Month: October 2015

We. Are. Going Up. I said we are going up.

Once again the Master League news ticker manages to sum up the situation:

Season 3 finale Quincy sums it all upI don’t think anyone can begrudge us that. Season 3 has wound to a close. Promotion has been achieved via the playoff finals.

I went up! To the Premier League! Whatever the final verdict on PES2016, this is a Moment indeed.

PES2016 promotion achieved

On Tuesday I was confident that I’d do it, and now I’ve done it. Just shows you what ‘unbelievable belief’ can do.

In the 11 matches to the end of the season, I was only in trouble a couple of times.

One was a rivals match against Aston Villa. After I kicked off to start the match, I experienced a clairvoyant flash, and KNEW the following without any doubt:  ‘As soon as I lose the ball here, Villa will sweep the ball forward and score, and then for the rest of the match I’ll barely get a sniff of a chance and it’ll end in a 0-1 defeat.’ And that’s exactly what happened.

I finished 5th, met Norwich in the semi-final, and Burnley in the final.

PES2016 playoffs results

That final was a bit of a walkover, and so was the second leg of the semi-final. I did well to get anything going in that second leg, considering the scheduling pile-up that the game foisted on me for no reason at all.

PES2016 playoff scheduling madness

The two matches were just two days apart. Half my squad were blue- or purple-arrowed, and nearly all of them were missing at least a quarter bar of stamina.

But I romped to the 3-0 win. PES2016, contrariwise as ever, played as if none of the stamina and form business really mattered. Which is part of what worries me about PES2016 — and all football games of recent years, in truth. None of the big three performance factors — stamina, form, player stats/skills — really seem to matter much.

I often wonder if the meagre amount of player individuality that undoubtedly does remain — the wonderful Castledine, for example — is all in my imagination. Something that I’m doing, not the game. What if the individuality of Castledine is just an emergent property of how I play, rather than something that’s baked-in? What if there’s really no more secret sauce? Say it ain’t so!

PES2016 Castledine kills emCastledine has really emerged as the most important player in my Master League side by a long way. Today’s goals video (further below) shows him at or near the centre of everything of significance.

Vietto is also quietly emerging as a very useful goal-scorer. Somewhat in the Gary Lineker mode. Nothing spectacular, mostly. Just bread-and-butter goals that seem to come when I need them.

Here’s the final table:

PES2016 season 3 final table

Unless the fabled Oct 29th update brings massive changes, Top Player is done with me as a viable difficulty level. Even if the Premier League punishes me badly on Superstar, I’m not coming back down. ‘Never say never’, they say, and it’s a wise saying too — but in this case, I’m happy to say ‘never again’ to Top Player.

Here’s a short goals digest of my run-in, culminating with a couple of goals from the playoff semi-final against Norwich and then the final against Burnley (that somewhat anti-climactic 6-1 walkover):

And so I go on to the Premier League. I’d have to look back to be sure, but I think this is my quickest promotion since PES2009, possibly since PES2013.

I really wanted this promotion, which is why I didn’t raise the difficulty to Superstar once I saw the way things were going.

PES2016 is still a wobbly game for me. The whole gameplay package screams ‘designed for the online player’. You can spend the entire match with your forefinger wrapped around R1 and there’s no consequence. There are no fouls and no free kicks — or so few fouls and free kicks as to be practically the same as none. And that fucking slide-tackle mechanic. I despise it, and despise myself for using it.

I mention these familiar bugbears in nearly every post because they’re all part of the problem. I started this blog way back in order to record my experience with PES, rather than as a vehicle of blind PES fan-worship and cheerleading. I am a fan, and I have worshipped and cheer-led many editions, but this edition, so far, doesn’t feel wholly like a PES game. It does feel like a pretty good football game. So far, though, I haven’t caught the thermal updraft of true PES greatness.

And so I end my promotion post on a thoughtful note. Three whole seasons into PES2016, I still have grave doubts about the game. It remains to be seen what the Premier League on Superstar difficulty will have to say about that.

Here’s to you, Arcas and Castledine

The text in this screenshot sums up my most recent progress in Season 3 of Master League:

Post in a nutshell

What he says there. In 25 words he says essentially everything that the rest of this post says in 900 or so words.

(In the months to come there may be occasions when I don’t have time to do proper posts. If/when that happens, I’ll post neatly summarising screenshots like the one above and just chat about my PES life in comments. Seriously, that’s the fallback plan!)

Before we get to the great run referenced by my man above, a certain other milestone has been reached.

I’ve scored from a free kick.

Finally, it has happened to me. It’s my first free kick goal since PES2014. So forgive me if I milk this a touch:

That’s Alan Ljajic there with the swerving strike.

My regular free kick taker, Elijah Castledine, was sitting this match out due to fatigue. You can see me before the kick is taken trying to decide whom to give the kick to.

PES2016 remains a virtually free-kick-free zone for human players playing offline against the AI. Not great, really, but at least you do get them occasionally, and some of them are around the box. Which is a hell of a lot more than PES2015 ever gave us, so I’ll take it.

The other week I spent twenty minutes practicing free kicks in Training Mode. It wasn’t until I did that, and had a chance to indulge in plenty of continuous trial-and-error, that I really grasped how sensitive the infamous dotted line is — and how useful it is too.

That goal came at a vital time in a rivals match against Birmingham City. I won the match. It was one result in a string of great results that has seen me catapulted back up the table into playoff contention.

Here’s my post-January window First XI and squad. I got Vietto up front, Miguel Rosas out wide. This meant switching my two most important players, Arcas and Castledine. The former moves to the right and the latter moves permanently to the middle.

PES2016 season 3 January squad and First XI

Quincy Arcas and Elijah Casteldine are my two most important players. I’ve connected with them in a way that I so far haven’t with any other. They’re my Dalglish and Rush. My Shaggy and Scooby. When they’re both fit and on form, I don’t feel I can lose. It feels very much as if they’re going to be around for the whole of this career, whatever else happens.

I’m disappointed with how Reyes is developing. When I picked him up I said I’d be keeping an eye on him and gauging how he develops as an individual.

So far, nothing. His impressive list of skills simply do not show up out there on the pitch. This ties into a deeper reservation I have with PES2016, and also with PES2015: the nerfing of player individuality.

Individuality was always one of the jewels in PES’s crown, and I feel very uneasy with how it’s been watered down in recent years. It’s not gone, of course, but there has been a drastic drop-off. Ljajic handles more or less the same as Seferovic who handles more or less the same as Vietto who handles more or less the same as Giorza (a defender), to be brutally honest. More players handle essentially the same as more other players than at any time in PES history.

Still, at only 18 it’s early doors for Reyes, but he’s my Patient Zero in this. He has to become a distinct individual in the next few seasons, or I’ll consider the case closed.

So I’ve been on a run. On Friday’s post I said this:

I won’t be getting promoted this season. Not unless the Master League macro-scripting gods are very kind.

These were my results for February:

PES2016 season 3 Feb results

All good, solid, traditional PES-style scorelines. The toughest of those matches was the 1-0 against league leaders Fulham.

Here’s the table around the end of February/beginning of March:

PES2016 season 3 after 33

I’m 8th, and just a win or two outside the playoff zone.

After the above screenshot was taken I played an immense 3-pointer against Huddersfield that I did very well to get the win from. It took me above Huddersfield, but Burnley between us won, so just keeping me out of that psychologically important top-6 for now.

I’m going to do it, aren’t I? I think automatic promotion is out of the reach of even the most preposterously charitable league-table scripting (or is it?!). But with the momentum I’ve built here, if I don’t finish this season somewhere in the top 6, I might as well just hand in my PES badge at the door.


Finally today, a mini-compilation video that shows some memorable goals and moments from my fine recent run. There’s quite a bit going on in this video. Any questions, I’ll be happy to field ’em in the comments:

And here’s Castledine scoring a super-long-ranger that came just too late to make it into the above:


The more you outscore me, the Klose I get

PES2016 season 3 loading a daytime match

So I got another daytime match at last –  in fact a cluster of them towards the middle of the season. Which gets my season count of daytime matches up to the ‘normal’ amount (for PES2016) of about 4 or 5.

It’s a sign there aren’t enough daytime matches in a football game when a loading screen that shows a daytime match causes a shout of joy and a thrill of excitement.

I was so excited that I kept stopping to notice how good the game looked, and take memento snapshots.

PES2016 season 3 playing a daytime match

This time next week, the fabled October 29th squads-and-patch update – widely presumed to be bringing a host of ‘fixes’ for various issues – will have arrived. Near the top of my wishlist is a change to the frequency of daytime matches in Master League.

I won’t be getting promoted this season. Not unless the Master League macro-scripting gods are very kind.

I’ve played all the way to January now, and this is the table:

PES2016 season 3 after 23Yes, that’s my team 4th from bottom of the table.

That’s pretty poor viewing. Just 6 wins all season so far. 11 defeats. Still on Top Player.

Having missed the escape velocity of Seasons 1 and 2, it’s very hard to get anything going again. I now find myself in a ‘proper’ Master League tussle for promotion. And I LOVE IT.

I don’t think I’ll ever admire PES2016’s simplistic, sprint-clampy defending. That all-purpose sliding tackle can just go and do one. The rhythm of matches too often tends towards the fast, frantic, all-out violence of online matches. Gruesome.

But the game in general is pretty good. It’s not yet at classic status with me, and may never get there, but Master League makes the experience. If it wasn’t for ML I believe I would have walked away from PES years ago.

In what’s probably a good sign I’ve started getting annoyed at obvious scripted matches where I’m not ‘allowed’ to score, and where the CPU team snatches wins and draws with its only shot(s) of the match. Case in point, a home clash against Bournemouth where I had 21 shots on goal, 11 on target, and zero goals. Bournemouth had 1 shot on goal and scored 1 goal.

Same as it ever was, really.

PES2016 mid-season 3 Youth team close

When January 1st arrived I was eager to see my Youth team. What a sight.

I scanned down this list scarcely able to believe what I was seeing.

Rosicky. Wasilewski. Valencia. Carrick. Tiote! Er, Odemwingie.

And then – Klose. Is that the Klose? Yes, it is.

And so many others. Zuniga. Santana. There are yet others not in sight here. Marquez the legendary CB. Postiga. Lima. Julio Cesar (I’ll stick with Friedel).

I can’t refuse getting at least Rosicky and Klose. How can I not get them?! So I’ve gone ahead and got them. I’ll get a couple more as well. Exactly whom, I don’t yet know.

Ah – but will they be any good, very quickly? That is the question.

I’m not sure how I feel about this yet. The way my Master League has gone, I’m planning to keep at least two of these Youths, probably a few more besides. Time will tell if they actually live up to their name-potential. Whatever happens, it’s a departure for Youth Teams to be this generous this early on. I’m not sure if I like it.

Next time, I’ll get to my main transfer market activity. I need players, that much is obvious. And with the playoffs just 11 points above me, a good run might see me get close. Or Klose…

Some goals to finish with – the title says ‘Castledine and Milligan’, but there are three goals from three scorers.

First comes yet another great strike from my Man of the Master League so far, Castledine (loving that left foot); then a one-touch move finished off by Seferovic; and finally a CPU keeper slip that presents my bustling little DMF, Milligan, with a gift-wrapped chance…

King of the Castledine

An early Season 3 video digest today:

Season 3 is well and truly underway, and PES2016 is heading back in the right direction with me. I’ll be talking in detail further down the page about what’s on show in the above video.

First, some post-Season 2/pre-Season 3 wheeler-dealering.

I took the money for Coutinho and spent some of it on Alan Ljajic, but have decided to hold onto Arcas and Castledine and many other Defaults that the AI teams seem very keen to sign up. Giorza is a quality right-back who gets lots of offers every window. I’ll keep him too.

I sold Herrerin, the expensive keeper who staunched the flow of ‘corner goals’ last season. I signed up Friedel from the Youths and made him number 1. Sentimental reasons, based on PES2015 maybe, but having a Friedel in goal makes me feel good. It’s a risk going with a 17-year-old as my first-choice keeper, but this is the PES to take such risks in, I think. If it goes wrong, I can always change tack.

My Season 3 squad and formation:

PES2016 season 3 squad

REYES skillset

Reyes, another 17-year-old, will start as many matches as his stamina will allow. He’s got a Player Skills page like nothing I’ve seen on any other player — as seen on the right.

It’ll be interesting to see if those Player Skills shine through with him as he develops, or if he’s just a decent but mostly anonymous midfielder. PES2015 seemed to nerf supposedly talented players, with them having maybe one good match every now and then. So I’m keeping a close eye on how individuality manifests itself in PES2016, and whether it’s consistent. My initial feeling is that it’s again been nerfed.

But I’m starting to see things in PES2016 generally that I didn’t see before, and there’s something slowly growing…

Now for a closer look at the video at the top of the page. Highlights from the pre-season testimonial through to Matchday 6.

00:40: a floated through-ball for Yankov to volley. I love goals like that and will always have a pop rather than take a touch. Something I’ve noticed about PES2016: the AI punishes you if you try to take too many touches with players. Defenders will pounce. Very realistic.

01:40: First game of the season, home to Ipswich, and one of my favourite long-rangers so far. Again it’s that man Castledine. See the way the ball moves in the air on the second replay.

I’m keeping Castledine. Most Master League players this year seem to be shedding Defaults and Youths in favour of the Classics and Established Names. It seems I’m heading down a different path with PES2016. I didn’t plan it like this. It just seems to be happening, and it intrigues me. I wonder where it’ll lead?

I went on to draw this match 1-1. I never made another chance. This being-shut-down thing is something that’s started happening in PES2016. After that weirdly open Season 1 and a portion of Season 2, the game has tightened up considerably. This feels like a proper PES now.

02:30: First goal from Ljajic. Peter Drury — the best commentator we’ve had on PES, by the by — pronounces his name ‘Lie-itch’. I’m going with that in my head.

Note the one-touch finish. Again, the game seems to reward one- and two-touch play. Experience of PES2016 so far already tells me that if I’d tried to take an extra touch there, the game would have smothered me out of it,

03:15: Later in that same match. A late, late winner, and my first real punch-the-air-and-stop-myself-screaming-aloud moment in this whole Master League. I’m going for promotion this season and I’d had a bad start and this goal and these 3 points MEANT something. This is how Master League creates meaning and makes PES what it is.

The give-and-go move featured Castledine, of course — I slightly delayed the return ball — and then a thumping first-time finish from Coulibaly. Rocketed into the net. A sweet, sweet moment.

PES2016 got Cambiasso

Cambiasso, fresh from the Youths, made his full debut somewhere in these matches. Did well, the youngster.

04:00: My first derby match of the season, away to Birmingham, and a cagey affair was changed with this goal from me. Note again the one-touch build-up. One-touch passing/finishing is a thing in PES2016!

I only drew this match as well in the end.

A shame that I’ve dropped so many points so early, but as we all know, it’ll be a long time before I’m out of the running for promotion, and this is way too early to count me out. I think I’m going to do it.

Still, optimism aside, its not nice to be near the foot of the table — here’s the bottom 9 teams.

PES2016 Season 3 after 6

There are only 6 points between me and the playoff spots, though. That’s a trivial gap at this stage.

Before the window closed I bought another striker, Seferovic, to play up front. I don’t feel I’ve spent the Coutinho money very well. Instead of one great striker, I’ve bought two strikers about the same as Coutinho.

The intriguing thing for me this year, though, is how my Defaults-plus-Youths-plus-journeymen experiment will play out. I’m looking forward to finding out.

PES2016 has picked up considerably. I still feel that the ‘tumble dryer’ effect of midfield (lose the ball/slide/win the ball/rinse/repeat) is decidedly un-PESlike.

And I’m so tired of playing endless nighttime matches. They’re all at night for me now. Every single match is a night match, with a few dusk matches scattered among them. No daytime at all now. This must be addressed in the patch, and I feel it will be. It must be. Surely?

But the overall play is satisfying. Master League is as engaging as it’s been for years. This is the best that PES2016 has been for me since my first few days with the game. Things are definitely starting to warm up.