Month: October 2009

PES2010 out of 10?

Another-coloured-net

I’ve only just started Master League in PES2010. Some people say they never see them, but I see team-coloured nets at every match. Today’s Net of the Day (right) is a very fetching purple number from an away game against one of my invented Division 2 opponents, Engelbert Humperdinck Athletic, or whoever it was.

I loved how the purple nets shimmered under the virtual floodlights. I disliked it when my net sadly rippled, twice. The other team put two goals past me in a very tame defeat. That’s just how the season’s going for me so far. After 9 matches I’d won 1, drawn 4, lost 4. I’d scored 3 goals, conceded 9. I was 4th from bottom (and I’m still there now, many games later).

Table-after-9-FRIDAY

If this anti-form keeps up—and it’s looking like it will—I’ll consider dropping down to Professional difficulty next season. I’m not too proud. I’ve never been the type of PES player who absolutely has to play on Top Player all the time. I only started out on it because the overall difficulty of PES2010 was a worry.

The full depth of the new Master League is starting to become more apparent as I move through these early weeks. I’ve started to pay attention to, and spend some time with, the many new features. In the first few weeks of the season all I wanted to do was play, really.

Traditionally I have always played PES with a 4-3-3 formation. After a few early matches where I could barely touch the ball I decided to revert, at least temporarily, to a 4-4-2. It can be a conservative formation in PES terms, but conservative is what I need right now. 4-4-2 covers you in every department. It gives you a proper presence in midfield and you still pose a threat up front, especially with a central AMF just behind the strikers. 4-3-3 is pretty lightweight in midfield, and it really needs good strikers to be effective.

new-formation-ML-2009

I’ll have to pay a lot more attention to formations this year. PES2010 actively penalises you for trying to play players out of position. Due to suspension and low fitness levels my 4-4-2 (right) was lacking a recognised CF for one particular match. In the old days with the Defaults, you could just stick a Burchet or somebody up there and have done with it. The thinking would go: Burchet’s a WF; a WF is a forward player; he’ll do as a CF for this game.

That’s not really an option any more. Playing Burchet at CF will drive his overall rating down to something ridiculously low—from 60 down to 22 in one case, with a proportional impact on his individual stats. And if you persist in trying to play players out of position—trying to play a CMF as an SMF, for example—they’ll acquire an angry face next to their names in the squad list.

tweaked-formation-ML

I don’t know yet what’ll happen if you still persist after the angry face stage. I learned my lesson early. Now I slavishly spend a little while before every game individually customising my formation. On the left is the altered RWF positioning for Burchet in that same game. It didn’t go well. I got thrashed 0-3.

If all this wasn’t enough, there’s tactical team sliders to play with, and the training options. I’ll try to talk about them in some depth next week.

All of this Master League newness is very exciting, but how’s the football? Pretty decent, actually. The CPU teams play keep-ball and cause me frustration. I finished one match with 35% possession to the CPU’s 65%. Sprint-clamping to pressure the CPU does no good when it’s in the mood to keep the ball.

Schwarz is a disappointment so far. I’ve scored one goal with him, a tap-in, and done precious little else. He’s a Youth in a team of Defaults. It’d actually be wrong if he was already super-Schwarz or anywhere close, but he’s not even fairly-decent-Schwarz at the moment. He’s behind Gutierrez and Ordaz in the pecking order. But he’s ahead of Castolo. Everyone‘s ahead of Castolo.

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All through this first week of PES I’ve been awarding it scores out of 10 every day, and keeping a running average. I did the same thing with FIFA10—its final average was 8.42/10. FIFA10 suffered a dip in the scores in the middle of its week 1, but went on to recover well—just as PES2010 has done.

Wednesday was the 7th full day for me and PES2010. It was a great day of continued immersion and progress with Master League. I’m giving PES2010 9/10 for Wednesday, which gives it a grand week 1 average score of… 8.35/10.

PES2010-scientific-graph

Both games experienced a post-day-1 dip for different reasons. FIFA10 suffered because of its shocking Manager Mode issues; PES2010 because of real worries about the game’s difficulty and AI (worries which have only been put on hold by the move to Master League). Both games recovered. Both games are superb in my eyes at the moment.

I could be accused of slyly ramping up the PES2010 scores over the past few days in order to force some parity with FIFA10, but I’m really not that much of a fanboy. In any case, I’m not a reviewer and these are not review-style scores. They’re subjective ratings of how much I’ve enjoyed/not enjoyed the game(s) on any particular day. After I started Master League, I was in a state of football gaming bliss. Hence the raised scores.

I think those are fair scores at the moment. My proper end-of-year review won’t appear until next September, complete with a final score for each game. There’s a long time to go between now and then, and there’s a lot of football to be played.

Master League 2010: the game starts here

I’ve started Master League on PES2010 and I love it. I’ve done my time messing around with the other game modes, settling into the game. That’s it now. It’s time for the real show to get going. I’ll let any lingering concerns about PES2010’s gameplay resolve themselves, or not, whilst playing Master League—still the greatest game mode ever created, I’m happy to report. There’s so much to talk about. I’ll just cover the basics today.

There’s a certain period of adjustment required. It’s very different from Master Leagues that have gone before. Some of the fundamental building blocks of Master League have either changed or gone completely. It’s a big shock not to be in instant control of Negotiations, for one thing. But there’s method to the apparent madness, as I’ll discuss.

The Setup

I always start out with the Default Master League players. It’s very easy to sail right past them. The game no longer makes a point of asking if you want to choose them. It’s up to you to notice a tiny prompt at the bottom of the team selection screen. Pressing Triangle (or Y on the 360) swaps between a normal squad of players and the Default no-hopers. I had to back all the way out to the main menu and start again after missing it the first time through. The option is just visible at the very bottom of this photo:

team-select-ML

My team is called COVENTRY CITY, but it’s just an edited WE United. Every year I just use either them or PES United, rename them, change the kits, and I’m away. I’m not much of an Editor in PES. Never have been. To this day I have never used an Option File in any PES game. That is the truth. My annual Editing routine consists of changing all the English teams’ names, and no more. It’s the work of five or ten minutes.

ML-2010-kits

The new Master League menu system is very swish. I disliked it at first, but ended up liking it after an hour or two. I spent a good while just clicking around and seeing where everything was.

Weirdly, I couldn’t find anywhere to change the team’s kits. I had to go all the way back to the main menu (after saving) and change the kits via the main Edit option. It’s a minor annoyance, but not a big one—and it does mean I can change my kits at any time, not just at the end of a season. I’ll soon be putting a dirty great peschronicles.co.uk sponsor’s logo on the shirts. It’ll be ironically self-regarding and solipsistic, honest.

The Team

I had a club budget of £3.6m after various calculations were made at the start. (Other, ‘proper’ teams start with higher budgets. Some get massive budgets. A Chelsea would get something like £160m.) Not having any real idea of how finances work in the all-new Master League, I was cautious about spending any of it on new signings. But would I even need to? Why not find talent within the club?

One of the most significant changes to Master League—arguably the biggest change—is the introduction of a Youth team. If you start with a regular crop of players, many of the Defaults will be found in the Youth team. Because I actually started with the Defaults, I’ve got a Youth team made up of… gulp… could it be…? It is, you know: Schwarz, Shimizu, Palmieri, Oscar…

Some great old Konami players in there. All Youths, of course, and all requiring a few seasons of work to get even near to being the players they’re going to be. It’s a great new feature of ML this year and one that I whole-heartedly endorse. The first season or two with the Defaults was always a slog for me. I only persisted with it because it was my tradition to do so. I’m off the hook now and it’s a huge relief. (Ah, but does it really change things? For me anyway? Not really, as we shall see.)

I signed up Schwarz, Oscar, and a decent CB called Kim Jong Yeol. None of them are very good yet. Schwarz in particular is weak and slow—on a par with Hamsun for now. Oscar is the pick of the three. He plays in every midfield position. Somehow, this is my first time with Oscar in Master League. Our paths have just never crossed. I’m looking forward to seeing how he turns out.

Each Youth cost a few hundred thousand pounds to sign up. Their salaries went immediately onto my wages bill, I was told. I was also told that all my bills had to be paid at the end of this negotiations period, overlapping with the start of the season. Hmmm. Alarm bells were ringing. I could have signed up a few more players from that tempting Youth team, but some instinct stopped me… It’d be embarrassing to get a Game Over before a ball was kicked. I decided to hold off for now.

There’s a new concept in Negotiations: Scouting. During the setup the game asks you if you want to handle Negotiations yourself or leave them to the scout. I selected ‘do them myself’, of course. But then when I tried to negotiate, nothing happened. Eh? After a few weeks the Scout returned, saying whether he’s completed the deal or not. If he has, I have the option to accept it as-is, or step in and conduct detailed negotiations personally. It’s confusing to get to this point after you’ve specifically said you want to handle negotiations yourself. The game could make things clearer, I feel. I believe upgrading your scout by a few levels gradually shortens the time he spends negotiating, with the end-result that—at the highest level—negotiations happen instantly, just as before. So I think, anyway. I don’t know. I’m just surmising. I’m a long way from being able to upgrade my scout.

The First Matches

After all that, the most important thing, the reason for being here—the football itself—had better be good. And I think it is good. Opinions still differ hugely about PES2010’s gameplay. My own opinions can swing from one extreme to the other in the space of a short time, as seen in some of my recent posts. But somehow, for me, and I suspect for many, playing PES2010 with average-to-good players makes for a brilliant game. I’ve had my best games on PES2010 in the first few matches of my Master League career.

I lost two and drew two of my opening four league matches. Scored a few goals. Won the first round of the Cup. One not-so-good thing: if you choose ‘single fixtures only’ as the cup option, the game has you playing that single match at a neutral venue—at Wembley Stadium in my case, in the English League. Groan. That’s just not how one-off Cup matches work. Somebody at Konami got very confused when they implemented this. If I had my time again I’d choose to have two-legged cup matches, as is traditional in ML, but it’s not worth a restart. I’ll live with it.

So at the end of my first bunch of games I find myself in familiar territory in Division 2:

Table-after-4

It’s meant to be Division 2 of the English League, but I find myself in among entirely made-up teams. Look at those names! No Rapid Viennas any more. It’s all Twizlethop FC, or whatever. I actually like it. Of all the whimsical strokes ever pulled by the Master League designers (they’re like the Ringworld Engineers in my eyes), this is one of the most curious. Why not go with the Spartak Moscows and the Veronas in Division 2? But I’m happy in this bizarro PESverse, and always have been.

After a few weeks, I had to pay all my wages and staff bills out of that £3.6m budget… Phew. It was fortunate that I’d restrained myself on the transfer market. After everything had been paid I had just £90,000 left. To put that in perspective, it’s like avoiding a Game Over in the old days by about 500 points. So I lucked out there. I had no idea what I was doing. Only my old ML thrift instinct saved me from a Game Over straightaway.

coloured-nets

Coloured nets are another piece of ML whimsy—every team has nets that are the predominant colour of their home kits. Just another oddball feature in the wonderful world of Master League. God help us if Konami ever gets enough official licenses to turn this world ‘legit’. I’d probably boycott it on principle. “Give us back our quirky alternate-world footballing universe,” would be my rather unwieldy battle-cry.

Speaking of nets, I scored my best goal so far into a black net. Yes, a BLACK net. They look, how you say, cool. I scored with Gutierrez, and it was rather a good goal I think. I love it because I deliberately aimed for that top corner, and I love the effect this had on the resulting shot. It seems to be half a clip-style shot and half a full-on drive. See the glorious flight of the ball:

I watched the replay of that one over and over for a minute or two, cackling. Cackling and salivating. I know people who think I spend all this time in my room watching ‘European cinema’ on the Internet. I’m happy for them to think that. Because if they knew the actual truth…

At nearly 1800 words this has been my longest-ever post on the blog in over two years. It could have been twice as long—three times as long—and I’d still have stuff to say. I haven’t even started on my formation, First XI, and the tactical side of things yet. (It’s deep.) I will do my best to keep Friday’s post down to 500 words. 1000 at most.

The Future

So, let me recap. I’ve started Master League, I’m ecstatic about it, I’m playing with the Defaults, I’m at or very near the bottom of Division 2, and I’ve got no money to spend.

It’s great to be back home.

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I’ll get the ‘daily scores’ thing out of the way, even though I now regard it as superfluous. Master League makes PES2010 a 10/10 game in my eyes. This daily scoring lark is just a bit of fun, I suppose.

Monday: 8.5/10 – an indifferent morning session, but the day was crowned with a sensational night session in Master League. That goal from Gutierrez had me on my feet.

Tuesday: 9.5/10 – I haven’t actually dealt with Tuesday’s action on the blog yet. The above post is all about Monday, really. About Tuesday let me just say: hubba-hubba.

Running daily average (6 days): 8.25/10

The only way is up

I played PES2010 a lot over the weekend, and frequently thought: could we have been given the wrong game? Could Konami have packaged up the code for Winning Eleven—traditonally a faster and easier game than PES—and given it to Europe by mistake? I’m not being facetious (or not entirely facetious). It’d be a logical explanation for the often frantic pace and low difficulty of PES2010.

I’ve played lots of one-off Exhibition matches and Champions League tournaments. Occasionally I’ve found it disturbingly close to PES2008-levels of difficulty. Over the whole five days, those occasions have been in the minority: about 1 match in 4, say. But that’s still too high.

Helsinki 1-1 Brazil

I set up a 15-minute match on Top Player, playing as one of the weakest club sides, Helsinki, against the mighty Brazil. I should have been outplayed by Brazil, particularly as this is still a new PES game for me. And indeed things started promisingly. Brazil swept forward from the kick-off and bundled the ball over my goal-line to take the lead. But that was all they did in the whole 15-minute match.

They had 3 more shots, none of any consequence. I was able to dominate play with the Helsinki players. I had 15 shots, 8 of them on-target. I scored an equaliser that came thanks to an appalling ‘glitch’ (see below for more on that). Granted, I ‘only’ had 54% possession, but Brazil did nothing with that 46% except aimlessly pass it about in midfield, occasionally going on feeble exploratory runs that I soon snuffed out.

In PES games of years gone by, I believe I would have lost this match by a couple of goals. Or at least been comprehensively outplayed by the AI. Have I suddenly acquired elite Pro Evo skillz? I don’t think so. I’m the same average player I’ve aways been.

Lucky to get nil

I started three Champions League tournaments, on Regular difficulty (with Standard Liege), on Professional (with Fiorentina), and on Top Player (with Juventus). In my first two matches as Juventus on Top Player, against Arsenal and Dynamo Kiev, I scored 9 goals and conceded 0. I can’t remember ever being in serious danger of conceding.

However, there is encouraging news. Once those early group games were done with, the game seemed to step up a few gears. Arsenal thrashed me 4-1 at home. I was obliterated by them. I scraped through the group stage in the end. I squeaked through the first knockout stage on away goals. Then I met Barcelona in the quarter-finals. Again I was soundly beaten in both legs. Barcelona went through me like a hot knife through butter. I lost away 3-1 and I lost at home 1-2. It was quite a relief. In all of these more competitive matches I felt that old familiar Pro Evo buzz of satisfaction.

So just what’s going on with those easy games on Top Player? It’s not that the general gameplay suddenly becomes particularly easy. When I have the ball I still have to work for an opening. The problem lies with the CPU teams’ AI. It strangely goes very passive, and when it advances it’s almost completely toothless. It almost never does anything. Sometimes it’ll mount an attack, and sometimes it’ll bumble its way through my defences, and sometimes it’ll grab a goal.

PES2010’s difficulty is a hot topic on the forums, and rightly so. Could it be something to do with individual quirks of form arrows, or the new team sliders, or some mysterious ‘random seed’ element that Konami could have introduced for PES2010?

It might not be a glitch; it might be a feature

[Edit@20.30, 26 October 2009: I’ve looked further into this on the Training pitch, and now believe it may actually be a feature. Some players simply don’t jump, and it does seem random—at least on the Training pitch. Possibly I just happened to run into 3 instances of it in a row. I’ll talk some more about this in Wednesday’s post, but for now I’m only 50/50 about it being a glitch. This morning I was 100% sure it was a nasty bug, and I was angry about it. This being a blog, and manifestly NOT a regular games site with journalistic ambitions, I’ll leave my subjective and possibly unfair little rant just as it was.]

And now about that ‘glitch’. I haven’t seen this mentioned on the forums yet, but I’m sure it will be. Look away now if you don’t want your PES2010 experience potentially ruined. The ‘glitch’ is that serious IMO.

I’m saying ‘glitch’ in inverted commas because these days everything seems to be a ‘glitch’. It’s become a devalued term that means everything and nothing. It’s one of the most overused buzzwords in football gaming, coming a close second to the phrase ‘ping-pong passing’, but I digress.

I’ve seen this free-kick ‘glitch’ twice now. If I’d only seen it once, I wouldn’t even mention it. The first time I thought it had to be a one-off. The second time, I groaned. Groaned aloud.

Here it is. Here they are. In both cases, I’m holding the stick down and trying to delicately pop a shot over the defensive wall. The first replay is from a Juventus Champions League match, with a Wide view first to set the scene; the second is my equalising goal from that Helsinki-Brazil match:

Link: PES2010 free kick 'glitch'

See what happened? In both cases, the player(s) in the defensive wall who stand in the flight-path of the ball don’t jump. The ball flies over their head(s). Their teammates alongside them all jump, but they don’t, in order to allow me to score. The game gave me these goals. Gift-wrapped them. The game might just as well have smacked me in the face.

In the case of the Helsinki goal, there were two players in the Brazil wall who were underneath the ball’s flightpath. And so both of those players, ridiculously, had to be stopped from jumping. I felt pretty nauseated watching those replays. This is the kind of thing that makes me furious with any game. With PES2010, it makes me furious and dejected and embarrassed all at once.

This morning I experienced the free kick ‘glitch’ on my new Master League. I scored my very first goal with it. Not happy at all. I anticipate the obvious solution: don’t do it, then. But what am I supposed to do with free kicks? Blast them all into row Z, just to be on the safe side?

Link: Master League - free kick 'glitch' 3

I don’t know where any of this is heading any more. I’ll just play the games and write the blog and let the future take me where it will.

Starting my Master League this morning has perked up my spirits. Wednesday’s post will be about the setting-up process and the first games.

All through this first week I’ve been awarding PES2010 daily scores.

Saturday’s score was 7.5/10. Not a bad day with the game really. Despite the increased speed this plays a decent game of PES. But sometimes I have to ask, why won’t the AI do things?

Sunday was the day of the free kick ‘glitches’: 7.5/10*.

Running average score (4 days): 7.87/10*

*In light of the ‘glitch’ possibly being an actual feature, I’ve amended those scores accordingly. Sunday’s score was 6.5/10 when I thought it was definitely a glitch—it’s now 7.5/10. I’ve adjusted the running average accordingly from 7.32/10 to 7.87/10. Whew. This blogging lark is tiring me out. I just want to go and play a few games now.

“There is no next-gen PES”

The title is a well-known quote from a Scandinavian games journalist nicknamed Riot. He dropped the famous quote on a WENB/FSB podcast just after the release of PES2009 last year. Today, it has to be said that time is proving him correct. There is no specifically next-gen PES in the way that there definitely is a next-gen FIFA. But that doesn’t mean PES has to continue being largely irrelevant in the next-gen. Far from it.

Today is PES2010’s official release day where I live, but I’ve had the game for 3 days now. Due to a strike by Royal Mail workers, the online retailers sent their copies out very early. First impressions were good, very good, building on the positive experience I had with the demo.

This morning I started another Champions League tournament as Standard Liege. Yesterday I started one as Fiorentina on Professional difficulty, but after reading overnight that many (too many) were finding PES2010 very easy, I panicked a little. I decided that the best possible experience for me would be playing with an average team on Professional rather than a good team. I’ll be honest: I didn’t want to risk having sudden 5-0 wins today. That would have spoiled my whole week of PES. If PES2010 is to blow up in my face, let it happen in the future.

CL-PES2010

Standard Liege are the team I picked at random to play the Champions League mode on PES2009 very belatedly only a few weeks ago. They’re the epitome of an average-but-decent team in PES, the ideal one for me to play with at the moment. I really enjoyed it. I got beaten a few times, conceded a heartbreaking late goal to Real Madrid, and I’m not going to qualify from the group. Playing PES with average sides is what made PES/ISS the games they were, historically, for me at least. That’s what made my PES6(360) ML career a bit special: my players were all good, but not great. Something for me to bear in mind when I get to Master League this year.

I had to put this game through its paces on Top Player, for the first time. I set up a 15-minute exhibition match, England vs Germany. I won 2-0 but it wasn’t easy at all. I had to work for the two goals and neither were soft. My one concern: Germany hardly threatened. They had one shot, off-target. I barely had to do any sustained bouts of defending in the match. In a 15-minute match on Top Player, against Germany, that’s not right. This nagging worry about the possible low difficulty of PES2010 (and thus its longevity) won’t go away.

A word about goalkeepers. Now that I’ve got about 8 hours under my belt, I should have seen lots of instances of the keepers playing pat-a-cake with the ball, gifting easy goals to forwards, right? That was the way with the demo. Well, oddly, I haven’t seen it happen once. If anything, the keepers seem very good. We’ll see how this hot topic pans out over the fullness of time.

I’m getting the same pleasant overall buzz from PES2010 that I got from PES6(360) a few months ago. No real ‘wow… wow… WOW’ factor yet, and I’m not necessarily wanting there to be one. The best possible fate for PES2010? That it starts out good, continues to be good, and remains good for a long time.

I’m awarding PES2010 daily scores out of 10,  just as I did for FIFA10 in its first week. I’ll add them up as I go along and keep a daily average, and arrive at a final average after 7 days of intensive play. FIFA10 ended up with 8.4/10.

I’m giving PES2010 8/10 for today.

Running daily average (2 days): 8.25/10

It’s back to my normal posting schedule now: Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 12 o’clock noon.

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