Month: August 2012

The True End of Summer

PES2012 is no more. It has ceased to be. As of right now (well, sometime yesterday morning, actually) I am a former PES2012 player.

Season 18 of my Master League career, playing as a made-up Coventry City in a bogus Premier League, has finally come to a close. With it has ended one of the most extraordinary PES gaming years of my long football gaming life.

The best ever? Possibly, just possibly. Or perhaps not. I don’t know. I’ll do a proper retrospective-with-perspective sometime in September. I always do an end-of-year review on the blog. This year will be no exception. It should be an interesting one.

Season 18 turned out to be quite a ride.

After a terrible opening third of the league season, I had clawed my way back up to a position where I was just 9 points behind the leaders. Master League traditionally is very generous to its human teams. The CPU teams tend to lose and draw just enough of the time to keep things interesting.

And so it proved. Here is the table after 28 matches:

Yup, after being pretty much out of it earlier this season, I was now right back in it. With loads of matches remaining.

I fancied my chances, needless to say.

I lost one and drew two of my remaining 10 matches. Sadly, that one defeat was to Manchester City, at home. It was a six-pointer that I knew I had to win. They walloped me 1-4. Considering I was 0-4 down after 25 minutes(!), I felt lucky to get off lightly.

Manchester City drew one and won eight of their outstanding matches.

So I missed out on a final League title, but I was proud of my team’s form in the second part of the campaign. It would have been title-winning form in any other season.

Here’s the final table:

I loved my goal-scoring too. 92 is my best tally for a while. I really found my shooting boots this season.

In the FA Cup, I got to the Final. Where I met… Manchester City.

I started the match really well, thanks in part to having the kick-off. That always helps. I controlled the game for the entire first half, having about 10 shots, many on-target. I think Man City had one feeble effort. It was a world away from their recent shellacking of me in the league.

Straight from their second half kick-off, they scored. Sigh. Never mind. I had the whole half left to get the equaliser and then the winner, right?

Nope. The match ended 1-0 to Manchester City.

That’s them wearing sky blue in the picture. I was in my black away kit for this one.

So. No League and no FA Cup for me.

The Champions League was my sole chance of silverware in my last ever season on PES2012.

I battled my way to the final, easing past AC Milan in the quarters by 2-0 on aggregate. FC Lorient were my semi-final opponents—predictably, the toughest nut to crack yet. I squeezed past them 2-2 on aggregate, with away goals helping me out.

Real Madrid were the Champions League Final opponents. Yes, the picture at the top of the post kind of gives it all away. I WON. My last ever match on PES2012 ended in me winning the only tournament that I’d yet to win on Superstar. Not the Treble, nor even any kind of Double, but a satisfying sense of closure nevertheless.

The game itself wasn’t at all memorable. Very few such Finals actually are, so in this respect PES is totally realistic.

I was annoyed not to see a proper trophy presentation. (Or did I press through it?)

And so to the post-match, post-season, post-PES2012 wrapping up.

The FA Cup team of the year was packed with my players:

As was the League team of the year:

Forlan and Rooney did very well this season, getting a good chunk of my goal tally between them:

Before I quit PES2012 for the very last time, there was one other bit of business I had to deal with in the Main Menu.

I went along to Track Record, and checked my vital statistics.

994 matches played. Some people would deliberately play another 6 matches just to get it up to the magic 1000 mark. But not me. I’ve really had enough of PES2012 now. I don’t even want to play one more match.

In another Track Record screen I discovered that I’ve had just 13 penalties across all 994 matches. That’s not good at all for a game that aspires to simulate the game it’s based on.

Here’s the screen that really counts—the true tale of the tape:

430 hours played. 421 of those hours on Master League.

(Not even a single minute of playing squeeze-yer-controller online. Tee-hee!)

PES2013 has got a tough act to follow. For now, I will move onto other things—other football games, and other games. PES2012 is firmly in the rearview mirror.

Class of 2012—dismissed.

The Feel Guy

Master League has a long tradition of allowing human players to make up the ground after a bad run of results. In Monday’s post, after 12 matches of Season 18, I was way down in 8th place, a long way behind the leaders.

But after a couple of good sessions and a run of great results—featuring some of the best gameplay I’ve ever enjoyed on PES2012—look at this:

Creeping back up on the leaders.

Arsenal have fallen away, with Liverpool rising to take their place. But all of them have mysteriously had bad and indifferent results.

I just know I’ll be there or thereabouts come the season’s end.

Never mind. ‘Twas always thus in Master League. And honestly, if I were the programmer, I’d probably do exactly the same. Keeping the player interested is what games are all about. There’s no question that Master League has kept me interested for over ten years now.

Anyway. My games have been pretty wonderful. I’ve found my shooting boots. Forlan and Rooney between them are banging them in. On the rare occasions when their prowess is oddly muffled, Sibon comes off the bench to add power and height. I love getting corners with Sibon in the box. Almost a mini-game on its own.

In the Champions League, I enjoyed a stonking 7-1 win over Zenit St Petersburg. It’s a few seasons since the CPU has appeared so passive. The last time I scored this many was against lower-league opposition in the domestic Cup. I have no idea why Zenit collapsed so spectacularly, but collapse they did.

I qualified from the group with probably my best-ever record:

In the first knockout round I met Inter Milan. The first match at their place ended 3-3, a crazy game where I was ahead three times and pegged back three times—twice by straight-from-kickoff CPU goals.

I was happy with those away goals, though, and I eased through my home leg 2-0 to make the Quarter Final.

Where my opponents are AC Milan. Ouch. This one might be trickier. I’ve played the first leg, and drawn 0-0 at home. That seems… okay. One goal at AC Milan should be enough to see me through.

In the FA Cup, I’m through to the semi-final. I beat Birmingham and Manchester United to get here. Both games were hard, but guess which one was harder? That’s right—the Birmingham game went to extra time, and so nearly to penalties, but I fluked a deflected goal from a corner.

All in all, this final season is shaping up to be a memorable one. But I still cannot wait to finish it and be done with PES2012 for good.

Perhaps that’s at least part of why the experience is turning out to be such a positive one. The end is in sight. With a few days off work this week, I will probably have my final season all wrapped up in time for Friday’s post.

A brief word about the PES2013 demo 2, which I have played briefly. First of all, I share the general dismay at the lack of 10-minute matches in the demo as promised.

And I’m puzzled and a little concerned that certain voices on the PES forums are treating the demos as full games in their own right, even going so far as to review PES2013. Oh for fuck’s sake, is all I can say about that.

But I liked what I played of demo 2. I liked the passing, the shooting, and the overall FEEL of the games.

I’m never, ever going to be one of those football gamers who whips out a protractor and compass to measure how far apart the defenders are from each other at set pieces. Borrowing some poker terminology, I’m a ‘feel guy’, not a maths guy.

PES2013 feels pretty good to me, based on the demo(s). Alas, history has proven that this means almost nothing. Right now, evil Konami scientists will be twiddling various knobs and pushing levers. We know this because it has happened for three years in a row.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get away with the customary increase in game-speed (a baffling routine action for Konami and EA to take in their final games).

If we’re unlucky…

The last week of PES2012

Sometime this coming week I will finish season 18 in Master League. After this season there will be no more PES2012 for me. I’m really enjoying the matches, partly—perhaps largely—because I know they’ll all soon be over for good.

I’m stuffed to the gills with PES2012. I’m itching to get into a few other games in the time remaining before PES2013, whenever that may be. (Still no release date. Mid-October looks more and more likely.)

I started out wanting a Treble in my last season. As things stand now, I’ll be happy with a Cup Double, or even a Single. I think the League has drifted out of reach already, after only 12 matches of the season.

I gave it my best. I met Arsenal, the current runaway CPU team (there’s one every season), and beat them 1-0 with a great free kick from Captain Barnes. He’s ended up with the armband this season after Neeskens was suspended early on. Results picked up, so I let Barnes stay as captain after Neeskens returned.

Going into the Arsenal match I was 9 points behind them. Defeat was unthinkable. Victory was very, very sweet. My 1-0 win left me 6 points behind the leaders. I could do this! So I thought…

Next I had one of my all-time PES classic matches against Stoke, away. I was 2-0 down and playing with 10 men after 20 minutes. That’s it, I thought. The league season is over.

Then: no, wait, hang on. I can do this…

I’ve got a long tradition of playing well and getting memorable results with 10 or fewer players in PES and ISS games. Back on ISS98, I often triumphed with 9 or even 8 players.

Somehow, digging really, really deep, I clawed things back to 2-2 with a goal either side of half-time. I was punching the air. This was the best match and my finest all-round performance of the season so far.

Sadly, the Stoke miracle wasn’t to be. Late on, Kenwyne Jones zigzagged through my defence and bagged a cruel, cruel Stoke winner.

I followed this up with a pitiful 0-1 home defeat at the hands of Shamrock Rovers.

Leaving me staring at this table after 12 matches:

Not looking very good, is it? I’m not writing the league off, though. Strange things can happen to the teams above you if you can get a string of good results.

One major highlight of my recent sessions was a cracking distance goal from Baresi, wearing the captain’s armband for the day. I love the hidden stats-boost.

I’ve got a couple of days off work coming up. I intend to have season 18—and PES2012—all wrapped up by the end of the week.

Mutu boo-hoo

Oh dear—my last-ever season on PES2012’s Master League has not got off to a good start. This is my worst start to a season in I don’t know how long. Probably 5 or 6 seasons.

No prizes for spotting who this season’s runaway, high-scoring CPU team is going to be.

I’m not scoring goals and I’m letting too many in. It’s a simple diagnosis really. I’ve played three of the top teams already and been soundly beaten by them all.

Liverpool were the latest top team to easily get the better of me. They beat me 2-0 at their place. A rampant regen Adrian Mutu bagged both goals. I wore my new (un)lucky all-black Away kit for that game.

It doesn’t bode well for the outcome of my absolute last and final season. I’m going for an unlikely last-gasp Treble. That’s the primary aim. Failing that, I’d settle for the league title. Failing even that, either of the Cups would do. I’d hate to finish my last season empty-handed, as I did last.

But I’m playing less and less PES2012 as the days and weeks go by. And I’m decidedly in the not-bothered zone when it comes to so much of the frippery and hysteria surrounding PES2013. All I’m bothered about there is the release date. I need to start making plans for the week in question. The longer this goes on, the less likely it is that I’ll be able to book release week off work. What is going on with this?!

Because I’m playing less and less PES2012, I’m experiencing a lot more instances of being caught out by the rampant AI. When I was playing for a couple of hours every single day, I was battle-hardened and prepared. I’ve gone a bit soft now that I’m taking regular days off.

Case in point: that 2-0 defeat at Liverpool. Both goals came about as the result of extended periods of AI pressure, where I’d had numerous opportunities to just put my foot on the ball and slow the game right down. But no, I had to go charging forward, forgetting all the lessons I’ve learned, often painfully, over the last 18 seasons.

Never mind. The top of the table might be 9 points away, but there’s a lot of the season left to go. And Master League is programmed to let me get back into the race, as long as I don’t lose too many more matches of course.

In other news, two wins out of two at the start of my Champions league group—against Napoli and Zenit St Petersburg—have set me up nicely for qualification. I won’t be counting any chickens there though.

And my first FA Cup match is coming up. It’ll be against Middlesbrough, who dumped me out a few seasons ago.

The Treble is on, but it’s hanging by a thread.