Going into the last stages of season 8 in Master League 2012, the situation was simple. With 6 matches left, such was the position:

I had set myself the goal of finishing in the Champions League places.

If I accomplished that, I would happily play on into season 9—and possibly beyond.

If I didn’t, I would set PES2012 aside for now, and turn to FIFA12.

This is just how it was. I won’t bother rehashing the various fine-grained arguments for and against. It’s all laid out in my posts on the blog for the past month or two.

These were my last 6 fixtures:


Ouch. That middle clump featuring Man City, Chelsea, and Man Utd on the bounce made me nervous. But what do we play football games for? Surely it’s to have a sense of occasion, of playing for big stakes. It’s what makes football games great. Big matches that mean a lot are what Master League, in particular, has always been about.

So I was excited about the challenging nature of it all. And determined to stick to my pledge. No Champions League, no more PES2012 for a while.


A terrible, tight, cramped performance. I had 65% possession, made a dozen chances, half of them clear-cut chances. No goals. Two were gilt-edged, clear-cut chances that there was no earthly reason for not scoring. I aimed ridiculously wide, almost to the corner flags. The ball went straight at the keeper.


The opposite of the previous match in many ways. I was 1-0 down at half-time, but staged a Barnes-storming comeback in the second. That’s a pun on the name of my key LMF, John Barnes. I said Barnes-storming instead of barnstorming

John Barnes inspired the fightback, laying on two goals and scoring one himself. This match saw the best of PES2012. And its worst, again: I could and should have had 5 goals, but no, it wasn’t allowed.


A total calamity against my nearest rivals for a top 4 finish. The game was heading for a 0-0 and I was grudgingly accepting it, knowing that a point would still gave me the edge. Then, late on, a routine pass out of defence saw my veteran CB, Ruggeri, take a monstrously heavy first touch on the ball for no reason whatsoever. Tevez—playing again for this Man City, at least—nicked the ball and scored. After this match the table looked like this:

3 matches to play. My goal difference now was as good as being a point behind. Not good at all.


A thumping defeat. I played badly for this one, no complaints. Everything that you shouldn’t do in this iteration of PES against this AI, I did.

I over-committed players in attack. I was impatient and impetuous in defence. Chelsea could have had 6.

After the match I checked the results. Man City had only drawn their game. They were now 1 point ahead of me. Not ideal, but as often strangely happens in Master League, I was still in the hunt. The quest was still on.


Another heavy defeat by the same scoreline, and this time I could legitimately grumble about a couple of things.

Early on I had two one-on-ones where the shot went straight at the keeper. Then Man Utd scored a good goal to take the lead.

At 1-0 down I still played superbly, if I may say so myself. In the second half I dominated play. I was holding off the Man Utd attack with relative ease. It seemed an equaliser was inevitable. It was going to happen. I had Merson-style unbelievable belief…

Then this happened:

Between the moment when my keeper patted the first shot away, to the moment the ball crossed the line, I had no control over any player.

My defender’s bumbling touches were automatic.

My keeper’s atrocious touch that carried the ball over the line was automatic.

I think his belated clearance was my work (I was twatting the circle button at the time), but can’t be sure.

At 2-0 down my belief departed, but I kept going. You never know. I had a few half-chances, then conceded the third goal in the 92nd minute.

Afterwards, I looked at the table.

Man City had won their match and were now firmly ensconced in 4th place—4 points clear of me, with one match remaining.

It was now impossble for me to finish in the Champions League places, and that was the end of PES2012.


The last match of the season. A hat-trick from van Basten. An enjoyable match. Too late.

Here is the final table for season 8:

And with that, PES2012 goes on the back-burner. It doesn’t have to, of course. I’m a big lad now. I can stay up late if I want. I don’t have to eat my vegetables if I don’t want. I can go on playing PES2012 if I want.

But as these 6 games showed me in various ways, it’s probably best that I depart the scene while I still have more than a modicum of respect for the game.

I do not rule out a return later in the year. Heck, I don’t rule out a return next week. There are no guarantees that I’ll take to playing FIFA12 full-time. FIFA09 was the last time I found a next-gen FIFA to be playable for very long.

After my PES2012 session was over, I backed up my Master League savegame to USB for safekeeping, and uploaded it to Dropbox for extra-safe safekeeping. I removed the DVD from the PS3 and put it back in its case for the first time since October.

Then I booted up FIFA12 for the first time in a week. All being well, this should be my football game for the near future.

How will I take to it after all the PES2012 hours? Will the new-look Career Mode grip me as it has gripped others?

I played one match in my existing Career Mode save, as Coventry City. (I will not be playing on with this save. I’ll be starting over, from scratch.)

The match in question was a pre-season friendly against Catania. And whom should I see on the pitch but a dear old friend from PES2010.

A good omen, I hope.


  1. Nightmare! Those 6 games showed every Jekyll and Hyde, Good and bad, Deleriously enjoyable and sickeningly frustrating angle of PES 2012. That own goal really takes the piss, I would’ve quit on the spot and re-started, not to sound like a spoilt child but that just isn’t fair and its crap like that that made me qive up on the game.
    I hope you find solace in FIFA ng

  2. Great post NG. Really enjoyed that. It had suspense, drama and comedy in that OG.

    So a momentus day then. What a shame it had to finish like that. But at least you went out on a win.

    I’m still enjoying my Fifa CM. The only thing I miss from PES is the aggressive attacking AI of your opponent (other than the cheat dribbling etc).

    I’ve just gone up to World Class from pro but slackened the marking a bit in the hope of getting a slightly more balanced game. Fifa is not perfect by any means but I have not been pulling my hair out playing it as much as I did with PES 2012.

    As I’ve said before, between these two games is a potentially brilliant footy experience.

  3. Great Post. The Drama…. and what an ugly horrid own goal, its stuff like that which makes PES seem archaic at times.
    A Landmark day then…. 4 months after release PES12 gets a ‘rest’ – probably for the best after reading your exploits.

    Really intrigued and interested to read the blog now you will be playing FIFA. Will Whet the appetite for my soon-to-be FIFA experience.

  4. Mike—all I can say is that my strict rule against reloading and replaying matches is as much about moving things along as anything else. If I went back and replayed the match and something else happened that I thought unfair (very likely in PES2012) I could potentially get bogged down playing that one match multiple times. I haven’t got time, and anyway, I like the matches to have weight and meaning as one-off instances.

    As for seeking solace in FIFA12, I’m genuinely not departing PES2012 either for good (I’m sure I’ll be back) or with any real rancour or ill-feeling towards the game. I just have a strong sense of it being time to set PES2012 aside and try another football game that intrigues me for many reasons. I’m looking forward to discovering FIFA12 for the first time, really.

  5. John/NG – The only way I’ve found to get the AI making any sort of substantial attacking play is on World Class/Legendary. As you’ve said, John, I found the best way to go is to tailor the difficulty level using the sliders.
    I’ve not really felt cheated by the FIFA AI at all to be honest although the career mode is still lacking something… that ‘x’ factor which Master League always seems to pull out of the hat, regardless of Konami tinkering.
    I’m currently on Skyrim which I’m finding an absolute joy – when I emerged from my first dungeon crawl into the sunlight I could almost feel the heat on my face and smell the flowers swaying in the breeze around me. What a game!

  6. John—indeed, a day that’s come a little sooner than I would have liked (I anticipated it being April or May). And like I say in the post and in my last comment, I will be back. PES2012 isn’t a PES2011-type case of storming off in disgust. I’m weary of it, is all.

    I’m sure I’ll weirdly miss PES2012’s hyper-aggressive AI as well, but I won’t miss never being allowed to score on the counter-attack, never trusting the shooting mechanism, and much else.

  7. Paul—that own-goal was a jaw-dropping moment. “I cannot believe…” It really was a decisive moment too, exactly as laid out in the post. While only 1-0 down I was rampant and certain of the equaliser, I felt, and I’d have taken a point. At 2-0 down I was a beaten man. The PES2012 AI is already deadly enough without these occasional helping hands from the game engine.

    Friday’s post will be mostly or all about the Vita, just to give me a buffer before I start the FIFA12 posts. With one thing and another I might not actually get much more than an hour or two of game time between now and the weekend. Jesus Christ I could do with my 6 balls dropping in tonight’s Lotto…

  8. Chris—it seems to me that the difficulty levels are customisable to practically infinite levels. I’m looking forward to finding my ideal level. I do actually agree with the view that a football game should be calibrated to play on just a few set difficulties out of the box. FIFA12 isn’t too shabby out of the box—if the sliders didn’t exist, we might not miss them. But if the tools are available, might as well use ’em…

    Why did you have to go and mention Skyrim? Haven’t I got enough games to feel guilty and frustrated about not playing?!

  9. NG – That was some of the best reading I have done in a while! About 2 months ago I had a crucial game where I had 2 own goals in a similiar matter in back to back games that i had no control over, it made me not only sale my PES 2012, but i gave up on the XBOX 360 and sold it at well. I will be interested in following your thoughts on Fifa, I myself boycott all EA products. I am still amazed every night with my little Wii machine and the beauty of point and click PES.

  10. bblastmaster—cheers, and don’t for one minute think we’ve see the last of PES this year. At worst there’s still my now-traditional August-time few weeks of PES6(360) or PES5 (or some other retro PES) to look forward to. At best I’ll eventually resume battle with PES2012.

    First, though, there’s some serious football gaming to be done in the form of FIFA12. It’s been 3 years since I played one for longer than a week or two. I’m interested in how it’s going to go, never mind anyone else!

    Re your EA boycott, what’s that all about? I’ve never understood such things personally, like the Microsoft hate tha so many people have. I’m as bolshie and anti-establishment as the best of ’em, but neither have done anything to me. Although I see EA’s Creation Centre for FIFA12 is still a buggy, non-functioning mess. It was the same 4 months ago but back then I smugly thought it’d be fixed by the time I got round to FIFA. Not fixed, not even nearly fixed.

  11. NG – About EA, I usually never care about name of the companies or being fan boy or that stuff, I am too old to care, In any product, I care about how I like it. EA is the only exception. My first love growing up in the States was American Football, I played through college and even some Pro. EA has killed football gaming next gen with the 2 worst sim playing AAA sports games with NCAA and Madden and has gone so far to mock critics that actually understand the fundamentals of the sport. No one actually working on these 2 games have ever played the sport!! Then they also killed there Rugby franchise! All the rantings of the so called hardcore football gamers has gone unheard as there sales are still very good. These games are made for my 11 year old nephew who loves cheesing online and trash talking and does not like to go outside and play actual football!!

  12. good luck with Fifa not-greg, hope you enjoy it as much as I have. I suspect you’ll find career mode still lacking that ‘fantasy’ element that makes master league so engrossing, but the game always seems to offer a fair and balanced challenge. There’s apparently a new squad update out tomorrow, in case you want to wait before starting a new career mode

  13. this might seem like a silly question but why hasnt fifa copied the masterleague?

    konami surely cant have patented it?

    because if EA did implement it…oooh there would have to be some big decisions made.

    good luck on fifa NG ,im fascinated to see how it pans out over the coming months.

  14. bblastmaster—I’ve heard over the past few years about what’s going on with Madden and I understand completely. The only weapon consumers have is the boycott. Even if it does no harm to the company being boycotted, it does the self some good to know you’re not contributing to propping up the edifice. Strange how EA Sports are pulling in so many different directions with their titles. Tiger Woods and FIFA are both pretty good now. NHL is decent, I hear. Madden? Eh… A symptom of a massive company without a unified vision or quality control.

  15. abbeyhill—that’s what is so annoying about Creation Centre still a buggy, barely usable mess—it could have been the portal to introducing that fantasy element to Career Mode. Yesterday it wasn’t working at all; this morning, it’s back to sort-of working. I want to create my own custom team and start in Division 4 (as I still call it from the 80s!) but Creation Centre makes that very hard going. We’ll see.

    In the meantime I’ve been playing some random matches to fully re-acclimatise and I’m happy with what I’ve found so far. It’s exhilarating to actually be able to shoot where I aim and to counter-attack the AI. PES2012’s shooting is probably the core reason I’m here now—you can really work your arse off to make a chance, but cannot rely on the shooting. And PES2012 just won’t allow counter-attacks to happen at all, or so rarely that I can’t remember.

  16. gramswagon—EA probably feel that a direct ML clone in FIFA would be a waste of the official licenses they hold for all footy leagues and clubs and players. As things stad, a few years ago they introduced a mode called Ultimate Team which bears some suspicious similarities to ML but without the League, unfortunately.

    Creation Centre (make your own players, teams, and leagues) offers an alternative approach, which I’m looking into.

  17. Sorry to hear you’ve had enough of PES (for the time being). I hope one day you come back to it and really start enjoying it. I myself am still enjoying it immensely, and even today scored a rather nice Rabona with Del Piero. I’m actually cruising to victories now on Professional and am almost scoring as many as the top teams. Next season I’ll be on Top Player.

  18. Grilled Seabass—it’s PES2012 I’ve had enough of, not PES as such. And strictly speaking, PES2012’s shooting is the main issue.

    As I’ve alluded to many times, it’s the root issue for me. I’m an average player. I might only make a few good chances per match on Professional. That’s when I need to have trust in the shooting system. Fine if I put the ball wide, or the keeper makes a miracle save—so far so very PES. But for the shot to go down the exact middle of the goal? Or, worse, to the other side, and IN?? It just makes me sick. It really does. I can tolerate everything else, even the likes of the own-goal seen in this post. I have come to the point where I need shooting to work, and it doesn’t, and so I depart.

  19. just a few choice goals of last nights session i thought id share:

  20. not-greg-i dont know where you are getting that you cannot counter attack the ai in pes 2012 it happens in the game

  21. The Saha goal on the clip i just posted shows a good example of catching the CPU on the counter, they’d pushed their midfield right up, i disposessed them and used the space in midfield to dribble into before laying a through ball for Saha to finish.

  22. Paul—lovely goals, and great replay quality as ever. I foresee lots of reminders of what I’m missing out on. Fortunately, I’ll know that what we all choose to record and look back on represents the best (usually) of a football game. I’m already not missing PES2012’s shooting and the lack of true counterattacking football.

  23. barton—I get it from my experience of playing for a few hundred hours. Counter-attacking play can be successful sometimes, but too many times the AI will just sprint back into position and suffocate your play (and don’t even think about launching a counter-attack if your keeper picks the ball up. He’ll always wait a few seconds before obeying your button-press).

    The ratio between successful/unsuccessful counterattacks is unbalanced in PES2012. It’s a similar scenario to shooting. You can go through one-on-one with the keeper and shoot into the corner exactly where you aim, sometimes, but that doesn’t mean there’s no problem with PES2012’s shooting.

  24. Thanks mate, first video id put together in ages, plan on more, both PES and FIFA and they were the nicest goals of a 8 match session, i scored loads that were ok or a bit naff that didnt make it, what certainly didnt make it was the goals i conceded or passages of play that showed PES’ ugly side.

    Im looking forward to FIFA too and may even start it beg. of April rather than end of.

  25. not-greg-i have to disagree with u i dont know if it is the professional difficulty or the edited option file but for me it is depending on the team. the aston villa dont not put all the players behind the ball they leave 3 players up for the counter attack when it is level and will have 4 players when they need a goal and if u dont have the players to pass the ball quick enough and accurate how could u do a counter but for teams that have all out defence they will not attack with much players and if u dont counter u will see the players come back quick and have only one or no player up. i am playing on superstar and i am noticing a tactical difficulty u should try that difficulty on a few of the games and u see what i mean

  26. Paul—that goal where you squirm your way through and finish with the outside of the boot high past the keeper was almost perfect. I bet you were grinning your head off when that one went in. It’s been just a few days away from PES2012 but I do miss it, and feel very positive about it in my memory. Master League or no Master League, no way would I drop 200+ hours on a football game with no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and PES2012 has plenty.

    Which isn’t to say I’m having second thoughts. I’m definitely not. It was the right time psychologically, with everything that was happening and not happening for me in my ML career, to set the game aside for a bit. Rest assured that my FIFA12 experience will have to be consistently good-to-great to keep me away. So far so good, I have to say.

    One thing I will I say: I missed Master League like crazy for the first few sessions of FIFA12. But that’s wearing off as I get into another great football game. I tell you what, for all our moaning, 2011-2012 could be a vintage year for footy gamers. If it wasn’t for that bloody PES2012 shooting it’d be perfect

  27. barton—it could be any number of factors making me perceive PES2012 as suffocating counter-attack play to a large extent. It’s quite true that Professional gameplay, where I’ve played the most, could have its own signature features, with counter-attacking not being one of them.

    I’m pretty sure that I’ll resume my ML career in PES2012 at some point, and if so, I’ll try your pointers. Consider them filed away for future use!

  28. not-greg-at least u are considering it cause it cant be just me and my friend who comes by are the only one that is seeing it. if my laptop never used to overheat i would of made a tutorial video about alot of the things people have not figured out u have to be thinking it is football not a game and u start to understand alot of the things

  29. NG

    Im sorry to hear about your unfortunate spell with PES2012. She can be a cruel mistress. I hope to see you back on it soon. Personally it is my favourite PES for some time…it takes all sorts.

    Enjoy FIFA im told its good

    As for Metal Gear, im just on the shell 2 on MSG2. Reliving my youth…

  30. barton—I think PES2012’s claims to represent football are on very shaky ground. There are typically 9 or 10 outfield AI players in the box (even when the AI team is superior, at home, and losing!) for one thing. Not permitting the human player to execute proper aim of shots on a consistent, logical basis, for a second thing. I don’t understand how either of these aspects of PES2012 can be said to be football.

  31. Steve—despite my misfortune(s) with PES2012, I still have a largely good opinion of it. The good outweighs the bad. It’s just the right time for me, now, to sample another footy game.

    I’m playing FIFA12, not a generic title called FIFA (I love the many subtle ways that diehard PESites are finding to *sniff* at this turn of events 😉 ) It is good so far, but it’ll be some time before I know if it’s GOOD, if you know what I mean. I want it to be PES-good, not just decent and acceptable.

    Is that the MGS HD Collection you’re playing? I should get, but I have a pile of games that’d take me years to get through as it is.

  32. NG

    It is the HD Collection. I just forgot how good the MGS games were, so engrossing – I too am having some time away from PES2012 due to my rekindled flame that is MGS.

  33. Steve—the MGS games are perfect games all round. I haven’t given the handheld versions (Acid, Portable Ops, and Peace Walker) any real time for a while. Might be time now.

  34. whoever said your final 6 summed up the PES12 experience had it spot on. Shame you won’t be continuing for a while, the danger is weeks become months and then 13 is out and you forget your game forever – perhaps I could offer an interim suggestion, what about continuing in real time? ie. play 1 PES game every Saturday, then maybe one on a wednesday night. You could spend the rest of the week on the Vita whilst continuing to mull over team selection and possible transfers. Just a thought – I heard of someone doing it on FM which sounded like a slow death to me.

    Ribeiro update – 3/4 through season 3; leading scorer in the division, OVR only 64 but now with a top speed of 82. Other stats still weak but the lad does the business in the right pairing.

  35. uncle turf—over the last few days I’ve had a few communiques from what I can only describe, with much respect, as committed, FIFA-sceptical/hating PESites who are anxious about the change on the blog and desirous of keeping me in the one true faith!

    I might keep my PES2012 career alive in much the way you suggest. Just as I had occasional sessions on FIFA12 to keep that game warm while I played PES2012 over the past 4 months, I could and probably should return the favour the other way. Otherwise it is indeed probable that the more time passes, the further estranged I could get from PES2012 and/or my ML career save. I never left PES2012 out of any real disgust or dislike, just exhaustion and not seeing a way out of the impasse.

  36. not greg- i am telling u that the pes is truely represent the game if the likes of real messi,ronaldo and van persie shooting straight to the keeper when one on one and need a goal why cant anyone else u dont think they aiming the other way. it is based on the situation it is pressure,sprinting,if the player look at goal to see where the keeper is and the player shoot acc. i had van der mirch he was the best one on one striker i ever had so far he had scored 50 goal for the season but it was on top player difficulty he had the speed and i build a team of passers and fast supporting players to have counter attacks. when u used to play and now doing coaching u learn about the game and understand it, hmm not-greg if u coaching a real team will you get angry with your players when they shoot straight to the keeper by telling them aim to the right or left of the goal and they reply what u think i was doing. what would u say?

  37. barton—I don’t buy the argument that PES2012’s shooting is all right because it sometimes—sometimes—happens in real life that even highly skilled players will shoot straight down the middle of the goal. Even a moderately skilled player without any pressure, in form, with time, is capable of aiming towards the extreme right or left of the goal and directing the ball that way, and this is the outcome more often than not under those conditions. Nothing will ever convince me that PES2012’s shooting is representative of the real-life game. Nothing!

  38. NG – good news, in so far as I like the blog mate – I don’t belong to any extreme camp over games, in much the same way as I’ve had all the consoles and grumbled about the lot. I did wince when i saw I’d mentioned the ‘FM/CM can’t win’ scenario and fully expect to be on some blacklist now – I meant it as you said rather than ‘fixed’!

    One thing has never crossed my mind till now and that is what the majority of posters play PES on and if it makes a difference (Wii except I guess). It’s just I’m sure when I was at the height of my 360/PS3/Nintendo, etc madness I bought PES for Xbox (was it PES6) and returned it the same day for having a much reduced set of game options. I assume now they are virtually identical?

  39. uncle turf—I think you must mean the Xbox360 version of PES6, which was a totally different game from the then-current PS2/Xbox/PC version. You’re quite right that PES6(360) had a shockingly slender set of features. Edit mode was a shadow of a shadow of itself in particular. Master League was very bare-bones. It was a proper launch title, in other words. But, ohhh… what a game PES6(360) was and still is. Arguably the best PES on next-gen, many would say.

    I hope I made clear re. the FM/CM fix thing that I believe in the theories that these football games really are programmed to tilt the balance of probabilities to various degrees, depending on varying circumstances. It’s exactly the same in PES and always has been. 4 straight wins in Master League, say, will see those hidden factors creep up and up to the point where your next match will be one that you’d have to play 5 times to win once.

  40. yes, when i said ‘xbox’ i meant 360 version (although I still had the original xbox at the time as i had all kinds of problems with the supposed portability of games). I never really got to find out what the game played like as i was so disgusted with the lack of options. Never realised it was a potential classic. Summed up my whole Xbox(es) experience really – I just never took it to heart. Will probably find myself forever damned by some in the community but I though Halo(s) were hugely over-rated and unique titles like Fable just a tad boring. I think the one I played the most was Sid Meier’s pirates!

  41. uncle turf—I had an Xbox and thought Halo was superb, but never thought its sequels (any of them, on any platform) were any cop. I think the Halo series is a perfect example of online multiplayer coming to dominate a developer’s thinking to an unhealthy degree. We can see it in football gaming in the form of PES2012’s ‘just like playing a human online’ demented AI, and FIFA’s obsession with online too. In both cases the single-player has suffered, inexplicably in PES’s case as they had perfection in ML on PES2010 and PES2011, and mysteriously dumbed it down for no reason in PES2012.

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