I suspected/worried that the game would do it—and the game is doing it. PES2008 is allowing me to catch up with the runaway league leaders. To make things more, you know, exciting. I’m going for my first Treble in Master League. Until the latest batch of games, I was 10 points behind Valencia with seven games to go. Suddenly, Valencia can’t get any kind of result, and I’m flying up behind them.
First of all I faced them in the Division 1 Cup final, and beat them. The game finished 3-1 to me. Valencia were poor, poorer than they’ve ever been. Two of my goals came from Andy Cole, who is quietly establishing himself in my squad and is on his way to becoming one of the best strikers I’ve ever played with in PES. Seriously. He just has a knack of being in the right place to get goals. I’ll be speaking more about Andy Cole in the future.
So that was Part #1 of the Treble in the bag. I also made it through to the final of the European Championships, aka the Champions League. All I had to do was make sure I won my remaining league games, and the possibility of a miraculous Treble was very much on.
I won my next few games. Pretty easily—2-0, 3-1, 5-2, against all-comers. No one could stop me. Valencia, meanwhile, were on a downward spiral, losing one and drawing two. As thing stand, I’m just 6 points behind them with three games to go. Knowing PES as I do, I can almost guarantee that I’ll go into the last game capable of winning the league. It’s just how things work around here.
I really wish it wasn’t happening. I really wish Master League—for me the greatest-ever game mode in any game, period—just wasn’t like this. I messed up the first part of the league season and I should pay the price. I don’t want my opponents to be artificially slowed down for the sake of giving me a more ‘exciting’ finale. This isn’t bleedin’ Mario Kart (I hear terrible things about the scripting in Mario Kart but can’t vouch for it personally).
Valencia were 10 points clear. Of course, it was always mathematically possible for me to catch up; of course, there are plenty of real-world precedents. In England alone I can remember Manchester United blowing an early-season ten-point lead in the mid-1980s, and letting Liverpool effortlessly overtake them. Then of course Newcastle United famously returned the favour to Man Yoo in the 1990s. I’m sure other leagues and other countries have similar examples. It does happen—not all the time, but it does happen. Maybe once every decade or two.
My problem with it happening to me—for me—now, in PES2008, is that it happens all the time in the game. And I don’t want it to. FIFA08’s Manager Mode has many little niggling problems—no evening games; no play-offs in the lower English leagues; cup finals not played at Wembley, etc.—but those are bugs or oversights, not deliberate programming choices. I’ve never known FIFA08 to brazenly handicap the team at the top of a league table for the sake of an ‘exciting’ run-in. Hopefully the whole Master League setup is something else that we will see revamped, or even completely reimagined, for PES2009 and beyond.