When PES gives you lemons

It’s the end of season 6. My PES2010 Master League career has so far been a pretty farcical—but enjoyable—one, with me oddly stuck in Division 2 from the start. Everybody else in the PESverse seems to be capable of getting out of Division 2 in one season, or at most two seasons. Not me.

Why has this happened to me? I still don’t know, but anyway…

With four matches of season 6 left I was in 7th position in the league table, 4 points off the promotion spots. During close league run-ins, Master League traditionally offers the chasing human player a helping hand, making other results fall just right—as long as you can win your own games, of course. If I could get enough points from the last 4 matches, I could still do this thing. Probably

So what happened in the final four matches? Let’s find out. Let me note here that I’ve played the whole of season 6 on Professional difficulty, in my usual 10-minute matches.

Coventry City 1-3 Blackburn Rovers

Disaster. Mission Improbable seemed to be over before it’d even begun. And I even took the lead in this match. My goal was a decent first-time strike following some nice build-up play. The ball hit the post and rebounded into the net off the keeper’s heel, but that only made it a better, more satisfying goal for me. The game wants me to win! I thought. 1-0 to me was the half-time score. But it’s a game of two halves…

For several years now, taking the lead in a Master League match can be the worst thing you could do. The second half was all Blackburn. Literally. I don’t recall possessing the ball for longer than two passes throughout. I won’t go on about it. Almost any player of PES knows the kind of thing I mean.

Blackburn scored 3 goals and won the match comfortably. I’ve included two of their three goals in the clip—their second goal here was actually their third in the match. It came when I was looking for an equaliser and thought I might actually get it, despite feeling that the pitch was tilted 45 degrees towards my goalmouth. Note the heartbreaking deflection in the area from my created player—‘not-Greg’—that sets up Blackburn’s killer final goal:

Link: Coventry 1, Blackburn 3

Standard Liege 1-1 Coventry City

I took the lead again, but conceded a dirt-cheap goal almost straightaway from their kick-off. The AI is always very dangerous from its own kick-offs after you’ve scored. The commentary specifically mentions it whenever they do get a goal immediately. What does it all mean? Sigh. I don’t know.

Despite these two results I was still only four points off 3rd place. It really is true that the game likes to keep the door open as long as possible. Even if it’s only slightly ajar.

AC Nitsaloskis 1-0 Coventry City

And the door promptly swung shut.

That 3rd-placed team was AC Nitsaloskis. Obviously, beating them would set up a thrilling final match.

I changed to a 4-4-2 formation with widely-placed wingers. Clearly I was getting nowhere with 4-3-3. My midfield felt very lightweight. The AI’s long spells of ping-pong possession were starting to enrage me. And I almost never feel enraged by PES.

Their goal was a joke, I played rubbish, I lost—and that really was that. There was not even a mathematical chance of promotion now. It was always unlikely anyway, I suppose, given my history so far in this career. 10 points from 12 is the kind of form that’s still some way in my future, when I have a better team made up of better players. Will that day ever come?

Portsmouth 1-3 Coventry City

It’s probably no coincidence that my best result of the four was the one that came when the pressure was off. AND that it was against against a lowlier team, of course. The top teams are beasts in PES2010’s ML, for me anyway. I was 3 up at half-time. In the second half the familiar CPU overdrive mode kicked in, but I mostly held them at bay.

And so that is that. Season 6: no promotion. Yet again. On I go to season 7, to try it all again.

The final table:


Too many draws cost me again. Despite the mediocre campaign, I had three players in the Division 2 team of the season—Ruskin, Duffy, and my created player not-Greg:


I’ve given up feeling disappointment, embarrassment, bewilderment, or anything negative about my lack of progress. I’m mostly curious now, if anything. What is happening (or not happening), and why? When will I make the breakthrough? What if things stay like this all year…? At what point would I just give up? (I doubt I’d ever give up.)

This is simply my PES2010 Master League experience, for better or worse. It’s a vastly different experience from just about everybody else’s experience. And I’ve just got to make the best of it. I’ve just got to make lemonade.


  1. not-Greg,
    Shame that you didn’t manage to secure promotion this season. Are you in the red? Or managing to have a few quid lying about? It’s so odd that you can’t get promoted, as, like you say, everyone else has managed it. You can’t be that bad (I don’t think you are; maybe it’s psychological). It does make for an entertaining read, though.

    I’ve started playing in the Spanish League (not ML), with Barcelona, on Professional, and it’s suddenly got harder. A lot harder. I’ve played 6 games: lost 1, drawn 2, won 4. I think my ML teams are just better teams, that are suited to how I play. Even Barcelona seem slow compared to them, and Messi is the most useless player I’ve used yet. Sigh.

    Any news on that New Year’s bumper video special yet?

  2. Darshan—re. that video, it’ll appear in the first post after I get promotion—which has got to happen eventually! I want to mark the occasion of promotion with the video, making it more than just a load of clips thrown together with music. I’ve got a few ideas for the video that might make it worth watching in-and-of-itself… I’ll see. If I get promotion in season 7, which I’ve just started this morning, the video should appear sometime next week, which’d be ideal as I have a few days off work then and I would be able to polish it up and shape it into something more than just a ‘clips show’.

    I have no idea what’s going on with me and this game any more. Thinking back to PES6(360) at the end of the summer, I recall being unable to get much momentum going in that game either. I did get promotion fairly easily, but I failed to challenge for the title or anything else, and then FIFA10 came along and I stopped playing PES6(360). Was the writing on the wall then? Has a few years of next-gen FIFA had any effect on my PES mojo? Have I actually become a poor player, not just an average one? Who knows. (One thing I’ll definitely do, possibly this week, is try to set up my camera to record me playing a full match, or at least a half, and post it.)

    Re. your harder Spanish league, I just love seeing what you think qualifies it as being harder! Ooh, lost a match did we? Only won 4?! 😉

    Still, I’m not surprised at you being reluctant to go back to ML after your 12-1 experience last week. Do you think you ever will go back? Have you thought about trying a realism-edited option file?

    I’m still loving Master League personally, largely because of my struggles it has to be said. I suppose I’ve been fortunate.

  3. yeah I’ve now been playing PES10 on the PC for the last 3 weeks and can see why you’re finding it so hard, not-greg! I’ve always considered myself pretty decent at PES (single player) but have really struggled with the ML this time. My initial ML campaign was with Aberdeen (real players), straight into D1 of a created league with the top ‘other clubs’ but I soon scrapped it as all the matches were dull and it put me straight into the UEFA Cup, which I didn’t want. Then I tried starting in D2 with the fictitious teams but gave up on this too as I didn’t like them at all – not so much the fictitious nature of the opposition (as you can think of them in terms of their national stereotypes!) but their drab strips.

    So finally I adopted the same setup as you – WE United (renamed) playing in D2 with a selection of the weaker other teams like Metalist, AIK, Red Star, Hearts etc on top player using the ML defaults. And it’s been a complete disaster so far, only one victory in season 1, hardly any goals, and season 2 off to a similarly bad start with 3 straight 0-1s. My choice of camera angle (broadcasting 2) probably isn’t helping, but I’m sticking to it as it makes the action and shooting (such as it is) more exciting.

    It just seems really difficult to improve my squad, given the lack of money and available transfer targets. The signings my (level 1) scout has been able to make have all been disappointing, with steadily declining stats and awful teamwork (which seems to take a full season to normalise). Mismanagement over the transfer window has left me with just 3 strikers, including Gutierrez on a permanent purple arrow after being refused a transfer and the 57 rated ex-youth player Saafi. So I fully sympathise with your travails, I really don’t see how I can turn this around…..

  4. abbeyhill—too early to tell if you’ll have struggles to the same extent as me. I recall it being pretty normal to spend 2-3 seasons in D2 in the past—maybe you were/are the same?

    One mistake you should avoid is being too keen to upgrade your backroom staff at the expense of getting good players. Try balancing the two out instead, and if you have to favour one, go for the players. I think I cost myself at least three seasons by upgrading my staff too quickly. The upgrades cost loads, and it;s money far better spent on quality players.

  5. Most of the staff upgrades are functionally useless — upgrade your youth team and the quality of youth team players will drop. The coach and athletic trainer are good expenditures because they’ll increase the rate of growth of your homegrown talents, which appears to be the only way for a small club to get any quality in the side.

    I’m really suspicious that, being a Japanese game, the Fan Club is really the most critical element of team growth. I haven’t tested that hypothesis yet, and surely won’t ever. But it wouldn’t surprise me. I’m almost sure that popularity is the key to unlocking transfers, rather than the (apparently useless) scout.


    I have spent the last week and a half of my Christmas break having a serious stab at PES 2010 and I’m afraid it gets the thumbs down. Somebody feed it to a lion, or make it fight 3 other footie games at once.

    The new financial management aspects of Master League have pretty much ruined it. I like them in concept, but I don’t think the developers really thought it through. They certainly didn’t playtest any of it.

    If you start with a wealthy club, as many players do, you’ll be fine, but if you want to play as Burnley or start with the donkeys?

    The financial payout from sponsorship and merchandising is so tightly tied to performance, that a poor team can’t grow, creating a death-spiral that while accurately simulating the plight of many Football League clubs, isn’t that much fun to play (mostly because the game itself isn’t that good, see below).

    To get anywhere with the Defaults, you have to be able to win with them. If you can win with the Defaults, why grow the team? Is there candy at the end of the rainbow?

    No. No there isn’t. Unfortunately, PES 2010 is not a very fun game to play — I kept wondering if it would become fun later on, when I got better players, but who really wants to play 150+ matches waiting for the game to get fun?

    Player acquisition is one of the worst parts of Master League. They’ve been tightening it up over the last few iterations, really trying to keep small clubs from landing better players.

    In this version, the kind of players who would help you win won’t come until you win. I suppose the idea is that you should develop your own home-grown talent, but honestly, they’re not very good either. Three seasons in and Palmieri is my best Youth Team player at 70. And the new youth team players are getting worse over time. I’ve read reports of these freakish youth team players appearing, but my experience was the opposite.

    I suppose I also have two primary gameplay gripes:

    1. Player touch and response time is atrocious. This general clumsiness and ponderous movement when in possession might be okay if it were an element making up a stately, slow-paced game, but in PES the lead-feet of your players are offset by swarming defenders who aren’t likewise hindered. It’s just awful. I don’t know whether I disliked defending or attacking more.

    But as bad as their touch is, they can almost all ping really fast 30-yard passes about one-time through midfield. This has become my default approach play — ping, ping, ping, ping to striker, fumble ball out of bounds, do-over.

    I’ve discovered a truism about PES — when Seabass brags about “improving the defense” he really means player touch and technique has taken another horrible hit. The fact that he did this, by his own admission, in order to lower the score-lines of matches played between the world’s best PES players just blows my mind.

    It’s likewise infuriating that first-time shooting seems to have gone the way of the Dodo. As in, “sold in the first transfer window.” There are times to take a touch and have a look around. Three yards out of an open net isn’t one of them. Now the same players can ping the ball around midfield like a futsal game, but put them in a shooting position and they’ll need a touch.

    2. The AI isn’t smarter than it’s severely retarded 2009 half-brother. The clumsy play and tactical sliders do a good job of masking how dumb the AI is, but how many times have you seen players who aren’t the intended target of a pass stumble into it, or let a loose ball bounce off their knees because players who aren’t the target have no awareness of where the ball is at all? It’s ugly.

    Back to the PS2 for me, I suppose. I still haven’t trotted FIFA 2010 out, and I guess I owe it to my completist nature to give it a try. 😉

  6. ck—Master League, and the fascination of seeing when, if ever, I can get out of the death-spiral you accurately describe, is pretty much all of PES2010 to me. Through Master League I’m enjoying PES2010 at the moment.

    But I wouldn’t really defend the game against any of your points—with the sole exception of first-time shooting, which I find is possible, just not as possible as it used to be. PES2010 can be atrocious. But I find it can be marvellous too, in spite of its many faults. I wouldn’t say it’s better than PES2009—arguably, it’s worse. The Master League is just lasting me a lot longer than ever before. If I was going to do my year-end review of PES2010 now, I’d give it 8/10 just for the sheer longevity of the ML, but I’m under no illusions about the quality of its core game. A 7/10 at best there.

    I’ll come clean here and confess that I already have the PS2 version of PES2010. I was unable to resist picking up a cheap copy a while ago. I have played only a few matches on it, my customary Eng-Sco Exhibition games (not worth covering on the blog really, which has been dominated by my ML travails). I liked it overall (but didn’t really like its fast pace), and I have it ready to come off the subs bench if/when the next-gen version goes tits-up.

    You’ve really got to try FIFA10. Unlike its demo, the full game feels better, although again, as with previous FIFAs and PES2010 et al, hideously transparent artificial methods are employed to ensure matches end 1-0, 2-1, etc., and keep 4-4 scores as rarities. But the way the teams handle and pass and move is extraordinary, nothing like it in next-gen so far.

  7. Thanks for the advice not-greg. Yes, 2-3 seasons in Div 2 is usually par for the course, but at the moment even winning a game seems remote, let alone promotion! It may have been a mistake keeping all my staff on level 1, as the players are always on bad form/injured and the youths are barely progressing, while it’s impossible to sign a decent (70+) player.

    Some good points from ck. Even though it was well flagged, I couldn’t believe how clunky and rigid PES10 felt on first go, especially after a year playing FIFA09. However, it was still good to be reminded of the player individuality (which is probably highlighted by the staccato nature of the gameplay) and variety of goals. I’m also fascinated whether I can escape from my ‘death spiral’ ML setup. Reminds me of the good old days on PES, when I’d spend much of the time daydreaming about new tactics for ML in the evening!!

  8. Im in D1 but im not doing very well, which is fine by me, theres nothing worse than blitzing a ML straight away.

    You being stuck in D2 is good really, it means more longevity. Youre going to be playing ML a long time to complete youre treble test!

  9. abbeyhill—over the last few days you happen to have caught me on a (hopefully minor) downward curve of my relationship with PES2010. When it’s bad, it’s awful, but even on those days occasionally the sun peeks through. What I cannot understand—and I have come to hate this with a passion—is the implementation of the CPU teams’ possession-play (the notorious ping-pong one-touch passing) when your own ML team is completely unequipped to get the ball back without the CPU making an error. It doesn’t feel balanced correctly.

    Don’t let that put you off, though. Overall ML is a positive, playable experience this year, easily ten times the mode it was last year or the year before [*spits*]. It’ll be interesting to see how long it take you to get out of D2.

  10. Max—ah but will I be overtaken by distaste/disgust for PES2010 before I get to the later stages? Unlikely, I think, but who knows?

  11. yes, when the CPU goes into possession mode I purposefully start moving my players away from the ball, as encouraging the opposition up the pitch is the only way I’ll ever get the ball back! But there are some things in PES10 I’m impressed by. For example it’s the first footy game which simulates free kicks from deep (i.e. 35-40 yards out) properly – you can curl it in between defenders and the keeper, and your players will attack the ball properly, rather than just milling round on the edge of the box (FIFA09). And the graphics (if not the animations) are lovely, especially the replays. And Ruskin at left back increasingly seems the spiritual heir to fellow scot Edington.

    I’ll let you know when I get promotion from D2. Although I’m quite tempted to restart this ML to try to ‘play it better’ this time, with more focus on youth development – I’ve made the mistake of getting rid of too many of the defaults, replacing them with expensive incoming players who are pretty characterless and not much more talented

  12. @(not)Greg: Transitioning from PS3 to PS2 is jarring, no question. But hang on to your PS2 version for that moment when (if?) you need something else to play. As PS2 games go, it’s really nice, although like it’s big brother, I think it’s a bit better on Professional.

  13. abbeyhill—the CPU’s one-touch possession mode has been bugging me a lot more lately than it used to. I used to be able to cope with it, and I could wrest the ball back quite easily. I think Professional difficulty is more difficult—in this one aspect at least—than Top Player.

    I know the feeling about the urge to restart – I did restart once as you know, to cancel the effects of choosing to go with the made-up Konami teams in D2.Now in the new career I’ve made some crass errors in running my team (and I swear the staff one in particular has cost me four seasons, at least). I’ve come too far to restart now, and really, I couldn’t go back to Castolo & co. now. I just couldn’t face it. If you do restart, do it before too much more time goes into your current career.

  14. ck—the order of business for the next few months is: PES2010(PS3). then FIFA10, then any other business, among which will be the PS2 version of PES2010. Things are always subject to change of course. I jst see myself wanting and needing to play FIFA10 for a while whenever ML2010 (as the game should be called) provides me with a natural break. FIFA10 is next in the pecking order because it really is a great game IMO.

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