Once Upon A Time In ISS

Over the past week or more the tone of my posts may have given the impression, wrongly, that PES2012 is nothing but toil. That playing it is a Purgatory unlike any other. That I’m just biding my time and waiting for the right moment to move with dignity over to FIFA12.

Not so! When I’ve come to write most of my recent posts, I’ve usually done so on the back of a frustrating session or two. And then chosen to highlight the game’s problems in that post. I’m afraid that’s one of the drawbacks of the blog format. It’s only ever going to be a record of what I think and feel right now. Not so much what I thought and felt the day before yesterday, when (for example) I might have played the most majestic, symphony-like session of PES2012 ever.

And it’s not as if I’m unwilling to put a PES game to the sword if I feel it truly deserves it. In 2010 I quit PES2011 before Christmas. I’m more than capable of ditching a PES game if I find it unplayable.

I hope to play PES2012 until it reaches a natural end. I anticipate giving it a generally favourable end-of-year review in September. Because of that shooting, I anticipate giving it a poorer final review-style score than I might have done otherwise. PES2012 is a solid and enjoyable 8/10 game with bizarre and wonky 4/10 random shooting. That’s what I can’t get away from.

Meanwhile, back in my Master League career, after 12 matches of season 8 I’m just keeping in touch with the leaders:

My lack of goal-scoring is a problem that I’ll have to resolve if I ever want to do anything in this league.

I just had the misfortune of playing Manchester United twice in a row. First in the FA Cup, then in the league. Both matches were at their place.

I lost 2-0 in the Cup, and 4-0 in the league. In both matches I started well and held onto the ball. That’s something it’s nearly always best to do in PES2012. It often draws the sting out of the AI. This time, it just seemed to make Man Utd angry. I was trounced in both games, outplayed and outfought. I kept the Cup scoreline down to a respectable 2-0 only through some miracle.

Sharp-eyed readers may have noted a general slowing-down of my PES2012 progress over the past two weeks. It’s true—I have been playing the game less, and taking more time to move through the seasons than before.

Here’s why: I’ve spent about half my recent football gaming time playing old ISS and PES games for the book I’m currently writing. Over the past week in particular I have played long, glorious sessions on ISS, ISS98, ISS Pro Evolution 2, PES3, and PES4. Over the coming weeks I’ll play every PES and ISS game there has ever been.

What can I say? It’s pretty great. It’s an eye-opener (e.g.: there was PES2012-style ‘wrong-side shooting’ in ISS98!). It’s an unashamed trip down memory lane, a chance to wallow in nostalgia and remember what life was like in another time.

To anyone out there who still owns any of the early games: I do recommend having a look again. Even if it’s only to see how far we’ve truly come.

And to anyone who wants to start collecting the early games, either to play them for the first time or keep them as mementoes: you’d better start now. They’re all going cheap on eBay and/or Amazon. The PC versions of PES are always gettable through nefarious methods—although I own legitimate original PC DVD copies of PES4, PES5, and PES6, I’ll have ye know.

Master League is what I’m all about in football gaming. Even if the Johnny-come-lately of FIFA12’s Career Mode turns out to be as good as I hope and expect it to be, my Master League origins will still be there: a solid 13 years of great times and great memories.

It still amazes me that Master League began in 1999 in ISS Pro Evolution on the original grey PlayStation. That first version of the mode featured one  solitary division. The following year, in ISS Pro Evolution 2 that was expanded to two divisions.

I could go on here at length. I could just cut and paste some of the chapters I’ve written and others that I’m still working on, but I’ll save them for release. Which is still on target, roughly, for spring/early summer this year.


  1. Ah, the joys of old PES. I still have a few of my oldies. I love giving them the odd spin now and again although I find picking up from old MLs and seeing the info of the time and date I last saved weirdly spooky.

    12 goals in 12 games is a meagre return for your superstar team N-G. It’s the same on my ML unless I crank matches up to 15mins or lower the difficulty of course. After all the hours I’ve put into the game I really doubt there is enough left to learn that’s going to make up that 30 goals on the AI top teams.

  2. John—goals are a worry. Sometimes it seems there’s just no way through the packed CPU defence. If I score a goal I pretty much know that’ll be it and I have to hang on for a 1-0 win. I’ve been playing with formation and tactics again today, seeing if a more attacking 4-5-1 makes a difference, or indeed a 4-4-2 with two DMFs and two wide AMFs, an SS and a CF. That was quite interesting, as I won the game 3-0. ‘Only’ against Swansea though. And it was only one match.

    After all my retro footy gaming this week I’d have to say that 2001’s ISS Pro Evo 2 has been the best. If I was ever going to go back and play an old game full time, though, PES3 would be my cut-off, and I’d almost certainly make a beeline for PES5/WE9LE anyway. And at some point this year I will do that.

  3. N-G: That’s kind of where I am now. After an amazingly dramatic and rainy 1-1 draw away to Hull as Brigton on Fifa 12 last night, I feel the kind of passion to play on as I have only ever got from PES ML before.

    I was one down and scored a lovely leveller with my striker dinking the ball over the onrushing keeper. It wasn’t a fluke either. I selected the lob/dink, the power, the direction and to see it trickle into into the rain sodden net was a joy.

    So it looks like FIFA 12 on PS3 for me for now with PES 5 in the shed should I get those moments to escape the family.

  4. I know what you mean John. My 5th season on career mode with Plymouth has been gripping stuff, from the highs of winning the Johnstons Paint trophy (excellent celebrations – fireworks, ticker tape, players diving en masse in front of their Wembley supporters!) to eventual heartache of losing in the playoff semis 2-1 on aggregate, despite throwing the kitchen sink at Sheff Weds in the closing minutes.

    Hard to put my finger on exactly what has made the game immersive this year compared to its tedious predecessors, but it really has that one more game feel. And I also love the little dinks over the keeper, possibly even more than long range scorchers

  5. John—ah, but if you have a bad session on FIFA12 you’ll go back to PES2012, and then when you have a bad session on PES2012 you’ll go back to FIFA12…. My prophecy of doom—trying to play two games means never settling on one—is coming true for you! All the best with it though, and I’ll probably catch up with you on FIFA12 sometime in the spring.

  6. abbeyhill—all I can say is that it is with football games (and games in general), as it is with books, TV shows, films, etc. There’s so much quality around that if I stop to think about what else I could be playing/watching/reading, I’d never play or watch or read anything at all. I’ve steadfastly refused to mix the two games so far this year (beyond the very basic keeping-it-warm level for FIFA12) and feel that I must continue that policy so as not to end up swinging between them. FIFA12 is still one for the future for me and will be for some time.

  7. Really looking forward to reading the sections on ISS Pro Evolution 2! I bought that game as an 11 year-old, at a time of my life when my team, Leeds, were still good enough to make it onto PES games. I remember starting the Master League thinking ‘who are all these players? There’s Ian Harte, but he’s meant to be a left-back, and his name doesn’t end in ‘y’.’ Why have transfer windows and mafioso chairmen when you can simply acquire the likes of Batistuta for the bargain-basement price of 44 points?

  8. not-greg – indeed, yes, I was just enthusing about my current experience with FIFA12 rather than trying to convince you to switch! Agreed it’s best to play each to a natural conclusion rather than to chop and change (although I sympathise with John in that it’s sometimes hard to work out in advance which footy game is going to be worth a major investment of time in)

    re ISS and the early years of PES, I’ve just chanced upon in an old notebook my title-winning team in Winning Eleven GBA: GK-Chalivert; CBs – West, Bermudez, Gamarra; DMFs – Monreto, Gabheri; AMFs – Sabir, Hadji, Aghahowa; CFs – M’Boma, Salas. Not sure about a couple of these names (they were my phonetic translations from the Japanese) but some classic old-school ML legends there!!

  9. Joe—I just wish I could remember more about the ISS Pro Evolution games. It’s not until I get to roughly PES2/3 that my memory starts getting detailed and incidental. Before that, it’s mostly a blur! So the ISS chapters might not be as in-depth as you’d like, but I do try to dredge up every last scrap of memory of the old games, don’t worry. There are a few.

  10. abbeyhill—I didn’t take it as trying to cajole me. I was just commenting on what my current thoughts re. FIFA12 are. In a nutshell: I’m absolutely determined not to leave unfinished business behind me on PES2012. I do not want to have the scenario of playing an average or bad few matches on FIFA12, and starting to think about going back to PES2012. That way lies utter madness for me. I will have closure with PES2012 before making the move, believe me.

    I also sympathise with John and every other nomad of next-gen football gaming. At the start of this football game year I remarked that having two good games this time round, as then seemed likely, could almost be a worst-case scenario—for precisely the reason that those who can’t settle in one for long will always have a sneaking thought about the grass being greener elsewhere. Or… maybe that week-on/week-off kind of approach, swapping between the games, is the ideal way to do it, who knows? All I know is it’s not right for me to mix the games—I’m not prescribing the best approach for anyone else.

    Re. your old GBA team—that wouldn’t be Mustapha Hadji, the 1990s Cov legend, would it?

  11. Guys, there is a PES survey over at WENB that we MUST all fill in.

  12. John—after long experience over the years I have a policy of never mentioning WENB or its most prominent staff members. Not because of anything they’ve necessarily done, but because the comments section of the blog goes absolutely nuts whenever they do get mentioned or discussed.

    We’ll mention them no more, of course,* but yes, anyone who wants to should fill in any surveys that are ongoing.

    [*I won’t publish any more mentions of WENB & related topics, sorry. Trust me, if you were me you’d do the same.]

  13. not-greg….That’s it….Game over man…GAME OVER!

    Professional is done for me now, its soul destroying. I changed back to regular following a truly horrendous session last night where I managed just 2 goals in 7 games, I’d signed a few created players including C Kane who’s stats and 95 OVR made him the best player on the game and started scoring loads with him, then I played Derby away, took an early lead and then proceeded to miss a raft of chances where you’d normally bank on scoring-Clearly the AI deciding not to indulge me, and I had my first noticeable experience of the wonky shooting- 3 times I had Kane in position slightly right of goal, aimed low to the near post and the game decided to shoot dead centre.
    As if that wasn’t enough, the final minute came and I automatically knew what was coming, after having zero chances all game Derby suddenly became Barcelona, possession, one touch passing, fast play resulting in a corner, unexpectedly they didn’t score a direct header but my controller seemed to freeze up, my defenders simply refused to clear the ball and in almost slow motion Derby popped the ball around, made inroads to the area again and just to add insult to injury scored with a deflected shot. I quit the game and returned to main menu instantly, more pissed off than I’ve been with the game in some time.

    I started a new ML on regular and its a JOY to play now, I’m not brilliant at the game so its not going all my own way but winning more than I lose or draw, but its the simple enjoyment of being able to beat a defender, play a through ball and create numerous chances.

    Professional can kiss my arse.

  14. Mike—you’ve given me something to think about there. As much as I’m enjoying PES2012 right now, it’s a masochistic struggle most of the time, peppered with frequent bouts of disgust as every team playing against me, regardless of who they are, turns into Barcelona in the blink of an eye.

    There really is too large a gap between Regular and Professional. I’m going to have a serious think about dropping back down, as I could be grinding away on Professional indefinitely, and I don’t want that.

  15. Exactly, its just horrible on professional. Bottom line for me is that I love Pro Evo and have done for the last 10 years, I don’t want that to be soured by my experiences with PES2012. On professional, for me at least, it’s not fun at all to play, constantly feeling like you’re being cheated or that the AI has a set plan for a game that it absolutely will not stop at until its met (sure there’s a movie quote in there somewhere)

    Regular has made it enjoyable again.

  16. NG and Mike- i played 14 games on professional and wanted to hoy the xbox and the big nice tv out of the window….not to mention getting very snappy with the wife.

    after that on regular, every win, every goal going in against the cheating bastard score from the kick off AI, is a pure unadulterated pleasure.

    regular isnt easy like 2008 or pes 4 say….its a fine level to be content with.

  17. Mike—playing a lot of old-school ISS/PES over the past few weeks has kept me off PES2012 about 50% of the time I would otherwise have devoted to it, which has meant that I’ve relished it more and not been drained of all hope. I can see that changing… This morning, playing a league match against Liverpool, they scored a goal that could only be described as a circus act. Instant one-touch passing that was unstoppable IMO.

    I’ll see how it goes, but as we move towards February next week (!), I’m conscious of time passing and cannot see myself ‘beating’ Professional anytime soon. Not that I want to ‘beat’ the game, as the Americans put it, but I would like to have some kind of parity at the very least, and I’m really not seeing that on Professional.

  18. gramswagonerrrgh the ‘score from the kick-off AI’, one of the game’s least pleasant features. I don’t know why that aspect of the game isn’t universally reviled on the forums, but I’ve never seen it mentioned even once.

    I might need to go down to Regular again to stop myself being sacked anyway. I’ll see how the next few sessions go.

  19. not-greg – I was actually wondering if it was your Hagi rather than the Coventry Hadji in my superb GBA ML team. That was the beauty of playing it in Japanese, I had no idea who most the players were, or whether there were ‘classics’ available. Sadly, now both my DSs have died I’ve got nothing with which to load it up and check if he had a deadly left foot….

  20. Gramswagon- Couldn’t have said it better myself. Every goal has a certain sense of “Have that you ******* ” about it. I’ve just narrowly avoided a goal straight from KO and then in the following match came up against one of the most superhuman keepers I can remember…….this friggin game!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. Guys, I just wanna say Professional is beatable, like anything else beating it just comes with practice. I’ve been playing on professional since season one and have thoroughly enjoyed it. It has been tough at times but I finally feel that everything has clicked and I win and dominate most games now. I’m still able to beat players, thread passes etc. regarding the straight from kick-off goal, I’ve never seen it. Really. So it must be defendable. By all means drop down to regular if it suits you, just know that Professional is beatable.
    Incidentally, Liverpool scored a great goal against me the other day. Puskas rounded my keeper with a shot fake then nonchalantly did a ‘rabona’ into the empty net. It’s one of the things I like about 2012, great players actually do tricks. Zico, for example, is a nightmare to stop, exactly how it should be.

  22. abbeyhill—there’s a wonderful emulator for old GBA games that came out recently. It works on any PC or Mac, I have it installed and unlike many emulators it’s smooth and easy to use. Trouble is I’ve forgotten its name. I’ll post it later.

  23. Mike—I had a match on Regular this morning and with my superteam of Classics it was very easy to make chances and take a good proportion of them. So I think there may be no way back to Regular for me—my players are just too good.

  24. Grilled Seabass—different player skill levels will be a major factor in this. I remember you mentioning last year that your years of online play had possibly conditioned you to be able to deal a bit better with PES2011’s high-pressure play. I think it’s the same this year: Professional on PES2012 plays a very high-pressured game, coupled with an insanely skilful attacking AI. As somebody on a forum recently said, the AI in PES2012 plays like a highly skilled human player. That’s not something I’m equipped for, really, and it’s certainly been ‘different’, shall we say…

    I’ve seen enough of life on Professional to know that it is very enjoyable sometimes, but I dislike other aspects of it far too much at the moment. E.g. putting in a blocking tackle on the edge of the box and the AI player just passes through your player as if he’s not there, and scores a goal. It looks and feels cheap, however it’s explained. (I know, I know—the behind-the-scenes CPU calculation has decided that your player’s tackle will miss/be ineffective, and it’s represented that visually.)

    It seems I can’t go back to Regular without winning every match easily—my team of Classics is too good. So it looks like I’ll be sticking with Professional. Or I might try Top Player, just to see.

    Man City have got Puskas in my ML world. He’s a crazy-fast dribbler, better than Man Utd’s Maradona and Chelsea’s Ronaldo…

  25. a minor quibble but is anyone else bothered by half the stadiums during the day being covered by shadow/darkness.

    i was playing a team at the allianz arena and was struggling to see what was going on , on the right side of the pitch.

    i mean my tv’s not an alba…its a big one with that new fangled HD business. old trafford looks really bad actually.

    lighten up konami.

    minor issue rant over.

  26. Havent been about for the last 3 days so missed alot of the chatter, not sure if you got any joy out of R2 shooting NG?
    As for the stadium lighting Grams, i too find it a bit ‘murky’ and dark in certain arenas, although many of the official games website/magazine reviews that i have read of PES2012 always make apoint of saying PES’ lighting is far superior to FIFA. I disagree.
    Some of the daytime sunny stadiums in PES are glorious and play beautifully but even in PES11 there was one particular stadium that was always bathed in darkness and made it almost unplayable at that end.
    PES feels like the contrast and brightness and gamma has been dampened down and washed out in contrast to FIFA’s vibrant colourific palette.
    Matter of preference i guess.

  27. hi guys,

    just reading what you have all added and have a few suggestions. drop your defensive line to 0 put your full backs close to the touchline and the two centre backs inside the D of your 18 yard box with a DM sitting on top of your center backs. i find having this defensive set up works as the opposition hardly ever get behind my defence, holding the A/green button and RB when defending also makes a difference putting a small amount of space between you and the opposistion allows you to time your tackles when releasing the RB button. i have done a lot of tinkering with tactics and formations and found that you cant go wrong playing like barcelona i.e tight and compact whilst defending and quick and expansive on the attack.
    im playing on top player although i dont win every game i have found having this defensive setup allows me to be more creative going forward. let me know how you get on. 🙂

  28. gramswagon—my TV’s one of the now-standard flatscreen HDTVs (how quickly they became the norm!) and there are certain pitches where—usually on bright sunny days—I have to close the room curtains to see what’s going on. Pitches where it’s hard to see the action are something of an unfortunate Konami tradition. Remember the pitch with thin horizontal lines in PES5 where you could never see the ball?

  29. Paul—I’m still playing with R2, but my early findings are that I’m just shooting normal weaker R2 shots. I still don’t really see any different type of shot from the standard controlled shot, which is press shoot then press R2 immediately.

    I accept I’m probably doing it wrong from the technique that you’ve discovered of pressing R2 in the split second after shoot and before the shot-gauge fills up (which isn’t in the manual, which puzzles me), and need to experiment with different styles of press/hold.

    The trouble is that if I carve out a decent chance I never want to experiment, I want to score. And as you know, with better players the wonky shooting is proportionally less of an issue. So—touch wood—as I move through ML and my great Classic players get greater, wonky shooting is now a once-every-two sessions annoyance, rather than at least once every session.

  30. Garry G—I’m about to play a few matches on Top PLayer for the first time just to see what they’re like, and will try out your defensive tips. Cheers.

  31. Test it out in the practise Arena, i definitely noticied a difference, so can only go on what ive found in my game.

    Havent had any PES or gaming in general since last weds so hoping for a good sesh tonight on PES. Also looking forward to April (My PES Deadline) to get stuck back into FIA12’s Career mode. Think it only fair to give each game 6 months of play time, seeing as FIFA is so good this year.

  32. Paul—I had to pause my game to say I just had the chance to try it in a match (already 2-0 up, near the end, so no risk) and achieved a very directed shot with Barnes in a 1-on-1 situation that went in entirely the right direction (fizzed back off the foot of the right post). More testing required!

    My moment of transition to FIFA12 will come with a Treble in PES2012 or simple exhaustion, whichever comes first. I haven’t got a formal date or month in mind, but yes, if we get to April and I’m still pottering about in the foothills of the Premier League scrapping for results, I’ll want to force the issue as well. PES has made me a football game fan, and FIFA cannot be ignored this year, as I mostly have ignored it for the past two years.

  33. Good signs then!! i found it most useful in 1 on 1’s and shooting from just outside the box (you can max the power bar when using R2) and also when you need to dig the ball fom under your feet for a shot.

  34. I definitely need to practice myR2 shooting too. Too many times when I try it, it just scoops over the bar with a horrible animation. All about timing.
    My most effective technique for 1-on-1s is an R1-after-pressing-shoot dink shot. Works well and is quite easy to pull off in this version.

  35. Paul—I didn’t get another opportunity to test your R2 shooting in this morning’s session. The AI went all psycho on me and I barely got a kick.

  36. Grilled Seabass—not another fancy-pants shoulder button complication? Real men who play football games with hair on their chests only need to press pass and shoot. (I hear.)

    I tried the orthodox L1+shoot chip shot yesterday for only about the 3rd time in PES2012 and hit the bar. That’s as exotic as I get, really 😉

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