Month: April 2010

I heart Castolo

Things are slowing down, but in a good way. I’ve just taken a few days off PES2010 to attend to some real-life business. That business is ongoing—I’ve got a big assignment to put together for a course I’m doing. All told, I think I’ll be playing fewer matches over a longer period of time for the near future. I’m not stopping or anything. Just taking a bit longer. Where I usually get through a whole season in three or four posts, I think it’ll now take five or six posts, on average.

Not only have I got life stuff to attend to, but there’s a World Cup looming. And I want to play other games as well. I’m 21 hours into Final Fantasy XIII and still liking it. Uncharted 2 is still waiting for attention. And I’ve more or less made my mind up to give FIFA10 some belated attention at the end of my current season in PES2010, whatever happens.

In that season—season 18 of my most epic Master League career since 2005—I’m looking good for a second successive Treble at the moment. I’m still in the D1 Cup. I’ve qualified from my Champions League group stage with ease. At the halfway stage in the title race, I’m 9 points clear at the top of the table. I’ve never had a cushion like this at this stage before. I’m suspicious before every match that the game will be out to get me. And indeed, in one game it was out to get me: Liverpool thumped me 3-1, but in truth I played badly.

One of the most interesting aspects of my long career is the progress of Castolo. I’ve got him as a Regen at the moment. I detest the toxic Myth that surrounds his piss-poor Default original, and was accordingly biased against his Regen for a long time… Until he started getting good.

Now he’s rated a 73 OVR, and seems to gain a couple of points every season. I play him every chance I get. It’s addictive, seeing how good he can become. He’s no longer a passenger in matches—no longer the player you grudgingly bring on for a while just to give him some experience. He’s a talented player in his own right.

Castolo is getting goals. Most are poacher’s efforts, but this next one is a bit special. It came about after a ball over the top, a diagonal aerial through-ball from my full-back. This was a favourite move of mine in PESes past, but it’s been nerfed so much in recent PESes (and probably rightly so) that I rarely try it now. But sometimes I do, almost for old time’s sake, and when it comes off…

Link: Castolo half-volley

The close-up portion of the replay is awkward viewing for all PES fans. Look carefully and you’ll see that the ball drops through Castolo’s upper torso and neck before he hits the volley. I winced to see it. But it didn’t really spoil my overall enjoyment of the goal, and that’s got to be a worry in itself. Something like the above is so common in PES that it’s become an accepted part of the package. Which is not a good situation for the game to be in.

I happened to be listening to WENB’s current podcast while playing this match. Just before the goal I’d got to the part where the guest speaker was saying it’d actually be okay if Konami completely dismantled the archaeological layers of code that PES is built upon, and started again from scratch. When you look at collision non-detection like the above, it’s hard to disagree.

Script beating

It’s much too early for me to be definite about any of this, but I feel as if I have passed a threshold in PES2010. The game certainly isn’t easy for me now. But it no longer feels as difficult as it used to.

I’ve opened up a five-point gap at the top of the table. By this stage, coming up on the mid-season transfer window, I’ve played most of the other top teams, and beaten them all. The game is still up to its old tricks, but having passed that threshold I feel that I’m a match for anything now.

I played Porto at their place and opened up a 0-2 lead inside 15 minutes, which is pretty good considering they’re a top 3 side this season. However, by half-time the score was 2-2, and they were two of the dodgiest goals I’ve ever conceded. The second one came about after a Porto attacker jinked and turned on the wing until he got his cross in. I’d been trying to ‘block-and-shepherd’ using secondary pressure and R2 shielding. The cross deflected off my blocking player’s shoulder, which flattened and slowed the path of the ball—and also triggered a bizarre glitch in the Matrix. I had three defenders in a line who failed to react to the ball rolling slowly by a few yards away. Meanwhile, I could see a lone Porto attacker sprinting like an Olympic champion from 30 yards away. And none of the defenders would respond to me…

I must have twatted every button on the controller, desperate to get control of a player. But the game wouldn’t move control from my cross-blocking midfielder. Obviously, some part of the game still thought I should have control of that player. The sprinting Porto striker dashed in between my static defence and smashed the ball past my keeper. 2-2...

I still can’t make up my mind. Was it a random glitch of the sort you’re bound to see if you play any computer game for nearly 300 hours? Or was it context-driven shenanigans, aka scripting, being unusually very blatant about it?

It didn’t matter. I scored a great winner partway through the second half with my created player, ‘not-Greg’. He’s nearing his mid-thirties now and currently having a Ryan Giggs-style Indian summer at the end of his career.

I’m through to the quarter finals of the D1 Cup after a tough two legs against Blackburn in the last 16. 0-0 at my place was a good result, I thought. But then it was 0-0 at theirs too. I faced extra time and possible penalties. This was a match where I had a strong suspicion the game wanted extra time. I had several clearcut chances that I know I didn’t do anything different from normal with, but they all went wide or high. One in particular was very dodgy: a free header from the six-yard line that somehow contrived to sail ten yards wide and nearly hit the corner flag. At that point I kind of knew I’d be playing extra time. I scored twice in extra time, though, to ease through eventually.

And in Europe I will qualify from the group with no difficulties. A second successive Treble, that would put the capstone on an unforgettable ML career, is within reach.

Here are some random goals from the season so far:

Season 18 begins

After finally clinching the elusive Treble at the end of season 17, I have immediately cracked on with season 18. Why am I going on with PES2010, and not jumping over to FIFA10—even if only for a short while—as I’ve often looked forward to doing (and still look forward to doing, eventually)? Briefly: I’m still enjoying Master League, I’ve still got stuff to do in it, and I don’t want to break the spell.

My Treble-winning season took a lot out of me, mentally and financially. After assembling a great squad over so many seasons, there was a cost—my combined wages bill for all players was £99,500,000. Ninety-nine million, five hundred thousand pounds. I first saw that demented figure at around the 30-game mark, near the end of the season. Expected Earnings predicted a £30,000,000 shortfall. I thought I’d have to sell a player or two to make the cut on Budget Day. I had Morientes earmarked for sale. Surely I’d get a good £20m for him at least?

But there was no need to sell anybody. I got a ridiculous amount of cash for winning the Treble. A load of sponsors paid out on bonus clauses. The fan club brought in a cool £20m on its own. No AI teams made bids for any of my players, which was unusual, but fortunately I didn’t need them to.

I brought in a few promising Youths, paid all the bills, and emerged £300,000 in credit on the other side of Budget Day. It was a lot closer than I’d like, and really I’m just deferring the tough choices until the end of the new season. The only way for me to sustain this squad on these wages would be to win a Treble every season.

Last season’s big star was arguably my loan signing, Gilardino. His mid-season arrival was very timely. His goals were a decisive factor in winning the Treble. I tried twice to sign him in the transfer window, and twice I was rejected. What more do I need? I’m the number 1 club, the domestic and European champions, the inter-continental champions, and he still won’t come. But perhaps there’s more to it than that. Maybe the game automatically rejects transfer bids when you manifestly cannot afford the transfer fee. And I definitely could never afford the likely transfer fee of £30m+. But I’ll get Gilardino eventually.

I’ve changed both my kits for the new season. When my 60GB PS3 died last week (I’m still hurting), the only data I lost was my Edit file that contained the new kits I’d created just before the end. This new new home kit looks a lot like that lost kit, but I’ve put aside superstition and just gone with it. My new away kit is a little bland, but I was hankering for an alternative to the Galatasaray-style away kits I’ve had for a few seasons now.

My main ambition for the new season is to win another Treble. My secondary aim is to continue to develop my young players, particularly Castolo and Capuano. I’m still mulling over whether to move my star left-back, Capuano, up to AMF for good. He can play at AMF—I spent the money on positional training a while ago now—but has a lower rating there at present. At left-back, he’s now an astonishing 97 OVR. Would it be a waste of that talent to make him play in a new position? I’m torn in both directions.

Early games have been very good. I have won 9 and drawn 1 in the league, scoring lots of goals in the process.

Zaki, despite being past it, is still in my team. And he’s scored a few goals as well, even netting a traditional PES cracker from 35 yards into the postage stamp corner of the net. I’ll save up all the special goals for a mini-compilation later in the season.

In the D1 Cup my 1st round opponents were Manchester United. I lost the first leg at my ground 0-1, but turned it around at Old Trafford, beating them 1-3 there. In Europe my opening group matches have yielded 4 points (a draw, a loss, a win) and I’m joint-top of the group table.

So far, this season is shaping up exactly like last season. If it ends the same way too, I’ll be happy.