In all the years I’ve been doing this blog, I don’t think I’ve posted quite as many screenshots of league tables as I have with PES2014. These league tables are always fascinating. Last season, attentive readers will recall, I became lodged in 4th place for almost the entirety of the campaign, and after a while the top 4 was so far above the 5th-placed team that we formed a mini-league all of our own, all the way to the end (which saw me finish 4th).
Well, here’s what might be shaping up this season:
That’s an 11-point gap to 4th. There’s three of us in our own mini-league. I really think I’ll have to win every single remaining match of the season, and hope Manchester City drop points along the way.
I was sweating on qualification from the Champions League group. This is the season where I’ve ‘set my stall out’, as commentators used to say, to win something. Already eliminated from the FA Cup, it’s now the League and/or Champions League, or nothing.
I breezed past Motherwell, which left me needing to beat Juventus to progress. At least I was at home, but home advantage counts for little in PES214 when the AI is determined to make life awkward.
It was a great game, steeped in meaning and dripping with importance, as only the best games in Master League are — and as only Master League can do, in my experience. I know that FIFA and Football Manager can deliver on this front too. Also other career modes in other sports games. But only Master League has done it consistently for me. This was one of those matches where the time invested/context generated dynamic of Master League really paid off.
I picked Dzeko for this one, Torres having been iffy recently, and Di Natale purple-arrowed. Dzeko has rarely featured for me at all since his arrival, a situation with a star name that often prompts a storybook-style outcome when he eventually plays.
My plan for the game was simple. An old standby of mine. Keep a clean sheet no matter what. I always fancy myself to score at least once, and as long as I keep a clean sheet, if I score, I’ve won.
And also: lay off R1. There is a strong correlation between hectic, out-of-control matches and R1 abuse, I’ve noticed. That applies to all PES games, of course, but to PES2014 in bucketloads.
A cagey start, with Juve gaining possession and mounting a dangerous attack, which I fended off, followed by a dangerous spell of pressure, which I withstood. I swept upfield and fed the ball to Joaquin on the left (he always plays on the left for me). Holding the ball up is a skill to acquire in PES2014, and one of the most common methods of losing the ball is holding it up too long while you wait for a runner to get into prime position. So with two Juventus players bearing down on Joaquin and no outlets in any direction, I launched the ball long — really long — in the direction of Dzeko on his own up front. It was him and a defender.
Here is where one of PES2014’s signature ideas came into play. Dzeko and the defender went shoulder-to-shoulder, tussling for the ball that was bouncing and dropping in front of them. Dzeko won the battle, and emerged in the penalty area with the ball at his feet. I aimed and shot past the keeper into the far corner. 1-0.
An expected phase of Juve dominance followed. I couldn’t get the ball, or keep it when I got it. Then something happened and I discovered something about PES2014 that I didn’t yet know. I burst into the box with Moritz, aimed at the near post, and pressed shoot. Alas, I’d been squeezing R1 — Pro Evo’s Original Sin — and it took some time for the player to respond. PES2014 will disregard inputs, or delay them massively, while you’re fondling R1. That’s just one of the rules of PES2014 and you can either like it or lump it.
Anyway, I noticed the keeper was covering the near post and there was little point shooting there. So while the shooting power bar was illuminated, and before my player struck, I changed the direction of the shot — aiming for the far post instead. The game kindly overrode my ‘banked’ instruction and the shot went in the changed direction, not the one I’d originally aimed in. Responsiveness fans would hate this moment, as they hated PES2014 in general, but I loved it. Let go of R1, people. Just let it go.
That was 2-0, and I’d have to be really careless to lose or draw the match from here. I added another midway through the second half to seal the result. 3-0. Qualified.