Scraping the bottom

So I’m in a spot of trouble in my second season. That is the current bottom of the Premier League, above, after 10 matches. (It’s a bit of a weird table all round. Fulham are top at the moment, and unbeaten.)

I’m playing as Anderlecht in Master League in PES2011, on Top Player difficulty. I made a huge boo-boo at the end of last season. I accepted offers for five or six of my experienced, useful players. I blithely assumed that I’d have no trouble at all in replacing them with younger, better players during the transfer window.

It’s a lesson that I seemingly have to learn again and again in the new-style Master League that came into force over a year ago in PES2010. The old-school ML’s ‘negotiation window’, which was all but part of my DNA, is no more. The transfer window now is only that: the period in which transfers actually occur, having been negotiated weeks or months previously.

You can still make deals within the window. But the nature of it is such that you only really get one attempt at a couple of players (who could refuse), and then one attempt at another few players (who could also refuse), and then the window’s shut. That is what happened to me this time, and I’ll never let it happen again.

PES2011 can be very engrossing when played as if your life depends on it. Could I get a win? Could I hell.

I was 2-0 up against Everton. They came back to draw 2-2 with two late goals. I was holding Chelsea 0-0 at home. Desperate for something, anything. They got a late winner. I was 1-0 up against Sunderland and collapsed to a 1-2 defeat at the death. It was all getting too much for me.

The high pressure felt absolutely unplayable at times. I was getting no more than a second on the ball, with hordes of AI players constantly closing in.

I’ve been very vocal about deploring PES2011’s high AI pressurising. It seems to be a transparent effort to mimic the rhythms and imperatives of online multiplayer, a style of football gaming that I truly loathe. So it’s no surprise that I’ve struggled to like PES2011 for long stretches of its life.

Then I played West Ham, and got my first win of the season. The goal was… not memorable. Which means that I don’t remember anything about it. I think it was a Lukaku tap-in after a goalkeeper pat-away, but I could be wrong.

Speaking of Lukaku: his fortunes have mostly mirrored my team’s. He’s got just 2 goals in my 10 league matches. He’s been useful at times, but anonymous too often. I’ve struggled to maintain possession and create chances, so he’s been just another player for a lot of the time. I’m sure that with the injection of a few more players later in the season, he’ll be great again.

And so this is where things are. Near the bottom of the table with goals hard to come by, and relegation a genuine possibility. Roll on mid-season, when I’ll be bringing in four or five new players.


  1. Change the formation – spread the players out so that the ball does the work and that you’ll always have someone in space. I essentially play with just one central midfielder. It’s a 4-3-3 but the other two in the middle our down as SMFs. Seems to work well.

    Have a nice collection of Castolo goals now, just need to find the time to work out how to make a video. Should be fun.

  2. sometimes i find that just changing your tactics, doesn’t matter to what, throws the AI off and gives you a advantage in the next few matches. sometimes it doesn’t, though. seems tied to the ‘wonderful’ teamvision.

    a couple of things i’ve found that make the game more fun: (make of it what you will)
    – just reset when you feel you’re getting cheated (not greg i know you’ll never do this , but still). i used to do this even on PES5 back in the day. as soon as i feel any incessant (a little is OK) scripting going on — we all know the signals — i just reset the match. if i’m getting cheated, i just cheat back.
    – use R2 a lot!
    – i’ve found that you can get some nice dribbling going on if you just dribble into space instead of just passing it around the pitch. it seems there isn’t a lot of space most of the time, but there actually is (perhaps it doesnt seem like it due to the odd camera angle of this years version)

    Anyway, good luck with staying in the Prem!

  3. Liam—I’ll look forward to seeing the Castolo compilation. I’ve already started tinkering with the formation, with interesting results that I’ll address in Monday’s post. PES’s famous in-depth nature can surface in surprising ways, put it that way for now…

  4. #1—the camera angle of this year’s version is much better IMO than the forced touchline camera of the past three years. I want full PS2-era-style camera panning back, pronto!

    I could never reload even with the direst scripting going on in front of my eyes. Today, for example, I go 1-0 up and the game cancels my defenders’ basic abilities to trap the ball or dribble for a few feet or pass it a few yards. Strange ricochets that lead to AI throws and corners. I cannot stand it when it happens, but reloading is not an option. I just can’t do it…

    I prefer to work on the tactical/formation side of things, despite my love for the wide 4-3-3, and have been working on them. More about that on Monday.

  5. Just returned from a long internetless holiday.

    I saw you mention Tiger Woods 03. That soundtrack is memorable to this day! It’s the only time I played golf with the music on during the round, it was that good. The gamecube version was a damn good game too.

    Is TW12 out yet? I can’t justify buying it this year when I bought 11, which was so disappointing to me (im still playing 10).

    Your back to PES11! Last I read you were giving up to go back to PES 6. I’ll have a check now and see what happened.

    Any shocking scripting lately? Like the diabolical scripting we saw on Wednesday night. I guess Seaba- UEFA really want that Barca-Man U final…

  6. Not Given—where is this Internetless place you speak of?! Or did you voluntarily just not access it?

    There were relatively few songs on the Tiger Woods 2003 soundtrack by today’s standards, but each one was memorable in its own way. I also left them all playing all the time I played that game.

    Have a look—and listen—here for some instant time travel. It’s as if the past 8 years never happened.

    Each one of the tracks is on YouTube in full.

    After PES, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, and Civilization, I’ve probably sunk more time into Tiger Woods games over the years than any other. TW12 (The Masters) is my first full console version since 2003, for some reason I still can’t work out. (Since 2005 I’ve played on PSP and lately the iPhone.)

    I didn’t play TW11, so can’t comment on what may have been right or wrong with that game. In TW12 I’m still grappling with a feature that I gather was introduced in TW10 (?): precision putting. The analogue is so sensitive that I’m swiping a lot of easy three-foot putts hilariously wide.

    One huge negative factor in TW12, IMO, is an intrusive caddy feature. You can mute his audio but you can never get rid of his on-screen advice, and his animation has to be dismissed anew at the start of every round. I hear the feature is being abused online (but what’s new about that?).

    All in all, though, I’m happy with it, and it fulfils a lot of the ‘sports game convenience’ that I treasure PES for. I can easily play 18 holes in half an hour, 20 mins if I rush it. And just like Master League, it’s very addictive building up your player.

    As for that ‘any shocking scripting’ question about PES2011. That’s like asking me if the day ends in a “y”…

  7. Long time reader not-Greg – hopefully PES can one day return to it’s best. Off topic but I scored my longest ever goal of FIFA last night. Check it out – manual shooting too 🙂

  8. TheClarex—thanks for your comment, and long-range goals are never off-topic here. I had to watch the clip again to see where the keeper was–standing in your penalty box! A great hit nevertheless. I’m toying with the idea of giving FIFA11 another go.

  9. not-Greg

    Yeah if the AI are behind and gain a corner in the last few minutes then it sends the GK up for the corner. Manual shooting is not easy on FIFA11 so I was amazed to see it just creep in.

    On the topic of FIFA11 it is improved massively with some quick and sensible applications of custom tactics. I’ve got 28 that represent teams typical tactics from England/Scotland through to Germany/Holland and final through to Spain/Italy/Portugal (along with some special ones like long and short counter-attacking etc).

    I’d be happy to email over a spreadsheet with them to you. It would be interesting to know if it’s a placebo effect or not.

  10. superb goal TheClarex! What level was that on? I found FIFA in legendary mode too difficult on all-manual controls this year so I’ve had to revert to semi-assisted. Unfortunately the game seems to be a bit of a shapeless mess on anything below legendary, too much turnover of possession

  11. TheClarex—than you for the offer, but I doubt I’ll pursue FIFA11 in any serious way, and even if I did, I’d want to play the ‘out of the box’ version. I’ve played a few matches over the weekend and will be talking about them in Monday’s post. I did play about 10 hours back in October and noted all the improvements FIFA11 had made on FIFA10 (an overrated instalment, IMO). But there’s that damn sprint-pressure mechanic! Press three buttons and get the ball back 95% of the time. It makes a mockery of the game of football, not just of a computer game based on it.

  12. Abbeyhill – Manual settings on world class. I know it was an open goal but hit one from that far out on manual had be jumping up and down!

    Not-Greg – fair enough but it only takes 30-40 minutes maximum to set up the tactics and allocate them to teams in a league. And toning down the defensive pressure/aggression settings really do help the game a lot.

  13. There’s something incredibly satisfying about getting a manual shot right. I still remember my favourite goal on FIFA09 – charging down a keeper’s clearance from a backpass with Marcus Stewart and then sliding home from an impossibly narrow angle….

  14. TheClarex—As today’s (Monday’s) post indicates, it’s very unlikely I’ll be pursuing FIFA11 any further than the time I’ve already spent with it. Thanks again for the offer though. It’s a shame about next-gen FIFA. IMO it’s gone downhill since FIFA08. FIFA09 was still just on the right side of the line for me, but FIFA10 stepped over it. All just my personal taste of course. There are no objective standards in football games, or very few at least.

  15. abbeyhill—I’ve touched on this before, but the ‘shooting lozenge’—i.e. the aiming area on the analogue stick—on Manual controls is just too narrow for me to find shooting at all satisfying. I think semi-assisted offers the best of both worlds.

  16. On FIFA11’s manual shooting – despite what people say about no player individuality on FIFA – there is.

    I play each league and manual shooting with say average League 1 players is a world away from manual shooting with Barca, Madrid etc. Barca feels like semi-assisted shooting after a season with Tranmere.

  17. TheClarex—yes, it’s a bit of a myth about FIFA’s players all feeling exactly the same. I’ve always felt that FIFA’s way of representing individuality is to show us types. Thus there’s a fast winger type, a stolid defender type, a strong striker type, etc. etc. I’ve never felt that there’s any fine-grained individuality as there always has been in PES, so people generally critique FIFA on individuality for not doing it PES’s way. I’d still like to see FIFA do it PES’s way, personally. And I’d like to see both games make player stamina in a match mean something. Players with red stamina bars should be almost dead on their feet.

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