Master League: Game On

After twenty minutes spent editing all the English league team names, I turned my attention to PES United. Every year this is the team I take over and play my Master League career with. I always change their name to that of my home-town club – Coventry City – and edit the kit to the traditional (and world-famous) Sky Blue colour.

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I was concerned that PES2008’s trimmed-down Edit mode wouldn’t let me do what I needed to do. But it was fine. Yes, it’s a poor Edit mode this year. I feel a lot of sympathy for fans who love nothing more than to spend hours tinkering with players and kits and boots and logos and whatnot. But the bare-bones Edit mode happens to be adequate for my modest needs.

The only thing I usually do that I couldn’t do this time was add a shirt logo. At the moment I cannot be bothered messing around with EyeCams or whatever it is I need to use to transfer images into the game. I would have liked simply to add some text and use that as a logo, but even that function is denied. Curse you Seabass!

I zipped through the Master League setup screens, impatient to finally get going. I chose Top Player difficulty with 10 minute matches, and I selected the Teamgeist ball to play with. When it came to choosing the transfer market levels, I went with Normal for everything.

And so to the formation screen.

I was interested to see some additions to the Default squad players. As well as the usual and expected Ivarov, Ruskin, Minanda, and Castolo et al, there’s a handful of new faces. Baumann, El Moubarki, Van den Berg, Ettori. They’re all around the 20-years-old mark. I think they’ve been added not just to bulk out a seriously stamina-challenged squad, but to provide you with some youngsters to develop over a few seasons. Ordinarily you can’t get rid of the Default players fast enough (I’m looking at you, Ximelez). If you still have any of them in your squad after a few seasons, you’re not doing things right. But this crop of new players looks promising – especially Van den Berg. I’ll be keeping a fond eye on all of them.

As ever, the main formation has got to be a 4-3-3. And, again as ever, setting up an initial First XI is a matter of choosing the best of a pretty bad bunch. Here’s the formation and selection I started with:

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I know. With these players, it’s a formation that cries out: Attack me! But I have found that I cannot play with any other style of formation. Playing with two up front just feels wrong. With a 4-4-2 or a 3-5-2 I can never seem to make things happen. It’s 4-3-3 or bust for me. (I do kind of cheat on this a little by having two alternate formations assigned to strategy buttons, and I use them on the fly in the midst of games. But they’re very special alternate formations, and I use them in a peculiar way.)

I put all the defenders’ and the DMF’s defensive arrows on full. I set up a couple of attacking runs for the AMFs and CFs. (They haven’t worked out too well and I’m chopping and changing them from game to game.)

Then I was ready to play. I had chosen to play in Division 2 of League B, after a few minutes’ confusion over just which League had all the English clubs in its Division 1. After messing around for a while I finally just swapped out the entire Division 1 of League B for all the English clubs. This way, when I get promoted, I’ll be taking part in a virtual English Premiership. That’s the way I like it. However, I did not change any of the clubs in Division 2. Consequently I find myself playing in a real mish-mash of a league. Celtic and Rangers are there. Galatasaray are there. Rosenborg are there. River Plate are there. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. Never mind.

I forget now who I played in the first game. Whoever it was, they were all over me. I was cursing the Default players’ treacle-slow movements and response times. I viciously cursed their oil-tanker-like turning circles. I went 0-1 down. Then, somehow, I scored my first goal. Nothing special, really. But the first cut is the sweetest, or something.

The game ended in a 1-1 draw. Overall I was much happier with the Default players than I have been at the start of Master League in the last few PESes. This year they seem more resilient and more capable on the ball, relatively speaking.

I got a shock when it was time to choose my team for the next game. Barely any of the First XI had more than half their stamina left. It’s going to be a long, hard season.

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