Month: January 2017

Vertical takeoff

After Season 7 hit the skids and the league was out of reach, I amused myself doing something that probably every football gamer does at some point. I amused myself playing with a few different camera settings. I alighted upon the Vertical camera. I played with it for about 10 matches.

PES2017 had started to feel a little stale and samey. That’s probably unavoidable when you play a single-player game that’s so transparently been created and calibrated for online multiplayer.

But a change of perspective can have a revitalising effect.

No, don’t worry, I am not about to start evangelising the merits of the Vertical Camera in PES2017. Especially as I’m currently back on the customary side-on camera. Why isn’t it known as the Horizontal camera?

Vertical camera has many benefits. You get to see your front players making runs in subtle ways that you simply don’t see in Horizontal, where they’re often off-camera.

On Vertical you always have all your players in front of you in plain view. Another advantage of this is that when defending, you can see where you’re playing clearance passes. So all those times you play blind clearing passes from defence that are intercepted, shouldn’t happen.

Shooting is wonderful.

There are slightly more fouls, as you tend to hold onto the ball for longer while looking for open teammates, and an aggressive AI will charge into you. I averaged around 3 fouls per match, instead of less than 1 on Horizontal. I even had a couple of high-fouls matches. There were no zero-fouls matches, unusually for PES2017, for me, which tends to be around 1 in 4 on Horizontal.

Here’s a two-minute highlights package of a few matches played using Vertical:

There are only a few real problems with the Vertical camera that prevent it being a viable long-term view for me.

First, the view tends to jerk about a lot. There’s an aura of manic speed about it that isn’t present in Horizontal.

Next, due to the white ball and the background, it’s sometimes hard to tell when the ball has gone into the net. I scored about 8 goals on Vertical. Half the time, the first real indication that I’d scored was seeing my players wheel away in celebration. A second or two later I saw the ball in the net.

I thought a bright yellow hi-vis ball would solve that problem, but surprisingly, there isn’t one in PES2017. Go and have a look if you don’t believe me. The various red and blue balls didn’t help much.

Another problem is in defending high balls. Aerial balls fired your way will fall without you having much of an idea where they’re falling. Radar is of limited help here. You end up just hoping there’s a defender in position and pressing X ‘blind’ to head the ball. Not very immersive. Too video-gamey for my liking.

Another issue is the out-swinging camera. I’m pretty sure ISS98’s Vertical camera didn’t swing out in the almost motion-sickness-inducing way that our modern Vertical Cameras do.

But all the issues aside, Vertical did indeed revitalise my PES2017 experience. I heartily recommend a similar experiment to anybody plodding through the sessions and wondering where the spark has gone.

And results are better too.

Vertical camera enabled me to find runners with more success. Results massively picked up. I strung together so many wins that the player-favouring Master League table script kicked in.

It only took a few wins for me to go from flirting with relegation to nuzzling at the edges of the European places.The Europa League is within easy reach. A Champions League spot is unlikely but not impossible. I’d need to win almost every match remaining, but we all know if I do my bit then the teams above me will lose and draw just enough to let me pass. The ‘helping hand’ script is not one of Master League’s greatest features.

Heres my full Season 7 Squad, with my starting First XI and current favoured formation:

That’s Cavalcanti alongside Canabal up front. Godwin is a loanee. This pic has been doctored in order to get my entire 25-man squad into one image.

A pretty good squad. Interesting, rather than formidable. Vardy and Payet are out on loan and will be back next season. Those two players will have several more full seasons to carve their names in my personal PES folklore.

The rest of the season isn’t a total write-off. There’s the Europa League and FA Cup to go for. And now that unlikely push for a European place via the league.

You trade your passion for glory

The season is a write-off in League terms. I’ve had another two 1-0 defeats at the hands of Everton and newly-promoted Norwich. These and other bad results have put paid to any remote chance of storming up into the European places.

I’m 7th from bottom. At least I’m a good 10 points clear of the relegation zone, so there are no real worries in that direction. Yet.

January came, and with it came the appetite for radical change in this ML.

Lobato was sold for £35m. Cassano was sold for £11m. He scored one of my favourite goals of this PES. But there was no longer any ignoring the fact that in about 4 seasons that was all he’d ever done.

I have two main hobbyhorses when it comes to PES2017.

One is the lack of fouls and free kicks in nearly every match. It’s a rare match, and I mean a rare match (1 in 15 or thereabouts), when there are more than 3 fouls shared between me and the AI.

The other hobbyhorse is a perceived lack of player individuality. It’s arguable that the passage of time has given me an imagination bypass, but I no longer see anything like a traditional PES-style individual player in the likes of Cassano & co. (far too many to name individually). They’re all just identikit, swappable clones of each other.

I brought in quite a few new players. There’s still two weeks of the January window left at the time of writing, and I have other players in mind. A world-class CB would be nice. So I’ll save the official Squad screenshot until Tuesday’s post.

I will reveal a few of the players now, though.

Ibrahimovic (or ‘Ibra’ as I will never call him) appeared in my Youths. I snapped him up straightaway.

Ibrahimovic appears in everybody’s ML Youth squad eventually, as far as I can tell. I believe this Says Something about the State of Pro Evolution Soccer.

It says that the focus is on star players and on fun. You know, fun. That thing that PES has always been famous for. Remember? Come on, surely you do. FUN! FUN! FUN!

We always used to say that. I don’t know about anybody else, but I was always going around in 2002 saying that PES was FUN, that I was having so much FUN, that every time I booted up the game it was all about having FUN.

ISS and PES have always been about fun. Just as we have always been at war with Eurasia.

PES was better when the only time ‘fun’ was ever mentioned was when we were disparaging FIFA.

Back then, you could get a player like Jeremy Mathieu (not a star name by any stretch of the imagination, despite a great career at some great clubs), and turn him into a superstar through playing with him match in, match out, season in, season out, until something rather special occurred.

That was PES5 and this is now. I’ve acquired Mathieu is many a football game since PES5, but it’s never quite been the same.

Stats are different, positions are different, and skills are different. In PES5, Mathieu played at DMF and had the celebrated Middle Shooting skill, which made all the difference.

But let’s see what he’s like in PES2017.

I got him this time, despite him ‘only’ being a LB/CB/SMF. No DMF capability.

Yes, the game tells us that playing a player in an unfamiliar position will gradually get them used to it and turn them into it, but despite lots of experimentation I’ve not seen this ever work out in practice. In Seasons 1 and 2 I played the Default WF, Matthiessen, at AMF for dozens of matches without him ever ‘learning’ AMF. Much like injuries and AI team transfers, I think this aspect of this ML simply doesn’t work.

I’ve had my first taste of players refusing to sign new contracts. About 6 players all tried to rebel. I can only assume that my team’s newfound lowly status at the foot of the division has triggered this behaviour. Eventually I wrestled all of them back into line, save one: Darren Fletcher, we barely knew you.

One last surprising development. With there being nothing to play for in the league (apart from making sure I’m not dragged into the relegation mire), I’ve been playing with camera settings. We’re all prone to fiddling with the camera on occasion.

I alighted upon the Vertical camera, and gave it a shot again.

I last played regularly with a Vertical camera in a football game in ISS98. I have fond memories of dropping aerial through-balls behind the defence for ‘Michael Owenn’ to run onto.

I’ve not liked any Vertical camera since. But I played a couple of matches with it here, and really enjoyed them. The altered view alters the gameplay quite radically. You’re able to see all the intricacies of movement up front, and look to hit runners, etc. I don’t think it’ll lure me away from a traditional horizontal view, but it’s nice to have a change occasionally.

So many times, it happens too fast

To have any hope of advancing in the Champions League, I needed to win my last match in the Group Stage. It was against Lille, away, a tough match at the moment, with my league form right down around the Leicester zone.

I won the Lille match, 2-1. After racing into a 2-0 lead, I barely had a kick. The AI flicked straight into God Mode, playing in overdrive, harrying and hassling all my players. The AI got its 1 goal by doing to me what I so often do to the AI: sprinting at a defender who’s just received the ball from the goalkeeper, and snaffling the ball for a one-on-one chance.

I held on for the win, but had no idea what was happening in the other match. I waited to see how my players would react come the final whistle. They all sank to their knees in despair. The final table:

If Sevilla had beaten Myxomatosis, as they damn well should have done, I’d have qualified. But they didn’t so I haven’t. I suppose elimination is fair enough, having only won one match and played pretty poorly throughout.

There is a consolation – remember me saying last season that my then-shot at the Europa League was probably my one and only chance of this ML?

Well. Having finished 3rd in the CL group, I now head of course into the knockout stages of this season’s Europa League.

The draw for the Round of 32 has already taken place. I’ve drawn another made-up Konami team with one of those impossible names.

I’m quite content with this. I’m not going to get anywhere near winning the league title this season, so the Treble was never going to happen anyway. And it’s possible this really will be my last shot at the Europa League in this ML. I now have a new primary goal for the current season.

Here’s the league table showing how bad my form is, and just how far away I am from getting anywhere near the title:

Look at the state of that. We’re the reigning champions.

Here’s a short compilation of 4 goals, all of them from around the 20-yard mark, which are still rare enough in PES2017 for me to get excited about them:

A major highlight of recent league matches was a 3-0 demolition of Aston Villa. The latter 3 goals are the goals I scored in that match.

Two came from R JARVIS, you’ll note. I picked him in a fit of temper with Torres, who is nowhere near matching last season’s POTY exploits at the moment.

Jarvis scored two great goals, as can be seen in the vid (his second is indeed a 25-yard finesse shot).

But here’s the thing that irritates me about PES2017, and PES in general since 2014.

After Jarvis put in that barnstorming performance, of course I picked him for several matches in a row thereafter. And he might just as well have not been on the pitch for any of them.

Jarvis got those two wonderful, crucial goals in a big match. And then completely disappeared off the face of the ML earth,

He has continued being completely anonymous since. This is a definite pattern with PES2017, I have found. So many players feel like they have arrived. And then they go away again, become just another bundle of pixels like so many others. Individuality in PES always depended upon getting on a roll with your players – relishing their heroic performances from match to match

PES2017 – and PES2016, and PES2015 before it (Crouch excepted) – will not allow individuals to shine in a run of matches. The nerf hammer is always waiting to come down on any player who stands out, and once again, I believe the necessity to make sure the game is a viable online game (‘balancing’), is to blame.

Just a man, and his will to survive

Season 7 of Master League in PES2017. I won the League Title in Season 6. I am competing in the Champions League for the first time this season. I’ve got a squad of tough, skilful players. Maybe they’re not the highest-rated players I could possibly have, but I know what each one does and how they slot into the way I like to play. PES2017’s limited player individuality allows me that much.

Traditionally, this is the period of an ML when I’m consolidating and building towards my career-ending climax, whatever form that takes. And then I’ll wave bye-bye to PES2017, and be chomping on a PES5 sausage in time for supper…

Except PES2017 has other ideas.

My start to Season 7 has been little short of shocking. After 10 matches in the League, this is the table:The same old problem is affecting me – lack of goal-scoring. I have no trouble making chances, really. But I don’t score them.

I have played one of the best single matches I’ve played in PES2017. It was the opening match to the Champions League group, against my toughest opponents on paper, Sevilla.

It was at their place. I struggled form the start to cope with their aggression and skill. They were like 2004 Arsenal crossed with 1970s Leeds. It all seemed a proper step up from the Premier League routine.

Sevilla took the lead in the first half, and truthfully could have had 5. I offered nothing up front myself.

At half-time, I changed things around. Key to this was the bringing-on of a substitute, James Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has been a disappointment since I got him in mid-season of Season 6. In common with most PES2017 players, he feels like just another nimble online-friendly clone. His touch and turn and skills are all sadly near-universal in PES2017. He doesn’t stand out in any way.

But maybe it’s me, to a certain extent at least.

I switched from my beloved 4-2-2-2 to a 4-1-3-2, with those three midfielders all playing as AMFs and forming a spearhead behind the front two. The lone DMF would sit in front of the back four and help out up front when possible. It’s the same formation with which I played the whole of my recent PES2014 ML, to decent effect.

Rodriguez was the central AMF in the spearhead, and things felt different immediately. I made chances. However, the game spun on without me taking any of them, and it was looking like a 1-0 defeat, Until Rodriguez popped up with the equaliser. The screenshot at the head of this post captures the moment he leapt onto a loose ball and first-timed it into the net from 30+ yards. An exhilarating moment that felt deeply satisfying after my tactical tinkering.

It’s the first of 3 interesting goals in this video:

That’s yet another first-time long-ranger. Having scored a few now, I’m happy they’re possible at least. But now I want to know if non-first-time long-rangers (30+ yards) are ‘allowed’ on PES2017.

A word about the diving header seen at the end of the above video, and the player who scored it.

I’m on record as asserting that PES2017 is not the headers-friendly game that many PES folk insist it is. It’s simply not that way for me. The cross that led to the diving header is the kind I send in hopefully – and usually fruitlessly – 5 or 6 or 10 times per match.

This time, I saw Halilovic, playing as an SS in this moment in this match, making the run, and pressed rather early, with the outcome that can be seen. A wonderful 1987-style header. Coventry fans, bow your heads.

A few seasons ago I recall Halilovic being the particular target of my ire about PES2017’s lack of player individuality. I was going to sell him. I didn’t, and I’m now glad I didn’t. A pint-sized, skilful player with a weak shot who doesn’t score many, but often manages to surprise. Yes – I’m declaring Halilovic to be my Shimizu.

I’ve since played another three matches in the Champions League group:

Drawn two more, lost one. I’ll need to win my last two group matches to have any chance of progression. It seems I’ll have to win the competition to be in it again next season.

My League form is atrocious.

West Brom thumped me 3-0 at home. Man Utd thumped me 4-0 at home. This wasn’t how it was last season. This isn’t how it was meant to be this season.

One thing’s for sure. I won’t be walking away from PES2017 without having a serious tilt at the Treble. My terrible start to Season 7 means there’ll be at least two more seasons after this one, and probably more besides. PES2017, despite its well-documented faults (no fouls, no player individuality, poor ML environment), is hanging on in there.