Master League 2009: Welcome Home

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.


  1. CFR Cluj are a real team mate, they’re in the same champions league group as Chelsea.

    Nice start to the season, was it only me that was disapointed when looking at the default squad list to not find any new names?

  2. Paww – yes, I mentioned in the post about finding Cluj on Google. Amazes me that I never heard of them until PES2009.

    And I was actually reassured about seeing the same old names. When they changed them all a few years ago (PES3?), and Castello became Castolo etc., I was genuinely unhappy. The new boys they brought in last year – Ettori, Van den Berg etc. – are enough to be getting along with.

  3. I always wondered why they changed the names a few years ago. Castolo used to be Castello, Ximelez was Ximenez etc…. Never understood that.

    Anyway, good to see the blog back on the Master League theme (the original bread and butter of the site).

    I think there’s an option file floating about with all the kits/sponsors/emblems of the Championship sides. Could save you a bit of time and hastle.

    In regards to the big decision, i’d advise that you give Become a Legend a couple of seasons too. I’ve seen friends who only played Pro Evo occasionally become stupidly addicted again. Can be frustrating at times, but the feel good factor is hard to match.

    I believe you write this a couple of days after the event – so i’m guessing you must be quite close to some negotiations by now (real time)?

    Have only played one ML game so far (BAL is taking up my time), and lost 4-1 to Zenit St Petersburg – Macco getting my only goal of the game.

  4. Liam – thanks for the tips and the advice about BAL. I’ve got to try it soon!

    I’ve no idea why the name-changes of several years ago took place. What was wrong with Castello, Ximenez, Iorga etc.? Was it just a freshening-up thing? I’d love to know.

    I don’t use option files – the Editing I’ve talked about above is really the only Editing I find necessary. ML is its own little world for me…

    It does feel good to get back to actually chronicling games played, rather than talking about the wider status of PES, FIFA, PES-vs-FIFA, and so on.

    I do indeed write the posts a day or two in advance. Tomorrow’s is already done, and Friday’s is two-thirds done. It’s the best way to keep up with a daily blog. And I am, as of today, on the verge of mid-season negotiations. Just one league game away from them.

    Zenit are in my ML too and have just beaten me this morning – they’re brilliant aren’t they?

  5. I’m the same, its nice to play with the same guys year after year, everyone has their favourites. Love Jaric for his free-kick ability and the big man Hamsun. Good to hear that Div 2 has returned to its former size.

    Great result in your first game, took me ages to score last season. I’ll be starting mine once I’ve won a few more cups and subsequently unlocked the classic players. Anyone know if you unlock classic players after starting a ML if they’ll appear in the ML at a later date?

    Agree with Liam though, BAL is worth a shot. Its highly addictive and though boring at first you get a real buzz when you score. Scored my second goal of the season last night, controlled a cross on the volley and then lashed it into the top corner. Superb.

  6. Yeah Zenit were a very good team. Hopefully will have a few new recruits by the time of the return match.

    In terms of the editing, you don’t really have to spend much time – maybe just extract the picture of the Coventry sponsor/badge. Not a massive improvement but helps make it feel realistic. As i’m a West Ham fan, I only had to draw a white box on the shirt and put a number on the front (damn you!

    Cool – looking forward to Friday/Sunday blog to read about the first signings!

    Also good to see the PES-graph go up!

  7. Grilled Seabass – Ordaz in particular has been a revelation this year. Top scorer in the league after 8 games! (Sneak preview there.)

    Long-term I do worry about PES2009. I liked PES2008 at this stage last year and thought I’d play it all year. It took a few weeks before it seemed ridiculously easy to me – that was the main gripe I had with the game. I really do hope PES2009 doesn’t go the same way.

    Liam – the PES graph has got to come down and my squad and formation graphics have soon got to go up. I’ll stick with the ratings graphs for both games, but in-post only.

    re. the big decision, it’s still not decided. I’d love to find some way to play my ML and FIFA09 back-to-back. But if they ‘infect’ each other, then I’d have to go with FIFA09. It’s the better football game for me. We’ll have to see.

  8. Dont start talking about PES Master League!!!!! the sentimental memories will come flooding back, last min cup wins with my ‘MK Warriors’ Created team, picking up solksjaer, hyypia, reid, veron et al on the cheap…. all too much, i cant play ML right now as I have my MM in FIFA to tend to and nurture!!

    also sorry for being dense but once ive loaded my video up to a hosting site, what tags do i use on here to embed the video into my post?

  9. Paul – I don’t think it’s possible to embed video in a comments field. You can post the link no problems at all. If you’re very quick with that link (next 10 mins) I should be able to clear it from the moderation queue before I have to go AFK for a few hours… (WordPress always holds comments with links for moderation.)

  10. Quick question, did you check to make sure that with all the leagues mixed up that all the big teams are actually in there somewhere? I couldn’t stand a totally mixed ML but good to see that you can.

    But even more what I couldn’t stand is seeing later on that one or more of the big teams isn’t in there at all, therefore tainting the experience for me especially in the Champions League. Could you imagine facing Bolton instead of Real Madrid in a Champions League knockout match? Just wouldn’t feel right.

  11. Greg will upload the video tonight as its on my mobile at the mo (PSN kept signing me out last night so upload wasnt available during the goal reply)


  12. stinger – I only had a quick look through and it does all look OK. The top teams are all evenly distirbuted across the four Division 1s. At least I hope so. . I hope I haven’t made a blunder again like last year, when I omitted the Italian teams from my custom setup. There are no pseuod-national leagues pre-loaded in the game this year. They’re all mixed up with each other. I could have spent ten minutes making my own but I just wanted to get on with it.

    Will I be playing PES2009 intensively enough for me to care if I got it wrong?That’s the question.

    Paul – PSN keeps doing that to me as well. Annoying as hell. And I find FIFA09 on the PS3 often signs me out within the game. I’m still connected to PSN but I get logged out of the EA servers. I’ve found the 360, for all its hardware porblems, a model of reliabilty online.

  13. decisions, decisions…i can’t play one game (or demo if you will) without the other in the back of my head.
    argh this is frustrating! the bugs in pes are becoming more apparant now and the scripted nature of some parts of the game are “shining” through now as well. i suspected that in some matches, the CPU “had” to win in PES5 but i thought it was just me being crazy. now i’ve seen it again with pes09 (it was apparently absent from 08) in a game i played today.
    i kept losing no matter what i tried, the ball just magically stuck to the feet of the CPU. until i kept retrying, retrying and eventually won.
    another example. CPU plays perfect through ball , however, my keeper is in range and can easily slide in and scoop it up. i press triangle. keeper stands still like a complete idiot for more than ten seconds, allowing the opposition to score. it just feels so tacky.

    however next game, i score three goals and win 3-0. glorious times are upon me again. that’s pes for ya. one minute i’m pulling my hair out and screaming at the tv, the next; utter joy. that was fine with me with pes5 but i fear that just doesn’t cut it anymore today. sigh….

    oh yeah not-greg; how’s the through-ball bug affecting your gameplay? it’s one of the only things stopping me from running out and trading in pes RIGHT now. any signs of a patch from EA for that?

  14. #1 – PES has always had some degree of event-massaging/scripting/CPU momentum/whatever you want to call it. I don’t even think there’s an argument to be had about it, although there are those who claim never to have seen it. They’re probably mainly playing multiplayer, where it’s not so obvious.

    In Master League it’s more obvious some times than others, and in some PESes more than others. It was never an issue for me until PES5. It was there in PES2008, although the game overall was so easy that you could almost rely on scoring three goals for every one the CPU scored. I haven’t become immersed enough in PES2009 yet to be able to judge what level of scripting it possesses. Maybe in a month or two.

    I’m playing FIFA09 on the 360 at the moment. I’ve not touched the PS3 version for a few weeks. The through-ball bug annoyed me so much that I almost regard it as unplayable on PS3 until it’s patched out of the game. Why does the PS3 always have these things happen to it?!

  15. ah i knew it, guess i’m not crazy after all huh;)
    you’re spot on about 08, whenever i felt something scripted had happened. i just ran in with any one player and rammed it in the goal within 5 playing minutes. one the hand i felt relieved that i was no longer a ‘slave’ to the scripting, on the other, it made the game feel so un-pes-like, i became completely disinterested in it.

    your comment about the PS3 version is making me doubt again…since i do not have a 360. is it really that bad? unplayable? i can actually see this as stopping me from getting it as i use through balls often and with great delight.
    also your comments about MM are making me think twice (well not exactly twice, my mind is going back and forth, back and forth) as well…

  16. #1 – I’d still say get it, definitely. If I didn’t also have the 360 version I’d be playing it. I should clarify my ‘unplayable’ comment with ‘unplayable for me’ as I have the 360 option available.

    Playing the 360 version also helps me because I can leave the FIFA09 disc in that console, and my PES2009 disc in the PS3. Which means I never have to swap discs to play the games. I’m the laziest man in the universe.

    On the PS3 the bug only happens sometimes (but too often for it to be acceptable), AND it only seems to affect lower-ability players (such as the ones in my Coventry MM side). I played International games of FIFA09 on the PS3 for several days before starting my MM career – it was only then that I noticed the bug.

    Just read on the EA forums, from the mouth of Mr David Rutter himself (the ‘new Seabass’), that the bug will be fixed in the patch. I find it really peculiar that the bug made it through playtesting. So peculiar, in fact, that I believe it may be an unintended side-effect of a very late tweak to the game before release.

  17. Excellent news that EA have stated there will be a patch to fix the bug!! FIFA then will be almost perfect!

    Heres a little gem of a goal i scored as promised, comments welcome.

  18. …. Also a cheeky little dink over the keeper with Brazil on PES… excuse the white glare in the vid, was the xenon flash on phone camera

  19. Paul – the Gerrard volley is my favourite. The Brazil chip isn’t too shabby either, but I have a fondness for volleys.

    And that’s the quality you get with your phone camera?! Is it from the future?

  20. Cheers Greg, the Gerrard volley was my fave too, just my luck that i scored it after the EAS Servers kindly signed me out so upload wasnt available!

    My Phone is the new Samsung Omnia i900 running windows mobile, has a 5million pixel camera with lotsa whizzy modes so is a pretty decent quality.

    will get a few more up over the weekend hopefully, perhaps we could have a mini goal of the week competition, winner getting….. a well done! lol

  21. Paul – yes, let’s see the goals. I love watching replays of goals. EA Sportsworld, for all its ‘suckitude’ as I believe the kids say, is a good idea. I can watch a dozen replays at random before getting bored. Let’s hope the imminent PES equivalent coming in November (“Theatre of Dreams”) is a bit more reliable. And that we’re still playing PES in November, of course.

    And just wait till you see a goal I scored last night in FIFA09 that I’ll be posting on Saturday. I’d like opinions on it too. It’s pretty spectacular. It came with misgivings, though… all will be revealed.

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