Month: December 2008

Battle of the Pro Evos

This is a special post for Christmas Day about my current (I have to stress CURRENT) opinions on the best Pro Evolution Soccer games since 2001. I’ve been posting about my Master League and my day-to-day experiences with PES for a long time now. A variation from my usual kinds of posts (“so yeah, I kicked it and it went in the net, and I was well happy, like”) is long overdue.

Below, in traditional ‘chart countdown’ reverse order, is my personal and idiosyncratic selection of the best PES games from the dawn of the PlayStation2 era until today:

8: PES1

This is my least-favourite PES for several reasons, but the main reason is that it’s my least-played. I didn’t get a PS2 until the year after it came out, by which time PES2 was on the shelves. That was the game I bought and played incessantly.

I only got a copy of PES1 much later in the year, out of curiosity, and I only played it for about 20 hours in total. I know that many PES purists really rate this game highly, but many also dislike it as crude and unrepresentative of the heights that the series would later get to. That was my opinion, overall: it was relatively stiff and uninvolving compared to the delights I was then experiencing in PES2.

Another big reason why I disliked PES1 was that it came on one of those dreaded blue discs! Those were the discs that made the PS2 sound like a vacuum cleaner… or an Xbox360. The noise always unnerved me and a play-session never lasted as long as it might otherwise have done.I remember the PS2 versions of Age of Empires II and Quake III also coming on blue discs, and they suffered a similar fate.

Most vivid memory: That damn blue disc! I used to grimace at the screen and lose all focus as I heard my PS2 doing a convincing impression of a lawnmower.

pes4-box7: PES4

Okay, I have to say one thing immediately: PES4 was a great PES game and I enjoyed it thoroughly.

It’s only down here in 7th place because there are 6 other PES games that I think are even greater. Even the lowliest PES game is still pretty special. And PES4 is no different.

On the Wednesday of the week this came out (it was due to be released on the Friday), I remember reading rumours on PESfan that most stores had broken the release date. That was enough for me. I immediately went into town on the off-chance. I had no other reason for going into town. PES was the only reason.

And I found that everywhere had indeed started selling it early. A HMV staff member was writing the news on a whiteboard outside the store as I walked past. I have a clear visual memory of standing in a queue at GAME, holding the shiny PES4 box and hardly daring to believe it. There was incredible excitement among the community as word spread on the internet. Those were the days when PES’s lofty status was unquestionable. They were great times. Will we ever see their like again?

Most vivid memory: Heskey! Playing my traditional warm-up International Tournaments with England, I was astonished to find how good Heskey was in PEs4. Big and strong and skilful, with a powerful shot. I went on to purchase him for my ML team and he was just as immense.

6: PES2008 (PS2/PSP)

What a relief this game was for me back in February and March of 2008. PES was in the absolute doldrums. I had just given up on the long-awaited next-gen PES2008, which I think was so bad that I’m not even giving it the recognition of occupying  bottom place in this list.

The last-gen version arrived like a cool drink of water on a hot day. The perfect tonic. Playing this game restored and sustained my belief that PES could still count for something.

Most vivid memory: Komol, a journeyman striker, half-volleying a screamer over the keeper’s head from 30 yards early on in my ML career.

Hang on. Let’s see that again:

5: PES6

PES6 is still the #1 PES game for a lot of PES fans. I think the main reason PES6 still rides so high in the fans’ affections is down to the calamitous non-game that was next-gen PES2008 [*hawks and spits*]. When the fans turned their backs on the catastrophe that was Konami’s first next-gen game, what were they left with? PES6, of course.

PES6 was—and is—a great game. But it’s never been right up there among the great PES greats, for me. My criteria for a great PES almost solely revolve around Master League. I found PES6’s Master League to be relatively easy. I won the Treble after 5 seasons—my quickest-ever achievement of a Treble until next-gen PES2008 came along.

Most vivid memory: One of my earliest Master League purchases was a nippy right back called Zoro. Struggling with the Default players (had they just changed from Castello & co.?), I’d hardly scored any goals from within the penalty area, never mind from outside it. Then with Zoro I went on a forward run, cut inside the CPU defender, and unleashed a soaring, dipping, curving thunderbolt from a wide position, 35 yards out. It nestled beautifully in the far top corner.

4: PES2009 (PS3/360/PC)

Ah yes, the flavour of the month. I suppose this will end up being downgraded. At the time of writing, the first cracks may just be starting to appear (more on this in January), but for now I’m sticking by my controversial assessment of PES2009 as a perfectly decent, perfectly acceptable PES game.

No, it’s not quite enough in the post-FIFA08 era. No, we will never forget PES2008 and the betrayal of the finest gaming legacy in the history of gaming (IMO). But I like PES2009 and I like playing it. At the moment it ticks all the right PES boxes for me. Having said all that, I know why some fans dislike it, and I join them in resenting Konami and Seabass for all they (haven’t) done over the past two PES releases.

Most vivid memory: It’s too soon for there to be one, really. PES2009 is ‘live’. It’s now. The standout moment for me so far has to be a certain goal from Kim Cyun Hi. Even after 100 hours’ play I still haven’t come anywhere near scoring another one like this:

3: PES2

Having this one at #3 in my personal list is partly down to sentimental reasons. The game itself was pretty solid, as I recall, but it was also my first ever ‘proper’ PES. And you never forget your first.

PES2 was also my first-ever PlayStation2 game. I got it bundled with the console in November 2002. I remember getting home and unpacking everything in a frenzy. I set up my new PS2 and put in the PES2 disc… and entered a new gaming world.

I loved everything about PES2. I was amazed by the PS2-quality graphics, and blown away by the gameplay, which was a whole order of being greater than anything I’d come across even on the PS1’s late-era ISS games.

Most vivid memory: That first day. I took a taxi home from town with my new PS2 and PES2, I was so excited. It was a Sunday. I remember eating Sunday dinner in a complete daze, hardly tasting it. I played PES2 all day, and then had to go out that night on a prearranged drink with some friends. I was so reluctant to go out, but I had to. I couldn’t stop thinking about PES2. I’d brought the instruction manual out with me, and I kept taking it out to look at it. My friends were gamers, but not PES gamers, so they took the piss a little.

2: PES3


For many purists, PES3 is the best-ever PES. It’s my #2. After a year of playing PES2 into the ground, I really struggled to adapt to PES3, but I cracked it in the end. It was a great game with a fabulous shooting mechanic. You could really ping them in in PES3, I recall. PES2 had a floaty shooting mechanic by comparison.

Most vivid memory: Stoichkov. Still the best left-sided forward I have ever played with in PES. I had him as a Regen in my ML team and he was brilliant. For some reason, the only goal of his that stays with me after all these years is an ‘eyebrows’ header from a cross at the near post. Remember the way the real-life Stoichkov used to attack the near post as a cross came over? It was exactly like that. I remember going into work the next day and loudly telling everyone about it. There was a silence afterwards.

1: PES5


My #1 choice isn’t really controversial—it’s lots of other PES fans’ favourite version of the game too. It’s no accident that when the pre-publicity for PES2009 started to appear, it sought to position the imminent game as an updated version of PES5. Because PES5 is a genuine classic, the Konami marketing men knew they’d be on safe ground. Trusted ground.

Why was PES5 so great? Lots of reasons, really, but the shooting was a big reason for me. PES5 was noted for its spectacular long-range goals—something I later made two movies out of, thanks be to MaxDrive (remember that!).

PES5’s Master League was another delight. This was the first time in Master League where, even after I had a team of Galacticos, I was never sure that I would win anything. In 40+ seasons, I only won two or three Trebles. That career was the source of my most enduring Master League myth: the open-ended career that simply goes on and on and on… I have spent four years trying to recapture that magic.

There were minuses. There was a hugely irritating ‘auto-stepover’ that your players often did when receiving the ball near the touchline. The ball would run out of play, conceding a throw-in. Most annoying. And the stadia were all empty. And when making one or two substitutions, the game would take an age to load up a cutscene. You could be staring at a black screen for half a minute or more while your PS2 chugged away. After a while I twigged that there was no cutscene for three substitutions, and got into the habit of making all 3 subs at once—a habit that has persisted to this day.

But compared to the perfect balance of PES5’s gameplay and the immersiveness of its Master League, those are all nitpicks.

Most vivid memory: Dennis Bergkamp. The best striker I’ve ever played with in Master League. I don’t know what it was, whether it was just a quirk of my individual ML or what, but nearly everything he touched turned to gold. I got him twice, both times as a Regen (that was one long career). If he wasn’t scoring spectacular goals for fun, he was putting in sterling performances for the team. See both of my PES5 movies for examples in living motion.

Special Mention:

The PSP versions of PES5 and PES6 don’t appear on the list, not because I think they’re bad games but because they weren’t ‘proper’ PES games. PES5 had no Wide camera view, and no Master League at all. PES6 had the Wide view, and it had Master League—but there was no player development, which kind of missed the point of ML completely. They were both fairly decent games of football on a handheld device, but they don’t belong in the list above. It wasn’t until PES2008 that we finally got a worthy PES on PSP.

Bah Humbug

I’m having a mini-break for the festive period. I’m going to try to have a break from PES as well, although experience tells me that probably won’t happen. It’s far too much a part of my daily routine—especially when I’m into an ML career, as I am now—for me to abandon it for even one day.

Regardless, my next Master League post will appear on 2nd January 2009, and it’ll be business as usual with daily updates (except on Sundays) from then on.

Merry Christmas, and a Happy New Year.

Ho Ho No

In last season’s negotiation period I picked up a famous old Master League name. Well, he’s famous to those of us who first sampled his skills back in PES5. I am speaking about Orellano, a made-up Konami player (as far as I know), and one of the best.

Or better to say: he’s back to his best. I had Orellano in my ML teams in PES6 and in PES2008 (both versions), and he wasn’t that great to be honest. I didn’t find him so, anyway; other opinions are available.

Orellano seems back to his best in PES2009, to the extent that he’s one of the best strikers on my books, even at the tender age of 19. But there’s one problem, and it’s threatening to wreck his homecoming parade: he’s never in the right condition to play. Like most other Master Leaguers, I never play players with grey form arrows, and I only play players with blue form arrows if I absolutely have to. Orellano’s form arrow is almost always grey or blue. At the moment he’s fit to play in approximately 1 game in 6.

It’s a shame on so many levels, as when he does play he’s one of the liveliest players to have up front. I always play him out wide on the left or right in my front 3. He has a startling success rate out there, coming inside to have dangerous shots and score quite regularly. When he’s not shooting himself he’s crossing the ball for others to score. In PES2009, crossing is arguably the least effective it’s ever been in PES. Having a player who does seem able to pose a threat with crosses is a big advantage to have in a tight match. Orellano is definitely my best crosser at the moment.

My start to this season has been patchy to say the least. A draw and a win and then another draw. And then a great win, featuring a hat-trick from Orellano. 3 classic strikes: one with either foot, and the third a header from a corner. Late on he even crossed for Kim Cyun Hi to nod in a rare headed goal of his own. I won that match 4-1. The CPU team’s traditional last-minute goal was only a consolation for them, and couldn’t spoil my good humour.

This good form meant I was in an unusual position. I was in the top 10 in the league after several games. Could this be the season I finally threaten to finish in at least a European place?

Sadly things went tits-up in my very next game. Pre-season, I took a thrashing from an Italian club when Sampdoria beat me 5-1 in a friendly. Here in the league I came up against AC Milan, a team who I haven’t really had any trouble with over the past two seasons, as I recall. In the current match they seemed to play turbo-charged, incredible football throughout. Kaka’ was immense for them, and scored twice as they utterly demolished me 5-1. My goal was just a late consolation.

So it seems as if I’m all set for another mediocre season in Division 1. Certainly if the first clutch of matches is anything to go by, another mid-table finish is the best I can hope for. But we’ll see.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, I’ll post a special ‘chart countdown’ of my favourite PES games, and I’ll share some special memories associated with all of them. Then I’ll have a mini-break from the blog until after New Year, although I’ll still respond to any comments in the meantime. I intend to have a mini-break from PES as well, and play some of the half-dozen great unplayed games on my shelf. I will resume the tale of this ML career on January 2nd 2009, and pick up from where today has left off.


Game 1 of season 2016 pitched me against a team that PES2009 calls INTER. I assume that this is a side-effect of Konami’s peculiar licensing arrangements, and that they didn’t call Inter Milan INTER for chummy reasons. If they did, then we can soon expect Manchester United to appear in the game as UNITED. Tottenham Hotspur as SPURS. Et cetera.

Licensing doesn’t matter to me, really, but I know that it matters to some—perhaps to most. The only impact it has on me is extending the meagre time that I have to spend in Edit mode every year, changing the proper names. I’ll have to pop in and turn INTER into INTER MILAN before too long.

Not now though. Now, I have a game to play. As yesterday’s screenshot of my PES2009 Track Record showed, I prefer playing the game to almost any other activity. 18 minutes in Edit mode as opposed to 85 hours in Master League will attest to that.

As ever I wanted to start this season with a bang. Get off to a flyer. Record a win, and have at least the temporary morale-boost of seeing myself at or near the top of the league after one match. It’s how it’s been over the past few seasons.

Not this season. I drew 0-0 with INTER. Now, there are nil-nil draws and there are nil-nil draws. This was a nil-nil draw. By that I mean it was  pretty turgid affair with few clear-cut chances for either side.

I could and should have taken one of my chances. I was clean though with Giggs. It’s quite rare for me in PES2009 so far to have a one-on-one. So I wasn’t quite sure what to do. The old trusty method of feathering the shoot button whilst aiming at a slight angle towards the corner doesn’t seem to work. I tried it again here nevertheless, and duly missed. The keeper saved it, actually—saved and held onto it. Up the other end, my keeper, a now-mature Dudek, was also gathering everything coming his way. Who says the PES2009 keepers are just as rubbish as last year’s?

In the final seconds of the game INTER had the best chance of the match. It was their turn to be clear through, and I panickily raced my keeper out towards the striker. He sidestepped and shot. Dudek got the edge of a glove to the ball, killing its pace, but it kept rolling. It looked a certain goal. I’d already resigned myself to it, and to losing 0-1 unfairly. Every Master League player will know exactly what I mean. But suddenly there was Jackson, almost on the line, to hoof it clear.

0-0. It just had to be.

Heaven Knows I’m Middlesbrough Now

Mediocrity and Coventry City Football Club go hand-in-hand in the real world. It hurts to say it, but it’s true. Why should I be so surprised that it’s also currently the case in my gaming worlds, in Football Manager and Championship Manager, and in PES2009 at the moment?

To have won nothing by now—on the threshold of season 2016, my eighth—is unprecedented for me in any Master League campaign on any PES. Even I, an average player, am usually at least challenging for the title by this stage. I’ve got used to being a mid-table mediocrity. I have to get back into a winning frame of mind—a gamer’s frame of mind—and do it pronto.

My first order of business in this pre-season was to finally get rid of my remaining Default players. Jaric, Macco, Ruskin, and Ordaz have all been on the transfer market for a few seasons now. No one has bid for them. None of them have played, apart from Ruskin on a few occasions. It was high time for them to go. I released them all and didn’t regret it for a second.

All of the Master League Default players are rubbish. Some of them are relatively less rubbish than the others, but overall, they’re all completely rubbish. The reason why so many Master League players—myself included—have a hard time accepting this blatantly obvious truth is because of the mythology of the past. There once was a time when many of the Default players were pretty decent. Castello for one. Vorlander for another. I remember those great days with a fond nostalgia. But that was the past. Those times and players are long gone, and it’s no good holding onto Default players now for semtimental reasons, which is what I was doing.

I’ve operated a de facto Youth policy so far in my Master League. My signings of experienced players have been pretty few; I’ve mostly picked up youngsters. It’s nothing deliberate. It just happened that way in those tough early seasons when I didn’t have any money and Youths were the only players I could afford.

So I gathered up another five players:

KHUMALO – A name to conjure with for many Master Leaguers nowadays, but until PES2008 (the PSP/PS2 version) I’d never had him in my team. I wasn’t very impressed and he hardly played before I moved him on. But he was a late acquisition in that career, and he came into a squad already packed with flamboyant superstars. This is his big chance to become a great ML player for me.

COTTERILL – Er… who? I don’t know either. I found him in the Unbelonging list. He’s a forward player who can play anywhere, left, right, central. Very useful and something I’ve lacked. Decent stats. 27 years old—always nice to have a bit of age and guile in the squad.


MALDINI – A Prince among footballers, and his light is no less on PES for me. But what has happened to his facial model?! That’s one grim overbite he has there.

RUBIO – Every good team needs a good dependable right-back. My current player in that position, Antonini, is actually pretty poor. Rubio, although only 19, will slot straight in.


PRIETO – Finally, I got him. I offered his club Traore plus 1000 points, just as I did last time, and then offered the player himself a large salary, just as I did last time—but this time he accepted my offer. I was delighted. I’d finally landed my #1 transfer target over the past three or four seasons. There he is,wearing my number 6 shirt. Finally. He’s still only 20 and I’m expecting the usual great things from him. I always expect great things from my DMFs.

I played three friendlies, all chosen at random for me by the game. My first match, appropriately enough, was against Middlesbrough. I say ‘appropriately’ because they’ve always been just another Coventry in my eyes. Fittingly, the match was a 0-0 draw, with not much action worth reporting. Indeed, the game’s very actionlessness was the sole thing worth reporting. It was as if the two teams were mirror images of one another, both equivalently mediocre, cancelling the other out.

I lost my other two friendly matches. First I was trounced by Sampdoria. The game ended 5-1 to them. I was fortunate to keep them down to scoring just the 5. I thought it was a very strange match indeed. After that the World XI, who I like to play in every pre-season, beat me 2-0. I was not happy at all. If this is indicative of the season to come, it’s not going to bring me the progress I want.

My new kits. I went for a mainly white home kit with sky blue stripes, and a mainly black away kit with sky blue trimmings. Neither kit is anything special. They’ll do me. From now on I’m only going to change one kit every pre-season, so one of these kits will be around for the next two seasons. I don’t know which one yet.

And finally… Before the new season started I decided to drop in on my Track Record. This is the section of the main menu that keeps a record of all your stats. The one I was most interested in was my total playing time. I imagined it would be around the 50 hours mark. I was stunned to see the actual figure of over 95 hours.

By today that figure will be over 100 hours. That’s a long time to have spent playing a game. I was genuinely shocked.