Month: October 2012

In vino veritas

It’s season 4 and I’m back in Division 2, back on Professional difficulty, and back in Sky Blue. There’s De Bruyne on the right, looking a bit, er, festive shall we say, after scoring a goal.

I’ve also changed the Away kit. I kept the basic design, just changed the colours. This season I’ll be in red when I can’t wear sky blue.

So what’s it like being back in Division 2? The feel of this season, even after just a few matches, is utterly unlike my promotion season, which I remember as being pretty easy.

I haven’t done myself any favours by not getting any new players. The new bidding system means that at least we don’t waste time going for unrealistic targets—but wasn’t it better when we at least thought we had a chance? When we could dream that somehow, some way, that 30-something 83OVR striker might, just might, agree to sign?

I had enough spare cash to upgrade two staff members—my club doctor to level 2, and my Athletic Coach to level 3. The coach had a specific mention for being a good influence on players’ form. I bloody hope so. The purple and blue arrows are killing me.

I’ve been tinkering with formations a lot. I started pre-season with my customary 4-2-2-2 that served me so well in PES2012 and for the early portion of PES2013, but which failed so spectacularly last season in the Premier League on Top Player.

I find that PES2013 is one of the most formation-critical PESes I have ever played. For my second Training Match I started with a 4-3-3 for the first time since PES2010. I did well, but got caned in my next. For my final pre-season fixture I took to the field with an alien but sturdy 4-5-1.

This match was also where I uncorked a special bottle of wine that I had been saving up: Superstar difficulty.

I only took this one tiny sip, but found it delicious. My opponents were Besiktas, a tough European night out on any difficulty. The match was sublime, really: slow-paced, considered,  and somehow more dignified in comparison to both the hurlyburly of Top Player and the carnival of mutual counterattacking that is Professional.

I lost 1-0, and that was only because I was twatting about trying to see what the AI did when I just passed the ball along my back line. (It charged me down until I made a mistake, is what it did.)

Superstar is where the true game of PES2013 is, I think. It’s where I’m destined to spend most of my time and get the very best out of the game. But not yet.

And so onto the season proper. I decided to stick with the 4-5-1 to begin with.

Disaster. I lost the opener 0-2, and that seems to have set the tone. The balmy days of season 2 really are a long way in the past.

The table after 5 matches:

I need to stop conceding goals. I’m trying to play in an aggressive, swashbuckling manner with players that are barely above-average.

Maybe that’s not surprising. PES2012 and my old super-team are still fresh in the memory. I’m automatically trying to play with my C-rated PES2013 team in the way I was able to play with my triple-A PES2012 team. It’s just not working.

Two goals from my opening matches:

First is De Bruyne, finally getting an extended run in the team and finally showing the goods. Player indviduality in PES shows itself in his case. I play him out there on the left. Time and again he hangs off the last man and shows himself for that final ball at the far post. His strike in this clip was one of two almost identical goals that he scored in back-to-back matches.

The second goal is a first-time, 35-yard, Schwarz-esque blaster (albeit with his wrong foot) from my born-again starlet, Wroughllen. How I missed him when he got that 26-week injury last season. At the time he got injured he was my only regular scorer. I never seemed to recover my balance in the Premier after that. Fingers crossed for a good campaign this time.

Pillar to Post

The season is over, and with it my brief time in the Premier League. Season 3 of Master League 2013 will stick in my memory as possibly the most calamitous of my long football gaming life. It fell apart spectacularly in match after match.

Here is the final table (glued together from two separate photos, hence the very obvious join near the bottom):

When I return, I will do so in triumph. Every one of those 69 goals against will be paid back in full. However long it takes…

It’s interesting to look at the CPU teams’ goal-scoring performances. It’s one of the issues hanging over this edition of Master League. They simply don’t score enough goals among themselves.

I had thought CPU goal-scoring was much improved following the 1.01 patch. Perhaps it has improved a little. The top teams look reasonably healthy. But just look at midtable. Stoke scored only 19 goals all season. Swansea scored 20.

And I am relegated, about as resoundingly as possible.

Just one week ago I was crowing about the feelgood factor of my start. Having braced myself for Top Player to hit me like a freight train, I was delighted at winning 2 and drawing 2 matches from my first 6.

The freight train hit me soon after. I only won another 3 matches in the remaining 32 matches of the whole season…

Anyway, here’s the thumbnail sketch of my last few matches. With several matches remaining, I still had a mathematical chance of staying up.

I won the next match, 1-0 against Spurs— a tough, sweaty, straining effort that was always on a knife-edge.

I felt some of the old fire returning. This was it! All I needed to do, I felt, was focus really hard, and snatch the odd goal in each match. I could live to fight another season in the Premier League.

I drew the next against Liverpool, at Liverpool. This gave me much encouragement. I still wasn’t off the bottom of the table, but safety wasn’t out of reach.

I promptly took a 4-0 thumping from Southampton(!), and was relegated.

I’ve been relegated before in Master League—back on PES2011, the version where I abandoned ML and left it ‘unfinished’ for the first and so far only time.

This event doesn’t spoil my judgement of PES2013 as Da Best Ever—but certain things  are tempering that feeling a touch. Just a touch.

I keep hitting the post. Sometimes three or four times in the same match. I don’t think it’s a statistical cluster. I think it’s the game’s way of keeping scorelines down while making things seem ‘exciting’.

But it’s too early to snap-judge PES2013 as ‘the PES where you keep hitting the fucking post’, so I won’t.

Another slight grumble is that the pace feels faster now, so much so that I’m thinking of dropping down to -2 speed. I think this is an effect of the jump up to the Premier, and the way you have to move the ball on quickly to keep possession, and the way it is very easy to misplace a pass on zero-bar passing (which I adore and have stuck with). These factors all contribute to a certain rushed feeling.

Overall, I have a sneaking happiness about this relegation. I’d still much rather it not have happened—I’m not looking forward to meeting Godzilla FC and the like again—but at least this way I get to write an even more glorious chapter in ML history.

 

Back to Professional

After 28 matches of season 3 in my Master League career, I am rock bottom of the Premier League and looking a safe bet for relegation.

Extraordinary times. Top Player has not been kind to me, to say the very least.

Mid-season came and went. I looked hard for some suitable players, particularly a great defender. A towering Palmieri-like CB to stand alongside Nouhei would have done me the world of good.

There were no available CBs any better than the ones I already have. I decided not to buy just for the sake of it.

I got another attacking midfielder, whose name I have forgotten at the time of typing. I did get him just for the sake of it.

Otherwise, I’ve saved my money for what I expect will be a busy post-season, whatever happens.

Wroughllen was injured for 26 weeks—it’ll be next season before he’s back. He has been my leading goal-threat during this poor run. It’s a blow, and possibly the final nail in the coffin. His general play was still a bit scruffy, but I will miss his lethal whip of a left foot.

Here’s a screen that tells the story, in miniature, of my current PES life—the result of a match against QPR:

A 6-1 defeat in a match that I should have been competing in at the very least, and ideally taking something from. Look at the possession—almost equal, unusually—and my low % pass completion.

After this match, I decided to drop back down to Professional. Yes, I have finally admitted defeat on Top Player, and don’t see any point in continuing. The sense of fun that I was feeling on Wednesday post had been replaced with a sense of grind.

Not that this mid-season move down to Professional is likely to save my Premier League life.

In 5 matches since the move back down to Professional, I have drawn 1 and lost 4.

Among them were two nasty 4-1 drubbings by West Ham and Aston Villa. Oh, those bar stewards in claret and blue…

PES2013 in the Premier League is almost like playing a different game. I’m coming up against some astonishing feats of AI magic. Look at these two instances of CPU wonder-dribbling by Albrighton of Aston Villa:

His PES2012 incarnation was trouble enough. His PES2013 version takes it up to another level.

It’s not all doom and gloom. I believe I have worked out the secret of crossing in PES2013. Laying off R1 is the key. Bad crosses are delivered at full sprint.

And there was this novelty item—watch my player on the near post as the corner comes over:

Tee hee. The lighter side of virtual football, as Mark Lawrenson might say.

And then there was another Coynborough volley, into another net deserted by the CPU keeper:

I get quite a few empty-net shooting opportunities like that in this edition of PES, for some reason. There’s also a Nouhei near-post stooping header from a corner in the above.

So it looks like relegation, doesn’t it? The table doesn’t lie.

I’m demoralised, playing with an empty heart. It’s remarkable to look back at Monday’s post where I was smugly full of the joys of Top Player and the new world of the Premier League.

A week really can be a long time in PES.

But I must resist the creeping sensation that relegation is inevitable.

It is a lot to overhaul, but I cannot give up. We all know how Master League helps those who help themselves. I will dig deep and give it 110% until the end of the day.

The Abyss Looks Back

I’m almost halfway through season 3 of my Master League career in PES2013. This is my first season in the Premier League.

The latter half of season 2 felt rather easy a lot of the time. I stepped up a difficulty level from Professional to Top Player at the start of this season.

It was going pretty well. My Won-Drawn-Lost record at the start of the season was 2:2:2. Not great, but not so bad either.

And now, after playing almost to mid-season…

I’m in a relegation battle:

My record since that encouraging start? 1:1:7. Won 1. Drawn 1. Lost 9 (NINE).

I’ve scored 16 goals all season. This is quite good—you have to go up to 8th place to see better.

But I’ve conceded 32 goals—the worst in the league by a long way.

How could I ever have worried about PES2013 going soft on the difficulty front?

It’s not gone soft. If anything, it’s gone harder.

Some of the middling teams—the Fulhams and so on—beat me up a little bit. Then I met Manchester United, Manchester City, Newcastle, and Liverpool back-to-back.

Annoyingly, I’d had my highest-ratest player, Niellendner, straight-red-carded in the prior game. He got a 3-match ban.

Manchester United destroyed me 5-0. They were 3-0 up after 30 minutes. I did well to limit the damage after that as much as I did.

My defending was… interesting. I knew what to do, but my players wouldn’t do it. They were slow and tentative, where Man Yoo were quick and decisive. Wonder-dribbling is back in a big way on Top Player.

Coynborough handled like somebody who’d just wandered onto the pitch by accident. Castolis had meaningful possession maybe once. They just ran him outta town. I can’t remember having any shots myself. Maybe there were a laughable few.

Next were Machester City—with one C. Ronaldo playing up front with Balotelli and Tevez. My Jacomorac & co. took one look at that lot, and lay down.

They thumped me 7-0. Look at the stats—they scored with all 7 of their 7 shots on target:

Lacking even a shot on target myself, I looked for a positive. Uh… my 83% pass completion?

Passing the ball nicely was literally all I got to do in the match. I did have one promising patch for about 5 minutes early in the second half. Wroughllen thwacked a 30-yard piledriver against the upright. He’s got some left foot, that boy. I’m starting to suspect that he really is the new Schwarz.

I went into the matches against Newcastle and Liverpool with grim determination. By this stage I had admitted to myself that, yes, I am in a relegation battle.

Season 3 is going to be a struggle for survival. And how I love the prospect.

Because let me be clear: in this struggle, I have found exactly what I was looking for. I wanted that PES2012 feeling again.

And here it is, in spades, in PES2013.

Next match of the sequence saw a minor upturn of fortunes: I beat Newcastle 1-0.

I adopted my own advice: keep it tight, play for the 0-0, but take any scraps that come my way.

That’s exactly how it all worked out. Somehow I kept Newcastle at bay (my goal leading a charmed life), and snatched a scrambled winner up the other end early in the second half. Wroughllen again.

I went into the Liverpool game just hoping for a draw. They’ve still got Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam in my ML world. I really don’t care about any of that squad update stuff. I started playing before it came out.

Liverpool absolutely tore into me from the start. I don’t remember seeing anything like this in PES2012. Even the most ferocious AI performance back then was a spring breeze compared to this hurricane.

I rocked and creaked but just about held firm at the back. Two deep DMFs, and 1-bar defending. Coynborough had been playing terribly until this match. Suddenly, he was alive and strong again.

A miracle happened. I scored to take the lead, late in the first half. Wroughllen again. That boy is going to be an ML legend.

Some of the most surging, sweaty, epic football gaming I have ever known followed. Last-ditch sliding tackles. Heroic clearances. Goalmouth scrambles. You name it.

I was begging for the half-time whistle. It came, and I prepared for the second half by putting down the controller and fetching a glass of water from the bathroom, breathing steadily.

This is intense stuff. The focus and concentration I was needing to resist this PES AI felt like nothing I remember from last year.

The second half began. Liverpool’s kick-off… aaand guess what happened.

Straight. From. Kick-off.

1-1.

I could have wept. All that hard work, and it just felt as if the game had decided to award itself a goal. The straight from kick-off thing in PES has been steadily growing in prominence and annoyance over the past few years.

Okay. 1-1. I would have taken this before the match. I decided to hang on for it… until I changed my mind after about 70 minutes and decided I wanted the win. I was the home team. I felt entitled.

I’ll just leave this here:

Two late goals from Liverpool—both typical powerful strikes from Carroll (with his feet)–put me to the sword. A gutting 1-3 defeat.

Look at the disparity in the two teams’ shots. Now imagine how Liverpool’s 22 shots, 14 of them on target, manifested themselves in a 10-minute match. It was a tricky one all right.

Some might ask: Why not go down to Professional if you’re having a bad time?

To which I would respond: Exactly where do I say I’m having a bad time…?

This is what I wanted and hoped to find when I upped the difficulty to Top Player.

Looks like I’m in a football game here.

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