Month: October 2015

That’s me in the corner

Season 2 has ended – my team finished in not too bad a final position, considering the bad start I had. And I was keeping an eye on everyone’s GF/GA column for authenticity’s sake. All looked fine to me:

PES2016 Season 2 final table

I finished the season with something like 8 wins out of 10 matches. Proper promotion-winning form.

I’ll have to be careful not to go mad in the post-season transfer market. There’s a danger of bringing in so many new players that I have to take time to build up Team Spirit again.

The Master League macro-scripting gods are as kind in PES2016 as ever. If Season 2 had continued for another 10 matches, I’d have ended up in the playoffs. But even the game’s charity has limits, and there’s no recovery from the kind of bad start I had this season. So I’ll restrain myself with the transfers.

Season 2 is over

The final game of the season was the same as last season’s final game: against Cardiff, in glorious sunshine, at New Highfield Road, and it also ended in defeat (a 1-3 reversal, instead of 1-2, though).

As last season, I only played about 5 matches in daylight out of 46 matches. This isn’t good enough. It’s got to the point where seeing the familiar dark or murky conditions at the start of a match makes me feel correspondingly gloomy. PES2016 is giving me Seasonal Affective Disorder. This must be fixed on the 29th.

PES2016 3rd kit season 2

I added a 3rd kit to my team. It’s to complement the two official Home and Away kits (as provided by Paul of UltraSoccerBlog).

Nothing fancy for my 3rd kit. Just a traditional homespun sort of effort. I will stick with the official kits as my main ones for the duration of this Master League, but amuse myself with made-up 3rd and 4th kits as the seasons pass. Same as ever.

I’ve been spending some time in Training Mode, unusually for me, testing out a few things.

I spent half an hour practicing free kicks the other day. There was no point last year because you never got any in PES2015, or so few (literally about 5-10 in 700+ matches) as to make it not worth the effort involved to learn them.

This year feels almost as bad, sometimes. You can go entire sessions in PES2016 without getting a shooting-range free kick – but then you’ll have a session where you get at least one per match. And even sometimes a single match where you’ll get 2 or 3 free kicks in shooting range, all together.

I still haven’t scored one, but I want to, hence the Training Mode time. I think I’m ready now. But I haven’t had a free kick since!

I also tried a few different corner routines. I’ve always been an admirer of the type of corner that used to be known in English football as the Teddy Sheringham corner (or the Paul Scholes corner).

This was a hard flat ball fired from the corner to a player lurking outside the edge of the box.

While working on this in Training, I came up with a slight variant that seems more effective: a shallow ball – not flat, about waist-height at most – fired towards the crowd in the middle of the penalty box (not the edge). One of your strikers should run towards the ball and glance it goalward with their instep, or the outside of their boot.

It’s had some success in-game, with some tantalising near-misses. But only one goal so far.

Here’s the replay – see what I do with the dotted line to begin with, and then watch the flight of the ball that results:

It’s my usual corner routine now.

I find the conventional lofted type of corner so inconsistent. I think I’ve only scored one headed goal from a corner in all two seasons so far. I do still go for the lofted corner sometimes, as it often leads to cleared balls that my midfielders and fullbacks can pounce on for a shooting opportunity.

And so onto Season 3. I start with one aim only: promotion.

Division 2 is a feeble environment this year – probably deliberately so, given the much-voiced critique that there’s little difference between the lesser teams and the greater ones.

I remain upbeat about PES2016, on the whole. Certainly there are downsides: the game is often much too attacking, much too flowing – and it’s much too responsive.

There’s very little difference in the handling across the player types. There’s rarely any sense that I’m controlling a tank with a heavy touch and a ponderous turning circle.

Fair enough, you’ve got your token one or two big, lumbering players, whose turning circles are perhaps a half-second slower than the rest – but then indeed you have got all the rest, who are more or less the same. ALL of them. They’re the lithest, nimblest ninjas ever seen in any PES game. I often find myself yearning for the so-called clunkiness of PES5, PES2009, PES2010, PES2011, PES2014, and PES2015.

‘Responsive’ has come to be almost universally accepted as an essential trait in a football game. Arguably this trend is the worst thing that’s ever happened to football gaming. Great football games limit the human player’s control.

So PES2016 is not out of the woods with me yet. It’s certainly not in the woods, either. It’s, uh, walking along the outskirts of the woods. As I’ve mentioned before, having these kinds of doubts at this kind of stage are all par for the course with me and a new PES. It’s not how I feel after 2 seasons that decides it, but how I feel after 5 seasons, or 10.

This night has opened my Reyes

I’m well into the second half of Season 2 of Master League on PES2016. At the time of writing I’m about 5 matches short of the end of the season — and this so-far-peculiar game has taken a marked turn for the better.

I’m back on Top Player difficulty (again). The multi-goal extravaganzas of last season and the start of this season are no more. I’ve had several 0-0 results in the past couple of sessions — unthinkable last season, when many matches seemed to start at 3-3 and continue from there.

It’s changed, and it’s a mystery why. Perhaps the biggest change happens when I go a goal or two down. Last season it was trivial to storm back and win a nine-goal ‘thriller’ (that was actually anything but thrilling, of course). This season, that’s not happening. If I go behind, it’s damn hard to get back to parity, never mind feature in a 5-4 scoreline.

I’m no expert but I’m looking squarely at Team Spirit to account for this. Somehow. I don’t know how.

So PES2016 might be all right after all. Which leaves us with just the usual shopping list of niggles an grievances to be addressed by Konami at some point.Day games! Day games!

In a curious way, I’ll regard the fabled October update — whatever else it does — as a failure if it doesn’t rectify the night-match problem in Master League.

The few daytime games that we’re handed out at the moment are truly sumptuous to look at and a pleasure to play.

If they follow the old FIFA route of simply giving us the option to choose time of day in the pre-match screen, fine. I’d take that. I’d prefer for the game to do the work for me, though, and I’d like it to be logical and somewhat random, i.e. three or four daytime matches followed by one or two dusk/night matches, then back to daytime. I was explaining this problem to a work colleague who knows that I play Pro Evo and she just stared at me. People do not understand.

The current table makes interesting reading in the light of PES2016’s changed character. The GF/GA columns across the board are much lower than last year’s equivalent stats. Almost on the low side, in fact.

PES2016 Season 2 after 36

I keep nearly scoring great goals, but somehow not quite managing to. Either the keeper saves (keepers are very good from distance) or I have to glumly watch my would-be superstrike sailing past the upright in slow motion.

I’ve scored a couple of moderately decent goals from just outside the box, as below, but no thunderous 30-to-40-yarders yet. One day I’ll get there.

PES2016 definitely took a dip with me last week, on account of the high scoring matches and apparent ease of navigating through the opposition defences. It’s definitely on its way back up now. Still a way to go before I can feel confident the patient won’t die, of course, but I’m confident this is now the game I’ll be playing for a while yet.

It’s slightly embarrassing not be anywhere near promotion in Season 2. I fancy going shopping for some top-class players in the post-season. I’m very tempted to raid my Youth ranks for the likes of Reyes and Postiga and Friedel, who won’t stick around forever, but I’ve already got a ton of Youths (and in truth, they’re not so great). A few Classics always sort me out nicely in a standard Pro Evo, so I might go that way. Bring it on.

They will never take our Friedel

PES2016 the goalkick

Season 2 of Master League in PES2016 is well underway, and I seem to be having a minor PES wobble.

The game’s much too open and attacking, even on Superstar. I am coming to hate the ‘slide-hook’ method of getting the ball back – it’s far too easy to do (and yes, I do it), and it promotes even more of that relentless, attacking, hurdy-gurdy play that is PES2016’s signature hallmark so far.

The wobble is par for the course with me and a new PES, really. Par for the course.

I wasn’t blogging last year for the arrival of PES2015, or the year before for PES2014, so you might have forgotten how this whole thing with a new PES goes with me.

Initial joy and unabashed love is followed by creeping doubts, which are followed by a long, patient climb back to love again. PES2012 was a good example of this process in action.

Or if not back to outright love, usually strong regard and respect for yet another very good footy game from the PES stable. PES2015 was the best recent case of this.

Rogue PES games like PES2014 and PES2011 are exceptions that prove the rule – in both those cases I eventually circled back to high regard, possibly even love. And PES2014’s time has yet to truly come.

PES2016 mid-season 2

PES2016’s current wobbles with me are perhaps more pronounced than other people’s experience of the game. But it’s just how I roll.

I’m almost at the end of January in season 2. The screenshot above is exactly where I am now. I’m back on Superstar, which is why I’m 17th in the partial table seen above. There’ll be no promotion this season.

I’ve picked up a few exctiing new players, and had a new influx of Youth players. Many of my new Youths are born-again big names: REYES and POSTIGA stand out, as well as a certain familiar American goalkeeper. No, not Sylvester Stallone…

PeS2016 Youths – old friend

Yes, it’s my PES2015 stalwart and one of the most solid names in goalkeeping. I don’t think I’ll be able to resist getting him at the end of the season, along with other Youths. For now, though, I’ve got enough cover.

Top Player started to seem….not easy, as such, but not hard either. Most matches on Top Player were spent squeezing buttons to get the ball back. That’s something that’s far, far too straightforward on PES2016. You end up being lured into a way of playing that’s antithetical to the spirit of Pro Evolution Soccer: relentless, churning pressure and possession turnovers.

The fouling system enables it. Those much-too-easy, long, sliding tackles enable it. Try anything like those slides on PES5, or even PES2015, and you’d be down to 7 players within a half. I’m almost literally praying this changes with future patches, but I don’t have much faith. God knows what’s happening online. I definitely don’t want to know.

I’m not making much progress in the table because of results. Here are my results for December 2016, on Superstar, in Division 2:PES2016 season 2 Superstar a bad run

I’m really enjoying the challenge of Superstar, on the whole. Many PES veterans are breezing through the game even on this level. Here is where my utterly average, completely pedestrian skill level at football games serves me very well.

The future for me and PES2016 might even be full manual, for the first time ever. I’ve spent at least two hours in Training mode, playing with manual passing and manual shooting. I strongly recommend checking that out – but it must be in Training mode. Don’t even think about testing manual out in an actual match. One misplaced pass or shot at the corner flag too many, and you’ll give up.

I turned down a £17,000,000 bid for Arcas this window. He’s only valued at £8,000,000, so it gave me pause. But I remained strong.

And I’ve reverted to my favourite post-PES2011 formation of 4-2-2-2:

PES2016 season 2 mid-season squad and formation

That’s my squad for the rest of the season. D BASKERVILLE up front next to Coutinho is a Scout recommendation. I’ve yet to see him in actual action, as I haven’t played since signing him on Wednesday morning. He’s really an SS, too, rated 77, so I’ve got some position tinkering to do there.

I’ve spent the past two days playing Metal Gear Solid V. The game is huge, with so much to see and do that it’s really not feasible for me to see and do everything. I’m making a beeline for the end of the campaign, at which point more or less normal engagement with PES will resume.

We’ve probably all got a mental shopping list for what the first update PES2016 in a few weeks has to do.

I’d like to see fouling and free kicks adjusted in such a way that the sliding tackles are not so rewarding. And goalkeeper reactions need to be improved within the box.

Just those two changes would have huge and beneficial knock-on effects on the rest of the game. Scorelines would come down. The tempo of general play would be altered back to something more PES-like.

It could happen. PES2015, and before it PES2014, were both vastly improved by patches. In the case of PES2014, the game was altered almost out of recognition.

PES2016 isn’t in much of a bad way at all. On Superstar, it’s a great game with bags of challenge. But it remains a bit too fast and furious even at the best of times. There’s more than a touch of the ‘arcade racer’ about it, and that makes me uncomfortable.

Youther Choice and Bayern Marney

Yankov celebrates

Look at that despicable advert in the background there. As if I’d want to play Call of Duty in football game form ever again. Are there any Master League advertising hoardings in myClub? Pfffft.

Season 2 has begun. It started off well, with a couple of straight wins and a draw on Superstar, the difficulty level that I felt forced up to by some inflated scorelines last season.

Aaaand now I’ve run into a wall.

At the end of last season I deconstructed my team and brought in so many new players that my Starting XI’s Team Spirit went down to the low 80s, from the mid-90s level it had been.

When the action of season 2 got going I won the first couple of matches — on Superstar — leaving me hovering up near the top of the table, failing to hit top only by goal difference.

This is it, I thought. This is the season I go up — and I rather gloomily contemplated what might prove to be a short Master League campaign by recent standards, where 10+ seasons have been the norm.

And then I started losing.

Baddish results 2

There was one session where I lost three games on the bounce, and lost them so badly that I admitted temporary defeat and went back to Top Player.

Where I carried on mostly losing. The first game of the clutch below – against Charlton – was one of my worst performances in Master League for many a moon. I had 1 shot on goal the whole match, and finished with about 40% possession – a shocking stat for a possession-based player like myself.

Bad results 1

Other notable AI performances came from a certain Dean Marney at Burnley, who Kaisered me out of a match almost single-handedly in the kind of midfielder performance you see all too rarely these days.

It’s not too bad now here in Top Player. The game is still a disturbingly open one for what’s historically been PES’s highest difficulty level. Superstar is really just a johnny-come-lately difficulty level that’s meant to be a bonus extra. I still have great misgivings about PES2016’s difficulty curve, but they’re in abeyance for now.

PES2016 two late youths

My new players are all settling in well. Just before the transfer window closed I managed to scrape together enough cash to bring in a couple more Youths.

Yes, the Youth team is a bit too good this time round, but hey. At least all their names make sense, and it gives me the encouragement to do something I didn’t have to do last year. I took the Big Name Players route last year. I have a feeling this could be the Year of the Youths.

Both newcomers are just 16, and both are already very accomplished players. GOMES is a versatile midfielder who plays anywhere, and VIVES is the same, with the bonus of playing at left back. Either can stand in brilliantly at LMF whenever Arcas is unavailable.

What of Milligan, the Youth DMF I brought in specifically in order to fill the gap left by Hettich? I said he reminded me of Duffy, the semi-legendary DMF/RB of ML history. I’m pleased to report that he’s so Duffy-like, I’m starting to believe he’s the new incarnation of Duffy. In the same way that Coutinho is the new Minandinho.

SPEAKING OF COUTINHO. After remarking in comments yesterday that he often flattered to deceive, he scored 10 goals in 5 games while on a glowing red arrow. Including this one — which was nearly the greatest long-range goal I’ve ever scored with a full-back (Marin, already attracting offers), but instead turned into a Coutinho tap-in:

Ach, I’ll get you next time, wondergoal.

Here’s my current table, after 14 matches played of Season 2:

PES2016 Season 2 after 14

Bad start aside, I think I’m in with a shout of promotion this year. League table scripting is presumably still part and parcel of Master League. All I have to do is start winning and drawing matches, instead of losing all the time, and the game will cooperate to move me up that table.

If goals start inflating out of control again, I’ll go back up to Superstar, and then if things get insane again, I’ll come back down to Top Player. I’m not bothered about constant back-and-forthing like some farcical 1970s sitcom. My aim is always to seek the optimum level of experience, not to out-macho the Internet. I’m in no rush to get out of the Championship. I’ve never been a first-season promotion man. It’s sometimes taken me 8 or 9 seasons. But if I do get up this year, I’ll be happy.

*Extra special kudos to anyone who can decode today’s post title.