PES2011 on the PS3 in the year 2018 is not without its challenges, but it is a marvellous football game, which more than makes up for everything the game – and the platform – lacks.
And Master League, of course, was better in the old days.
Tootling around in the Master League menus, what do I find but the individual training menus, which I had almost completely forgotten existed.
This is where you allocate Focus Points on a per-player basis, and have the option of adding skills through skill cards. Similar to PES2018’s system, but better in all sorts of ways. First because there will be an undoubted effect upon the players that translates to on-pitch action. And second because of the sheer time it takes to complete the training, and the financial commitment required.
For example, here I am training up Schwarz in the Passing skill (I want him to be the complete player, moving forward).
PES2011’s menus’ trademark lighting effects spoil this screenshot, and most screenshots of the game, but it can’t be helped.
Note the length of time it will take: 72 weeks. SEVENTY-TWO WEEKS! Instant gratification, I don’t think so. Those 72 weeks would have been 144 weeks if I hadn’t allocated a precious Focus Point to the Skill Training. Decisions, decisions. After every week there’s an appreciable cost deducted form my budget for this training. Granted, I’ve got the cheaty Advanced Start, which means a bigger budget, which means this training isn’t squeezing my finances as much as it otherwise might.
This Training menu demonstrates just one aspect of many in which Master League has been dumbed down in more recent years.
PES2011 and its immediate predecessor were the best Master Leagues that the series has ever seen. Why they were dismantled in the way that they were is one of the great enduring mysteries of gaming, and of life itself. The obvious answer why is that Konami wished to facilitate online gaming, which entailed reducing the amount of time that users were spending in a non-profit mode. This seems to be the only rational answer, regrettably.
I’ve played 6 League matches and 1 in the FA Cup. I won the latter 2-1 with a stylish diving header at the end from El Moubarki, arriving late to a deep cross. I thought about getting the phone out to make a recording of the goal, but in truth, it wasn’t remarkable enough to make it worth the effort. Had that been a PS4 goal, you would be watching the replay even now. This is one of the factors about going back to the PS3. The threshold for what is and isn’t a recordable goal is raised by some margin.
The table – look at that lovely Bundesliga logo, and that lovely Division 2 name, and just look at the hodgepodge of teams and their lovely badges:
Now that’s a proper old-school Master League screenshot, right there.
So what’s the state of PES2011 after a week?
Well, my life right now is such that I get very little time to play, relatively speaking. I tend to play just two or three good sessions per week, rather than an almost-daily session as of old. I’ll be honest and confess that my thoughts have often turned back to the PS4, or even to the PC platform. I think often about the joys and conveniences of what I could find there. But the quality of PES2011 on the PS3 transcends every issue at the moment.
Football game Puritans in general and PES Puritans in particular might want to look away now.
My PES2011 setup period is over – and here’s Puritan Strike 1: I have stuck with the Advanced Start.
I initially ran into it without realising. Advanced Start bug in PES2011’s Master League is where pre-Editing the team makes you start with more money and a higher team ranking than you ‘should’ do.
I’d played a couple of matches before realising. It’s too much work to unpick the stitching and start again.
It all means that I’ve been able to furnish myself with some good players from the outset. Iaquinta up front, Motta at DMF, and De Sanctis in goal.
The squad is still 90% Defaults, but would’ve been 99% Defaults without the Advanced Start.
Eh, whatever. I just want to get on with things. I’ll go the full-on Bible-thumping Puritan route at some point in the open-ended footy gaming future.
Puritan Strike 2: my Division 2 is called the UEFA Super League. I’ll still be promoted to the Premiership, as it then was, eventually, but Division 2 isn’t Division 2. And it’s stuffed with the oddest teams. I remember hand-picking them years ago when I spent a few days one summer fooling around with this game.
To add to the Puritan heebeejeebees: whenever the game shows me a replay, the logo that swooshes across the screen is for the Bundesliga.
And finally, Puritan Strike 3.
This is a vaguely long-range goal from Thiago Motta – who’s only with me because of Strike 1, remember – in which the defence backs off and backs off and backs off, instead of closing me down. That was a hallmark of the AI coding around that period of PES, I recall. PES2010 was particularly noted for it, but it was in PES2011 too, on lower difficulties at least. This was from my first two matches on Regular. I’ve changed up to Professional since, and space is very much at a premium
I love PES2011’s shooting. Adore it. Its variety of outcomes and the sheer subtlety of it all – based on the player, his stats, where he’s facing, and what’s happening near him – is as complex and interesting as anything we’ve had since, in any football game.
Arguably PES2011’s was the best shooting we’ve seen in PES since PES5. (Everything in PES5 was and is the all-time best-ever, of course. Everything before and since is jostling for second place.)
I’m mid-table at the moment, and into the second round of the FA Cup. Looks like I’m in this for the long-haul.
It’s not all wine and roses, as the next weeks and months will bear out. I really miss the PS4. I’m very tempted by the allure of FIFA.
But PES2011 was and is unfinished business. And most of the reason I’ve dumped nuPES is to get back to PES fundamentals. PES2011 certainly feels like that.
PES2011 is hopefully going to be the PES game of PES Chronicles for the foreseeable future.
I’d already be well into Season 1 of Master League if I hadn’t run into the ‘Advanced Start bug’ that I clean forgot about.
Here’s a nostalgia-filled screenshot of my first tinker with the First XI and squad:
This screenshot is from the Advanced Start savegame that I won’t be sticking with.
Master League on PES2011 must be a Default slog from the outset, or it won’t be ‘real’.
Soon as I’ve rectified the issue, I’ll be starting proper.
Or will I abruptly jump ship back to the PS4 and FIFA17 (or PES2018)? Regular readers will recall many a similar about-face in years gone by.
All I can say is: I’m enjoying PES2011 again, but not enjoying the PS3 so much. Time has become squeezed for me over the past 8 years. Those extra PS3 minutes of loading time really count for something. Also the lack of the PS4’s Standby function that enabled me to keep a single power-on session ‘live’ over the course of a day or two without rebooting the console. Strange how very spoiled I so quickly got.
I usually do these End Of Year Reviews in late August, just before the arrival of the next new PES game.
This August, there won’t be a next new PES game for me. No PES2019.
So here’s my End of Year review for PES2018 now, in mid-March.
PES2018 is a very good football game. I have enjoyed most of the time I’ve spent with it.
But PES2018 is not a great PES game, and that’s the decisive factor. It continues the trend of recent years’ PES games. It betrays the series’ fundamental values.
Hmmm, what is it the ‘proper’ reviewers do? Oh, right, they list the essential things about a football game and talk about them. I’ll give that a go.
The basics felt good from the outset: passing, shooting, animations. The latter were perhaps too good. Every player seemed to handle like the most supple ninja ballerina on Earth.
I’ve always thought PES had good graphics, even back on the PS2 and PS3. Playing PES2018 on the PS4 was a visual treat.
Master League…. I have grave doubts that any reviewer actually played Master League, or not enough to discover its essential hollowness.
The point of Master League was always about growing your side inch by painful inch over time, and bonding with individual-feeling players throughout many seasons of drama and hardship.
It takes a lot of playing through half-closed eyes to see the old Master League magic in PES2018, or in any other PES since roughly PES2015 (individual tastes will vary; some would say PES2011 was the last good ML).
Shooting always came in for savage criticism on the forums, and here in comments. I have played enough recent FIFA to know how relatively simplistic PES shooting is, but here’s a strange thing: I like the restrictions of the more basic shooting mechanic. It seems to me that PES is always at its best when it limits freedom, perversely. If pretty much every player can do pretty much everything, core PES values are tossed overboard – and sad to say, that’s where we are with nuPES.
The appalling backheel mechanic on its own would be enough to condemn PES2018 in the PES equivalent of a Sharia court. Has even FIFA, at its very worst, featured anything more egregious that the PES2018 backheels? How can this seriously be called PES??
Then there’s no fouls. No penalties. No injury stoppages or substitutions in-game. (“But I’ve had lots of injuries in-game!” Video proof required of your player a) being injured in the flow of a live match, and then b) the game forcing you out to the squad screen to make a substitution – or it didn’t happen.)
The relentless churn of end-to-end, uninterrupted gameplay. Wonderful for the online brigade and the $$$$ flowing into Konami’s koffers. Not so wonderful for the offline player.
Long-rangers, my absolute favourite thing to do in a football game, are mostly absent from PES2018. This was one of only two or three.
I don’t particularly care about real football or real football players. PES is its own universe. Its own reality. Football players are not my heroes. I don’t care who they are or what they’re wearing (beyond their club’s kit) or how intricate their tattoos are. I don’t care to have photorealistic recreations of them in my football games. Faces were good enough even in the PS2 days. The current maniacal obsession with tattoos and boots and hairstyles speaks to a wholly different market.
I’d happily play an entirely made-up Master League with wholly made-up players. (In fact, doing precisely that, in some version of PES, is on my to-do list for the limitless, open-ended future.)
Wonderful moments of PES2018? Ah, a great many, too many to recount and enjoy here, but regular readers will know that I have enjoyed PES2018 as a solid football game of the current era. Among all the distressingly samey players, there were flashes of individuality over time.
Despite all the criticising I’m doing here and over the past 6 months, I say goodbye to PES2018 with good feelings about the game. If everything that came before 2015 had never existed, I would be gushing about PES2018 and extolling its virtues.
But everything that came before 2015 did exist, and I remember it. We used to have proper, measured gameplay that would often leave us awestruck at the intricacy of moves that could be stitched together using players that felt so different from each other that you knew this was the best possible football gaming there could ever possibly be.
Nowadays, every player has near-perfect touch, can rotate on the spot like a ballerina, and possesses practically infinite stamina. All of which, of course, is conducive to online play. ‘Balancing’ as it’s called by game designers – making sure that no one side can enjoy too much of an advantage and ruin the competitiveness. Excuse me while I climb up on the desk to shout a massive and unrelenting BOOOOOOOOOOO at that.
They took my PES away. Okay. Only one answer to that: take myself away from this pretend-PES, and back to real PES.
Enough. It’s all written down over the past 6 months.
Here are my scores.
First, the kind of score that the game would get if it was assessed purely as a non-PES, standalone footy game. On that basis, PES2018 is a worthy
The reviewers weren’t ‘wrong’, as such. Those 8s and 9s were fully deserved. PES2018 is a good generic football game that happens to bear the PES name. It gave me 6 months of value. 8 full seasons of Master League. Lots of enjoyment and exhilarating moments. Even plenty of that ‘fun’ we’re all supposed to think is the most important thing about a football game.
But that’s not the real score. I can only apply the cold, hard judgement of PES2018 as a PES game. Its score as a PES game is
I’ve finally accepted the truth. Barring a miraculous reversal of policy at Konami (which won’t happen; they’re a business), there’ll be no PES2019 in my life or on this blog.
I’m not under any illusion that this constitutes anything like a consumer boycott. I have no expectation at all that the series will return to core PES values. My 30-odd quid won’t be missed in the Konami Accounts Department. Other revenue streams and ‘user demographics'(groan) are now overwhelmingly the series’ focus.
This nuPES brand of watered-down-FIFA-with-a-garnish-of-PES will continue to be refined in the coming years. PES of today is a game that embodies its maker’s requirements of today. I don’t feel all that bitter and angry about it. It’d be like being bitter and angry about gravity.
If you don’t like something in life, you can always pick up your ball and go home. This is such a case.
“Well, if you’re a real PES fan, you love PES no matter what…” a familiar kind of voice often chimes in around this juncture.
I don’t listen to that voice. I don’t take anything it says at all seriously. That voice belongs to a different kind of PES fan to the PES fan that I am.
Call me a PES Fundamentalist if you like. I’d be happy and proud to bear that title.
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