We are the hollow men

I needed to win my last two games of season 2016 to be in with a chance of taking the league title and securing my first Treble in PES2008. I’d already won the two Cups—domestic and European—and I’d steadily caught up with the runaway league leaders, Valencia. Before the season’s final fixture I was in second place, 2 points behind and with a superior goal difference.

I wasn’t too happy about the fact that I’d been able to catch them up. I’d prefer a much more realistic Master League where teams who streak into ten-point leads at the top of the table rarely—if ever—lose them. In PES it happens more often than not that there’s still everything to play for in the last game or two. Shaping an exciting league table is PES’s manifest objective throughout the course of a season, and it really shows.

Or is it just me? I’ve said many times that I’m a PES player of decidedly average ability. It happens to be true. Do other Master League players of greater ability win the league every season by a dozen or more points? I think there must be players like this out there. It’s probably my average skills that make every season, with machine-like inevitability, tend towards the ‘tense last-game thriller’ scenario. So I believe, anyway. Without a comprehensive scientific study, complete with control groups and white coats, it’s impossible to be certain.

I was 1-0 up at half time in my last game. At half time I checked the Valencia score—they were drawing 2-2 with their opponents. As things stood, Coventry City were the champions. I’d felt all along that Valencia would draw their game, that I’d just have to win mine to take the title. It was looking like coming true.

But how did I feel about this? Didn’t it all make me feel a little bit hollow? I was about to win the league, but five games ago I was nowhere. In the real world, a hollow victory would be better than no victory—but PES is greater than the real world, or it should be. I hold it to higher standards. I hold it to the standards of realism that I wish it possessed. (I’d love a Football Manager/PES hybrid. I’d just love it.)

Did I want to win the title, and the Treble, in this way? I wasn’t sure that I did. I even considered deliberately conceding a goal in the second half of my match and thus tossing away the title. Then I could go for a ‘proper’ Treble next season, one that didn’t rely on the CPU arranging for its best team to collapse. Seriously, I considered it.

But I didn’t consider it for long. PES is a game, after all. No matter how hollow it makes me feel at times, a game is all it is. If its programmers want to arrange things in a way that they believe will keep their customers interested in their product for longer, that’s entirely their prerogative. I don’t have to play it. I can swan off to FIFA any time I like.

So I decided to take the title, and the Treble, and just be glad of it. I held on in my game for the 1-0 win. It was tough towards the end as the CPU team stepped up its game to get an equaliser. For the entire last ten minutes I couldn’t get the ball. Every time I got it, I auto-lost it as the CPU players swarmed me. But I held on.

The moment the final whistle went I wondered what had happened in the Valencia game. What if they’d scored a cheeky winner to confound all my pseudo-moralistic claptrap? But no, of course they hadn’t. The title was mine. My players celebrated and then Prieto—DMF and captain for the day in place of the fatigued Bradley—collected the trophy:

So that, as they say, is that. The Treble is mine.

I don’t consider it a proper Treble, one that I’ve won. The CPU blatantly threw away the league title. I don’t ever remember finishing top of any table in PES before with a win average of just 60%. So in many ways I’ve still got a ‘proper’ Treble to go for, one that I win—in the league, anyway—rather than have gifted to me. I want to go to the top of the league and stay there and win by several points with a few games to spare. That’s my next target.

Season 2017 isn’t going to be about a post-Treble hangover. There’ll be no sense of “well, that’s this Master League ‘completed’.” I never ‘complete’ a Master League. It’s not the kind of game mode that can be completed. It just goes on, forever, until the end of time. Or until PES2009, whichever comes first.


  1. That is pretty bad though isn’t it? Who were Valencia against in the last game?

    It does what it sets out to do for most casual players though (the likes that don’t play ML every single day!). I remember when I was playing my first PES, and made the comeback to win the league. At the time it did make it exciting, but when you have played it so much and know how it works, it doesn’t mean a lot anymore.

  2. Valencia were up against Deportivo. I had Levante. I don’t think it’d have mattered who was playing who. It really was all a bit ‘meh’. During the run-in as the CPU was blatantly throwing the league in my favour, I could feel my sense of involvement slipping away. I hope season 2017 isn’t the same. I can feel a FIFA week coming on!

  3. Hi Greg

    Congrats on the treble, I think.

    Prieto is a revelation for me, it’s a toss between him and Mathieu for the DMF position.

    I have won the league by a big margin a couple of times in earlier versions, but more often than not in recent versions the COM usually stays closer. Never bothered me, I usually when win the treble, restart a fresh game. I think I read you saying you got up to something crazy like 2040 or something. Your manager must have been about 90 😆

  4. I think you have given more than enough hours on both versions of PES to justify not playing it again. Surely you have done it all? I know you love the ML, but maybe you should play a league season? Try a full international league with all the best countrys, and use a smaller team. I always used to play international league with Spain, and never won it…

  5. I don’t know if I’m average or not, but I have won the league a few times by a margin larger than 20 points with my current team. Kim Cyun Hi, Bradley & Co. are just too much for the other league teams. It’s been one treble after the other for I don’t know how many seasons. Maybe this version is easier than the previous ones. And yet I keep playing. I want to see how many goals Kim can score till he retires. He’s up to 509 at 27.

    I have an alternative ML, though, for when I want more of a challenge. In the past I have set house rules to make the game more competitive, but I found that if you restrict yourself too much, it becomes the CPU’s game. It’s the machine that decides whether you win or not, not you. With a massive team, you can most of the times beat the scripting.

  6. ^

    All that on Top Player?

    It sounds like you are way better than average..

    I have heard something about a Superstar difficulty (equivalent of 6 stars) for PES 2008. Maybe it was an earlier version because I can’t see it anywhere..

  7. i know I play every day…but i use tottenham an the only player ive signed is Benzema (waitin for Schwarz to re appear)an i play on proffessional level .. im goin into my 4th season an i nstill hhavnt managed to get into the top league on this particular ML…it piisses me off soo much sometimes..but then i guess it make sit that much more real an that much more challengin…

  8. Benzema isn’t as good in PES as he is in real life. But wait for him to be snapped up by a Premier League side and suddenly he will be insanely overrated..

  9. Not Given,
    I played in Professional for the first couple of seasons, then I switched to Top Player. But I have to say that I don’t see much of a difference between the two.
    My league is not a super league, though, I wasn’t sure about how hard it would be at first, since I was just starting to get acquainted with the new PES, so I picked the league that has Dutch, French, Turkish and Greek teams. I’ve kept playing the same ML because I managed to get such a great team together.
    I have been playing with the same lineup same formation for at least 5 seasons, so my team’s been playing by telepathy for a while. Most players have over 90 in their teamwork stats. It’s the best team I ever played in PES.
    The famous 6 star level was present in previous PES’s, but I never bothered to unlock it. I figured it would only mean more scripting.

  10. heraldo – Despite all my misgivings I do feel a certain sense of achievement about the Treble. It’s just not as big as it should be. I don’t remember having this hollow feeling in years past – not even in the PS3 version of PES2008. I was delighted when I won the Treble in that.

    I think I’ve got half an eye elsewhere, you know – on FIFA, on UEFA, hell, even on MGS4 (is it June 12th yet?). I’ve got so many great games to play. I just completed a very difficult hunt in Monster Hunter 2 on my PSP that I’ve been trying to complete for 5 MONTHS, and I got a rush of satisfaction from the final victory that I should have got from this PES Treble. But I didn’t.

    I did indeed make it to the mid-2040s on PES5. I was unemployed for most of that PES year. I don’t know how far I’ll make it this time round. I will go on playing PES2008, don’t get me wrong – but who would ever have imagined that a FIFA game could have the power to make PES gameplay seem a little dated? (I still automatically flinch just to think that.)

    Not Given – I’m thinking about doing a full-on, unashamed, no-holds-barred FIFA week. I did do one several months ago but it was a pretty tentative, almost scared FIFA week, and I even abandoned it early.

    I would never play any other game mode in PES2008 now that I’m 11 seasons into my Master League. I would never restart ML either. I’m just like that – I’m average at the game, so it would always have an interest for me, as the game itself was so keen to demonstrate in season 2016!

    Adriano – Sounds like you are pretty good at the game. I can just imagine you dribbling all over the pitch, running rings around the opposition…

    Aspects of this version are easier, no doubt about it. The shooting for one, I think. Other aspects are harder – the CPU’s aggression levels and the passing is tougher.

    As for alternate MLs and House Rules – I’ve been there and done that. You might remember Singers FC and my deepening disgust with the PS3 version. I won’t retread old ground. I still like the core gameplay of PES2008 and will continue with it, in combination with FIFA08. Come the Autumn, who knows? If PES2009 stinks and FIFA09 is as good as I suspect it will be, things could change. Somehow, though, I believe PES2009 will be a pleasant surprise.

    Benzema – that’s another player I’ve never heard of on PES. He sounds great too. It is indeed tough to get out of the Division 2 (for me it was anyway) but soooo satisfying when you get those extra few players to make it possible and things just ‘click’. I think that’s one of the most enjoyable phases of a ML for me – the promotion season and then the first season or two in the top flight. I know, I know – why don’t I restart and play through more of those seasons? Because I love building and rebuilding ML teams and getting as far as I can get.

    All in all, I cannot shake the sense that this PES year has been tainted. Konami and Seabass badly let us down with the so-called next-gen PES2008. No matter how great the last-gen version is (and I think it’s one of the best-ever ‘classic’ PS2 versions), there’s a sense that things just shouldn’t be like this. FIFA’s surprising emergence from the depths of badness hasn’t helped PES either. Let’s just hope we come to look back on 2008 as a blip.

  11. Yes, I love it when you’re just starting to get some goals, and your team begins to string along more than a couple of passes without giving the ball away and conceding ridiculous goals. Being promoted (especially when you win the D2 league) with a weak team is a true joy. But you have undergo a lot of suffering before that.

    I still try to keep my alternate ML somewhat in check. It’s where I try to sign the average or slightly above average players, just to play a more challenging game. Yet it gets grating when the CPU starts cheating. That’s when I go back to my super team.

    Again, I’m not really that good, it’s just that there’s a huge gap between my team and the others.

    I’ll go ahead and post my lineup, since this team has given me hours of fun: Fredriksson GK, Doesburg RB, Bos CB, Sidney CB, Walton LB, Bradley DMF, Kaiser CMF, Khumalo AMF, Shaw LWF, Koeman RWF, Kim Cyun Hi CF.

  12. Greg / Adriano

    The problem I have always found is when you do get out of Division 2, which takes me a while, you have a team ready to compete in Division 1 straight away.

    I still have 2 ML defaults in my team just now, EL MOUBARKI, and STEIN.

    This is my XI


    I am starting to control all the games with my midfield quartet.


    Thats some amount of goals with your CF. 509, NEVER came close to that.

  13. I think over every PES my best goal scorer has been Raul. I buy him at some point every ML.

    I think I could get more joy with the ML if I could swap between the PSP and PS2. I am just so awful at the PSP version, I can’t win a game. The opponents are on insane aggression, and the controls are so limited. I used to feel PES was a slower football game, but after playing UEFA, its speeded up, arcadey and(dare I say) poor! I am just angry it at right now.

  14. Not Given

    I just cannot play PES on the PSP. I am hopeless, it feels wrong. My Mrs bought me the Lite, it still feels so heavy and the anologue is torture.

    I have switched to UEFA 2008, addicted to the Captain your Country mode. I have been captain for 10 games now. 8.9 my rating. Loving it so much I have just went to Asda and bought FIFA 08 for £17.93.

    I agree PES even on the PS2 feels wrong now after nex-GEN FIFA games.

  15. Adriano – I remember when you posted your XI way back you said your GK was the best on the game. I’m not happy with any of my keepers so far and will be looking for him in the next negotiations. Also one or two other players… Tomorrow’s post is a pre-season negotiations one but it’s already behind me so I’ll have to wait until mid-season now.

    heraldo – has Bradley started blasting in the howitzers yet? And keeping at least one Default in the team at all tmes is something I experimented with in my House Rules ML on the PS3 version. Sadly the PS3 version as a whole sank like a stone in my estimation.

    (And just saw that you got FIFA. It’ll be interesting to see what you make of the even slower gameplay and the relatively looser shooting. Still a great game though and I think you’ll love it.)

    Not Given – Don’t worry, you can say it. PES does seem too fast and too arcadey in comparison to the all-new next-gen FIFA match engine (of which UEFA2008 is a superb development, I have to say). I bet part of you still thinks you’ll melt every time you suggest that EA has exceeded Konami and made a football game (rather than just a game based on football).

    I’ll definitely be doing a FIFA week, and at this stage I’ll be less embarrassed/ashamed/scared about doing it. I’ll give it the full treatment. I think I’ll do it once I get to the mid-season break in 2017 on PES2008.

  16. Greg

    Yes, he’s blasting in the canon balls. Deadly from outside the box, like an arrow.

    Nowhere near the obscene distance you scored the other day.

    Got FIFA after your reply today regarding Be A Pro. £17.93, I would spend that in an hour in the pub on a Saturday. I played the demo before buying it, the club teams swayed me. BAP with Celtic, happy days.

    Will keep you informed.

  17. heraldo – my Bradley long-ranger was very much a one-off. I’ve scored maybe three goals like it all year, two with Bradley, one with Camacho. Most of Bradley’s goals come from the classic DMF 25-35 yard range.

    If you really get into BAP you should take a look at online 5vs5 (if you can stand the kids hogging the ball) and the Challenge scenarios can mostly be played in BAP mode too.

  18. not-Greg,
    You should definitely get a hold of Fredriksson. He rarely ever gives me any reason to complain. He also has one of the best growth charts in the game, all players included.

    You’ve got a great team there. Stick with it for a few seasons until they all peak, and you’ll see. I’d just get rid of Stein. El Moubarki is not bad. I really like Tulio. Very good defender, even though his stats aren’t that great. Ben Sahar is in my alternate ML, and he’s brilliant.

  19. Greg

    I get more nervous online than I did when playing football 😆


    Tulio is brilliant, I always sign him, as he’s cheap. Never lets me down. My GK I would say is arguably one of the best in the game, he has played 65 straight games and his stats are hitting 93-95 and he’s only 21. BEN SAHAR is a god in this version, I have never came across him before, did an advanced search and found him.

    STEIN will be going shortly, his stats are declining NOW. EL MOUBARKI he’s steady, without setting the heather on fire.

  20. Guys I don’t know about you but i find the balance of the game overall remains better when I have a team full of real players (whether reborn or not) rather than using the Konami created players. Not to sure why but i enjoy it more when I’m playing with the real players and to me it presents more of a challenge.

    I try to limit myself when it comes to created players because their growth charts seem to far out do those of even the best real life players

  21. There are plenty of Konami players with average and below average growth charts (actually some just plain suck).
    I have done it all in the past: only real players, a mix between real players and konami players, only average players, only below average players, only Konami players. Whatever rocks your boat is ok. I’ve also tried “donating” loads of cash to other teams in my league to strengthen them, but for some reason they just don’t seem to have the drive to acquire loads of better players. The only was that works is to trade some good players for their donkeys.

  22. stinger & Adriano – I’ve recently got a ‘thing’ going for players I’ve never heard of, most of them Konami players. In the dim and distant future I might dismantle this team and rebuild solely using players I’ve never heard of, ever. This means no Camacho, no Yamada, no Carter – literally no player at all that I’ve ever heard of. I’d have to go down the list of All Players and stop at those I’ve NEVER HEARD OF before, and see if they’re worth signing. It’ll be fun. It’ll happen!

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