Month: November 2012

Waiting for a wobble

Just about a month to Christmas! In about 8 weeks we’ll notice the nights starting to draw out again. In about 16 weeks we’ll be putting the clocks forward. Then the PES2014 juggernaut will get underway, and before you know it it’ll be October yet again, the clocks will be going back, and people at your workplace will start saying ‘Doesn’t it go quick? The year? The time? Goes quick now, dunnit?’ They never stop saying it at mine. So much so that here I am, saying it too.

But for now it’s the twenty-first day of November in the year 2012 of the Gregorian calendar (which isn’t a patch on the Julian calendar, by the by; now that was some classic calendaring, right there).

There will never be another 21/11/12. And on this day, on this one particular day, I am about 2/3rds of the way through season 5 of Master League in PES2013.

Still loving (nearly) every minute of it. For me to have reached this stage without having some kind of gameplay/scripting/stumble crisis is unprecedented in recent years. Which only means that if and when said crisis occurs, it should be HUGE. I almost hope it happens, just to see how big it could be.

After several days of only managing a few snatched games here and there, I had the chance for a nice long session, by the end of which the game was begging for mercy.

Sometimes, you pick up the pad and everything clicks. Yes, yes. Veteran players know that these sessions are awarded by the game rather than won by the player, but still. Who wants to know what happens at the sausage factory? Or the PES factory? I once looked at a YouTube video of what happens at sausage factories, and it was a while before I ate another one. Best not to look.

Two names define today: Nouhei, and Castolis.

Nouhei is a known quantity in defensive terms: starts out good, develops quickly, is a rock, etc. etc.

What is not talked about so much is his shooting. I’ve scored a good few goals with Nouhei over the past 5 seasons. Mainly headers from corners—I have him set to go up for them in the gameplan menu.

But I’ve also scored a few belters with his feet. Goals like this one, in a tough match against Liverpool:

Lovely, eh? A proper, thumping, well-placed screamer into the postage stamp corner of the net. Note the generic black boots. The moment when he wheels off in celebration is today’s top picture. You can also see Castolis standing behind him, arms also aloft.

Castolis got one as well in this match. Playing wide on the right in place of a purple-arrowed Niellendner, he was the man of the match, and indeed the man of the whole session.

This clip is notable for the spontaneous, angled run Castolis makes, uncontrolled by me at any stage, to get in scoring position—a run that’s most clearly seen when we follow the man himself in the pitch-level view:

I know, I know: getting into space like that is the hallmark of Professional difficulty. It will be interesting to see if I’m still gushing about Castolis—and Nouhei, and Wroughllen, and Coynborough, and others—when I go up to Superstar. Whenever that may be.

Castolis shows that he has some shot on him in the above clip. It was no fluke. Give him the space and time to compose himself, and he can let rip.

He’s also got a wicked first-time shot on him, as can be seen with this ice-hockey-style slapshot:

All of which fun and games has served to keep me hovering in the Europa-qualifying places. I’ve had a defeat, and a frustrating, utterly ridiculous draw against the bottom club, Division 2’s Colccinouazoxa FC or whatever. I had 24 shots, 15 on target, and scored 1 goal. They had 2 shots, 1 on target, and scored with it. I won’t go on about the seething injustice of it all. It’s a well-known commodity by now.

The current table:

Oh dear yes, look at Man Utd’s goals scored. Their goals-against column is the only reason they’re top of the pile. It makes for uncomfortable viewing, really. If my PES2013 wobble is going to come from any direction, it might be this one.

Poster boys

Friday: played zero matches. Saturday: played 3 matches. Sunday: played 5 matches (almost nosebleed time).

That’s the sum total of my PES-playing activity over the weekend.

8 matches played over the course of 3 days is as many as some PES players will manage to play in a single sitting—and they’ll combine that with an exhaustive, in-depth look at the comparative long-passing stats of left-footed wingers from the Iberian peninsula aged between 18 and 23…

Oh for the days.

But this is how things are for me right now and—looking ahead—will probably be for the next month, at least.

For the curious: I’m doing an Open University English course, with a lot of reading here in the 4th year. I love to read, so it’s no chore to do so, but something has to give way, and that something is a chunk of the time I usually spend playing PES. I should be over the hump by Christmas.

Funny thing, though—for all that I have no time and am anxious about having no time, I continue to waste hours every day on aimless, voracious web-browsing. It’s a compulsive habit that I know is very widely shared. It seems to be a law of entry to the online world. When doing anything on the web for any reason whatsoever, it must be bookended by loads of time spent just pissing about and looking at things.

Back to PES2013. Two things leapt out at me over the past few days.

Firstly, the way that the game keeps interrupting itself to congratulate you when you go on a run of home wins. This is really annoying when you’re on the PS3, and the game chugs through the Autosave routine just to say ‘well done’ on meeting a sponsor’s target. It might be only 30 seconds, but these 30 seconds all add up over time.

Secondly, the gosh-darned post-hitting. I’ve been playing PES for a very long time. Long enough to know when it’s up to no good. With this PES2013 phenomenon of hitting the post/bar much too frequently, PES is up to no good.

I bracket it under the general heading of ‘Scoreline Management’. There has to be something like this every year. Last year’s headline entry in this category was central/wrong-side shooting.

In PES2013 I hit the post or bar an average of twice every single match. It’s got to the point where I just sigh and get on with the game—the same pragmatic stance I ended up taking towards PES2012’s central shooting. The game is what it is.

Woodwork is also a huge feature of scoring goals this year. Far too many seem to ricochet in off the post. Sometimes off one post and the other post. Sometimes off post and bar.

Yes, Konami, we know that scoring off the woodwork looks and feels very satisfying—but all the fecking time?

Well, perhaps not all the time—but a bit too much of the time for my taste.

Here’s a couple of examples of woodwork goals. First Wroughllen shooting in off both posts, and then Zerkovic blasting one in off the bar and post. Zerkovic’s shooting has really developed this season:

[jwplayer config=”Standard Size 2012″ mediaid=”12461″]

I enjoyed the goals a great deal, I hasten to add. The post-hitting is just something that’s mildly counter-immersive, because it’s so frequent.

Here’s my current league table—after 19 matches, I remain in a very healthy position in the Premier League:

To anticipate a very regular question, I’m still on Professional difficulty and going to stay there for at least the rest of this season. I cannot remember any other year when difficulty levels were the cause of so much anxiety in the PES community.

I will likely test out Superstar in my post-season/pre-season Training Matches, and see how I feel. But I’m more than half-convinced I could play on on Professional for another season after this one and still enjoy it.

It’s currently the transfer window in my current season. I haven’t really looked for any new players. I’m very happy with the ones I’ve got.

Again, I have to marvel at this being an edition of Master League that seems calibrated to make you play the early seasons just with Defaults/Youths/Free Agents.

It’s a refreshing change of pace from the traditional ML model where you could pretty much bank on having almost an entirely fresh, talented squad by season 5.

Castolis, Wroughllen, Coynborough, Nouhei… I might never have got to know these and other great players if I was able to start signing bigger, better players during their early seasons. Thumbs up from me.

Inching Forward

These remain lean playing times for me and PES. A near-perfect storm of other stuff to do right now is severely cramping my style. On Wednesday I only managed to play 2 matches. Yesterday, Thursday, I played 3 matches.

It’s frustrating, but I’m not too bothered. There’s almost a full PES year stretching out ahead. I’ll probably be back to my usual multi-hour sessions before too long.

I played Man City in the second round of the Cup, and lived with them. More than lived with them, in fact. I dominated the match for the entire first half and for most of the second, but couldn’t break through. I hit the post three times. I seem to hit the post multiple times in almost every match.

Two late Aguero goals dispatched me from the Cup. I wasn’t too bothered.

Now I can focus on the League, where this is happening:

I’m not fooled by being in this position at this stage. This is the outward effect of my Professional difficulty settings. The game is challenging for me on Professional, make no mistake about it. The matches are very far from being walkovers. But I am able to impose myself on them a bit more readily than I would like.

I’m not going back to Top Player. This game is crazy there.

I have a plan. Here it is: get to mid-season on Professional, and then move up to Superstar. I know, I know. There’s a famous saying: “never change your horse in the middle of a Master League season”.

It’s a great saying that I would pay heed to, but I really am strolling to victory in most matches right now. Even the ones I’m not strolling in, I think I could stroll if I just tried just a bit harder.

I’m playing well. These players, and the squad that I have now—I love them. I can’t remember feeling so connected with a squad at this early stage of an ML before now. They’re all Youth promotees, Defaults, and Free Agent journeymen. But if I had to play the rest of ML with just these players, I think I’d be happy to.

Here are two cracking goals from Paccini (a Default) and Wroughllen (a promoted Youth):

What I love about PES2013, among other things, is its apparent re-enabling of the famous old full-back-cutting-inside-and-shooting feature. I don’t remember seeing much of this since PES6 on the PlayStation2, when I used to regularly zing them in with Zoro at RB and Heinze at LB.

As for Wroughllen, what more can I say? The mightiest left foot this side of classic Schwarz. In real time, that ball was a blur travelling across the screen. He’s still young and unformed in lots of other ways, but get that ball on his left foot in shooting position and the net is in serious danger.

The Rule of Three

Since Monday’s post I have only had time for precisely 3 (that’s THREE) measly games of PES2013.

Fortunately, they were all good matches. No scripting. Well, not the sort I couldn’t cope with, but I’ll get to that.

Having played just those three matches, it’s probably best to talk about them individually, and why they were so good, and why PES2013 is still good.


Yep, I know. It’s ‘only’ on Professional.

Liverpool have still got Andy Carroll and Charlie Adam in my ML world. But do I care? Not even fractionally.

PES2013’s Liverpool, so far, are as tough and wily as their PES2012 predecessor. Even on Professional.

PES2013’s ML’s transfer market is so arranged that my team’s still pretty much all Defaults and Youths from back to front, despite it being season 5 right now. It makes things… a bit slow-feeling, but interesting nonetheless.

After a cagey opening, I took the lead. I loved the goal—it doesn’t look much, but I wish there was a longer replay time available, to show off the build-up.

I collected the ball deep on the edge of the area with Coynborough, who held it (Coynborough loves to hold it, missus). I waited and waited, saw Castolis free out wide, and played it his way. It was a weak aerial through-ball that Mehmeti had to help along—just visible at the start of the replay. Castolis took the ball on, knocking it out of his stride, looking up.

This wasn’t a classic breakaway chance, but there was time to think about what to do.

The routine thing to do in this situation in PES2013 is to check back and play a fast horizontal ground ball inside to one of the strikers for a turn-and-shoot chance. Which is by no means guaranteed, and just lately I’ve been having a bad time with them.

So here’s the bit I loved. I saw Mehmeti continue his run forward, and spotted a gap between two defenders. I knew that if I lofted the ball into that gap, Mehmeti would get a prime chance to run on and whack it first time.

I love it when you see something in PES, and try it, and it comes off. The simple things are somehow best of all.

I went on to win the match 3-0, and it was fairly straightforward. Liverpool only came to life when it was 2-0 to me, and you’ve got to be careless to lose a 2-0 lead on Professional. (Although it does happen, and is very annoying.)


Another fine win over a top Premier League team. I could get to like this PES2013, you know.

Arsenal have still got van Persie. Oooh, I can just sense the OCD types out there all twitching in unison.

I don’t remember very much about this game, to be perfectly frank. A lot of Master League is just like that, isn’t it? Wallpaper games that come and go.

I do remember that one of my three goals was a fine strike from the edge of the box. The scorer: Castolis.

Love this guy. As much as I disdained his forerunner and near-namesake, the dreadful and much-mythologised Castolo, I love Castolis. I can’t see me parting with him.

I’ve just finished training him up on the long-range strike skill—with no noticeable increase in shooting prowess as yet.

I wonder if this skill training malarkey is all it’s cracked up to be. A whole season-and-a-half ago, I also trained Coynborough with the long-range drive skill, and he hasn’t scored a single goal since. His long-range drives actually seem worse now.

This experience of trying to give Castolis and Coynborough the long-range drive skill would seem, on the face of it, to disprove the shrill and hysterical pre-release speculation that it would be easy to create an army of genetically-engineered super-players in PES2013.

Who knows, that might turn out to be true in the future. Here in season 5, though, it most certainly isn’t

But neither Castolis nor Coynborough are what you’d call obvious candidates for the long-range drive skill. And maybe that’s precisely it. Maybe there are hidden settings we know nothing about—settings that determine which players will and won’t benefit from various skill training types. It wouldn’t surprise me.

Anyway, anyway. I beat Arsenal away, with ease, and it felt so good coming immediately after the similar fine result against Liverpool.

In both these League games against strong opposition, I controlled the flow of events, my team ticking along perfectly, defending well, attacking with threat and purpose.

My next match was in the FA Cup. Where I would play lowly Wondengine Town of Division 2.

I’ll give the PES veterans out there a moment to imagine what kind of match this was. Look away for a few seconds, and just try to imagine…


A total nightmare of a match that I squeaked through with a very late winner that I probably didn’t deserve.

I kicked off, sending the ball to my left-back as usual, and immediately lost possession to a CPU midfielder who charged my player down with inhuman speed and strength.

Hmmm, I thought. Just now, for two matches running, I’d been knocking the ball around like a dream.

Now, things felt different.

It was late in the first half before I mustered a single shot on goal. By then, lowly Wondengine had had 6 shots on goal, 4 of them on target, and were 1-0 up.

My team could hardly string two passes together before the ball was mysteriously drawn towards a CPU player like a ball bearing towards a magnet.

It was just PES2013 up to the usual shenanigans, of course.

The homunculi who sit inside the game’s code and pull all the levers had determined that this would be an awkward match. Not an impossible Barcelona-turned-up-to-11 match, granted. Just an awkward one. I’d had two great League matches. Now it was time for things to come back down to earth.

PES pulls this trick all the time, and has done it for years on end. I’m going to start calling it the Rule of Three. If you have two great games on the bounce, your third will, on average, be the one that could trip you up.

It’s not an exact number—the Rule of Three is a rule of thumb, not a rule of precise measurement. It could be the fourth or fifth game. And you’re not predestined to lose, not really—you just have to try really hard, harder than you’ve had to do in the games that preceded it.

But I got through to the next round of the Cup. And overall, I enjoyed this match too, Rule of Three or not.