Month: April 2015

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen

Pro Evolution Soccer 2015_20150413120431

Weekends are full working days for me, so I only had time to play a few matches of PES2015. My hoped-for retrospective look back at PES2014 will have to wait until Friday or later. I might not even get around to it for a couple of weeks yet.

I want to use all my precious spare time to explore more of PES2015 and find out just how good the game can be.

I’m not yet ready to anoint PES2015 as the new anything, but in terms of general handling and lasting difficulty, it has started reminding me of PES5. It is of course impossible for any football game to match up to the mother of all football games. More study required here.

I played a few league matches and two more Champions League matches.

In the Champions League, after a bad start in my first 4 group matches I needed to win both my remaining fixtures to stand any chance of qualifying.

I took the lead in the crucial match away at Copenhagen. This was the goal from that man again, Peter Crouch:

Scoring that goal in realtime was eerie. The impact with the crossbar took the pace off the ball and it flopped down into the back of the net. A very realistic moment. Not that I’m looking for realism in a football game, but it’s nice when realism occasionally shows up.

But then I got cocky. I felt that I was bossing the match, that the momentum was entirely mine. Assuming that victory was a given (despite only being a goal up) I decided to try to grab another goal or two to make the goal difference more respectable.

On the attack, I switched briefly to my alt-formation of 2-3-5 — and promptly lost the ball.

The CPU broke at pace, magically jinking and dodging my tackles and blocks. Their striker was in on goal, but not yet in the box. I slid in from behind, intending a professional foul, but took the man inside the box.

Penalty, and a red card for my defender.

Copenhagen scored the penalty (Friedel got a hand to it, agonisingly).

And soon into the second half, I was 2-1 down. This was a disaster. Only a win from this match would do, and the momentum was now entirely with the CPU.

I rejigged my formation, going to one DMF (I usually play with two). Playing PES with 10 men or less is a satisfying sub-game in its own right. You can grind out some famous victories and create wonderful memories in the process.

I gave it my all, but it was not to be.

I did manage an equaliser in the 89th minute with a header from Castolis.

The cross for the header was provided by that man again, Peter Crouch. Here’s the goal, the actual scoring of which is nothing really special.

What is special is the way Crouch sets it up. They say of him that he has a good touch for a big man. In PES2015, that is certainly correct — check the exquisite touch at 0:17:

Whatever else happens with PES2015 from here, I will always associate PES2015 with Peter Crouch. ISS98 was the edition of Michael Owenn (sic). PES3 was Stoichkov. PES5 was Bergkamp. PES2012 was Hagi.

PES2015 will always and forever be Peter Crouch.

I would never have even looked at Crouch in a million years. Not my kind of player — or so I thought. But my curiosity was piqued by a random comment left by a commenter — Darryl — on Ultra Soccer Blog a few months ago. PES2015’s Crouch is a unique player, he said. That was enough.

Crouch is not a superstar player. Nothing like the best computer game footballer you’ve ever seen or played with. I don’t imagine he’s much in demand on myLet’sAllSqueezeOurControllers or whatever it is they ‘play’ online.

I drew 2-2 and was out of the Champions League. With one match to play, the group table:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2015_20150413121904

So that’s that for another season. I’ve still got game 6 to play, against Barcelona, but will have to treat that as a practice match and give a few youngsters a run-out. I will now focus on at least qualifying for next season’s tournament.

Shrieking to victory

Scene from PES2015

My switch from Superstar back to Top Player began with two matches that had me checking the settings to make sure I really had switched back. Disastrous 0-2 defeats, albeit to Arsenal and Manchester United. I had barely a kick. One of the defeats was at home, adding insult to injury.

It seemed the same kind of bitty, frustrating footballing experience as on Superstar. I was worried for a brief moment. What if the previous seasons of solid enjoyment were based on me not tinkering with the game? And now that I had meddled with forces I didn’t understand, it was all over?

Normal service was soon resumed. I re-acclimatised to Top Player, and started enjoying again the kind of absorbing, feature-rich gameplay I’d been enjoying before the failed switch to Superstar.

But results didn’t get much better. A deeply annoying 0-0 home draw against Hull showed me that I might struggle to win the title this year.

At least I won my next match in the Champions League, beating Lazio 1-0 in a tight, tough encounter. I was accepting a 0-0 until I snatched a winner with minutes left. A real punch the air moment.

I was punching the air again in my next League match.

Away to Everton, I was 2-0 down within minutes of the start. Typical PES2015 blink-and-you’re-being-thumped.

I decided not to accept it, and set about the business of hauling myself back into the match. I got one back before half-time through Villalba. The other side of half-time, Villalba got the equaliser to make it 2-2.

Then – gloriously – Villalba scored a deft, floating header on 89 minutes to win me all three points.

And I shrieked like a girl.

The equalising goal is the first goal in the video below; Villalba’s hat-trick winning goal, scored in the 89th minute, is up second.

I loved that header.

Villalba is one of those PES2015 players: great for a match or a couple of matches, but oddly anonymous for the next couple of matches. I have come to suspect that PES2015 deliberately nerfs players after they’ve performed well for a match or two.

Anyway, Villalba when he’s on form is pretty great. He scored a flamboyant long-ranger in the next match that I didn’t have time to add to the video above. (I’ll drop it into the comments section on this post a bit later on.)

The table after 11 matches of season 9:

PES2015 Season 9 after 11

Won 3, Drawn 3, Lost 5. I’ll do really well to overhaul the top spot at this rate. Superstar was a premature experiment on so many fronts.

No matter. The important thing about playing PES is the quality of the day-to-day experience, not the size of one’s balls in taking on the top difficulty.

I’ll be back on Tuesday with an update on how this season is going – and also, if I get time, a very belated look back at The PES That Got Away: PES2014. I’ll want to fire up the PS3 and actually play a bit of PES2014 before writing about it here, so that might roll over until next Friday instead. I’ll see how it goes.

Superstar stop

Jesus Christ, Superstar! If I hadn’t already used those words in another title a long time ago, today’s post would definitely have been called ‘Jesus Christ, Superstar!’, exclamation mark and all. But for different reasons.

On that previous occasion, back in 2012, I was remarking on how agreeable I found life on Superstar, relative to my doomsday expectations of what might happen.

This time, in 2015, I’ve found my latest attempt at Superstar formidably tough and nigh-on impossible.

Superstar in Master League on PES2015 has once again properly kicked my arse. Three times already I have tried to ascend, and been beaten back. This is the fourth time. After a few sessions of mostly disastrous matches in League and Cup, I have gone back to Top Player.

Pre-season, I bought the 16-year-old Arjen Robben, who is already 80OVR and fleet of foot. He moves uncannily like his real-life counterpart. It’ll be two or three seasons before I start getting consistent performances out of him.

I also bought another left-back — Lizarazu from the classic players roster. Lizarazu is a bit older and more developed, and has slotted straight in as a regular starter.

New Home Kit:

PES2015 season 9 New Home Kit

I kept two of my three alternative kits, but deliberately made this rather horrible 4th kit, in honour of a fine Coventry tradition of horrible away kits:

PES2015 season 9 New Away Kit

Games immediately went nowhere for me on Superstar. I stuck with it over two long sessions, but they were bitty, frustrating experiences. The antithesis of everything good that I was finding in PES2015 over the past few months.

I won some, grinding out a 1-0 here and there, but lost most, and they weren’t the good kind of losses where you enjoy the game regardless.

I was unhappy with the overall footballing experience on Superstar. Matches often featured long patches of tussling for possession. It was a nightmare without the ball. Frustrated slide-tackling returned to my game, leading to lots of cheap yellows and reds once more. And Superstar passing felt as if it was being excessively tampered with by the game. I’ve never had so many passes go hopelessly astray. Yes, I did check and recheck my settings, and I was still on 1-bar, the sweet spot where I feel I belong.

Top Player was calling me back almost before the end of the first session. I stuck with Superstar for a second session, just to see, but no. It’s too much for me right now.

Also, I don’t want my first experience of Champions League football on PES2015 defined by such a thankless struggle.

I qualified for the Champions League this season for the first time. Here’s the group draw, by the way:

PES2015 season 9 Champs League draw

My Coventry City is in a group with FC Copenhagen, Lazio and Barcelona.

(It is a little disappointing to see a few made-up Konami teams in there. I feel their presence kind of ‘dilutes’ the Master League. While setting up Master League, you’re asked if you want to include a league of made-up teams. I chose Yes and wish now that I hadn’t.)

Superstar killed me in the League and it killed me in the Champions League too. I played two matches of the CL on Superstar: away against Copenhagen and away against Barca. Both ended in 1-0 defeats, and to be fair the matches were pretty decent. At least I created a few openings, compared to the shutouts I was getting in the League.

I think Konami listened to people saying that Superstar on PES2012/13 just wasn’t difficult enough, and decided to create an insane mode. NB: I think this is a very good thing. Top Player is satisfying enough for me right now.

Many people reading this, and having a whale of a time on Superstar, will be puzzled. But I am an average football gamer. ‘So am I!‘ they might say. ‘No, you’re definitely not!‘ I’ll say back.

I might change my mind and have another go at Superstar this season if I start running away with things on Top Player. I have seen odd flashes of what Superstar can offer.

At least I know that Superstar is still there, for when the time is right. There are still worlds left to conquer.

For we have been through Hull and high tide

Crouch forward to victory

Season 8 ended with victory in the FA Cup, but disappointment in the League.

It was a fairly straightforward win over Arsenal in the Cup Final. Once I got the first goal, I kept things tight in defence, then snatched a game-sealing second goal late on.

My first ever trophy win in PES2015 was very welcome, and a great relief.

PES2015 FA Cup route to glory

No celebration spoiler videos here. Minor spoiler alert – there wasn’t an actual Cup in sight. I never got to see this man holding anything aloft:

PES2015 Carrick

Michael Carrick, my club captain, is one of the best likenesses in the game, and one of the best holding midfielders I’ve had in any PES.

The celebrations were disappointingly generic, although I don’t remember this exact scene from previous games. #All we hear is, Radio Gaga#

PES2015 radio gaga

Alas, I missed out on the big one: the League title slipped through my grasp.

I finished in 2nd place by quite a long way in the end. The final table (top 16, anyway):

PES2015 season 8 final table

I was top of the table for most of the second half of the season, but ended up finishing 5 points behind Chelsea. How?

Carelessness. PES2015 is absolutely punishing. You can’t afford to take any match lightly. The AI is always ready, poised, willing, and more than able to inflict maximum harm if your focus wavers. It’s not uncommon to find yourself 2 or 3 goals down at half-time without really having played badly.

Hull City finished my league title ambitions. After a few dodgy results I’d slipped to 2 points behind Chelsea. My last-but-one match was at home against Hull, a middling, mid-table side. I thought that was a guaranteed 3 points.

I lost 1-3, and in truth, it wasn’t even close. I was trounced.

Chelsea won both their remaining games. That was that.

At season’s end I was happy to see Drogba in the League Team of the Season – with some misgivings. Drogba has ended up in the Team of the Season every season since he arrived. But he has never really yet had a standout season. This game clearly likes Drogba.

I also like Drogba – but he has yet to reach his peak powers. At the moment he has one great game in 5, on average. His scoring rate is a bit behind Crouch’s. He and my other star Regen, Forlan, are about on a par.

So the big decision: do I stay on Top Player, or have another go at Superstar?

I believe I will start season 9 on Superstar and see how it goes. In a way I’m glad I missed out on the title on Top Player. For all I scoff at the notion that only the highest difficulty level ‘matters’ when starting out, for me it starts mattering after a certain level of familiarity with a football game. After 8 seasons, it seems more fitting to go for top honours on the highest difficulty.

I also played one match on 0-bar passing at the tail-end of my last session. Weirdly, it made the game feel a touch easier. I seemed to be able to create scoring chances with ease. I think this was because so many of my final passes on 0-bar were slightly mis-aimed, and turned into ace through-balls instead. More study of this is needed.

Overall, PES2015 continues to grow and grow. I haven’t had such a slow-burn effect with a football game since PES2012. It is very agreeable after a couple of indifferent years.

I am slightly worried about a few things in PES2015, notably the player development.

When I went to search for 90+ rated players the other day, I discovered that there were only 12 such in my whole ML world.

Is there a universal cap on development that limits the amount of star players, or is the coding glitched? Anything is possible. PES2014 was so neglected by me that I never got far enough to discover if this apparent development cap is a new feature of Master League, or what.

But even if it is a bug, it’s unlikely to impact my growing regard for PES2015. The game’s current final score from me, if everything stopped right now, would be 8/10. That’s considerably up from 6/10 or so around December time, and also up from 7/10 when I started getting back into the game a month or two ago.

9/10 next month? We shall see.

Recent times have shown me something about myself. I am an out-and-out enthusiast of football gaming. I’m a proper PES superfan. Not, I hope, one of the totally blinkered ones you come across in the wild in such alarming numbers. But a superfan nevertheless.

More next Tuesday, by which time I will have started my Superstar season 9. Will I stumble again with Superstar, or are there yet more halls of PES2015 delight waiting to be explored?