Month: June 2017

Frouch or Criday?

Closing in on the end of Season 1 with Saint Etienne. I think it’s my 12th season on PES2017 overall. Or the 11th. I will have to check. Whichever it is, this is the longest-lasting PES since PES2012. Not bad going.

With 32 league matches played and 6 remaining of the Ligue 1 season, I have finally, painfully, hauled myself out of the relegation spots – but not by much:

Results have picked up, but not enough that I can be certain of avoiding relegation.

At least I got one player into the February Team of the Month, for the first time at Saint Etienne:

Friday is great at the moment, almost as good as he was in my promotion season with Coventry City back in Season 2. He’s getting goals galore, and of course last week’s sumptuous long-ranger is still fresh in my memory. I can’t see me scoring a better goal on PES2017.

The quality of the matches are consistently among the best I have played on PES2017 as a whole. Having lesser players really makes the difference.

I am also playing New Zealand friendlies occasionally, and experiencing matches that are just as good. I’d lost every match with New Zealand until the most recent friendly, against the UAE, where I went 1-0 down after a brave, battling opening, and thought ‘here we go again’. Then I stormed back to win 3-1 with my star striker, C WOOD, getting two of them and performing like 1980s Mark Hateley on fizzy pop.

Back in Ligue 1, Friday and Crouch up front seem to have gelled. Crouch (good touch for a big man, of course) is a great link-up striker. In one match I came back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 – with Friday getting a hat-trick, all of them laid on by Crouch, who scored the odd one himself.

My Team Spirit is up to the 85-90 range, depending on who’s picked. This is offset by the bad players I have in my squad – so bad they’re good.

That New Zealand-UAE match was a great, great match – the kind of match that we often say to ourselves was one of the best games of computer-game football we have ever played. While I was playing it I wondered just what makes playing football games often so good, but watching other people play them usually such an empty, rather pointless experience.

If I had that New Zealand-UAE game to show here, or the one where Friday and Crouch linked up so well, I wouldn’t post them. Because why? Because the elements that go to make a great football game experience do not translate very well to third-party observation.

Which is my farty way of saying that when it comes to footy games, you just have to be there.

Just as nobody can taste your food for you, nobody can look at a football game you’ve played and see why you thought it was so ace. Something to bear in mind over the coming months when it seems we will be seeing a lot of PES2018.

The Youth Vote

House Rules are the long-term future for me in PES. The only outstanding issue with them is how to manage them, and how to tweak them to make sure things don’t ever stray again in the wrong direction. How to maintain the optimum experience. For now I’m delighted with the House Rules I have.

Results have slightly picked up, and performances have too as my Team Spirit has climbed through the 70s and low 80s.

I got to mid-season and bought regen Peter Crouch from Leicester.

Crouch – my highlight of PES2015 and scorer of my best goal of that year – is currently a 78OPR 24-year-old.

Which means he’ll likely soon be hitting my Logan’s Run-style 81 OPR mark and have to be transferred. Or I might adjust my House Rules when I get to that point. All depends.

One of the most unwelcome features of this Master League is the extraordinary array of Youths that the game provides you with. It’s an obvious sop to the new football gaming crowd who want to play with superstars, and do flicks and tricks and handstands and whatever else they think is ‘awesome’, or whatever the proper young-people-today term is.

I encounter quite a few under-25s at my workplace, many of whom are keen football gamers. Either they haven’t heard of PES at all (very common among late-teens), or they’ve heard of it but are dismissive of it. Which begs the question of why Konami bothers trying to court this demographic with PES’s superstar-themed branding, marketing and content.

I suppose there’s an economic imperative in play, which means Konami can’t not do things to court that market.

And so we have the likes of C RONALDO and A GRIEZEMANN popping up in our Master League Youth teams — which they just have, for me. All so those notional teens and twentysomethings can have the thrill of seeing Ronaldo doing his Johnny Wilkinsonesque free kick stance thing.

Note that I’m 2-0 down to Lyon here, and had the vague hope that Ronnie might stick one away and kickstart a recovery. No such luck.

Lyon went on to score one of the most sensational AI goals ever scored against me in any PES. It’s right at the end of today’s mini-compilation — also worth watching for a decent Peter Crouch long-ranger:

What an AI goal that was, eh? I’ve remarked before how much more threatening the AI is when playing with lesser players/low Team Spirit, and a born-again AI remains very much part of the born-again PES2017 experience.

I signed Ronaldo and Griezemann. Perfectly in keeping with the letter of my House Rules, if not quite the spirit. They’re rated 76 and 75 OPR each, both 16-year-olds, both very average at the moment. I’ll sell them post-season for sure, releasing them into the wild where they will hopefully come back to haunt me.

It’s a bit churlish of me to attack this aspect of Master League. One of the big draws of my longest-ever ML campaign, in PES5, was the Panini sticker album of great names I assembled in one mammoth squad.

Ah, but that was a PES that withstood such treatment. Old-school PES never got easy for me, no matter how many superstars I picked up.

I remain near the bottom of the league:

5 point adrift with so many matches left to play means I’m not panicking just yet. Another reason not to panic is that I wouldn’t mind a drop to Ligue 2. I’ll do everything I can to avoid it, but if relegation happens it wouldn’t be terrible. I would enjoy the challenge of leading Saint Etienne back to the big time.

Born Toulouse

The struggle continues. Life in Ligue 1 with Saint Etienne is everything I wanted it to be when I set out on this unprecedented (for me) managerial switch in Year 12 of my Master League.

The players are all around the late-60s-to-mid-70s OPR bracket. Team Spirit is ultra-low thanks to my newness and the poor results that I started with.

I went on losing, match after match, for so long that I started to think my House Rules were too tough. I thought I’d have to relax my OPR cap of 80, which I don’t want to do, and/or play on a lower difficulty, which I also don’t want to do.

I racked up a few draws, which were a marked improvement on the 5 straight defeats I’d started with.

Then I got a win — a precious, precious win. I went 1-0 up, got pegged back to 1-1, and it looked like just another draw.

Until that man again, Friday, popped up with a headed winner in the last few minutes. (The goal is on today’s clip, farther below.) I shrieked like a woman.

I thought I couldn’t shriek any louder or sound any more womanly. But during the very next match, I did.

I faced Toulouse, one of the toughest opponents in the league. They went 1-0 up and were frankly cruising to the win. I offered nothing.

Until, from nowhere, Friday bagged himself a 30-yard long-range screamer into the postage stamp corner of the net. It rescued a point I had no real right to. A truly fabulous PES moment.

‘That,’ I told myself whilst watching the replay, ‘is nothing less than the goal of the century…

It’s at the tail-end of this clip below — which features every goal I’ve scored in the League and Champions League since the start of the season:

Look at the flight of the ball in the super slo-mo replay. Through the first defender’s legs — a ball-grazer — then a lovely, long, looping curve around the jumping defender’s head, then over the keeper’s despairing (and slightly late) dive.

The most long-rangey long-ranger I’ve scored on PES2017, methinks. The one that is most PESlike.

A word about International management, which I have also embarked upon. I went with New Zealand. Apart from the Classic Defaults, this New Zealand lot are the worst team I have ever played with in any PES. Their OPR average is around the 60 mark. I’ve played a few friendlies so far and lost them all. It’ll take some doing to get New Zealand to a tournament, never mind do well in one.

The current Ligue 1 table. Off the bottom. But this is still a relegation battle:

Thank God it’s Friday yet again

It seems I cannot quit signing this player. This is now the 5th time I have signed F FRIDAY in PES2017. He’s not that great anymore – in fact, he is positively average. But that’s exactly why I want him now.

Playing with lesser players for a lesser team has revitalised PES2017 in a way I never could have imagined without experiencing it for myself. PES2017 feels like a classic PS2-era PES much of the time. It really is astounding how House Rules – something I’ve always resisted – make the gameplay better. PES2017 must be played with average players to be experienced as a great game.

Friday’s not the only player who’s followed me to my new abode.

Like Friday, J RICE is in his 30s and in serious decline. He barely played for me in my last few seasons at Coventry.

Here are my current House Rules in total – very simple:

  • No player in the squad rated above 80 OPR.
  • Any player whose OPR hits 81 or above can still be picked but must be sold or released on Day 1 of the next transfer window.
  • New signings must be either Youths or Veterans in decline (i.e. a Friday or a Rice).

These House Rules have produced a very interesting opening overture to my first Season in the French league.

I did not score a single goal in any of my opening matches. Not. One. Goal.

I went 3-0 down in my opening Champions League match – versus a rampant Manchester City. Then I did finally score a goal (my first as Saint Etienne) to make it 3-1 and give me faint hopes of a comeback. But I got a player sent off and ended up being properly pummelled 5-1.

The AI plays much better when you have lesser players yourself. As the table at the end of the post will show, the AI scores an average of 2 goals against me per match and is always dangerous. A lot better than the feeble showings it was putting in by the time I got my Coventry side up to Harlem Globetrotter-levels.

Players are slow and heavy and cumbersome in the turn. This means I get more fouls too (well, about 3 or 4 per match, which is lots by PES2017 standards).

This is how PES should be played, I think. Every match is a puzzle. How am I even going to create a chance?

I had a few players rated in the low 80s. They all had to go. The way I did it was very simple. I identified the players I wanted, and traded my high-rated players for those low-rated ones. Each trade was rated at 100% likelihood.

Which left me with this squad to take on a Ligue 1 and Champions League campaign this season:

I don’t really know many of the existing players yet, but I am getting there. Kyle Walker also followed me from Coventry. The way things are, he’ll be at or near 81 OPR by season’s end (maybe even by mid-season). He will be moved on when that time comes.

Look at the Team Spirit rating – 54. Shocking. But the matches are amongst the best I have played on PES2017, or on any PES in recent years. It strongly reminds me of the best of PES2014. The struggle and grind. It also reminds me of the golden seasons in the early stages of my Coventry City seasons in PES2017.

The league table after 4 matches:

I believe the shape of my summer has swum into focus.