Month: September 2016

The Faraway Back Three

3rd-kit-hoodoo-brokenMost regular readers will know that I have a special fondness for the DMF position in Pro Evolution Soccer. My best experiences of this entire series have come in Master League. My best Master Leagues have always featured a standout DMF.

PES5’s Mathieu, naturally, is the lead example. PES5 has the best of everything.

But there’s also Prieto (also from PES5). Neeskens (PES2012). Coynborough (PES2013). Pizarro (PES2014). Plenty I’ve doubtless forgotten that’d have an honourable mention. Even Donadel from PES2008.

I struggle to remember individuals in any position from last year. But I do remember promoting a certain MILLIGAN from my Youths early on in PES2016. A very Duffy-like player, he was my first-choice DMF in that game for a few seasons.

He’s reappeared now in PES2017, albeit as a 32-year-old already at another club:

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160928131944But why even hang on for a young Milligan in my Youths today when I know I’ll be able to afford much better players more quickly? This non-dilemma addresses the great contradiction of PES2017. It’s far too easy to completely replace your entire starting squad very quickly.

It’s a great PES, like none we’ve seen arguably since the patched PES2014, or PES2011 (for the PES2014-phobic), but it persists with the same structurally weak ML that we’ve seen for the past few years.

I’m very tempted to institute House Rules for the first time in nearly 10 years (since PES2008!) to stave off an inevitable romp to a team of Galacticos in a few seasons. I dunno, though. Just thinking about it.

I welcome PES2017’s beefed-up fouling model. I never thought the PES makers would go even as far as they have done. It’s nice to have at least one match per session that finishes with about 3 or 4 fouls apiece.

My only wish is that the fouling dials could be turned up even more. Essentially, I’d like to see a football game where any tackle that doesn’t win the ball is a foul unless there is a clear and obvious advantage. 10 fouls per side would be about right.

‘But the game will be stopped every few seconds!’

Yes, that’s the point. We’d have to find ways to defend in football games that don’t involve squeezing three buttons and waiting for the game to win the ball back for us. The defensive technique I call sprint-clamping is still very much a thing in PES2017, unfortunately.

Here’s a decent goal I scored with Yankov, a goal that was notable for FOUR distinct reasons. First, here’s the goal:

And here are the reasons:

One, it’s possibly the first time I’ve beaten the AI defenders with an aerial through-ball. They usually get cut out.

Two, it’s the type of finish that used to be a PES staple for me in the PS2 days, but has become comparatively rare in all the games since. I do always notice when I get a ‘rifled from the corner of the area past the keeper into the opposite corner’ goal (that name won’t catch on).


Three, it was a rare instance of me doing the AI on the counter-attack. Catching the AI full-back out of position with Yankov – by no means the quickest player – was very rewarding.

Four, it was the VERY FIRST GOAL I had managed to score whilst wearing my 3rd Strip. I was beginning to develop a true footballer’s-style superstition about this kit. I was wondering if having the PES Chronicles sponsor logo plastered across the chest in such a self-regarding and masturbatory fashion had swaddled my digital players in bad karma or something. The Pro Evo equivalent of saying ‘Macbeth’. Glad I broke the goalscoring hoodoo, anyway.

So there’s a lot going on in that seemingly rather straightforward goal. It has multiple layers of meaning and hidden reward – the very essence of the appeal of Master League.

In the wider context of my progress, well, there isn’t a great deal. I’m only averaging 3 matches per day, due to real-life factors out of my control. That should settle down soon. You’ll see me cruising past in the fast lane to my customary 10+ seasons. Hopefully.

The Famous Five-Four-One

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I’ve zoomed through to the end of the January transfer window in Season 1 of my PES2017 Master League.

This year, I’m lagging behind a great many blog commenters, and behind PES players in general from what I can tell looking around the PESverse.

A sign, if a sign was needed, that there’s something unusual about this edition of the game, something that sets it apart from every PES since… since PES2013, probably. (We don’t count PES2014 when it comes to things like this, with PES2014 being something of an anomaly, as ever.)


I’ve settled in now, to the extent that I’ve set up my alt-formations accessible via D-pad. There they are visible on the right in the blog’s very first gif.

I spend most of my time, probably 98%, sitting on my starting 4-2-2-2 formation, which is really a 4-4-2 with a deep-lying DMF/CMF combo, and  two AMFs pushed forward. I switch to the alternative all-out attack and all-out defence formations only when there’s a critical need for either.

Some might not have realised that the ability to change formation on the fly still exists in PES2017. Now you have to press and hold the up/down buttons on the d-pad. I think this hasn’t been thought through, as it’s too easy to change formations accidentally whilst moving the ATT/DEF levels, and not notice you’ve done it.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160924165902There’s all sorts of management information concealed in sub-menus this year. In years past it was often difficult remembering who’s stayed and who’s gone. Now every season has individual in-depth records of transfers in and out. At last it’ll be possible to mentally reconstruct the entire story of a Master League career just by consulting a menu.

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I sold Arcas and also my ‘My Favourite Player’, Hettich. I did call him ‘the poor man’s Irjescu’, but he wasn’t doing anything. Not even the poor man’s Dodo. I picked up a certain CAMACHO on loan from a South American team. Is it the Camacho of late PS2-era fame? He’s got one goal so far, visible on the clip below.

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Here’s my current First XI and squad after the January window has closed. ZOZULYA is a vaguely John Hartson-like loanee. One goal so far, which is at the start of the clip below.

I am a slowcoach this year. Or is it that everyone else is playing with the kind of enthusiasm that hasn’t been seen in many a year? PES2017 is going down well.

It’s going down well with me too. I  can hardly dare to believe that this is all really true. When I played PES2014 earlier this year, I made a great fuss of saying that we’d never see its like again. Well, a few wrinkles aside, there’s a chance that it’s here. PES2017. Who’d have thought it?

Oh, I haven’t picked up this player yet:

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If he’s still in my Youth team at season’s end, I probably will.

I’ll end with a short video showing that ZOZULYA fellow getting his debut goal thanks to a snatch-and-breakaway. PES2017 is the sort of game where that kind of goal is a highlights-worthy one. I love it.

There’s also my first penalty kick in open play in over two editions of PES. PES2015 and PES2016 didn’t give me a single penalty in about 1400+ Master League matches between them. I’ve finally got one in 20 matches on PES2017.

No, I don’t like the way I win the ball back just before the penalty at 1:12 with a cheap sliding tackle. That’s pure arcade action, pure PES2016, right there. The fewer echoes of PES2016 there are in this game, the better. I’ve been cringing at the many reviews of PES2017 that start out by saying what a leap forward for the series PES2016 was. No, it wasn’t.

6th from bottom. The worst goal-scoring record in the division. Love it.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160926124408

The Volley of Adventure

pes2017-the-burning-wallApproaching mid-season of Season 1 of PES2017. Leicester eliminated me from the FA Cup in what was probably the single greatest match of PES2017 so far and, apart from many excellent matches on PES2014 and PES5 over the past 6 months, my best PES experience for a calendar year or more.

It’s still too early to call PES2017 a success or failure, in my view. Two seasons of Master League, minimum, will decide that.

One thing’s for sure: when this game plays well, this is the best PES since PES2012. When it throws up a duff match, however, I often find it unpleasantly reminiscent of PES2016. So I’m wary in case that becomes the dominant note over time.

the-speed-nerf-2017The Defaults are the worst since PES2013. Look at that Speed profile for the formerly-not-bad Yankov!

I’m happy that Castledine is white now. No, don’t take that out of context. I’m happy Castledine is white now only because he’s so rubbish and it would have been a betrayal of last year’s black, good Castledine. There.

Encouragingly, goals are at a premium, which means that great goals are too. Scarcity breeds value. I’ve only scored two of any note so far. The Hettich long-ranger from Tuesday’s post, and this one here:

Context: I’m 0-1 down at home to Rotherham, and I really want to get back into the match before half-time. I switch to full-on Attack. And what an effective re-introduction of ATT/DEF switching this has been in PES2017, by the way. You can park the bus or sound the trumpets as you please. If you’re not using it, you’re not really playing the game.

I also initiated one of my preset tactics, Attacking Fullbacks. This doesn’t simply push your LB and RB up the park, but right into the box, PES2011-style. Giorza was a star of PES2016, one of the few bright spots individually, and is shaping up to be the same here.


I’ve got no transfers lined up for the imminent window. I’ll look around when I get there. I’m just enjoying the game, and letting the menus look after themselves for a while. I want to be playing right now.

I have adjusted Training to make sure each player is getting the right focus. And made a retro-ish Coventry 3rd kit using a very handy online tool.

Where is PES2017 with me at the moment? It’s high in my esteem, but I’m watchful. I think that’s how most people feel who felt that PES2016 lacked too much.

I can’t shake off a feeling that Konami have pulled a sleight-of-hand trick regarding the great single-player AI fouls issue. An issue that only exists, remember, because online multiplayers don’t like their button-mashing trance states to be interrupted. The game is accordingly calibrated to observe a very liberal fouling threshold, with the principal side-effect for single-players being that there have been few AI-committed fouls, or none, for a couple of editions now.

Pre-release, I had a theory about what would be done with fouls. I hoped it was a daft theory. My daft theory was that PES2017 would be scripted to give us poor single-players a match with plenty of fouls every once in a while, but that the majority of matches would remain fouls-lite (or even fouls-free) in the style of PES2016.

So far, I really hate to say, everything I’ve seen supports my daft theory.

I think I’ve got a handle on how it works now, and here it is: in a sample of about 6 matches, 1 match will feature a good, high (proper) amount of AI fouls. 4 of the matches will feature a token one or two AI fouls, as per PES2016. And the remaining 1 match will feature no AI fouls at all — literally zero fouls. Even PES2016 would rarely do that.


We’ll see how things change along with the ever-changing contexts in Master League. But my strong feeling is that this is how things are for me and my playing style. Low-fouls will remain the dominant theme for most matches.

Could I live with that? Yes. Yes, and I’ll consider it a good deal, if the gameplay/ difficulty otherwise holds up. That’s the major worry.

Fouls are something of a personal hobbyhorse for me, perhaps largely because they were such an essential motif in the symphony that was PES5 — the game that was, is, and ever shall be, the greatest football game ever made. I derive all my expectations of what makes a great football game from that template.

Which is a hard burden for the likes of PES2017 to bear. But as many a PES since PES5 proves, I’ve got used to setting expectations to one side if the overall package delivers.

Oh, I’m 4th from bottom of the table, with the worst goal-scoring record in the division. I think it’s safe to say there ain’t gonna be no Season 1 promotion in this one.

Master League 2017

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919111328

PES2017 acquired: check.

Exhibition/Tournament ‘getting-to-know-you’ matches played: check.

Sumptuous Option File installed: check.

Master League: commence.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919003033

First, I put the finishing touches to my hybrid Option File installation. No matter how fiddly and frustrating this might be, figuring it out and then finishing it is always a strangely satisfying task.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919003848

Then I edited PES United into Coventry City. I’m not impressed with either of the 2016-17 kits. There’s a grand tradition in particular of terrible Coventry City away kits. 2016-17’s away kit is one of the worst.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919110156

There were other odds and ends I could have added, but didn’t. The Portuguese League. Celtic and Rangers.

Without wasting any more time, I got going. You can spend so much time setting up that it creates a peculiar sort of anxiety about whether you’re truly ready to begin. Down the years I’ve always leapt into Master League with the paint still drying on the figurative walls. The experience is usually all the better for it.

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How considerate of the PES2017 makers to make the Default formation exactly the same 4-2-2-2 formation that I use. The only difference being that instead of two DMFs I like one CMF and one DMF.

I offloaded a load of players whose names I don’t remember now. I bought two players – a goalkeeper, STRAKOSHA (68OVR), very solid so far; and a LB/AMF, BABANCO (72OVR), both on free transfers. I’m eyeing the wages/salary budgets with caution, remembering financial brushes with disaster in many a Master League of years past.

I poked around in all the new parts of Master League. I don’t think the various innovations that surfaced last year realised their full potential. Perhaps they were hitched to a football game in PES2016 that didn’t really do them justice. There wasn’t much incentive to toil through the menus to expand the margins of performance when just about every single player was a high performer.

It’s too early for me to say anything more about PES2017’s Training except to welcome it back and acknowledge that I know it’s there. We shall see what it actually does in practice. I like the look of the position retraining, needless to say.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919114107

Since when has Castledine been white? I’m calling this Casteldinegate.

This is quietly one of the biggest scandals ever to engulf a computer game, and precisely no one will care about it but me.

Castledine in PES2017 is the latter-day avatar of the Castello-Castolo-Cinalton-Castledine entity.

Whatever you think about The Myth Of Castolo, there’s no denying that he has – and deserves – the status of ‘iconic’. One thing each instance of this Eternal Champion has had in common is that they’ve all been black. I’m not going to be laying down in the middle of an airport runway in protest, but the whitening of Castledine seems a strange, pointless, self-defeating move. Castolo is as famous and celebrated as Master League itself. He’s locked deep into the lore. Why is he suddenly not black anymore? Could it be an oversight type of mistake?

Coutinho(CF) and Arcas(SS) are good enough for my front two. Will they match up to last year’s stellar pairing that bore those names? Do I want them to be as good as last year’s?

NO, is the short answer to that question. I do not want any echo of PES2016 in this game at all. PES2017 will stand or fall according to how unlike PES2016 it is. (I’ll say again that I don’t think PES2016 was a bad football game. It was a good game of computer football. But it was definitely a bad Pro Evolution Soccer game. There’s a difference, and it’s a telling one.)

Straight into the action, and I opened with a creditable 0-0 draw against Reading. Chances were very few and far between. I still find myself automatically trying to use last year’s routes to goal, which are happily blocked off.

Classic Players ON

The only real blot on PES2017’s landscape right now is that I don’t find there are as many fouls and free kicks in Master League as there were in Exhibition and Tournament games. Which is a staggeringly stupid thing to happen, if you ask me. I believe that as my team improves, and as the seasons roll by and stakes increase, fouls and free kicks will naturally occur, as they occurred in other modes.

But still… I will remain worried until I start to see the fouls in Master League. Konami is perfectly capable of pushing out a PES game with what it thinks is a crowd-pleasing absence of fouls in the most popular mode(s).

It’s significant that we’ve yet to hear much by way of moaning from the online players. If they were having fouls in the quantity that they should be having them, we’d have heard the wailing from within a soundproof room at the bottom of the ocean. But there’s a strange silence. Which indicates to me that there are still few fouls online.

There’s a lot at stake here. Fouls and free kicks enhance a football game’s gameplay, rather than diminishing it. They enforce a kind of seriousness that used to set PES apart from the herd. They need to start happening, in numbers, and soon, or the fabric of the gameplay that looked and felt so good in Exhibition and Tournament, will be fatally undermined.

PES2017 feels very much as if it’s the series’ last chance to hang onto itself, if that makes sense. i don’t want Pro Evo to disappear down the fast-flowing-arcade-fun-bullshit drain that it’s been circling for a year or two. It might already be too late to stop that happening. On the PES forums lately, I hate how PES is occasionally referred to, in passing, as the game that ‘was always fun’.

No, it definitely wasn’t. And I can prove it too.

Hop into the nearest DeLorean. Go back to 2004 or so. Ask the average FIFA fan of the year 2004 if he thinks PES is fun. A scornful laugh will be your answer. FIFA players back then hated PES – because it wasn’t fun. PES was hard work to them. Then double-check this finding by asking the average PES fan, in 2004, if he thinks PES is fun. A scornful laugh will be your answer. We loved PES because it was a lot more than ‘just’ fun. A whole lot more. This paragraph contains the most truth about PES that I know how to express. I’m scared about how easily it’s starting to be forgotten.

This post has turned out to be a lot more hand-wringy and ‘State of PES’ than intended. This is because there is potential in PES2017. Big potential. If this game flowers as it might, PES might just have saved itself from the fast-flowing-arcade-fun-bullshit drain that I mentioned.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919184053Table. A nice spread of results.

I knocked Brighton and Hove Albion out of the Cup with this fine goal, which I’m thinking of as my first long-ranger of 2017:

Hettich with the strike. Hettich has always been the poor man’s Irjescu.

I’ve scored a pleasant range of other goals as well, all bread and butter types. No worries there.

You get a feel for how sturdy a football game is pretty quickly, and my feeling is that this AI, defensively at least, is a decent one. Up front, things are also encouraging.

So Master League 2017 is up and running. As Peter Drury remarks in his opening day spiel, a rollercoaster is getting underway.