Master League is the greatest game mode ever created. For me it brings the kind of immersion that other gamers get from Football Manager and World of Warcraft. It easily leaves FIFA’s Manager Mode trailing in its wake. The sheer amount of time I’ve spent on Master League is frightening to think about. 1000 hours of my life spent playing Master League would probably be a conservative estimate.
I only stopped last season because the PS3 version of PES2008 was a dog’s dinner of a PES game. That was after 100 hours of play. Even then, I simply got hold of the PS2 and PSP versions of the game, like some kind of unstoppable, ML-loving cyborg, and carried on with another Master League career.
And so here I am again. Let’s get the messy stuff out of the way first. I’m not a big Editor on PES. Never have been. I did the same this year that I always do. I went in and changed all the English teams’ names to their originals. I also changed PES UNITED’s name to COVENTRY CITY, and altered their default kit. That was my Editing done for the year.
Home kit on the left, of course. It’s a reasonable facsimile of the actual current Coventry kit. It’s nowhere near exact—and I can’t be bothered messing about trying to do the badge. I’ll attend to that in the future, when I get a spare moment. I’m too impatient to start now.
While I was going through the menus and setting things up, I felt relaxed and safe. We’re creatures of habit, us gamers. We like the familiar and the comfortable. Which is why Seabass & co. are getting away with manifestly NOT doing a ‘proper’ next-gen Pro Evo, but this isn’t the day for that argument again.
I chose Top Player difficulty, with all other ML settings on Normal. And of course I’m using the famous DEFAULT squad. I’m not really ready for Top Player difficulty. I played all my International Cup warm-up games over the weekend on Regular and then Professional difficulty. Going straight onto Top Player with Ximelex and Iouga & co. on the pitch will be a tough challenge. It took me a shameful 3 seasons to get promoted last year—and that was on PES-bleedin’-2008…
The league setup. I looked at what teams were in them, but didn’t make any changes. Last year I set up an ersatz English league, but I’m not bothered this year. I’ve always tended to take what’s dished up in Master League leagues. I chose to start in League C. The teams are all mixed up: Stoke City alongside Willem II, Manchester United alongside Juventus. That’s fine. I don’t need no stinkin’ realism.
My formation, as ever, has to be 4-3-3. I can play with many different formations in FIFA09, and play very well. In PES, I can only play with 4-3-3. Nothing else works for me. Is that a strength or a weakness—and whichever, is it in me or in the game? Who knows.
My First XI is pretty much the same as last year’s. What was that I was saying about habit? I’ll post a diagram tomorrow. I also have the same strategy buttons as last year, with minor differences in the alternate formations. Again, I’ll post details in the future.
My first game was against the mighty CFR CLUJ. That can’t be a real team. Surely that’s a made-up name for a real team? I haven’t got the faintest clue who they’re supposed to be. Usually in PES I can recognise a player or two and work out who they’re supposed to be, or at least what country they’re from. Knowing PES, this lot will turn out to be 1956 Hungary or something like that. [EDIT: Just Googled them. Well I never. The things you learn from PES…]
Anyway—the game went great. My supposed Default no-hopers handled surprisingly well. Even at the start of the season when they’re fresh, they shouldn’t handle this well. Maybe it’s a change in the game. Maybe the Default players are better this year. God, I hope not…
Ordaz was my central striker. I scored two goals with him in the first half. Neither goal was anything special. I won the game 2-1, with CFR CLUJ’s goal late in the second half feeling suspiciously scripted. Yes, I’m starting the OMG TEH SCRIPTING theme early.
After one game, I checked the league table and found my team installed as the early leaders. Only on alphabetical order, but it still counts. Great stuff. I was also happy to see the size of the lower division back down to where it should be—only 12 teams. Thank you, Seabass. 20 teams last year was a bit much. When you had a write-off of a season, it was a slog to get through the rest of the games. At least you accumulated more PES points to spend on transfers, but it was small consolation.
Yep, that’s one crazy-looking league all right. That’s Master league for you. Maybe I should have taken the extra few minutes to set up my own custom leagues, but… nah. Master League is its own little world. I’m looking forward to getting into it again. But…
Yes, there’s a king-sized but. PES2009 is a good game. It’s a lot better than PES2008 (which isn’t saying much; I’ve had patches of eczema that were better than PES2008).
But PES2009 is nowhere near the level of FIFA09, in my current opinion. How long can I really play PES2009—Master League or no Master League—for? There’s no way to combine playing both games. It just doesn’t work.
I’ve got a tough decision to make.