Master League on hold

Near the middle of season 7 of my Master League career in PES2011. Below is the current table—probably my last such table from this Master League for a while. Because I won’t be playing on for now.

See this post from a few weeks ago for context. This has been brewing for a long time. It has not come out of the blue.


This time last year, I was working hard on a video that told the epic tale of my promotion campaign in PES2010’s Master League. As a record of my abiding affection for what was a great PES year, that video is still well worth a look today.

What a difference between this year and last. There’s no full-length PES2011 video. The chances are pretty slim that there ever will be a PES2011 video. (It’s not impossible. I won’t rule out a resumption of this ML career at some point. And Master League isn’t necessarily the only show in town, as will be seen…)

I just don’t like PES2011 very much. That’s what it all boils down to. Oh, I did like it to begin with. I even thought PES2011 was The One foretold in Legend. The Anointed One we’ve all been waiting for. A football game robed in white linen, riding a pale horse…

But the final PES2011 that emerged in October was dismayingly unlike its brilliant demo. The full game seems like somebody made a ham-fisted effort to polish it before release, and then ran out of time before fixing all the new problems they’d caused.

Side-back wandering. Eccentric player switching. Frequently catastrophic heavy touches and ‘run-ons’ with the ball. Lack of player responsiveness. Forced first touches when you just want to clear the ball from danger. That infamous stumble animation (groan). And many more.

The way it plays—its handling—just feels wrong to me. It doesn’t feel like a real PES game. It feels like a single-player version of high-pressure, high-speed, online football. Which I thoroughly detest, as I have always said.

It is worth noting that the major PES forums are full of PES fans who seem to adore PES2011. I’m not saying they’re wrong. But I think it is significant that many of them are enthusiastic online players.

I don’t recall many predominantly offline, single-player players of PES2011 who are entirely satisfied with the game—although they do surely exist and are also not wrong. It’s mostly a question of personal taste, in the final analysis, and PES2011 isn’t to mine.

I’ve given it a good go since I reached breaking point. I carried on playing for 20 hours—something I would not do for any other game.

PES has a powerful presence in my life. It’s not something I can casually walk away from. And I’m not. I could be back at some point.


One of the suggestions made to try to counter the game’s rushed, hurry-scurrying style, was to play 15-minute halves.

I gave it a try. I played two separate sessions of 15-minute matches, about 8 matches in total.

I did see what everybody was driving at. You get time. The most important difference it makes is in one’s own attitude to the game.

15-minute PES matches do promote a more thoughtful game. But the core contents of those matches remain the same. There’s still the wandering side-back issue. There’s still the stumble animation. There’s still the way players are often locked into runs with the ball at their feet. I felt I had time to do things in 15-minute matches—but I didn’t particularly want to do anything much.


At exactly 10:29 on Christmas Day morning, I took the PES2011 disc out of my PS3 and put it back in its box. I felt a great sadness. This was unprecedented. Even the fateful year of PES2008 saw me muddle through to February.

Then an hour later I took the disc back out again, and put it back in the PS3, and started her up.

No, this was not some Hollywood-style dash to the airport to declare my actual love for PES2011.

I’d simply remembered that there was a time when I looked forward to doing more in PES2011 than just playing Master League.

To what do I refer? This picture provides a clue:

Yep—it’s one of the setup screens from PES2011’s Become A Legend mode. More on Wednesday.


  1. Ah, interesting! Looking forward to reading how this turns out!

  2. oh dear that is sad…I would suggest two things if you have time …just try and play a CL mode with a good team may be a man utd,chelsea,barca….this game rewards good teams…see how it goes…and please hold on to that R2 button the game will work for you …R2 and very good players this combo will make you like the game…just try in CL mode …play 6 group matches ….it l be fun to have a have a series of CL like your ML exploits….

  3. ck—there’ll be at least two posts out of it. In other words, I haven’t got sick of BaL again just yet. Where is that damn ‘skip to end of match’ option, though…?

  4. jamiey—I’m tired of the team vs team game in PES2011 just for now. I might go back to it at some point—I probably will—but for now I need to NOT play it, before I get so unhappy with PES2011 that it poisons my high regard for the series.

  5. Here’s something for people to look out for on BAL mode. If you change a national team’s Home Ground or Support before beginning BAL, that team will start out dead last in the national team rankings. It’s sort of a reverse “Advanced Start” bug. If you want to make any changes to those two fields for your respective national team, do so after beginning BAL.


    Has your manager switched over to the 4-4-1-1 formation yet? Because you haven’t really played BAL mode until you’ve played as a forward or attacking midfielder in that scheme. It’ll have you pining for an unlockable “Shoot Your Manager” feature in the PES store.

  6. I have been playing Master league offline with Blackburn Rovers. I decided to start in the first division and not realising, I started with a lot less money than the likes of Man U etc. Its not easy buying players when you do not have a lot of money. Undeterred though, I braved through my first season, and through many a hard match, I managed to finish 2nd just a point behind Chelsea. I beat Man U 1-0 in the last game of the season. This helped my finances and I sold a few players. With not scoring many a game in the first season, I concentrated on my defence and managed to get rid of any major attacks that would have led to losses. I did however lose a few, but With my wins and draws managed to finish where I did. My second season has started with me buying a few players. Robinho set me back 46 million, Defoe 28 million and Alvarez was a good catch at 4 million. I had bought Malouda in the January transfer window in my first season which helped me a lot.
    I do enjoy the master league mode as well as BAL which I am also playing in. If you want to follow any of my progress, I also write a blog.

  7. The Dribbler—thanks for your comment(s), and despite the downturn in my ML fortunes (I’d never, ever stopped playing in the middle of a career until now), I am and will remain a PES fan. Even if it is largely on remembered glory these days…

    I was a long way from being able to get any of those top players in my ML. If/when I go back to it, I estimate another 3 seasons before my first big-name signing. That would take me to season 9 or 10—an indicator of my relatively low ability at the game.

  8. El-ahrairah—indeed I have encountered the dreaded 4-4-1-1, but I was all right with it really. I’ve started BaL on a lower difficulty level to give myself the best chance to get into the mode this year. So I’ve actually found playing in the hole quite possession-friendly. I’ll talk about this some more tomorrow and Friday. BaL will run at least until the New Year.

  9. @not-Greg

    I’ve got a few tips for you should you return to your ML save or start a new campaign.

    First, set your team’s “Position Switch” slider to 20. I initially had my setting at 5 and I was experiencing all the “wanderitis” problems that you have described. This made me suspicious, so I decided to experiment with the 20 setting for the last 10 games or so of my ML, and – strangely enough – I’ve yet to see the same problems. My side-backs no longer gallivant around playing AMF when I’m on offense and everybody else plays where I’d expect them to (given the attack levels, strategies employed, etc.) The Position Switch setting would appear to have it’s effects backwards.

    Second, at the risk of belaboring this point, I’d recommend starting a ML with all teams’ Pressing settings set to 6 or below (let’s say 6 for the top teams and 4 for everybody else). I’ve experimented with two separate Master League campaigns (Top Player, 15 mins, PES default squad): one with the Pressing adjustments made beforehand and another with the default settings in place. The “unadjusted” ML gameplay was truly awful with at least 2 defenders (usually 3) constantly swarming my ballcarrier all game long. By comparison, my current ML with the lowered Pressing settings is an order of magnitude better in terms of AI pressure. The nice thing about this Top Player settings “recipe” is that it presents quite a challenge in terms of the AI’s ability to attack (at the halfway mark, my team was in 2nd to last place with 18 goals scored and 28 given up; about right, I think, given the quality of my team) while at the same time giving me more time to think and act on the ball. Don’t get me wrong, I still have to deal with a supercharged AI defender bearing down on my ballcarrier, but it’s beats the heck out of having to deal with a small pack of crazy defenders every time I touch the ball.

    That’s at least two ways you can milk a little more quality out of PES2011. If anyone has any idea what to do about the scripting, clumsy touches, approach shuffles, and the other assorted irritations, I’m all ears.

  10. El-ahrairah—both suggestions are duly noted, unwilling as I usually am to fiddle with the AI teams’ base settings I think Konami got it dead wrong this year. As I’ve remarked several times I’m convinced they labour under the strange impression that online-style, high-pressure football is what we all want.

  11. not-greg, is it your abilities in the game that are your downside, or are you not using the right formation/tactics? I know when I first started playing PES 2011 on the PS3, my playing abilities from previous versions were out of the window. The game had changed a lot and I had to adjust many different styles, tactics, formations etc to be able to counter any attack and at least get an attack going myself. I wouldn’t say I am the best player, but I have definately got more of my old form back. I used to play 4-3-3 and use the wingers for most of my attacks, but now I stick to 4-4-2 and apply the wingers when I get the chance. The main thing I did was take time checking out all the in depth tactics that you can use and apply them when you need them the most. I may get a lucky goal against a much harder team, then I just defend, defend, defend to make sure I win with that one goal. It has become a very tactical and realistic football game, which I am sure I will enjoy for years to come.

  12. The Dribbler, judging by the league table above there’s nothing wrong with not-greg’s abilities or tactics, he just doesn’t like the game very much!!

    I agree with your points about the game’s tactical depth though, I remember tinkering with the sliders endlessly in PES10 (not so much in PES11 so far), definitely one area where it outshines FIFA

  13. The Dribbler—I’d say it was a combination of relatively poor skills (I’m not terrible, but I’m not one of these PES ninjas who start winning 5-0 in hour 1 of every new PES) and a spot of tactical naivete/stubbornness. I do insist on a 4-3-3, I’m afraid. It’s part of the PES experience for me. Will I change? Could I change? I don’t know.

  14. abbeyhill—my slider-tinkering with PES2010 was ten times what I’ve got up to with PES2011. Now, is that because I don’t rate the game highly enough to be bothered, leading to more unimpressed sessions, making me even more disinclined to fiddle around—i.e., a vicious circle?

  15. I wasn’t sayin not-greg is a bad player, as I can see you have done well with Coventry from the table. I was just wondering how things changed for you since previous versions and what the reason may have been for not doing as well as before. I don’t do a lot of tinkering myself as I get confused with many of the tactical parts in 2011. Generally I think I have been a bit lucky with my master league as Blackburn are not the strongest of teams. The only way I was going to be able to buy any decent players was sell many, so I am now at a bare minimum of a squad, and early in season 2 I only have just over 1 Million in the bank. Lets hope the Champions league helps, plus maybe winning the Prem. We will see.

  16. not-greg, my current view of PES11 is that it rewards direct football, relentless harrying of defenders and spamming (now there’s a word I’d never use in real life!) of the through ball and triple tap cross. So to overuse the tactical options may be giving it credit it doesn’t deserve. I’ve also not bothered to learn the new trick system, as it seems to be easy enough without it. Still quite enjoying it though, but only for 2-3 games at a time

  17. The Dribbler—I am a poor player (I wouldn’t say bad), but I strongly doubt that’s gt anything to do with my perception of PES2011. After a long, long time—150 hours or so—I mainly see its characteristic fast, direct, high-pressured style that I don’t really like. It’s too reminiscent of online football, which I dislike a lot.

  18. abbeyhill—spamming is an entirely appropriate word for some of the aspects of PES2011 that most disappoint me. Voluntarily refraining from doing certain things is not how I like my football games to be! It never used to be the case that you had to make yourself not do things in ISS/PES. It’s this slow ‘arcade-creep’ process over the past 4-5 years that has so appalled many of us, I think.

  19. I do think you are right. When playing PES 2011, I have found that when you are trying to do certain things in the game, like getting a defender to run to the ball (the nearest player to the ball that is), I get frustrated as I can’t seem to get the player that I want to do the things I want him to. The overall style of gameplay is good though in my view, as I have enjoyed the realistic style of play when it comes to set pieces and generally attacking. The defence of the other team frustrates me though, and the keeper that never drops a ball when he catches is just one of those things. I love the game, but there are some parts they do need to improve. I would love to give anyone here a game sometime if anyone is up for it? Give me a shout, especially you not-greg.

  20. The Dribbler—I never play online, for various well-known gameplay reasons, but the main one is actually a lack of time. See the site FAQ for more on my disinclination to play online 😉

    Re. PES2011’s overall quality or lack of it, tomorrow’s post may interest you (there’s been a slight upturn due to various factors), but the game’s long-term prospects remain bleak for me. If I’m being charitable I can see how PES2011 is a marker laid down for PES2012 and beyond, but I don’t want to see it like that. I want jam today.

  21. PES 2012 must become greater than the franchise has ever been, due to the overwhelming moans and groans from players over the years about the problems within the game. Konami surely must be working hard to resolve these factors and make the game amazing! The only flaw that they should have is the licence to team names,kits,logos etc, as we all know fifa owns the rights. Other than that, 2012 should hopefully be problem free. 2011 on the other hand does have its problems and it’s understandable for players such as yourself (and me included!) to gripe about it. I think to be honest, I do like the game in general and have done in all the previous versions, but I think I mainly play because I am a PES player and not FIFA. Even if the competitor clearly has the better game (not saying it has mind you) I will always play PES and ride it through the year till the next version gets released.

  22. The Dribbler—I’m very uncomfortable with any suggestion that PES should get automatic loyalty. I remember reading a comment on a forum long ago that went something like: “No true PES fan would ever say that FIFA had better gameplay.” That stance is very problematic, to put it politely. FIFA has had better core gameplay for four instalments now (animations, passing mechanics), but has only once been the better game in my view (FIFA08>PES2008).

    Having said that, FIFAs 08 and 09 were better than their equivalent PESes, in my view, but I still played both PESes more than their FIFAs!

    I loved PES2010 probably as much as PES5/6, even though so many PES fans didn’t. I think the next-gen has split the PES community in ways we haven’t got the true perspective of hindsight on, because we’re still living through it.

  23. @not-Greg

    Forget about my position switch suggestion. For a variety of reasons, I started a new Master League campaign and, lo and behold, the wanderitis was back. Since this problem did subside quite a bit in the second half of my original ML campaign, I suspect the issue may have something to do with new players having low teamwork ratings to start out with and that this somehow screws up player positioning at times. But who the heck knows. Trying to figure out why PES2011 does the wierd things it does is coming to look like a fool’s errand.

  24. El-ahrairah—I did try out your position switch suggestion but it didn’t seem to affect my full-backs’ totally maddening wanderitis. I wonder what it is that makes some people not suffer it in their game?

  25. I have had a couple of problems with players going out of position, especially if I change a right or left midfielder, the wing backs tend to leave a big gap at the back. Not sure if this is the same issue, but I ended up not changing and it seemed to stay ok.

  26. The Dribbler—sideback wanderitis has to be a bug. I just wonder why everyone doesn’t see it in their games.

  27. I have tried to set up so my side backs stay back to hold the fort with the centre backs, but they still seem to pop up in the opponents half when I least expect it!

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