Month: July 2008

Pre-season 2021 & other stories

Things are changing here on PES Chronicles—hopefully for the better. For the past several months I have chronicled faithfully my day-to-day experiences of playing Pro Evolution Soccer. I could very easily continue in that vein indefinitely, but I feel that things need freshening up. An altered posting schedule will allow me more time to compose (hopefully) better articles.

I’ll still be relating what I’m up to on PES2008 (and on FIFA08). But I’ll be doing it in a different way. After so many seasons of detailed recaps of my progress, complete with diagrams, screenshots, etc., I don’t think there’s any real need or point in doing it all over again. I’ve covered a lot of ground over the past several months. I don’t want to cover it all again and simply end up repeating myself ad infinitum. So I’ll be summarising a lot more than I used to. I’ll just be covering the big highlights.

The new style of posting will also allow me more scope to talk about PES2009 and FIFA09. Over the next two months there’s going to be an increasing amount of rumour, speculation, and hard news emerging from both camps. I’ll be ‘covering’ it all in detail (huh, listen to me, talking as if I’m a proper pseudo-journalistic blogger all of a sudden).

I’m one of the many football game fans who expects both games to be great this year. I have no means of knowing for certain, of course, but I suspect that come September/October, we’re going to be the happiest we’ve ever been with the choice of football games on offer. FIFA09 is going to be a superb evolution of the all-new FIFA franchise—I’d put a very large amount of money on that. And PES2009 should be a triumphant return to form for the tarnished series. Although I do agree with the conventional wisdom which says that it’ll be another year or two before we see what Seabass & co. are really capable of on the new generation of consoles.

On Friday I’ll be looking at all of the rumours and confirmed news about PES2009. I’ll try to sift through it all and reach some kind of conclusion. On Sunday I will do the same for FIFA09. Naturally, in neither case will I forget to mention how I’m doing in the current games of football that currently inhabit my console…


After completing two Trebles in consecutive seasons—2019 and 2020—it would seem there’s little else to play for in this Master League career. It would seem natural to abandon it and start again with a new team in a new league with a new career path using different players. I have played Master League that way in the past. Around about PES4, I got into the habit of not abandoning ‘completed’ Master League careers. I started playing them indefinitely, all year round—in one case, PES5, literally until the night before PES6 was released.

I’m going to do the same right now. My Coventry City team marches on. There’s lots to do yet. I want to get hold of some of these mouth-wateringly talented Regens that have started cropping up. I’m talking Ronaldo (the Brazilian one), Ronaldinho, Lampard, and many others.

But not Gerrard. Unbelievably, Steven Gerrard has signed up to play another year for Barcelona. His age? 41.

Surely this is wrong. It has to be a bug, or an oversight, or something. I can only hope that whatever it is, it doesn’t stop Gerrard finally retiring at the end of the coming season. I need to get him as early as possible so I can develop him and play with him at his peak before FIFA09 and PES2009 are released. It’s a lesser PES year without having Gerrard in my ML team. Middle Shooting is his, uh, middle name. Would he be better than Bradley? That’s what I want to know…

My actual transfer action was pretty poor. I tried for, and failed, to get Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Lampard. I made pretty hefty bids worth a lot of the in-game money. All declined my offer—although, as ever in PES, you never know if the problem lies with the club or the player.

After a couple of weeks of pre-season I still hadn’t bought anybody. My one and only pre-season friendly was against a South American selection—an All-Stars team, in effect. They’re probably the toughest opponents to face in a pre-season friendly, and so it proved again. They thumped me 3-1. A 23-year-old midfielder called Veron had a superb game for them…

I snapped him up in the next week. I’ve always liked Veron in PES. He was one of my star men in my unforgettable PES5 career. I have a feeling he’ll be great for me in this one too. If nothing else, he could be a perfect replacement for Camacho in the right-sided AMF role. Camacho is 32 now and only a couple of years away from having to be retired to the bench. I did get Scholes to act as his replacement but Scholes’ development is coming along very slowly.

Veron turned out to be my only pre-season signing. I did keep trying for Ronaldo & co., but they all steadfastly refused. I think I may have a solution. I don’t like it, but if I really want to get these players I’m going to have to start offering silly money for them. Silly money for me is anything above 20,000 for the transfer, and anything above 2500 for the salary. But I’ve got the cash—I could easily afford it. So why not? I think I will go for it in the mid-season window. Money is no object.

PES Chronicles – Now On Summertime

Today would usually see me posting about all the pre-season 2021 shenanigans in my ongoing Master League career in PES2008. That post will still appear—but not until Wednesday now. (Brief teaser: I bought Veron, and failed to get Ronaldinho despite offering virtual billions for him.)

I’m implementing a temporary change to PES Chronicles. From today I’ll be posting three or four times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays; I’ll also post on most Sundays. Mid-September will see the arrival of FIFA09 and I’ll almost definitely go back to posting every day then.

For almost 10 months now I’ve managed to maintain a daily schedule of posting. There are a couple of reasons for making the change at this time. My daily posts have felt very samey to me lately. After 14 intensive seasons of this Master League career, I think the daily posting regime is starting to seem more than a little tired. I find myself returning to the same mini-topics (scripting, long-range goals, Osasuna, the direness of next-gen PES2008, curse you Seabass, etc.) again and again. I think I can find a different way to write about playing PES (and FIFA), one with more variety, and maybe a little more humour.

The overall idea of cutting my posting frequency is to give me more time to write fewer articles, and hopefully boost their variety and quality. Less really should be more. It’s an experiment I’ve been wanting to carry out all summer, and I might as well do it while the sun is shining and most of the football gaming world—me included—has its mind at least partly on other things.

Is it really so strange?

So, it was a typical FIFA08 match. I was playing Crystal Palace in my Manager Mode career, on World Class difficulty. I’ve been struggling badly in recent weeks. I’ve spent the bulk of my time so far playing on Professional level difficulty. I made the move up to World Class very recently—and had a terrible time of it.

For various (mostly bad) reasons I don’t play FIFA08 as much as I should. Playing PES every day, all year round, is such an ingrained habit with me that I have not (so far) been able to tear myself away from the last-gen version of PES2008. In a way it’s a great shame—ah, but this football game year is not over quite yet…

Whenever I do play FIFA08, I’m so schooled in PES moves and rhythms that it takes me ages to get (back) into the groove and start playing FIFA08 properly. And FIFA08 has to be played properly. I believe that most of the PES fans who have played FIFA08 but disliked it, have disliked it because they have failed to play it properly. Coming from PES to FIFA08, you find yourself naturally trying to play it like PES—trying to reproduce PES’s general gameplay, its stereotypical moves. This is not the right thing to do. It doesn’t work.

In PES, things move very quickly. Players sprint around for 90 minutes like maniacs who’ve been possessed by demons on speed. In FIFA08, by contrast, things seem to be slow, jerky, hesitant. More sedate and considered. It’s an altogether maturer sort of game, the antithesis of the instant gratification culture. You have to work at it. You have to concentrate. You almost can’t afford to lose the ball, ever. Unless you play it on its own terms and forget all about Pro Evo, you’re never going to like FIFA08.

I was seriously under the cosh against Palace. They’re one of the top teams in the Coca Cola Championship (it’ll always be Division 2 to me!). They were mounting pretty much continuous pressure. I could hardly get the ball back. When I did get it back I couldn’t do anything with it and lost it again. It’s this kind of gameplay that has appalled some football game fans—wrongly appalled them, in my opinion. It’s up to you, the player, to play the game in the way that the game is supposed to be played. It’s no good crying because you can’t do things that you’re used to doing in another game completely. But that is precisely the kind of attitude that has shaped much of this year’s PES vs FIFA ‘debate’ in various corners of the Internet. It’s a great shame.

Underneath the hood, behind the forbidding surface, FIFA08 actually has terrific flow. When you knuckle down and admit that it’s a different game that begs to be played differently, there is a sturdy poetry to FIFA08 that is simply absent from PES. PES is, by comparison, absurdly easy and arcade-like.

Is it really so strange that there was finally a good FIFA game? Is it so hard to accept, to admit? Apparently it is, to look at some threads on some forums.

I know I’m repeating myself for what must be the 1000th time here, but I still feel embarrassed about liking a FIFA game. It feels so wrong, but it’s actually so right. FIFA08 is a serious, sober football simulation, and PES2008 is a fast-paced arcade game that just happens to be based on football. That’s a total reversal of everything we have ever known and believed in. Gulp. How the hell did it happen? Can we ever recover from the shock?

Take my big game against Crystal Palace. I kicked off, and instantly passed the ball backward to my defensive midfielder. After several days of playing nothing but PES2008, everything in my instinct screamed at me to pass the ball straight out wide to my AMF, and set off on a run towards goal.

It’s not impossible to do the same in FIFA08. It’s just damn hard. This is why FIFA08 is a better game than PES2008. This is why the great hope for the future of football gaming currently resides with FIFA, not with PES. My God… How the hell did this happen?!

The score at half-time was 0-0. This is fairly common in the games I play. I can keep the CPU at bay, but cannot penetrate them myself. Working the ball around the midfield area, passing it back to defence when necessary (it’s often necessary), and then firing it forward to exploit any gaps that may open up (thanks to my passing and moving)—these things have become utterly foreign to the PES mindset thanks to a progressive arcadeisation of our beloved franchise (our formerly beloved franchise?) over the past few years.

Seabass & co.’s biggest sin, in my eyes, hasn’t been the failure to secure more and better licenses, or to provide a decent Edit mode. Their great sin—which may never be forgiven—is that they made build-up play in PES superfluous. Build-up play is now what you do in PES if you’re feeling nostalgic for the past and want to remind yourself of how it used to be. It’s optional. This is the sin.

My tough FIFA08 Manager Mode game against Crystal Palace ended 1-1. Both the CPU and I scored late in the second half. They scored first, with a fierce shot from outside the box—a proper World Class goal in the sense that the CPU rarely even tries long shots on Professional, but loves them on higher difficulty levels. I thought that’d be it—yet another 1-0 defeat at the hands of the CPU. In FIFA08 you can be sacked from your career if results go too badly against you. I was already hovering in the bottom half of the table. How many more bad results would it take before I got the inevitable warning from the board?

Thankfully, I got a late goal to make the final score 1-1. It was a rare kind of goal for me on FIFA08—a fast-moving, deadly counterattack. Dare I say it, it was almost PESlike in its rapid movement upfield. I particularly liked the long, looping cross into the box, followed by the knock-back header into the path of my onrushing striker. In the clip, my team—wearing pale blue shirts—is initially defending a Palace corner, and then attacking ‘downscreen’ towards the camera:

Annus almost-mirabilis

It was crunch time for me and my Treble. I’d just won the league title here in season 2020 of what is turning out to be another long Master League career. Winning the title on its own is pretty good, of course, but the Treble is where it’s all at in this game. I’ve already won a few Trebles, most recently last season. Back-to-back Trebles would be very nice indeed.

I was in the Division 1 Cup final and the European Championship final—i.e., PES’s Champions League equivalent. If the persistent rumour is true and Konami have secured the rights for the Champions League, will this competition have its ‘proper’ name in PES2009’s Master League? In other words, will this most prestigious of real-life Cup competitions find itself integrated into the often bizarre, made-up football game world of Master League?

I strongly doubt it. Somehow I can’t quite see Manchester Red pitching up against London Blue in the Champions League. Even with all the teams edited to look right, you’ve still only got four leagues. No, it just wouldn’t be right. It’d be a waste of the license. The debate is raging, but I’d bet on a standalone Champions League game using the PES engine coming out at some point in the 2008/2009 football game year.

Anyway, about those Cup finals. The ones I had to win in order to secure an historic consecutive Treble.

The Division 1 Cup final was first. It was against Basel—or FC Basel 1893, to give them their resounding full name. They were the easiest opponents I can remember having in a Cup final. I won the game at a canter, 3-0.

The European Cup final was the next and final component of the Treble. It was against Ajax—of Amsterdam, I often find myself mentally adding. I come from an era when TV and radio commentators always called them Ajax of Amsterdam. Sometime around the late 1980s they stopped doing that and started calling them simply Ajax, but for me the add-on element has hung around like an echo.

It was the first time I could remember playing Ajax (of Amsterdam) in this career. They were pretty tough, but not in a good sense. They were tough in the bad sense—in the sense that there seemed to be an underlying script at work that said “every time the human team scores, the CPU team scores.” Okay, my defending was probably suspect for some of their goals. Whatever, I won it 4-3.

And that was the Treble. I’d done it. Two in a row.

The only thing left to do was navigate my way through my remaining league fixtures without conceding too many more goals. I had another target to meet before season’s end: concede less than 20 goals. I was doing very well so far with just 14 goals against. If I could get through my last three league games without conceding more than 5 goals, it’d make it a truly remarkable season.

I’ll cut to the chase: I conceded 1 goal in each of the remaining games. I beat Sevilla 6-1 (always easy meat, them). I beat my next opponent 3-1. I drew the final game of the season 1-1. Conceding a goal in each of these games was slightly disappointing, and suspicious. I find that I am always suspicious of PES lately.

But I was comfortably under the 20-goals margin. I finished the season with 78 points. I was a massive 22 points ahead of a slightly resurgent Barcelona in second place. Valencia, after a poor season by their standards, were 4 points behind Barca. In other items of interest, Real Madrid managed to drag themselves up from mid-table to finish in 6th place. And Osasuna, my long-time nemesis, failed to win promotion back to Division 1. I won’t be seeing them until at least 2022 now. Ha.

I won 25 games, drew 3 games, and lost 2 games (boo). I scored 82 goals, and conceded just 17, giving me a final goal difference of +65.

All of which begs an obvious question: has PES2008 become too easy? My view right now is that it’s still a bit too early for me to tell. 2020 was a great season—a miracle year in so many ways. (But for those two defeats, it would have been just perfect…) It could be a one-off. If season 2021 is another season like this one, then yes, I’d say PES2008 is too easy for me. PES4 was the last PES game that I thought was a little too easy. We’ll see how PES2008 plays out after next season.