Month: April 2011

Last night I dreamt that somebody lobbed me

I’ve reached mid-season in my first season as Anderlecht—again. This has all happened before. Will it all happen again…?

The last time I restarted Master League in PES2011, I got as far as mid-season before it went horribly wrong.

Back then, what happened was I picked up a couple of Youth players and then the first few matches afterward were so despicably awful that I restarted all over again. Those two Youth players were Palmieri and The Myth of Castolo.

In this new transfer window, I’ve only gone and got them again.

Below is my post-window new squad. I’ve sold some of the dead wood that come in the Anderlecht squad. The only ‘proper’ transfer in is UCHE.

I also snapped up Ruskin, possibly my favourite Default player of the next-gen PES years.

Palmieri needs no justification. Starting at an incredible 81 OVR at the age of 16, I expect him to evolve into an amazing player.

As for Castolo on his risible 59 OVR, well, that fits his mythic status.

In relation to Castolo, I definitely use the terms ‘myth’ and ‘mythic’ in their pejorative senses. In my view Castolo hasn’t been anything more than a decent player at best, and at worst a terrible player, for several versions of PES.

I think you’d have to go all the way back to PES3 to see the great Castolo. And he was great—often kept on for his entire career, uniquely among the Defaults at that time. Back then was where the legend, the myth, was created. (Rather like The Myth of Pro Evolution Soccer itself. Oooh, now there’s a topic for a rainy day…)

A year ago I had the regen Castolo towards the end of my PES2010 career. He was indeed a very useful squad player. We’ll see how things go with him this time around.

The table here at mid-season looks like this:

How has the gameplay held up after the break? Pretty well, actually.

I haven’t noticed the sudden surge in AI pressure, nor the increase in instances of the stumble animation that so appalled me a week ago. This is most likely due to my change in approach to the game. I no longer try to hold onto the ball for longer than I know the game will ‘allow’ me to. I might not like that very much, but I’m learning to live with it.

Today’s Lukaku update. As I’ve mentioned in the past few posts, the wunderkind of Anderlecht career #1 seems to be just a decent young striker here in Anderlecht career #2.

Actually, that was selling him short. He’s still not banging in the 25-yarders with the thundering regularity of before, but he’s actually got more goals for me (10) at this stage than in career #1 (he got 9 by mid-season last time). So while the formidable shooting power and technique seem to be lacking in Lukaku mk II, there’s nothing wrong with his general finishing and strength.

And Lukaku mk II also has a certain amount of finesse. Today’s Lukaku goal (these could become a regular feature in the weeks ahead) is a little different.

It’s an instance of what I’ve called the ‘auto-lob’ in PES2011. This is where, depending on the context, your player will execute a lob instead of the vicious laces shot that you expect and want.

Here it is—I wanted this shot to rifle into the far top corner, but got something else instead:

Lukaku was sent off about ten game-minutes after this goal was scored. Two yellow cards in quick succession for rash tackles when there was no need. My own fault.

Oh, the confidence meter. This is the thing I introduced on Monday and thought I’d forget about, and nearly did. I’d say I’m at around 85% today. The trend is upward. Long may it continue.

All my shins remembered

My ups and downs with PES2011 have continued with a huge UP. Over the weekend I had two great sessions on the game, probably my best for several weeks. I’m continuing with my re-re-restarted ML career, playing as Anderlecht in a custom Division 2.

I’ve picked up a few wins and scored some nourishing goals in the process. The current table is as seen above.

I would love to get promoted this season, at the first time of asking. The football gaming year is ticking away and I want to get on with things.

I’ve been toying with the idea of featuring a ‘confidence meter’ on every post, where I rate my current confidence as to whether PES2011 can provide me with a satisfactory football gaming experience.

On Friday that confidence had ebbed to around 60%. Now, it’s up to 80%. (I’ll probably have forgotten about this confidence meter thing by Wednesday.)

So what changed? I think it was an adjustment in attitude more than anything.

The first thing I did was bump the difficulty down a notch to Professional. I played one match and didn’t see the hated stumble animation once. I also had some space to play football in. It felt good. I just really enjoyed playing some PES2011.

I won the match 2-0, and would have left the difficulty on Professional but for the fact that the AI seemed rather toothless.

Maybe it was just that one match against those particular opponents (Olympiacos), but they barely carried the ball over the halfway line for the whole match. I have come to loathe the extreme pressurising of Top Player, but it does give me a stern test, with the AI frequently popping in goals in all sorts of ways.

So I went back to Top Player, and the game felt great again. A nice balance between playability and challenge.

The pressure still seemed obnoxious to me, but I coped with it by actively seeking the space and utilising every precious inch of it, rather than trying to hold onto the ball for longer than I knew was ‘allowed’.

I can’t pinpoint any concrete reason why the gameplay suddenly seemed good again. Well, there was a change of controller. This would fit in nicely with next-gen PES’s growing trend of citing all manner of things as influences on the gameplay.

I have two controllers that I play PS3 with. One is a Sixaxis that came with my original phat PS3 four years ago. The other is a DualShock3 that I got with my Slim last year. I recharge one whilst playing with the other.

The bad sessions for most of last week were played with the Sixaxis. The good sessions over the weekend were played with the DualShock3.

In the current climate of debate and confusion over PES2011’s essential character, I could present a circumstantial case for the following proposition: OMG PES2011’s gameplay is affected by what kind of controller you use!

I don’t believe it for a second, of course, but many would.

A few words about Lukaku mk II. Lukaku is the 17-year-old striker who astonished me with his raw talent when I started my previous Anderlecht career.

Having restarted again, I was fascinated to discover that he just doesn’t feel like the same player at all. I was fascinated because it would suggest that we create a unique Master League ‘world’ each time we initiate one. They’re like snowflakes.

Now, Lukaku felt like just a promising young player, pretty decent but nothing truly special yet. Whereas last week, in my previous career, he really was like an already-mature teenage Schwarz.

Lukaku has started to come good again in his new guise, I’m happy to report. But he’s still not firing in the rockets from 25 yards as regularly as he was. It feels harder to get him into position, and when he unleashes the shot it’s just not as powerful.

Occasionally they do still fly in, though, as seen in the first goal below. These goals are bread and butter for me in PES2011 and always have been. The second goal is another from Lukaku in the same game (against Dinamo Bucaresti). It’s what I can only describe as a gleeful volley from close range—albeit executed with a traditional PES shin-kick:

Pro Evolution Groundhog Day

And just like that, PES2011 has gone back to its bad old ways. In two long sessions over the past 36 hours, I’ve seen all the things that made me quit this game twice before.

I’ll get to a possible ‘trigger’ event for this all-new badness later on.

For now, the headlines—I’m seeing all of these things again with unacceptable frequency:

  • The nails-down-a-blackboard horrors of the stumble animation.
  • Heavy elephant touches that carry the ball, and the would-be ball-carrier, 10 yards in the wrong direction.
  • The infamous ‘step-around’ animation that serves no useful function whatsoever.
  • The game running at a hundred miles an hour, even on the slowest speed setting.
  • And last but by no means least, the accursed stumble animation. The long version – Stumble A as I called it in Wednesday’s post – has made a comeback. Oh, I’ve just spotted that I mentioned this already, above, in bullet point 1. That’s because I hate it so much, you see.

It’s as if somebody has reached into my game and twiddled all the knobs at random. The result is a high-pressure, high-tempo, glitch-riddled mess. I’m constantly hunted down by two or three AI players. It’s like playing online, and that is not a good place to be.

And I was having such a good time in my restarted Master League career. I’d taken the last-ditch step of starting totally from scratch on a specially-created account on my PS3. What I found there, to begin with, was a game that reminded me of why I rated the PES2011 demo the best demo I’d ever played.

And now, after several days of great sessions, the PES2011 gameplay once again seems to have degraded to the point where I wonder why I’m bothering.

What is it that is causing this? Is it one monstrous ‘opposite placebo’ effect? I haven’t touched a single setting anywhere in the game since my last good sessions, so it’s nothing I’ve done. I have come to suspect an internal trigger that fires under certain circumstances.

The only thing of note that’s happened in-game was that I passed through the mid-season transfer window and acquired my first Youth Team players. (Palmieri and Castolo.) That’s literally the only difference.

I noticed the change in the first match after the transfer window. It was like the flick of a light switch from one kind of football game to the other. Suddenly, I could barely move for at least one, and usually two or three, AI players immediately on me, or running like maniacs to get to me. Time on the ball is reduced almost to nothing. The stumble animation has increased in frequency and severity as a direct consequence.

It’s incredible. I have to emphasise that the change wasn’t gradual. It happened literally from one match to the next (with the transfer window in-betweeen; that could be significant).

What is to be done with PES2011?

I won’t be giving up again—instead I’ll be trying again. It’s not as if I have any palatable alternative. This is not a good FIFA year in my view (FIFA09 was the last good FIFA year—again, only in my view).

I’ve tried going back to older PES games, but I missed PES2011’s superior passing.

And, as a PES fan, I’ve got to know what’s going on with the game. Why, PES2011, why?

I decided to restart PES2011, again, and once again using Anderlecht. I want to to see how my boy Lukaku turns out.

This time I edited Division 2 into my customary pan-European league of proper teams (so it’s goodbye to the made-up Konami teams). Here’s the new setup:

So the made-up Konami teams are no more. Blessing in disguise?

I have only played two matches at the start of season 1 in this new career. Hmmm. It felt okay again. But we’ll see how that turns out.

One major thing: Lukaku feels different. He feels a bit AVERAGE now. Shock, horror. In my first restart attempt last week, Lukaku was superb from the beginning. Now he feels like a slightly-above-average youngster.

Will that change? I hope so. Or maybe I might have to accept that when you start a new Master League, you roll the dice, and players can be different. There’s no guarantes of the same user experience. Look at all the different Schwarzes that people have been playing with, last year and this year.

And so I go on with ML career #3.

This is getting a bit silly now. If this new career blows up in my face, I’ll either try to live with the rotten gameplay, or give up finally and irrevocably. PES2011 is proving to be an interesting quasi-scientific experiment.

He don’t need no stinkin’ skill cards

I’m now well into my new Master League career on PES2011 with Anderlecht. I’m playing 10-minute matches on Top Player in the English League. I’m currently in Division 2 alongside the made-up teams, which slightly spoils it, but I’ve started so I’ll definitely finish. I wish I’d followed my usual route of drafting in the ‘other European’ teams (Porto and the like) to make up a custom D2. Never mind. You do kind of get used to THING FC and so on after a while.

My star player is a 17-year-old youth. Name of Lukaku. I think I’ve mentioned him once or twice already. His full stats are on the right. There are no skill cards to show off, but this lad doesn’t need them. I’ve got a few more net-busters from 25-30 yards to show off on Friday.

My Anderlecht team is mostly a one-man show. It could be that I’m favouring Lukaku because of that wicked, wicked left foot of his. I’m probably focused on working the ball towards him when there may be other options available.

The other players aren’t too bad, really—as you’d expect with them being the original Anderlecht squad and all. Lukaku’s supporting cast includes:

M SAUREZ (CF/SS) – without Lukaku this tricksy little striker would be the main man. Has grabbed me a few vital goals at times, as the scorers’ chart below indicates.

PROTO (GK) – a fine goalkeeper, 81 OVR. I’ve already had to fend off a couple of offers for him, using my tried and trusted technique of raising the asking price to 99 million pounds.

BADIBANGA (CMF) – it could be because his name closely echoes a certain devastating ISS player of yesteryear, but I love this midfielder.

As can be seen from the First XI and squad portrait at the end of the post, most of the Anderlecht players are rated comfortably above-average. This career is nothing like starting with the Default losers, but it’s not far off for me.

At least Lukaku is top scorer for the division:

And our current league table is next. I’ve only won 3 matches, and drawn far too many. The defenders are my team’s achilles’ heel right now. I don’t see any promotion in store this season:

I’m running with a version of my favoured 4-3-3 formation. I’ve played Master League with something like it for almost ten years now.

The one difference here is a slightly flatter and wider midfield than I’m used to, coupled with slightly deeper wide forwards than usual.

The effect of this, I like to think, is that we’re compact when I want us to be compact, and wide when I want us to be wide.

I have adjusted the slider settings to reflect this aim, but I don’t know what effect they’ve had.

I’m going to come right out and say it: since sliders arrived a few years ago (in PES and in FIFA) I have always struggled to perceive any real effect that they have. I’m sure there is an effect, but how much of one? Could the slider settings in PES (and FIFA) be the biggest placebo of them all? Just thought I’d throw that one out there…