Month: February 2017

The Long Season

I’m not quite at the end of Season 8 yet. Reason being, I’m still involved in European competition at the end of a season for the first time in PES2017. I’d forgotten just how much being in Europe elongates the season.

I’m two matches from the end of the domestic league campaign:Heading for a last-day decider and it’s ‘exciting’. The ‘quotes’ indicate my roll-eyes ‘appreciation’ of the huge dollops of table scripting that seem to engineer these types of run-ins more often than not.

Two matches ago I was 4 points clear, but then mysteriously lost my shooting boots. I drew against Spurs at home (1-1) and then was perplexingly beaten at already-relegated Fulham away (lost 1-0).

I say ‘shooting boots’ but I really mean ‘scoring boots’. I had 20-25 shots in both matches, half of them on-target. There was one farcical passage of play in the Fulham match that consisted of me taking a shot, seeing it saved, then winning the ball back immediately, working the chance, taking a shot, seeing it saved, over and over, for most of the first half. The veteran PES2017 player will know exactly the kind of fevered, relentless, churning gameplay I mean here.

I’m preparing for my forthcoming PES5 months by tuning up the PC it’ll run on. This requires playing a few matches of PES5 every day at the moment. PES5 is surprisingly zippy after all these years and its players also dart around at a surprising rate of knots.

This handful of warmup PES5 matches have refreshed my view of PES2017 and made me appreciate what the latter game does that’s good. I’ve always been dead-set against playing multiple different football games at the same time. And with good reason — so much of the way I play football games is about settling into a groove and staying there. But a groove can just as easily turn into a rut. Sometimes we need our perspectives reframed.

Which in turn isn’t to say that I’m suddenly happy with PES2017’s no-fouls, individuality-lite nature. Far from it. I’m just seeing what else it does that’s good, anew.

I’m through to the Europa League Semi-Final (above) after seeing off Everton 2-0 in the return leg of our Quarter Final – another mostly fouls-free, 1000mph affair.

The Semi-Final draw was interesting. I drew a made-up club called Verwestadt, and have the probably-dangerous feeling that it should be a stroll.

The other Semi is between Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. It should be an interesting final if I make it. I’ve already played the first leg against Verwestadt. I won it 1-0. The away goal is gold. It’ll still be a nervy return leg at my place.

And so onto Friday, when the whole of Season 8 will certainly be done with. And March will be well underway.

In the meantime, here’s a Houchenesque diving header from one of the undoubted pearls of PES2017’s Defaults, Jarvis:

Mr 15%

If it wasn’t for all those draws, I’d be out of sight by now at the top of this league.

Perhaps that’s the reason why I’ve had all the draws. The game keeping me in sight, keeping me honest, keeping me interested.

I should have won most of the 12 drawn matches, maybe even all of them. They were mostly matches with 15-to-20-plus shots on goal for me, but with either no goals or just the one goal to show. Wasteful finishing was undoubtedly part of the reason, but only goes so far as an explanation.

Anyway, with 6 matches now remaining, I hope to win the league title this season for the second time. The game always has the capacity to do a number on the human player, though. So we shall see.

I’m also in the Europa Cup quarter-finals. I will be doing my very utmost to win that trophy.

First because it’d make a most satisfying poor man’s domestic and European Double.

But second (and perhaps even more importantly) because I’ve rarely won the Europa Cup in PES since its first appearance in the series. This has always been the way with the UEFA Cup-type competition in PES. It’s only in one or two seasons that I qualify for it. The rest of the time I’m either outside the qualifying spots, or playing in the Champions League.

I’ve won quite a few WEFA Cups in PES down the years. Thinking back, I don’t specifically remember winning the Europa League since it arrived in PES, although instinct tells me I have done.

I’ve got Everton in the Europa Quarter Final – one of those falsely enticing all-domestic affairs that so often turn out to be plodding, sterile encounters, in PES and in real life. What’s the betting I’ll meet Everton in the league immediately before or after (or between).

I’ve been having some good sessions in the game over the past few days. Not great. The game only plays how I want it to approximately 15% of the time. ‘Playing how I want it to’ means fouls and free kicks in abundance. It also means a feeling that the players on the pitch are individuals, rather than more-or-less identical flies buzzing around a green rectangle.

That 15% figure has been plucked from the top to my head (or out of my ass, if you prefer). There’s nothing particularly rigorous or scientific about it.

How long has PES2017 got left? The fact it’s still going strong – and it is doing that – here in late February is very much to its credit, I think. They almost ripped the heart out of PES when they turned the focus toward online multiplayer. No-fouls is an abomination. No in-play injuries ditto.

But there’s still enough of a football game, and just enough of PES, left to have carried me through to here.

I’ll play the remainder of this season and at least 1 more season – Season 9 – for certain. I’ll see how I feel this time next season, a few from the end. There might be a Season 10, depending on the circumstances.

I got a goddamn penalty in a football game

Yes, I did. And the fact that it’s worth making the title of a blog post tells us something. Getting a goddamn penalty should be a routine, unremarkable element of a football game. But not in PES2017. It’s always an earth-shaking surprise – and that’s wrong.

I wonder if there are Call of Duty blogs that make a fuss about getting a headshot? Or driving games that feel the need to note every instance of a crash? I doubt that there are, because those things are intrinsic, regular features of those game genres that require no special mention.

But in the year 2017, our beloved Pro Evolution Soccer doesn’t do fouls, on the whole, and it also doesn’t do penalties, as a rule.

It was my 3rd goddamn penalty of this Master League campaign. I’m almost 8 full seasons in. 3 goddamn penalties is actually quite a lot. I’m privileged.

It came in the first leg of my Round of 32 Europa League match against Eintracht Frankfurt.

It was a barnstormer of a game that makes you wonder why they can’t be the norm. There were lots of fouls (well, 5 or 6, which is lots by PES2017 standards). There were yellow and red cards – and there was a goddamn penalty.

I savoured the moment. It’s my 3rd goddamn penalty of this ML. Let’s say I’ve played an average of 40 matches per season, for convenience sake. I’ve played about 7.75 seasons now. So that’s about 310 matches. I’ve had 3 goddamn penalties in 310 matches. That’s 1 every 103-or-so matches. Or 1 every 2.5 seasons. And I’ve got 3 more goddamn penalties than many have.

I believe I know why there are no goddamn penalties in PES2017. As I’ve mentioned once or twice, the game is now made entirely for online multiplayer, and coded accordingly. Think to yourself for a moment of how online multiplayers like to play. Now imagine that there were proper goddamn penalties in PES2017. And just imagine how many goddamn penalties there would be in a typical online match.

That’s right — every match would feature multiple goddamn penalties. They’d be nearly as frequent as throw-ins. Some matches would have 5 or 10 goddamn penalties. You’d get forum and Twitter chatter of ‘hurrdurr Pro Evo SO realistic with 20 [goddamn] penalties per match’ etc.

That’s the kind of thing they discover in early testing. Their solution? We’re living with their solution. No goddamn penalties. Hard-code the game to make it very unlikely, bordering on impossible, to concede a goddamn penalty.

And that’s the same solution we have to put up with in single-player.

I’ve run out of words to express how contemptible it is..

League update: I’m still in the top 4, still chasing the leaders. I’m a couple of wins away from the top. It’s February in my Season 8, as well as in this so-called real life.

You Cavalcanti always get what you want

I’ve played two long sessions since the last post. They were good sessions. Very good, at times. The quality of the matches was a consistent 7/10 overall, shading into 8/10 occasionally. So not quite hitting the heights of a few seasons ago, when PES2017 seemed so solid and dependable for session after session.

The sweet spot for this ML seemed to be when the squad level was a good bit lower than it currently is.

As my squad quality has crept up, fouls have all but disappeared, and the general pace has become unfortunately hectic most of the time. It’s all very well setting out with good intentions to play ‘proper’ computer game football, slow and steady, but when you’re 1-0 down and chasing the match (or 1-0 up and being chased), the pinball effect soon kicks in.

Mid-season came and went. As stated at the end of the previous post, I did not bring in any new players. I got a £15m offer for J MATHIEU, who in these individuality-lite days has of course failed to show anything other than his name on the teamsheet.

I took the £15m. My 26-man squad is now a 25-man squad. So that’s Mathieu gone from PES2017, never to be seen again. (But stick around. Mathieu will reappear on the blog in another guise later this year.)

I’ve had great results, leading to this:

Wth 12 matches remaining in the season, I think it’s more likely than not that I’ll challenge for the title.

I scored another non-first-touch long-ranger. Palacio was the man taking several touches before lashing the ball in from distance:

I think that’s 40 yards. Definitely at least 35 yards. But more like 40.

As for the placement, it’s from the daisycutter side of the long-ranger family, rather than the postage-stamp-corner side. But see how it sneaks in at the side of the post, after whipping around the blindly jumping defender. You see some amazing things in football games, even our modern-day, all-action, run-and-gun, perfect-first-touch, multiplayer-oriented sprint-em-ups. If they didn’t have this capacity to delight us with visual spectacle, we wouldn’t play them as often as we do.

Palacio does special things occasionally, but goes missing for multiple matches. The above was scored in the final match of my final session before writing this post. I’ll pick Palacio for the next match, but I doubt he’ll do anything.

That’s the pattern of individuality in PES2017, as far as I have seen it. Any player who does something special is effectively neutered for several matches after.

It’s happened to Cavalcanti, my most expensive signing and still my first-choice CF. I received an offer for him – £38m. I was slightly tempted for a moment. He’s not been good for me. Or better to say, I’m not good enough at PES2017 to get the best out of him.

I had my finger poised over the Sell button. But thought ‘I’ll just play this next match and see how Cavalcanti does’ – and he got a hat-trick. That’s what the image at the top of this post is all about.

What a player! I thought. Magnifico! I have found my Star Striker of 2017!

But then in the next 5 matches, Cavalcanti might as well have not been on the pitch. Nothing.

I’ve kept him, though. Even if I got somebody else, I think it’d just be the same.

I said last time that this season (8) and the next (9) could be my last on PES2017. There might be a Season 10. I think I would like a proper go at the Treble before bowing out, and when PES2017 behaves itself it’s a perfectly fine football game.

But do you hear that rumble in the distance? That’s the sound of the greatest football game ever made making its way ever closer to the blog. PES5 is coming, probably in April. I’m eager for it.