Friday the fourth

I’m far enough into Season 11 of PES2017 to get to the first transfer window, and this has happened:

This is Friday’s fourth stint at the club, for those trying to keep track.  I originally bought him in the first transfer window of Season 1. About a season later I sold him for much-needed cash, but he was so good in his last few matches for me that I regretted the decision and bought him back as soon as I could. Several seasons later I sold Friday again after I got better players who showed him up as being rather average. Then I brought him back on loan just a few seasons ago, when he got a handful of goals before the loan ended. And now I have outright bought him back for a token few million in the twilight of his career.

My thinking here is to water down my team of Galacticos by bringing in several Youths and veterans, and shipping out a few unneeded superstars. I’ll keep the likes of Aduriz, Ibrahimovic, and Wesley Sneijder – but they’ll often be playing alongside the likes of Friday (an in-decline, 74OPR, 31-year-old now) and some brand spanking new Youths including:

The 17-year-old Gareth Bale. He would have cost £50m from Real Madrid, but I got him for £10m plus a player. I’ve never had Bale in any PES and am looking forward to seeing how his individuality develops, I’m quietly growing a newfound respect for many aspects of PES2017, and I’d like individuality to be one of them.

I’m enjoying being back on PES2017, not just because of the game itself – so heavy and solid! – but the convenience of playing on the PS4. My PES5 thing might have worked out if I’d given myself more time to prepare an abode to play it on. Something like an always-on PC next to the main TV might have done the trick. One to note for the future. Some part of me will always dream of joining the PC gaming master race, but I probably never will.

I’ve also signed this old friend:

The 60-rated Jarvis will get games, not many, but some. Again, I want to dilute my squad and make the experience harder. If I don’t, I will just go through season after season like a threshing machine, hoovering up all the trophies.

I also picked up a couple of other Youths: De Bruyne from my own Youth squad, and Thiago Silva from whatever club he was at. The latter got a cut-scene.I won the International Club Championship at the start of the season, beating some nonsense made-up Konami team 2-0 in the final.And this is the current mid-Season 11 league table:

I’ve got a good chance of a Treble this season, something I haven’t managed on a PES since PES2013, I think.

And Friday has returned. At the time of writing I have only managed to play one match with him, and it made the whole experience better. If I was the kind of ML player who made up stories about my club and players (rather surprisingly, I’m not that kind of ML player), I’d say that Friday was the Ian Rush of my team, and always had to come home.

Ich bin ein Pro Evo

Pre-match versus Dortmund in the Champions League – in PES2017. Yes, the flip-flopping continues. I’ve picked up PES2017 again, and forged ahead with Season 11.

I’ve played many matches with Unassisted passing, and had good experiences and indifferent ones. When I focus and take my time, Unassisted passing is a net positive, requiring a degree of subtlety and appreciation of the pitch, the players, and the length of button-presses that simply isn’t required when using Assisted settings.

When my attention wavers, or I get impatient for any reason, gameplay with Unassisted passing tends to disintegrate in a fashion familiar to anyone who has tried it for a while.

I’ve spent half the time on Level 1 passing, which as we all know is as automated and machine-like as it gets. But it is pleasant, and familiar. It’s comfortable. It’s the Ovaltine of football gaming. PES is an assisted-gameplay franchise.

And for all its layers of automation, PES is what I need to be playing.

The FIFA thing wasn’t going to happen this year, for the very good reason that it’s never a solid outcome. History demonstrates the truth of how my football game years pan out: I have to play FIFA first, or I don’t ever really play FIFA at all.

My FIFA16 flip-flops didn’t stay on even through the Championship playoffs. I was in the second leg of the semi-final, against Norwich, 0-0, stuck in a mire of constant possession turnovers and trance-like gameplay. I switched off, and doubt I will return now.

The great paradox of FIFA is that it can feel like the greatest football game ever made – for about two matches. All its flavour is in the first couple of bites, for me. PES is better for many reasons, but one of the reasons is that it brings a greater consistency of experience over multiple matches and multiple sessions. PES still has its dead zones, of course it does, but they’re proportioned more thinly and spread out in a way that FIFA’s aren’t.

And PES gives me great moments like this:

I’ve done a lot of jeering of PES2017 and its whole ‘superstar ethos’ over the past 8 months. Automatically getting this ‘Ibra’ character in the Youths isn’t something I welcomed with open arms, it has to be said.

But I have to acknowledge that PES2017, for all my moaning, is greater than the sum of its parts. I’ve consistently slammed it for so many things – no-fouls, that appalling telescopic slide tackle, its relatively toothless AI, and the so-called ‘Rivals’ matches that are among the worst single matches I’ve ever played on any PES – but here I am, at the end of May, playing it again.

Granted, the convenience of the PS4 is a huge draw, and if I’m on the PS4 and not playing FIFA then it can only be PES2017 at the moment. So a process of elimination is working in the game’s favour here.

So is it PES2017 all the way to September now? It could be, you know, it could be,

But not yet.

The flip-flopping isn’t quite over. Next, I fancy checking in on PES2012 on the PS3, and seeing if my old savegame is still around.

A cuddly toy, that’s my only joy

This is all I’ve got today – a rather ordinary goal from FIFA16, on the face of it, but one I was delighted to be able to score, for reasons about to be discussed:

It’s that angled through-ball across the penalty area right into the path of my onrushing Rashford, for him to joyfully lash into the top of the net.

A straightforward sort of goal, but when trying to play that same through-ball countless times on PES2017, it never worked. Once again FIFA demonstrates its capacity to do something right. Both games have this capacity to do something well that the other one does poorly or not at all.

Rashford got a hat-trick in this match, and is a great FIFA16 player.

I’ve played to the end of that season in my Career Mode save, and got to the Championship playoffs. It’d seem rude not to play through them and try to win promotion. I’m still on Professional difficulty, so it would seem to be straightforward. And it probably will be straightforward, but when FIFA wishes to stymie the human player it can do so just as easily as PES can.

I don’t believe I will stick with FIFA16 for long. At the moment my plan is just to get up to the Premier and have a nose around for a bit, and then run back to one of the Pro Evos – same as it ever was, really.

I quite fancy taking another look at PES2011. The PES that got away, for me.

And there’s always my PES2014 savegame from last year. I just looked and I never won more than a league title. Barcelona defeated me in the only Champions League final I got to. I never came close to the Treble in that game. PES2014: the great hidden master of football games. If PES2014 was a person it’d be a wizened old man in a mountain hut, smiling beatifically down at the world.

But I fancy a spell on the PS4, with all the ease and comfort thereof. So it’ll be FIFA16 for another bit, and then probably back to PES2017 with ‘Lloyd Settings’, i.e. Unassisted Passing/Assisted Shooting.

Life is good with the flip-flops on.

I should say a word about the PES2018 announcement this week. This is not a general football gaming website, so I have nothing pseudo-journalistic to say about what might be in the game. All I have to say is that September already seems to be fully booked-up at work for annual leave, and I am sad. In every sense.

You can’t always Burchet what you want

I have abruptly abandoned my playing of PES5 — and my playing of one consistent daily football game. For now.

The demands of real life are too much. Nothing terrible, just work and life. Time is squeezed almost to nothing.

With PES5, a few factors have gone against it. I’ve been playing PES5 on and off for years, since 2009 in my main current save, so there’s nothing really new for me in the gameplay. PES5 is still, and always will be, the greatest football game ever made, by the by.

The fiddliness of playing a daily football game on the PC is simply proving too annoying. I am used to the comfort and convenience of the console experience. I am a happy and proud console peasant.

Much better for me to get my daily football game fix via console, and for that console to be the PS4.

Over the past few days I’ve enjoyed playing some PES2009 on the PS3, after a couple of regular commenters enthused about it at length. I’ve gone back to my old ML save on PES2017, and fooled around with Unassisted passing – there’s something that might be worth exploring in the future. PES2017 felt really good, overall, surprisingly.

I’ve also played a few matches in my old savegame on FIFA16.

My Coventry City team were riding high in the Championship playoffs the last time I saw them. I scored this goal with my young signing, Marcus Rashford:

Very satisfying. Curiously, in this little session of FIFA16, I had time to experience the two extremes of FIFA. During the first match: ‘This is amazing, this could be the greatest football game ever made!’ Then, literally two matches later: ‘I don’t want to play this any more right now’. Very curious.

So the flip-flop weeks are here to stay. Given the way life currently is, that’s how it’ll have to be.

Looking back, a flip-flop period is as much a staple feature of summertime on the blog as the thumbshot picture is of PES release day in the autumn.

Who knows what I’ll play next and what I’ll end up playing for the next few months? It’s quite liberating to have no plan.

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