Islands in the Stremer

These early seasons on PES5 are providing me with some of the most joyless, tedious football gaming I can ever remember. I include all recent PES games in this sweeping, startling statement. Even the weakest recent PES game (PES2016), when it was tedious, was never as tedious as these early stages on PES5.

For those like me who have perched a halo on Classic PES/ML in general, and on PES5 in particular, it’d be a useful exercise to actually play a season or two with the starting Defaults, just to see what we’re not missing, frankly.

In recent years I’ve often scored individual footy gaming sessions out of 10. I would give my most recent PES5 session a grudging 4/10. And that’s being pretty generous.

PES5 is still the greatest football game ever made. I know this because I have recently played it in its fully-flowered glory, with an ML team that can actually do things.

But it’s been many years since I experienced the Defaults at first hand, and these early seasons are not a good experience.

If a PES game were to be released nowadays with this kind of early-doors setup, it’d be commercial and critical suicide. Master League would almost never be played.

Here is the league table after 4 matches of Season 2. Promotion this season is unlikely again:

When I started this PES5 adventure into the past, I declared that I would be completely open and honest about my experience every step of the way,

I’m on record throughout all my years on this blog as believing that PES5 is the greatest football game ever made. There was a danger I might soft-soap things now in order to preserve my memories.

That won’t happen, as I hope this post demonstrates. PES5 is still the greatest football game ever made. But after the initial warming glow of nostalgia has faded, the early seasons on Master League are a poor experience. There’s no soft-soaping that.

There are flashes of light along the way. Glimpses of the excellence to come, once the players start arriving. There are islands of relief in the unending toil. Moments and passages of play when you think ‘wow’.

The way the game is set up to punish the perennial R1-squeezer is absolutely sublime, and urgently needs to be restored – at least to the single-player game. Let the onliners just have permanent sprint set to ON if they like.

Shooting is on a hair-trigger. I remember PES5 as the best shooting that PES has ever had – I might end up amending that. A few times I’ve been clean through in a one-on-one (and how we miss them in PES, eh?) and tried to dink it past the keeper, only to see the ball dart many virtual yards wide of the post. Sensitive.

So the PES5 halo has slipped, for now. A probably necessary stage of this journey. It would have been peculiar if this had been nothing but a victory procession.

There’s no suggestion that I’m thinking of abandoning PES5. But things do have to pick up in the coming week or two.

I will have enough Points to pick up a couple of players mid-season. That will change things, I am sure.

Updated: 9th May 2017 — 10:06


  1. n-G – We’ve not seen a grind of a ML like this for long time and certainly never will again. I remember being up stupidly late convinced my ragtag team of no-hopers were about to turn the corner or that new tactics/formation would suddenly see me scoring a goal let alone winning a match.

    The fact I endured it with little to no shared misery with the likes of you lot on here seems strange now. I certainly couldn’t do it now. Come to think of it, PES 5 was the game in play when my son was a baby so I probably played it while up with him as he was a terrible sleeper.

    How does the ML as a mode compare to current gen PES? Better I bet.

  2. I can recall late night sessions where I’d delay my bedtime to stupid ‘O clock just to play the necessary games to get to the transfer which player I could sign. In fact I’m still viewing it with rose tinted glasses, reading this post and thinking “Na, it won’t be like that for me”

    Another thing I do recall is as soon as I could, I’d unlock A) The ability to set which teams were in what league and B) The amount of funds you started with.

    Does PES 5 have 2 different difficulty settings, one for gameplay and one for ML level?

  3. Shed — ML in PES5 is easily better than any since roughly PES2013 and after in terms of squad-building and baked-in restrictions on squad-growth. Approaching mid-Season 2 and with just 2 signings (one in each transfer window so far) wouldn’t be allowed to happen today. From that angle it’s easily the better ML, even without Training and so on.

    Mike — my big mistake was starting out on 6* difficulty (the equivalent of Superstar) like some kind of chest-beating macho man. I have never started on the top difficulty in any PES, and my experience has been all the better for it. I wish I’d started on 3* or 4* as I normally would. I wouldn’t be having these matches right now. You only get to change difficulties post-season in old-school PES, so I’ve missed my chance to do sp here, but if things stay the same I’m bumping it down to 4* after this season. Short seasons, so not long to go.

    There’s only one difficulty level. The unlock of the extra funds I performed an age ago, but I started with the normal amount of Points to spend.

    **Actually, I have a backup save from post-season 1 that I might revert to, and resume from there on 4* difficulty. Rather that than drag myself through the inevitable rest of this season. It’s a short summer and I need to crack on. I am 99% going to do this. Being on PC I regularly make backup saves and store them safe, in case of disaster (something we should all do, even on console).

  4. Hi,

    Good to see he blog still going strong.
    Quick question where can I pick up an option file for PES5 (PC) that includes the kits and badges for the season it was released and not a 2014/15 update version for example. I want to keep the teams and players from the year of release for nostalgia and also want no gameplay changes.


  5. n-G – Four star! That’s the most pathetic thing I’ve heard since you won the treble on Top Player!

  6. Metz — good to hear you’re still going strong too!

    The best resource for PES5 OF files is still the PES Gaming dedicated forum — PES5 section here. I can’t vouch for the health of any links you find in there, even if one is suitable, and don’t know where else you could get a day zero ‘badges, names and kits only’ OF.

  7. NG – I have to say I was surprised to see you go straight in on the highest difficulty. I have always felt that you need to acclimatise, especially after coming down from the modern easier games.

    Shed – I remember when the little fella was born as I had just started a player career on Fifa 10, when my wife’s waters broke.

  8. Cheers buddy I’ll check it out.

  9. that goals against column is the reason I would rate PES5 just below PES3 and 2012 in the all time hall of fame. Even with useless defaults and on 6* the AI never really attacks with any venom, so lots of drab 0-0s

  10. Seeing you write the word dink, did PES 5 have the tap r1 when shooting to dink the ball over the keeper? Not a full l1 chip but just a dink…

  11. My favourite PES is still 2011. Inspired by NG and his PES 5 exploits I put it on yesterday to see how I would manage with defaults on the top level. I couldn’t start with Superstar as it was locked, so had to start with Top Player. I was quite surprised with a win, a draw and two losses. It surprised me as I have always struggled on Professional as it is such a tough game. It never fails to surprise me how good it looks.

  12. Darryl, agreed (again, we were on the same page on pes 17 as well if I remember correctly. Coincidentally I booted 2011 up a while ago as well. A bit fast but still really, really solid. I think I played that one year round.

  13. #1 – I think we were very early on the same page with 2016 as well. I played last night on -2 gamespeed with 15 minute games on Wide camera. Much slower and more tactical experience. I do also have a Rangers career running as well that I bob back on now and again.

  14. Darryl – I’d so recently played 6* on PES5 with a mature ML team that I thought it’d be reasonably straightforward to restart with the Defaults on that level. Similar to how, if I were going to restart PES2017 now, it’s be on Superstar for the additional level of challenge. But old-school PES is a very different beast.

    abbeyhill – I find the AI matches your own endeavour too much. So the drab 0-0s are a product of my own lack of venom. As soon as I score, though, the AI slips into God Mode, as we called it back then. This has been a problem with PES AI for at least as long as PES5 to now.

    Pete – there’s no R1 dink in PES5 as far as I know. Maybe though. I’m ‘a bit Mike’ when it comes to special moves with the buttons in PES. I get by just fine without them, I don’t know them, and I don’t want to know them.

  15. Darryl – you’re right. Pes 2016 was my reintroduction to football gaming after having skipped two editions. The “goal feel” was exquisite in that game but no other pes to date had me gnashing my teeth so often! Fell apart very quickly.

    As for 2011 – almost tempted to have a look again. It really was a good one despite the stumble bug and other niggles. I even liked the menu and music.. Didn’t it have the Amsterdam Arena as well? Overall Presentation was better than current pes even.

  16. These posts got my mouth watering for an old style ML set up, so I have gone for 2009 in the end and picked it up for 50p. So far I have been beat 3-0,2-0 and 5-0 respectively. It is nice to have a smaller D2 set up. The tackling is getting some used to as I have already had two sent off.

  17. Lloyd — will have to watch your vid tonight again, but I assume it’s a PES2017 one. If I resume that’s game towards the end of the summer, it’ll be on your settings. Unassisted passing is the great undiscovered country.

    Darryl — PES2009, one of Shed’s favourite editions as I recall, and one of the great ‘dark horse’ editions of the post-PS2 era. (Other ‘dark horse’ PES editions: PES1, PES4, PES2015, and of course the mother of all dark horses, PES2014.) A relatively brief ML is its only glaring fault, which is what you want at this stage of the year anyway.

    #1 — ah, the old flip-flopping manoeuvre, a grand tradition of every late springtime. You and the others will go through several more PESes without sticking with one, then end up on This is Football 2002, and then just abruptly stop as demo season nears.

  18. I’ll have you know NG that I pulled off all manner of sweet flicks and tricks in 2017. Granted I didn’t know what I was doing and was just randomly smashing the left stick about but I did them all the same.

  19. n-G/Darryl – I can indeed vouch for PES 2009 as a rather forgotten gem of a game, as I remember it at least. I played that game so much that I really hated PES 2010 when it came out.

    2010 seemed like such a step away from old PES that it almost wasn’t PES to me. I finally gave 2010 another go late in the gaming year after extending my time on 2009 and grew to appreciate the change and – as I’ve said before – the sexy goal nets!

    I honestly can’t see any flip-flopping for me this summer other than on the pebbles down here in Brighton (groan). Fifa 16 is even better than I remember it.

    I’m actually enjoying the gameplay and noticing more player individuality than I’ve experienced in recent PES MLs.

    Some of this may well be down to presentation, CM narrative and cut scenes but, either way, I feel a real fondness for a good few of my Colchester crew. Currently just a couple of points outside the play offs in November of season 4. Pro difficulty, semi passing/shooting, no sliders.

  20. Having started 2009 on the highest setting with the defaults I’m now 8 games in and haven’t scored a goal. Yes they are a group of hugely underwhelming journeymen but I reckon the biggest reason I haven’t found the net is how accustomed I am to the introduction of the off the ball run. Until more recent nerfs of the triangle I used through ball and a press of on you go son to set up space and movement all the time. Here I’m receiving the ball in midfield and see so few options to create anything, its side pass, side pass, back pass,waiting for one of the useless lumpsto rumble forward. It’s a very Italian style of play for me, more recent pes’s have been more like we’ll score five if you get four.

  21. uncle turf – there is a dribble trick, not so much an exploit but one that’s let you beat defenders more easily. once I discovered that it was pretty smooth sailing from there on. i won’t spoil if for you of course.

    NG – definitely some flip-flopping yes. I’ve never done that before, ever. once PES was done the footy gaming year was done. back now on FIFA17..was flip-flopping between plopping Ajax , feyenoord and psv down in the bundesliga or premier league. have gone with premier league due to all the nice licenses. might as well go full experience if i’m going to FIFA.

    i will be flip-flopping later on of course to something else.

  22. #1 – I’ve done a fair bit of flip-flopping at this time of year myself over the years. There was a year not too long ago when I went from the main PES of the year (think it was PES2013) to PES5, to WE9LE, to PES2011, and then FIFA13. Or something like it.

    Uncle Turf – there is a particular dribble technique in PES2009, rather than a trick. It’s nothing like PES2008’s wonder dribble, but it does make life a touch easier. Not enough to spoil the game.

  23. After nine games on PES 9 I won my first match. Not felt a satisfaction like that from a footy game in a while. Looking forward to the negotiation window to purchase my first player.

  24. Darryl – calling PES2009 PES9 made me reflect on what the scenario would be now if PES had kept its original PS2-era naming scheme.

    Every PES would coincidentally bear the number of the year of its first appearance, rather than the following year. So PES2009 would’ve been PES8. PES2010 would’ve been PES9. PES2011 would’ve been PES10. Many people’s favourite PS3 PES game, PES2012, would’ve been PES11. And so on. Fast forward to today and PES2017 would’ve been PES16. I wish this had happened!

    The PS2-era numbers weren’t year-based but instalment-based. The significance of the name PES5 isn’t that it came out in 2005, but that it was the 5th game to bear the PES monicker.

    Looking back, the switch from PS2-style numbers, to the years with PES2008, was vastly symbolic of how PES was starting to pursue FIFA, and lose touch with its own values in the process.

    I’ll get a chapter out of all this in my future True and Authentick Historie of Pro Evolution Soccer.

  25. NG – Whilst playing this morning I had similar thoughts. I have always said I am a historic Fifa player as I used to play it for it’s realism. Now I crave the fantasy world that older PES games offer. It has been so nice these last few days, playing a mixed up small division 2 with points instead of real money. Once upon a time this would have put me off. Where PES went wrong IMO was trying to pursue FIFA as you say. But it was always going to be a poor relative. Why couldn’t they give people an option of playing a retro ML set up. This would have been possible. But where has chasing Fifa’s tail got them? It still is outsold by a ratio of 40:1. I wonder how things would have been if it stuck to it’s chore values. I know I haven’t said anything groundbreaking here, but that is what we all do and rehash old thoughts and ideas.

  26. An absolute belter from Adruiz at the end. He’s getting better as he gets older. Just like in real life. Boom!!

  27. Is there room in these ML-lite times for an LMA Manager type title? I doubt it due to Fifa’s more involved scouting/transfers but some sort of halfway house twixt PES and FM would be welcome in this house. I’m going to play to the January transfer window tonight in 2009 and hopefully won’t drop another game over clanger.

  28. Turf – there is room for a LMA type game as far as I am concerned as I was a huge fan of them on the first PlayStation. I doubt we will ever see the last likes of such games anymore for commercial reasons. I think it is sad we don’t get Boxing, Tennis or Snooker games anymore but that is a sign of the times.

  29. There’s definitely an appeal in a console management game that doesn’t require constant patching, avoids crashes at the first sign of stat overload and keeps things ticking along at a decent pace. You’re right, those days are gone.

    So I got to Jan 2009. 4 nil nil draws and a 1-0 win from my half season. Not bad except my one goal was a penalty. I can’t score at all. And as my only success n the window was buying a youth keeper I still won’t. That transfer window is exceptionally difficult, I couldn’t care less about the big arrow it’s the complete absence of any idea if you will sign the player or are attempting to do the equivalent of bringing Messi to Whitley bay. Three times I had transfer agreements only for them to break down presumably on contract terms. A few more I obviously didn’t offer enough for the fee. Even the stupid faces gave you some clue, having nothing at all seems unnecessarily cruel. You haven’t even got the guarantee of youth signings.

    Shed’s comment made me realise why this game was in the blank memory zone – I was working at a farm and fatherhood was about to strike. Our little fella was an appalling sleeper for the first three years (so bad the health visitor sent us an NHS sleep specialist who was possibly the most appreciated person I have ever met, I would have killed for her once she’d worked her magic). He settled down around 2012 which is probably when I could afford more game time. Is that dribble trick the step over tap? That’s buying me a yard but when the players are fat lumps it doesn’t add up to much.

  30. Uncle Turf – that’s not the dribble trick in PES2009 – there is no trick, as such, more like a technique. It doesn’t spoil the game but I won’t reveal it directly. You could glance through some of my posts… (spoiler alert)

  31. Lloyd – just caught up with your Aduriz compilations. The game looks great as ever, and what a player you have nurtured there. Best goals are at 3:54 in the first one, and 4:49 in the second. I will return to PES2017 at some point before PES2018 arrives, to see how it feels.

  32. Had such a brilliantly scripted match on PES5 that I just had to write about it here. Brilliant as in all the scripting favoured me.

    So here is the match: CL final, my AC Milan vs Juventus. First piece of scripting: the AI chose to start with Mutu & Sculli upfront, not Ibrahimovic & Trezeguet, who have been unstoppable every time we met this season. On to the match itself, I was generously gifted 3 goal due to 3 AI blunders:
    1) Buffon completely misses his kick of a hopeful through ball and Adriano taps it into the net;
    2) Thuram attempts a sliding lunge to intercept a pass to Adriano which ends up well short leaving Adriano with an easy second goal;
    3) Thuram puts another hopeful through ball into his own net while being chased by Shevchenko.

    This reminds me that sliding tackles in PES5 are not laser guided and have a relatively short range 🙂

    Only after it was 3-0 did the AI put on the attackers Trezeguet, Camoranesi and Zalayeta. Trezeguet scored one, but it was too late for Juventus. Ibrahimovic, their most dangerous player, sat out the whole match. Anyway I was happy with the win and that retiring great Maldini got his hands on the CL trophy. Maybe his regen version may do so in a few seasons’ time.

  33. Forgive the poor video quality but scored a lovely free kick on PES 2009 this morning.

  34. Well 15 games in and my reverse invincibles is still on. The unscorables still haven’t managed a goal in open play. That angle technique won’t work this early, I get flattened whenever I try to run, it’s a very muscular game down here in the basement. Remarkably I’m not bottom thanks to the penalty victory and Rosenberg being awful.

  35. LC – PES5, the greatest football game ever made, was also the football game that first showed how scripted the experience generally is, to a crazily obvious degree.

    Darryl – that is atrocious 2007-era phone cam quality! Nice FK though.

    Uncle Turf – as I said in the linked post from 2009, the PES2009 zig-zag does demand proper skill in your input timing, and the player being used needs to be properly statted. And even then it’s only good for maybe one chance per match, on average. I played 11 seasons of PES2009 and regard it with fondness, looking back. I was getting fatigued by the time of that post, but that was February. This is why I wait till August to do my end of year reviews, so there’s a chance for a dispassionate assessment.

  36. NG – I know my vid was shocking. I am coming to the end of season 1 and am bottom but loving it.

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