Month: May 2016

A fourth to be reckoned with

Season 10 has come to an end. I finished in… 4th place.

I can never remember a season like this one on any Master League in any edition of Pro Evo in all my years. I went 4th after 10 matches and… just stayed there. It was before the end of April when I went 4th. It was mid-May when I completed the season. I never moved.

The final table:

PES2014 Season 10 final table

I know where I tripped up this season: performances against the big boys. In the 6-pointers against the teams above me, I only took 1 point off Manchester United, 3 points off Chelsea, and 3 points off Manchester City. If I’d taken all 6 points off at least two of the teams above me, I’d almost certainly have won the title. Duly noted for next season.

I’ll be in the Champions League next season. I have decided that my entire Pro Evo heart and soul now rests upon securing some form of silverware from Season 11. That means either the League, the Champions League, or the good old FA Cup. If I don’t win at least one of them, I’ll be very very disappointed, to say the least. The time has come.

And I would love it (‘just love it’) if I could get a Double. Or a Treble…

On the shopping list for pre-season is the best-rated goalkeeper I can find and a similarly high-rated defender or two. I’m happy with my midfield and strikers.

Robbie Keane finished as the overall Player of the Season, but puzzlingly finished rather low down in the lost of top strikers. As ever, Master League moves in mysterious ways.

PES2014 Season 10 top scorers

I only had two players in the Team of the Season — the aforementioned Keane-o, of course, and also David Pizarro, scorer of my favourite PES2014 long-ranger so far, and DMF extraordinaire:

PES2014 Season 10 Best XI

Overall, a good season that I ended up enjoying because of the mysteriousness of being held in 4th place, rather than despite it. I keep saying how peculiar PES2014 is. This holding-me-in-fourth thing was one of the most peculiar, like a school bully with his outstretched palm on your forehead while you pointlessly windmill your arms at him.

I didn’t score any notable goals in the run-in. Most PES2014 goals are unremarkable, really, or better to say that the remarkableness of them arises from how you stitch them together and/or the contributory mistakes made by the opposition (like most goals in so-called real life, of course).

I did have this moment that was eerily lifelike — when a goalkeeper chases a loose ball and strands himself:

Not so realistic was the inevitable way I hit the post while the goal was gaping. Pro Evo has always protected its errant keepers in numerous ways.

Onto Season 11. It might be my last season on PES2014, but somehow I doubt it. If I get a Treble then, yes, I might walk away. But I can’t see the game allowing things to be that simple. More than any PES in history, this one definitely has a mind of its own, and definitely is out to get me.

 

As idle as a painted Master League team upon a painted ocean

And still it continues — day after day, day after day…

PES2014 Season 10 after 31

I can’t remember when I first hauled myself into 4th position in the table this season. It was a good while ago. I’ve been there ever since. 4th. I’ve been 4th forever, it feels like.

At one stage, while 4th, I won about 6 or 7 matches in a row. In any other edition of PES a run like that from a position like 4th would have soon seen me securely ensconced in top position. That’s the nature of the league table scripting we’ve become accustomed to in Master League over the years. Do well enough and the script will kick into action, and the teams above you will obligingly move out of the way to let you get past.

It’s not happening in PES2014. The game that has to be different in so many ways, turns out to be different in this way too.

At this stage of my season — Season 10, remember, Season 10 — with just a relative handful of matches left, I doubt the game will suddenly roll over for its tummy to be tickled. So it looks like I’ll miss out on silverware this season — again. At least I am guaranteed a Champions League spot and should have an interesting Season 11.

There has never been a PES like this one, and probably never will be again. PES2017 might stun and shock the football gaming world with a turn away from the arcade values embodied in PES2016, but I doubt it. There’s a market-led impetus to football gaming now. So I’m enjoying PES2014 like a dusty old poem found in an attic.

Despite my frustration over being marooned in 4th spot for most of the season, and the lack of anything like silverware, I remain on the up-and-up with PES2014. The overall quality of the experience, session to session, continues. The needle hovers somewhere between an 8/10 and 9/10 experience, occasionally shading above and below that range with various things that happen. But the median experience rating is around 8.5/10. Whatever happens from here, PES2014’s cult classic status is assured with me.

I still wouldn’t elevate PES2014 above the likes of, say, PES2012 or even PES2010, both games that I enjoyed more, for different reasons. PES2014 is more or less out on its own in a parallel football gaming universe.

Enough of my Theory of PES. There’ll be quite enough of that sort of thing between now and October…

You can feel it, can’t you? Just a few weeks left to June. Just over a month to Midsummer’s Day. Blink and it’ll be August. PES2017’s pre-pre-release murmurings are starting to become audible.

A two-Legia affair

Another clutch of matches on PES2014, Season 10, and I crashed out of the Europa League.

As nearly always happens for me in Master League’s European competitions, I sailed through qualification, topping my group by a comfortable margin, only to dash myself on the rocks of the first knockout hurdle.

Legia Warsaw were the opponents, and things looked good when I took a 2-0 lead at their place in the first half of the first leg. Two away goals, 2-0 up, job pretty much done already, I thought — and I definitely relaxed.

By the middle of the second half I was 4-2 down. The match ended that way, but I still felt confident about the return leg at my place. All I needed was a 2-0 win and I was through.

So when I was 2-0 up at my place by the middle of the first half, I felt I had the tie in the bag. Deja vu all over again.

Midway through the second half, Legia Warsaw got a goal in farcical circumstances. The AI keepball script was running at its maximum. This is the overt spell of any game where the AI is in maximum overdrive, chasing every pass and covering every space, which would be fine if your own players’ abilities to play simple passes wasn’t mysteriously compromised.

The score with 20-odd minutes to go was 2-1 to me on the night, but 4-5 to them on aggregate.

No matter, I thought. Still enough time to get that one more goal I needed to go through on away goals.

But a familiar old PES problem reared its head. Whoever programs the AI logic at PES HQ has never programmed the AI to react correctly to changing situations in a two-legged cup tie. The AI still thought it was 2-1 down. Its keepball script never let up. I didn’t concede again, but I almost never touched the ball again. I had one chance late on that hit the post. That was the end of my Europa dream for the season, and probably for PES2014 as a whole.

I’m pretty much certain to qualify for the Champions League next season. I’m not sure there’ll be a season 12 of PES2014, and even if there is one, I hopefully won’t be in the Europa League.

PES2014 Season 10 After 25Slightly happier times in the league, where I’m digging out the results on by one, and managing to stay in touch with the leaders.

We’ve started our own mini-league of four teams, with that ten-point gap between myself and fifth-placed Arsenal. I seem to have been in 4th place for most of this season. PES2014 is a weird game and is entirely capable of just holding me there until the end.

I’m scoring lots of long-range goals this season. 20-25 yarders are now so common that I don’t bother making a fuss about them. 25+ yarders remain relatively rare, compared to previous editions of the game, but I do now get at least one of these per session, on average.

I posted one in comments over the weekend that some readers may have missed, so here it is again:

Another first-time shot, you will notice, like all the previous ones I’ve posted. And I do keep trying them. That’s one of the crucial factors with PES2014 and long-range shooting.

EDIT: And I scored another one in the morning session literally minutes before this post was published:

This one is notable for it NOT being a first-time strike. It’s a classic PES distance strike from a cleared corner with Pizarro popping up in the area I call the ‘DMF hole’, taking one, maybe two touches, and then walloping into the corner from 30 yards or so.

Reyes and shine

Season 10 is determined to furnish me with the exciting experience of being part of a cluster of teams all in with a realistic shout of winning the title. The table after 22 matches:

PES2014 Season 10 after 22

I lost another match in suspicious circumstances — but Chelsea also lost their corresponding fixture, keeping the gap between me and the #1 spot at a nice, neat, manageable 7 points. I play the new leaders, Manchester City, next in what should be a tense 6-pointer.

I’ve passed through the January transfer window. I didn’t really need any new players, I felt, but I had a mooch through the list of newbies anyway. One of PES2014’s most oddly endearing features is the effect of a glitch whereby retired players are reborn aged 16 with all their stats intact. I’ve picked up 4 or 5 such players over the seasons. They vary in quality, it has to be said.

This time I was more than happy to sign up a 16-year-old Edin Dzeko. I shipped out a couple of lesser players, taking my squad down to a lean, mean 22 players.

I’m still in the Europa League, remember. Silverware this season is a must. I’m parched for glory.

I’ve started scoring lots of goals like this one — Dzeko finally getting on the scoresheet here, after a quiet opening few matches:

Those sorts of goals are standard PES fare, really, but they do remain elusive in PES2014 until (as my working theory runs) your team as a whole exceeds a certain average threshold in stats. Which doesn’t make any sense, of course. In real life, lower-league players are just as capable of hammering one in from 25 yards as any of their big-league brethren.

Here’s a short clip featuring three more memorable goals — in order, the scorer is me, the AI, and then me again:

Sorry for the strange jerkiness of the video there. I allowed YouTube to stabilise my shaky handcam, and that was the result.

And sorry for the lower visual quality as a whole of all my clips at the moment. It’s because of the sun shining. This week’s grudging appearance of spring is playing havoc with my phone camera. I could shut the curtains for each recording, but I’d rather not.

The first goal above, from Di Natale, is probably the narrowest-possible angle from which you could score in PES. I’d wanted to half-volley the floated through-ball first-time, but the game decided to take a touch.

The second goal was scored by the AI, later in that same game. It is the best AI goal I’ve had scored against me in PES2014, and one of the best ever. The commentary lines indicated that it was a shot, not a cross-shot that drifted in. I was impressed.

And finally a rare direct free kick from me, scored with Deco. The first replay or two indicate a possible deflection from the wall, but the final view shows that, no, there wasn’t one. In PES2014 you get plenty of free kicks around the box, at least 1 or 2 per match, sometimes 5 or 6. Few of my attempts even trouble the keeper, never mind go in, so I was pleased with the outcome here.

PES2014 marches on. I’m still floating in the upper levels of enjoyment. Life with this game is good for me right now. Playing the right football game at the right time is an important aspect of my daily contentment. There’ll be at least another full season of PES2014 after this one, taking me into June, and then I’ll see what I want to do.

The other morning I fired up the PS4 and played PES2016 for the first time since… When was the Euro DLC released? End of March I think.

I only switched on the PS4 because I’m a PS+ subscriber and Tropico 5 is free this month. While it was downloading, I noticed the PES2016 disc was still in the drive, so I thought, yeah, why not. And had a few matches.

It felt good. PES2016 is a good game. It’s absurdly arcade-oriented, of course, arguably the most arcade-oriented PES ever — a positive as well as a negative.

But the shooting is great, the general feel is solid, and the graphics and loading times are, of course, a real treat after being back on PS3 for the last few months. My end-of-year review will have to be no higher than a 7/10 (because no-fouls football is completely unforgivable), but it’s still not a bad game.

Anyway I scored one noteworthy goal, a stylish first-time strike from Reyes, and uploaded it for old time’s sake: