Lombardo-style. So this totally smooth-headed avatar represents an impossible ideal that I will never attain.

Challenge mode. I have to finish in the top 9. Okay. Will do.

Another cunning Konami stunt, moving the menus from the horizontal to the vertical and hoping we’ll passively accept it as being a revamp. Is there another example anywhere in gaming of a developer so comprehensively shafting a beloved game-mode, year on year, than PES Productions does with Master League? I mean, if there were no Glory Years to remember, this would seem fine, probably, but there are so it’s not. It’s almost as if they don’t want us to play it! I know, crazy talk…

The new Team Status screen. This, plus a slider to negotiate contracts with, are the new additions to Master League.

I decided to go full-throttle old-school with the formation. I need to win games. Goals win games. A 4-3-3, then, similar to my Glory Years’ 4-3-3 (the same formation I was still playing with in PES5, this summer just gone).

Game on!

This is the stuff, right here. Nothing feels better in gaming, in life, than the feeling of the nights drawing in, a sudden chill in the air, the central heating pipes clanking under the floorboards, and the warm hearth of PES flickering on the screen…

I lost that match. And quite a few others too.

Top Player, PA1, before anyone asks. I’m not a great player, and probably should have stuck to Professional for at least half a season as I normally do, but I fancy making Challenge Mode challenging. I will stick with Top Player. If/when I restart, though, following the sacking, it’ll probably be on Professional.

I’ve won one match so far.

Here is the table from a few matches ago – I’ve played more since this was taken, but am still bottom of the table:

9th is a long way away from here.

I’ve toyed with the formation, switching to a version of the 4-3-3 with two DMFs and a sole AMF. Trying to beef up the defence.

It hasn’t really worked out. I still concede, on average, about 2 or 3 goals to the AI per game. I have to go on record as saying I love this aspect of PES2018.

Whatever else happens from here – and the fouls/free kicks situation, year on year, has dragged the series into quicksand – I’ve been waiting since PES2012 for an AI to feel consistently deadly again. Here it is. Brilliant.

I don’t even care that most teams mostly play the same way. There’s never been great individuality at the team level in any football game.

Random thing: I always press L1+dpad-UP to make my kickoffs feature the traditional two players. The game remembers this setting for the rest of the match. Wish it could be permanent.

All hail a momentarily confusing usage of ‘marching orders’ in the American English sense:

These menacing board messages do keep popping up. I saw this one after an atrocious run of results:

Which made me fear for my future after losing the next one. But all I got was a sarky message about potentially clearing out my desk soon. I hear that there is no wiggle-room in Challenge Mode. I will be sacked, probably in mid-season.

I’m tempted to jump before I’m pushed, and restart with a renewed sense of purpose and focus. Every match matters. But this is the first time such a feature has been included in Master League, in this way, and I want to pay tribute to the old girl (meaning, Master League) by letting it sack me at least once.

On the pitch, PES2018 plays a very good game of football. But there is a dark, dark cloud on the horizon. The end-times are at hand. Never in my worst nightmare did I think that the low-fouls of PES2016 and PES2017 would lead to the situation we have today in PES2018. Almost literally no fouls at all.

Roughly 1/3rd (maybe even half) of my matches feature zero free kicks for either side. The remainder feature a pathetic 1 or 2 at most.

15 or so matches in, there has not been one single match with more than 2 AI fouls on me, and that was itself a rarity. Appalling and unforgivable.

So the time has come. I solemnly pledge now that there will be no PES2019 in my life or on this blog if this keeps up. And PES2018 is on borrowed time.

The no-fouls issue, unless it is resolved properly, and SOON, has effectively destroyed Pro Evolution Soccer.

Life begins at Master League

Here we go. A very short, sharp post just to say two things. I’ve installed an Option File. I’ve Edited in my usual bespoke Coventry City. I’m about to start Master League. That’s three things. I’m excited and I lost count.

I got the game on Tuesday, which was super-early. It meant I had to wait longer than usual to begin Master League.

I played plenty of matches in Tournament and Champions League Mode and, God help me, offline shiteClub mode. I understand it’s easy to start your very first match on shiteClub with the likes of Suarez, Bale, and Morata playing up front. The future of football gaming, folks.

Today, I shove aside the trivial and get down to serious business.

Option File now installed, it’s time to get underway.

I am starting as a bespoke Coventry City. I had to Edit over one team. I usually Edit over WE United or PES United, and then import them to my chosen Division 2.

I couldn’t find PES United anywhere, but scrolling through the leagues I located WE United in the PAS League, and got to work.

I imported all the kits provided by the blog’s regular commenter, Paul (check out PESFX for plenty more, and to make requests).

Over the course of about 15 minutes I patiently went through each category of settings for WE United, overwriting them with every morsel of info. For my custom banners I picked four of Coventry’s most famous sons (and daughter).

If you don’t have to Google any of them, well done.

Then I discovered that I couldn’t move my newly-created Coventry City from the PAS League into the Championship.

So I reset WE United back to their default settings.

I went over into the Championship, and did everything I’d just done, again. Another 15 minutes.

I had to overwrite one of the existing clubs. Bad luck, Burton Albion. You’re just not established enough as a ‘proper’ team to have made the cut.

And now I’m all set.

I will start this very night. Bit of dinner. Bit of telly. Then Master League. Challenge mode. Professional difficulty.

A long and multiply-winding road ahead, leading who knows where?

One of these days a PES game is going to lead me straight off a cliff-edge (no-fouls, I am looking at you).

Will this be the edition that does it?

Or will it be the edition that redeems not only Master League, but PES as a whole?

I cannot wait to find out. The journey of a thousand miles starts here.

PES2018: 1st Impressions

PES2018 dropped through my letterbox earlier today. The Tuesday of release week. The earliest I have ever got PES.

It’s very welcome, and I hope nobody leans on SimplyGames (or any other early-dispatching retailer) to end the practice. Those of us with jobs and busy lives need these extra bonus days. Getting PES2018 today has made all the difference to my week.

The weather is always exactly the same for me on the day I get PES. Sunny, but cool, with variable, mottled cloud-cover. Chilly enough to wear a jumper, but not for the heating. It never rains on PES day. And it always gets unexpectedly dark while I’m playing my first session. I play long past the time when I should have turned on a light.

My first impressions of PES2018 are very good ones.

I wasn’t blown away by the recent PES2018 Demo, to say the least. In fact, after one session with the full game, I’d say the demo might be the worst demo ever released in the whole series.

It might be worth Konami skipping a PES2019 demo entirely next year, because there is no way the PES2018 Demo represented the quality of the final game.

I updated the game. Straight into my traditional opening fixture, England vs Scotland.

I’ve been playing this as my opening match since ISS days.

I always play the first fixture on Default settings. Regular difficulty (note that: Regular difficulty). 10 minutes. I almost turned off the new secondary ‘shadow cursor’. I decided to leave it for now.

The AI had the audacity to play reasonably well. It didn’t create many chances, but then you wouldn’t expect it to on Regular.

And I had the humiliation to see the first goal scored on PES2018 scored by me, for the AI. An own-goal. Here is that goal, at the end of a 1-minute clip that shows some of what PES2018 does right:

You can see me trying a few PES2017-type things in there, that just don’t work.

R1 seems to have been nerfed, in the sense that it’s now very easy to overrun a dribble – by getting greedy and trying for an extra yard – and lose the ball to a surprisingly tigerish AI defence.

Passes longer than short-range have a greater chance of being intercepted, it seems to me.

It all goes into the cocktail of what makes a football game complex and good, as opposed to routine and average.

There are tons of great ‘special moments’ in the penalty box. Work has clearly been done on the creation of these uncannily realistic events. Lots of goalkeeper additions have been made (although the slow-mo ‘superman’ dives need to go, asap).

Next is another video showing three things:

  • A ‘special moment’ where I overhit a through-ball (with Gary Cahill), and the AI keeper scampers after it, but doesn’t get there, allowing me to slide a cross over. I saw similar things many times.
  • My first proper ‘worked’ goal. PES2018 is very amenable to this kind of play. Time and again I tried to do PES2017-style powerups to create booming shooting chances. Chance-creation like this is more optimal in PES2018 right now. We’ll see what an ML team full of Team Spirit brings, though.
  • And my first long-range Hollywood goal (playing England-Germany, with me in England’s change kit). I’d had a few opportunities like this, but taken them too quick. I let the ball run across Oxlade-Chamberlain before caressing the shoot button. If this is indicative of how long-range shooting in PES2018 works, I will approve.

I know the score. I always love the first session with any football game, PES or otherwise. New football game = joy to the world. That’s never not been the case with me. So I’m not counting future chickens – just relishing what I have now.

Here are the stats post-match for Game 1 – this went to EXTRA TIME and then penalties, I should stress:

Yes, a couple of fouls, and just as important, I was able to foul the AI. Massive improvement from the demo – and that held up across all 6-or-so matches I played.

And I moved onto something new pretty soon – 11-minute matches!

I just wanted that extra 30 seconds per half to experience the gameplay style. Build-up, patience. Bombing it forward, PES2016/17-style, wasn’t often working out for me. I might go up to 12 mins.

It’s difficult to convey in words how different the full game feels from the demo – how much better. And also how different the core gameplay feels, right now, from PES2017 and its immediate (accursed) predecessor.

I moved up to Professional soon enough, played Germany, won one, and lost the next one:

The AI scored two good goals here that I captured but haven’t got time to post here – a near-post flicked-in header was one of them.

So that’s Session 1 of Day 1. A great PES day, personally speaking, not least because the bouncy, energised feeling is the most difference between a demo and a full game that I can remember.

PES2018 is not the PES2017 clone that the demo made us believe it is. That’s for sure.

What PES game is it like? Superficially, yes, it is part of the same family of PESes that began with PES2014. That’s the game it’s the spiritual successor of, but I was reminded more of the general experience I had with another, much older PES.

I remember PES6 (not my favourite PES, but undoubtedly a classic) feeling similarly bewildering at first, and I remember unexpectedly losing and struggling on lower difficulty levels in that game.

I remember the day I got PES6 – it was a cool, cloudy, sunny day just like this one.

I’m tempted to start Master League right here, right now, today, but I will restrain myself. Until tomorrow at least.

I’ll definitely have started ML by Friday’s post.

PES2018 is here

Thanks be to SimplyGames. Here’s hoping they’re not firmly sat on before next year. This is the earliest I’ve ever got hold of PES in any release week of any year. The Wednesday was my previous record.

I never anticipated getting the game today. I have to go out and do something right now. Aaargh….

I will return in a couple of hours and spend the afternoon playing. A 1st Impressions post will appear around 7-8pm tonight. Always interested to hear everybody’s 1st impressions too, of course.

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