Month: March 2012

Quit Forlan around

Season 9 has ended. I finished in 5th place, with an embarrassingly low goals-scored tally: 59. I won nothing at all.

There were some consolations. An excellent defensive record kept my goal difference on the respectable side. And I remained unbeaten for the entire season—prompting a special mention from the commentator team after the final game: “Can any team beat them?”

Well, yes: Barcelona, Malaga, and Manchester City all beat me this season in the Champions League, the Europa League, and the FA Cup respectively.

In the space of a single session the other morning I was eliminated from the FA Cup and the Europa League. I also saw my chances of a top 4 finish pretty much dashed by a sequence of yet more ruinous draws.

If just 7 of my 17 draws had been victories instead, I could have won the title. Oh, the pain of ‘what might have been’…

I arrive at the end of this season—this unforgettable season; this season that was never meant to be—feeling utterly drained, but with a renewed sense of purpose.

I will win the title in PES2012 on Professional difficulty. I will win the FA Cup in PES2012 on Professional difficulty. I will win the Champions League in PES2012 on Professional difficulty.

Right now I’d settle for just one of them, in separate seasons, it doesn’t matter.

I’d love a Double. I’d go nuts over a Treble—that’s the ultimate goal, of course. But I’m not so foolish that I’m going to stake everything on the Treble.

One step at a time. I need to get close to winning anything at all before I can start dreaming about Doubles and Trebles.

At least by finishing 5th I should have qualified yet again for a pre-Champions League qualifying match. I’ve already played to the start of season 10 to verify that this is still the case, and it is.

I’ll play the first leg away to Vitesse a few days before my first league match of the new season. The PES2012 Champs League qualification glitch, if that’s what it is, is still doing me proud. I have to qualify for the full tournament. Failure isn’t an option.

Season 9 ended with a new star rising: my promoted Youth player, Diego Forlan.

He’s 20 now and developing very, very nicely indeed. I started playing him in various positions and roles up front: as part of a front two, as part of a front three, and once on his own. None were very satisfactory.

Now I’ve started playing him in the hole behind the main strikers, as an AMF, which takes his rating down to 79 or so (he’s 83 as an SS, 81 as a CF).

AMF seems to be his best position for me, for the way I play. I always feel that I can make things happen and create/score goals with Forlan sitting in that spot.

Here’s a typical Forlan goal from the AMF slot—you’ve got to love the placement:

I’ve got a few other young players that are worth getting excited about too. Among them are a couple of promoted CBs whom I think will replace Ruggeri and Nadal as my main defenders within a few seasons. I’ve got a few general new players that I haven’t mentioned at all yet for space reasons. Among them one Enzo Scifo. I’ll cover it all on Friday.

Here’s the Best XI and other stats from season 9:

I was disappointed not to see van Basten there, but he didn’t score at all in the last 5 matches, and was pipped at the post for top scorer by Aguero, so fair enough.

Here’s the concise tale of the tape. I was gratified to see my club ranking shoot up 41 places to 34th in the ML World, after my good showing in domestic Cup and League:

And that was season 9. All in all, one of the most extraordinary PES experiences I have ever had.

Roll on season 10.

Marco, you magnificent van Basten

There’s no doubting precisely who the player of my team is nowadays.

It’s the player who’s still top of the top scorers’ chart after 30+ matches of the season. This is in a league where my team has scored less than half of the big teams’ tallies.

Step forward Marco van Basten. One of the most effective strikers I’ve ever played with in videogame footy.

My top player used to be Georghe Hagi, but Hagi has faded quite fast and very dramatically. He’s anonymous lately, and makes only sub appearances now (in which he’s anonymous).

It’s  a shame about Hagi, but it’s eerily realistic in terms of what happens to many such extravagantly gifted footballers after their peak years. Makes me wish I’d got him when he was 23, instead of at the age of 29. I’ll be trying to sell Hagi before next season.

There are plenty of other candidates for best player. I’ve got some good ones, not all of them Classics, and no doubt their stories will emerge as the seasons pass by.

(I’m very excited about a couple of Youths I picked up in the mid-season window. I’ll talk about them over the next couple of posts.)

But right now the main man is one Marco van Basten. He’s a top PES2012 player because he’s a goal-scorer, pure and simple.

The real-life van Basten had quite a bit of flair, and specialised in scoring occasional Hollywood goals.

My van Basten is more of a poacher. Or at least, he is the way I play him. About two thirds of his goals are of the turn-and-shoot variety that are so prevalent in PES2012, and which I still love to score.

Below are three typical van Basten goals. The second is a lovely R2 finish. The third (I’m in my black kit for that one) is very non-typical, actually, but still a fine example of what a good goal-poacher does:

After the last few catching-up posts, I have now just about caught up with my day-to-day play of PES2012.

The magic I re-discovered during my secret sessions is still burning bright. The game still frustrates and annoys me at times, but the keynote is one of thorough enjoyment and absorption.

With the end of the season just around the corner, here is the league table at the time of writing (Sunday evening):

Still undefeated. It’s been very close to defeat many times, but I’ve always managed to scrape a draw. Which explains that annoying high amount of draws. With a few more wins, I’d be challenging for the title.

I’ve got to make sure of Champions League qualification. That’s all I’m thinking about.

And just lately, playing PES2012 is all I think about.

This is a truly classic edition of PES. That’s a troubling opinion for many people, but it’s one that I genuinely hold. Split infinitive be damned. And ‘street cred’ be damned too. I long ago lost much of what has been termed ‘the vulgar desire to be thought well of by other people’.

Perhaps it’s not so much PES that has declined in recent years, but the football gaming community’s expectations that have soared.

Next-gen FIFA—and next-gen games, full stop—have put a rocket under those expectations and set light to them. And thus we have a perception of a PES series in decline.

I’d still say that PES2008 and PES2011 were BAD games. PES2008 was undoubtedly a bad game. I had a personal grudge against PES2011 for that stumble animation.

But PES2009 was serviceable. PES2010 was great—and PES2012 is becoming at least as great.

The season that was never meant to be

So, I’d walked away from PES2012 at the end of season 8 of my Master League. But I crept back for season 9, and it’s turned into the most amazing experience.

When and how did it all begin,  this new mania for PES2012?

I don’t even know where to start. Wednesday’s video says much, but it doesn’t say it all. I don’t know if I should try to say it all in one or two posts. Perhaps it’s something that has to emerge over time.

For today, I’ll settle for bringing the story up to date.

IT BEGINS

About a week after I moved onto FIFA12, I picked up PES2012 one morning, quite randomly.

Not because I was hankering after the old days or Master League. I wasn’t, really. I was curious to see what PES2012’s gameplay felt like after a week or so of FIFA12.

The gameplay felt fine. Better than fine, it felt pretty good. The two games do different things very well, it seemed to me.

I enjoyed my two or three matches of pre-season, and quit. A few days after that, I returned for another couple of matches. Imagine my surprise when I got a message about Champions League qualification.

I had qualified for the Champions League after all, from 5th place, somehow.

Hmmm, I thought. I decided to get to the first few Champs League matches. Just to see what it’d feel like to take my long-suffering Coventry City team into the glitz of Big Cup.

So I started playing that next season, my ninth all told in PES2012’s Master League.

I made a token new signing. I wasn’t planning to play on, remember, so I wasn’t looking very hard for players.

In my idle searching I came across Enzo Scifo, a Classic with impressive shooting stats and skill cards. I snapped him up.

Scifo was my only signing. Otherwise, I started season 9 with the squad that had finished season 8.

FORTRESS COVENTRY

I started really well in season 9. I was amazed to go through the first few matches without conceding a single goal. It was five games before I conceded anything. Somehow, I was putting in solid defensive displays against the rampant PES2012 AI.

This league run went on and on. I stayed up near the top of the table and I stayed unbeaten.

I wasn’t scoring too many, but I was conceding hardly any, so my goal difference remained on a  par with the CPU teams. A few too many draws was costing me, though.

And most importantly of all, the gameplay of PES2012 was starting to get inside my skin.

Passing the ball around. Creating chances. Defending in depth and with discipline. Fiddling around with formations and tactics. Nurturing my young players…

It was all very more-ish and addictive all over again. I was playing PES and thinking about PES with an intensity and sense of involvement that I hadn’t felt for years.

On the right is a typical formation that I’d use against a middle-ranking team away from home—a Blackburn or a Fulham, say. Not uber-defensive, but not outrageously attacking either.

(Luke Young is a contract rebel whom I’m about to lose on a  free transfer, but I’ll get to all that next week now.)

PES2012 was worming its way into my consciousness for what seemed the very first time.

BULLET POINTS

What’s made the difference? A change in attitude, certainly.

Acceptance of the game world as presented is a major part of it.

Basically, to play and enjoy PES2012, and in particular Master League, you have to accept:

  • CPU teams are capable of miraculous passages of play and feats of skill straight out of comic books.
  • Individual CPU players are capable of going on dribbles and executing instant one-touch passing moves that, again, are straight out of comic books.
  • You are unlikely to out-score most of your rivals in the league.
  • Sometimes you will take shots that fail without any clear contextual reason; the shot will go straight at the keeper, and you won’t know why.

Having accepted all these things as part of ‘the cost of doing business’ in PES2012, I started to play some football.

I found myself defending better, using R2 and secondary pressure, being very patient when the CPU teams had the ball and not trying to charge down the ball-carrier all the time. The CPU will just jink and weave around you if you do that.

The Champions League was almost unbearably exciting. I won my opening match against Sporting. I drew, and then lost, against Barcelona.

I lost against Wolfsburg. I won against Sporting.

It all came down to the final match against Woflsburg. I lost 3-1 at their place in a  thrilling game. The crucial moment came when I allowed George Weah to get in behind my full-back. In PES2012, that’s fox-in-the-henhouse time.

Out of the Champions League, and deservedly so. You don’t deserve to progress if you only win two matches against the weakest team in the group.

In the FA Cup, I’m in the semi-finals. I eked out results. I won one on penalties against Fulham—the match in which Falcao scored that goal from this week’s video special.

I beat Villa 1-0 at their place after this picture was taken. They’re total beasts in my ML world, are Villa. I fear them as much as any other team in the game.

Here’s the top scorers’ table at the halfway point (Arsenal’s Falcao isn’t a duplicate of mine; I checked):

Marco van Basten is without a doubt my most important player, and perhaps none of this would be happening without him in my team. The variety of goals he gets isn’t very broad. He mainly scores proper striker’s goals.

Van Basten got a hat-trick in this 5-0 victory, my biggest victory in Master League so far:

Imbalanced possession stats remain a concern. I’d prefer it not to be so, but the difficulty of PES2012 is such that it rarely guarantees domination of general play, perversely. On this occasion, though, I did dominate, as the shooting stats indicate. I really enjoyed this match.

Which brings us almost bang up to date. At this stage of the season my main concern is to make sure I finish in the top 4. It’d be easy to drift out of contention.

After dropping out of the Champions League I was catapulted straight into the knockout stages of the Europa League. I’d love to win that, or at least get to the final.

I’m in the FA Cup semi final. There’s some more possible silverware.

I’m playing PES2012 at such speed and with such enjoyment that I might have moved onto season 10 by Monday.

I’ll wrap up season 9 whatever happens and bring the blog up to date, and pick up where I left off. Telling my tales of PES chronicles.

PES2012, you magnificent bastard

MASSIVE winds of change are blowing at PES Chronicles.

I have prepared a 5-minute video that tells the full story.

Switch to 720p playback for best quality—and Turn Up The Volume:

What it tells is the total truth. The shocking, incredible truth.

I have gone back to playing PES2012 full-time, and I love it. At the time of writing, I have played about two thirds of season 9 in Master League since my ‘abandonment’ on 22nd February.

For over two weeks, and ever since I switched to FIFA12, I’ve been having daily secret PES2012 sessions.

To the point where I am now engrossed and enraptured in PES2012 to an extent that I never would’ve thought possible.

The past 20 days or so, playing PES2012 in secret, have been the greatest of my football gaming life at least since PES2010. Probably since PES5.

I love PES2012, and believe I will love it for a long time to come.

The most diehard PES forumistas say of PES2012 that it’s one of the greatest in the series. That it’s the best since PES5. That it’s misunderstood and neglected.

I now believe all that too. Part of me thinks I’ve gone mad. Another part of me doesn’t care.

Yet another part of me can’t stop giggling about it all. PES2012 is wonderful!

Oh, I still believe that PES2012’s shooting is a problem. It’s a wrinkle that doesn’t completely go away.

But I have it in a whole new perspective. Now, the shooting is a thorny bush on the side of the mountain; previously, it was the mountain.

I am deadly serious. I have undergone a total, near-Damascene conversion.

My ‘secret sessions’, as outlined in the video, were at first just half an hour here and an hour there.

Then they turned into two or three hours. I was all: “What the–? Can it be–? Is this the same game–?”

And so it snowballed.

On Monday just gone I played PES2012 for a total of 6 hours (spread throughout the day).

I am dizzy with PES, drunk on its wine.

For the record, I stand by everything positive I have said about FIFA12. I haven’t stopped playing FIFA12 because FIFA12 is a bad game, or because Career Mode is unattractive.

FIFA12 is a great game. Career Mode is very enticing this year. I hope its time will come again for me.

(I’m really not keen on seeing any PES-vs-FIFA stuff in the comments. That isn’t what this is all about.)

The way I feel about PES2012 right now, I could play it until October.

This is no flash in the pan. I’ve waited until now to reveal it all on the blog, to be sure.

It’s far more than just the lure of Master League that has pulled me back.

In my secret sessions on the game over the past two weeks, I have discovered a depth and subtlety to PES2012 that only the most PES-crazed forumites would dare to assert.

I believe I have found a mountain of gold, and I have set up camp on its slopes.

I have seen things I wouldn’t have believed. Player individuality like nothing seen before in PES, ever. Passages of play like nothing seen since the Golden Age of PES. Stormships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter…

Ahem.

Granted, you have to accept a fantasy football universe in which Stephen Ireland can occasionally dribble like Messi, and where the likes of Stoke City can pretty much play like Brazil 1970 on crystal meth.

Once those conditions are accepted, glory is there to be tasted.

I do feel a bit embarrassed about returning to PES2012 after the song-and-dance routine I made a few weeks ago.

But I have to be honest on this blog. It’s a journal of my football gaming life. It’s not some kind of public policy document. I’m not a spokesman for anything, or an advocate of this or that.

I’m playing PES2012 and that is all. I’ve never shied away from speaking my heart on the blog, and this is what I feel.

My next few posts will bring everything up to date. Friday will be all about the Secret Sessions—as they must be called, in my personal PES folklore at least.

A lot’s happened. Big changes! Master League is more exciting and compelling than ever. The Treble is on.

Then it’ll be as if the past three weeks never happened. And I think it’s safe to say that, three weeks from now, there won’t be a huge ‘Secret FIFA12 Sessions’ post.

The way I feel now about PES2012, and have felt for the past week or so, I could play PES2012 for the rest of the year, easy.

PES2012 is a misunderstood creature. It took me a staggering 250 hours to appreciate it. I don’t blame anyone who walked away after 25 hours, or less.

I’ll wait to see if I cool down on PES2012. Will I start feeling cranky about things again?

No sign of it yet. It’s all good here.

I’ll end with a personal observation.

Last October, as I started to play PES2012, I was talking to a good friend who is also a regular reader of the blog.

My friend was then, and still is, totally crazy about FIFA12. Says it’s the best footy game he has ever played.

Like many of us, he is an ISS/PES veteran of at least 15 years. His adoration of FIFA12 is nothing to be sniffed at.

I told him that FIFA12 interested me. But I wanted to play Master League, and that I’d get round to FIFA12 probably in the spring.

He shook his head and smirked knowingly. He told me that I would never be able to set aside PES and Master League for very long.

I scoffed, and pooh-poohed the very idea.

Wherever he may be reading this now, all I have to say is: you were right, my friend, you were completely right.

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