Month: March 2016

This Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore

Heading towards mid-season of Season 9 in PES2014, I’m starting to feel myself in that uneasy betwixt-and-between zone when it comes to difficulty levels. I’m still on Top Player, but quite often I’ll go one or two goals down and not feel that it’s a disaster. I always feel that I can quite easily come back for a draw or a win. And quite often, that’s what happens.

That’s a sign you’re starting to get a handle on a football game’s difficulty level and it’s time to think about moving up a notch.

I’ll see out the remainder of this season on Top Player whatever happens. It’s likely though that Season 10 will see me move up to Superstar.

Not that I’ve been having it easy on Top Player, you understand. I squeaked through the Champions League Group stage. My last match was against group leaders Juventus, with me needing at least a draw to ensure second place. I went 1-0 down early on, and no matter how much I battered the Juve goal, nothing was happening. In the 89th minute I played it simple: an Arsenal-style passing move that slipped in Joaquin for a one-on-one. I tucked it away nicely and earned the point that guaranteed second place. On the final whistle I made a throaty ‘grrrrrr’ sound and shook a clenched fist in the air.

PES2014 CL final group

As it turned out, 3rd-place Sevilla had lost. I could have lost the Juve game and still qualified. I wasn’t to know that during the match itself.

The draw for the first knockout round has taken place. It’s a toughie: Bayern Munich, with the first leg at home. Juventus gave me two tough matches at the group stage. It’ll be intriguing to see how Bayern Munich shape up.

In the league I’ve had a couple of the types of matches that I alluded to above. Matches where I mysteriously go one or two goals down, but eventually manage to come back for the win or the draw. Only sometimes I don’t. A horrible 0-2 defeat by Southampton at home means I’m still some way off the leaders of the pack:

PES2014 Season 9 after 17

But overall I’m happy to be in the vicinity at this stage of the season. I still have a faint chance of the Treble, I think. If a Treble does happen, would there even be a Season 10? Almost certainly yes, as I’m thoroughly enjoying the gameplay of PES2014, not just the ML story.

If I make the right purchases in the mid-season transfer window, I’ll definitely win at least one trophy this season. My super-Regen Robbie Keane has gone somewhat off the boil lately, so a top striker to step up during his lean periods would seem to be in order. I could also do with a truly world-class defender. The PES2014 AI is notable for its fondness for waltzing through my back line a bit too much.

Stop me Ifa you think Juve heard this one before

PES2014 Emre about to strikeWhen you get the better players, and as time passes, the different sorts of goals start to come.

That’s especially true of the types of goals that seem unlikely in the early seasons, when your players are low-skilled with poor technique. This is something PES2014 does very well, contrary to what many footy gamers think.

An oft-repeated but only partially true critique of PES2014 is that it’s ‘unresponsive’, whatever that’s supposed to mean.

Oh yes. I’m still trying to work out exactly what ‘responsive’ is supposed to mean in the lexicon of football gaming.

‘Responsive’, as an evaluation of a football game’s essential qualities, has become an automatic touchstone in the football gaming forums. ‘Responsive’, as a value judgement, is something that everybody is understood to understand and agree with. Everybody accepts ‘responsive’ as an automatic given, an automatic good.

It’s a shame that it’s nothing of the sort. ‘Responsive’ really is the new ‘organic’, i.e. just a generic footy gaming buzzword that roughly translates to ‘feelings that please me’.

‘Responsive’ seems, on the surface at least, to mean there should always be a 1:1 correspondence between controller input and on-screen action. The problem here is that no football gamer in his right mind actually wants that. For us to get the footy gaming action we crave, there must be a baked-in delay of response based on match context and player stats. Without contextual/stats-based unresponsiveness, we simply do not have a football game.

So nobody actually wants a responsive football game, but the forums are constantly demanding more and better responsiveness, and failing to notice the conflict between expectations. No wonder annually-released football games are somewhat unpredictable. If I was a football game dev, I’d never listen to the fans. Never. I’d just go ahead and make the kind of game I wanted to play.

PES2014’s responsiveness is absolutely fine. There are no problems with responsiveness in PES2014. There  are only problems with player button-mashing. PES2014’s scale of responsiveness is the model upon which all good football games should be based. If you press a button or mash several buttons at once, then you are issuing commands to be carried out. You take the consequences. Simple.

Here’s a goal featuring first-time responsiveness in PES2014 – a lovely aerial through-ball that beats the defence, followed by a crisp first-time volley as the ball drops:

Aaah! In a game short on long-range action (woefully short, I must acknowledge), goals like the above are deeply rewarding.

As expected, the qualifying group of this, my first Champions League campaign, has proved tricky, with a few defeats and a draw making my progression far from certain. I need at least a draw in my last match at home to Juve to progress. They’ve already won the group.

In the league, I’ve yet to shore up the leaks, but at least I’ve started scoring again. My best result was a 4-0 thrashing of Bolton, featuring a Robbie Keane hat-trick.

PES2014 season 9 after 14

Here’s a fairly common sort of PES2014 goal – one you can have success with a lot early on, but becomes rarer as time passes:

That is a rare example of an R2 goal from me. The AI nearly always leaves gaps to exploit from corners and free kicks around the box.

That’s my right-back, IFA, a sturdy Default, curling the ball in off the post with his vastly weaker left foot. Sometimes in football games, the disbelief has to be suspended from a greater height than usual.

Juve got everything now

Season 9’s league campaign has taken a sizeable wobble, and I love it. Only 6 matches gone, so no panic yet, but here I am in 12th:

PES2014 Season 9 after 6

It’s a general dip in form and heart. Keane’s goals have mysteriously dried up. I only had a vague hope of being able to challenge for the title this season, so I’m not too fussed about slipping 7 points behind the leaders. I’d like to stay in touch with the chasing pack though.

In my Monday morning session I played the greatest single match of PES2014 so far, and scored my favourite goal of PES2014 in that same match. More on that to come.

In Friday’s post I mentioned off-handedly that playing the big boys in PES2014 seems to mean something. What I meant is that team individuality is ably represented in PES2014. You really do know when you’re up against one of the bigger sides.

Historically in PES, I’m quite easily pleased when it comes to team individuality. All I ask is that playing Barcelona is qualitatively different from playing Bolton.

Juve lineup Season 9

I started my Champions League group matches. I beat Fenerbahce 2-0 at home. My next match was against Juventus away. This was the match that gave me the best single match of PES2014 so far and my favourite goal so far.

I took an early lead, which Juve promptly responded to — straight from kickoff, naturally — to make it 1-1. Then they scored again to make it 2-1 to them. About 20 game minutes had passed at this point.

I felt really up against it now. It’s not straightforward to come from behind in PES2014. This is a pretty tough football game. Stitching together coherent attacks takes time. It’s very rare you can spam-pass your way through on goal.

So much in real football happens off the ball. Players make runs, drag defenders away from space, create space, etc. I’ve read a third of Jonathan Wilson’s tactics books and I know what I’m talking about.

PES2014 seems to operate the same way. So instead of spamming one-twos to create openings, you to put together one-two-threes. Or even one-two-three-fours. The AI teams hold their shape admirably well, challenging you to do the same when they’re attacking.

Back at the Juve game, 2-1 down, I toiled away fruitlessly until the middle of the second half. Nothing happening. Keane just a passenger. (I swear these dips in goalscorers’ form are hard-coded, but what of it? Suspension of disbelief and all that.)

Then I scored a rare header from a cross. Wonder of wonders. 2-2 with about 15 game minutes left, I thought, I’ll bloody take this.

But then I scored my favourite goal so far in PES2014. A first-time shot, no less. Both of these goals show that headers and first-time shots are possible in PES2014. I’m inclined to think that the deciding factor for first-time headers and shots isn’t just button-press-timing-centric, it’s individual-centric too.

Here are the goals — both worth a look for the curious:

I really do love that second goal.

Sadly, my 3-2 lead was to last approximately 30 seconds. I recovered possession from Juve’s kickoff, and with about 5 game minutes left decided ‘right, no more buccaneering raids forward, I’m shutting up shop here’.

Cue a misplaced pass between two of my defenders, and Juve’s star man, Berbatov, ran through and tucked away their equaliser.

3-3 it finished. I didn’t think it was a fair result. You expect to take all the points if you score 3 goals away from home. The group table:

PES2014 Season 9 CL group after 2

What a match it was. As so often happens in Master League, it encapsulated the very essence of why I play football games. And also why that football game, more often than not, has to be called Pro Evolution Soccer.

I heart Heart

PES2014 Season 9 early doors

Season 9 of PES2014 has got off to a relative flier. Two wins and a draw in the League. Sailed through the first round of the FA Cup – an early-season match that always seems designed to trip up the unwary. I was wary, and played the tie – vs lowly West Ham – as if my life depended on not conceding. I beat West Ham 2-0 quite comfortably. The Champions League draw has taken place. Juventus are the team to watch out for, and in PES2014 that tends to mean something.

All in all, the stage is set for what should be a fascinating season. I’ll be happy with one trophy and a good run in the Champions League. I’d love a Double of some kind, and would be ecstatic with an unlikely Treble. My ‘PES sense’ tells me that I’m at least one more season from being ‘allowed’ to mount a challenge for all three major trophies. There are too many signs that the game still doesn’t want to let me ‘get away’. We all know what I’m talking about here. Any PES game tends to level up as you level up – but then once you hit a certain level, it seems to level down. It shows you its neck and invites you to sink your jaws in.

Transfer market. I said I wanted a top striker to go with Robbie Keane and a world class defender or goalkeeper. And any other miscellaneous others that take my fancy,

I swooped for another Regen wonderkid in the form of Nimeley. Yes, Kofi Nimeley. He’s only 23 in real life. But players retire early in the world of PES2014. My Macovshire just announced he’s bowing out at the age of 30. So Nimeley’s reappearance as a regen wonderkid isn’t that strange.

He’s straight into the team. Which means I have two wonderkids up front as my main strikers. Which means that this ML is by no means a standard sort of ML. That’s regrettable in one aspect, but in another, I find myself not being overbothered.

I also treated myself to Emre as a wonderkid. I think I could have got more, but PES2014’s inbuilt limitations brought a halt to my wheelerdealering until the January window at least. I did get one veteran player, Dasaev, in goal.

Here’s my Full First XI and Squad for the coming season (the first half of it at least):

PES2014 Season 9 Squad

PES2014 Season 9 with Heart

And here on the right is what that First XI looks like with Heart. Heart and Form, what they mean, and how they interact, is one of the big debates around PES2014.

It’s an open question as to whether Emre at CMF, for example, is a better player with a bright red glowing Heart and a blue Form arrow, than Mena at CB with a yellow chest and an orange Form arrow.

My personal impression is that Heart supersedes Form in PES2014, but I confess that it’s all about the feel of things with your own hands on the game over a long period. One of the most common critiques of PES2014 is that Heart was half-baked in various ways, and I do think that’s unfortunately true.

But still. It seems to work for me, and having most or all players with at least yellow chests and preferably red ones, seems to bring results more often than the Form arrows.