Something slightly different for this week’s two posts.
On Friday I’ll be taking my long-promised retrospective glance at PES2014. I wasn’t blogging for that game’s entire lifespan. I want to devote a special post to it now.
Today, a sidelight on PES2015, and an exploration of the perennial PES topic of scripting. I’m putting my Season 10 progress on hold to look at just one particular match that I played again and again to see if it was or wasn’t scripted.
(Spoiler alert: it was scripted.)
My FA Cup Quarter Final was away at Derby County. Or, as I affectionately came to call them, Derby Cunty.
I played this fixture, over and over, a total of 8 times, and lost every time. I didn’t even score a goal until the 8th and final attempt.
The first time around, unknowing of the epic to come, I lost 2-0.
Something about the match troubled me. No matter what I did, nothing at all seemed to work. I can usually make at least a couple of good scoring chances, even if I’m not ‘allowed’ to score them. On this occasion, in this match, I didn’t create a chance. Not one.
Normally I just shrug and sigh and move on. Strange matches that you strangely cannot win are a staple of PES and Master League. It’s probably best not to look too closely.
But every now and then, at least once per PES year, I like to look too closely…
Prior to this match, I’d backed up my ML progress to another file, and uploaded that file to online storage. So I had another copy of my ‘real’ ML, and I could experiment with replaying this strange fixture as many times as I wanted without compromising my no-reloading policy. (Once the experiment was over, I indeed resumed season 10 in the original timeline where I’d lost 2-0.)
I devoted an entire session to trying to beat Derby Cunty.
Match #1: lost 1-0. Match #2: lost 3-0. Match #3: lost 2-0. By this stage I felt unusually committed to the cause of beating Derby — or at least, for the love of God, scoring a goal…
I played it again, and again, and again. #4, #5, #6. All straight defeats. No goals scored by me in any of them.
I had at least started to make chances. They went wide, or hit the post/crossbar, or were saved by the keeper.
I tried different formations. I tried different personnel. Each time I loaded up the parallel world, it had different squad members on blue and purple arrows, so I was forced to use different players. At some point of this process, my entire squad got a game against Derby Cunty.
Match #6 was interesting: with heroic defending I held it to 0-0 and took it to extra time. It looked like penalties until I inexplicably lost all control of my CBs, allowing a Derby player — let’s pretend it was dear old Paulo Wanchope — to waltz through in long-legged, languid style, and tuck away the winner.
Incredible. 6 matches (7 if you include the original), all of them defeats in which I had not scored a single goal.
I switched off the PS4 and returned the next day for a new session. And decided to have one more try at beating Derby.
Interestingly, the general feel of the match at once felt different, which supports what we all already know: that PES is different from day to day.
I managed to score a goal in the first half, my first in all these attempts, and held Derby off until the second half, at which point they jammied two goals from nothing. They held on to the final whistle. I wasn’t interested in prolonging the experiment. I’d proven what I already knew, that large chunks of my experience in ML are blatantly scripted.
But so what?
Back to my ML I went, hungry for more.
This experience is a handy reminder that we are always in the hands of a script, even when we believe we’re not. Freedom in football gaming is a carefully crafted illusion. And more power to it: illusion is the basis of all enjoyment. In PES2015, that’s truer than it’s ever been.