Month: October 2017

Autocorrect keeps saying Richardson

Very close to the end of Season 2 in my PES2018 Master League. I hope to finish somewhere in upper-mid-table. I think if the season was about 6 matches longer, I’d have snuck into the playoff spots. But it isn’t and I won’t, so there’s another season in Division 2 in prospect. Another long slog, but I anticipate being promoted next season, so I find myself looking forward to the slog.

The current table:

One of the ongoing ML stories I’ve been monitoring is the performance of my mid-season signing, Richarlison.

In real-life, Richarlison is one of those enigmatic players who turns in a sensational performance once in a while, but then isn’t seen or heard from again for months at a time. He’s a Theo Walcott, in other words.

I got Richarlison in the January window, and he did nothing. Each time I picked him, or brought him on as a sub, he might as well have not been playing.

One of the hallmarks of Pro Evolution Soccer in the current console era has been the awful, stomach-churning way in which player individuality – for so long one of the mightiest sticks that we used to beat FIFA with – has been progressively pared back in the name of you-know-what. Online fun flowing responsive balancing blah blah blah bullshit.

In particular, I scorn the advent of the AMF/SS/CF hybrid players. Typical of nuPES, these players are emblematic of the un-PES turn that the series has taken in the PS4 era. There are so many of them, and they are so nearly all the same that they might as well just be called Player 312 and Player 313 etc., because their actual names mean almost nothing.

It’s quite depressing to click on a player in the squad selection and see at least three other positions light up. Yawn. A feature this common has very little value. Anyone remember Duffy from PS3-era PES? A right-back who could also play as a DMF/CMF. What a novelty he was. And then there were occasional Paul Warhurst-types of CBs who could also play at CF. Another novelty.

How many of those multi-position players were there in old-school PES? About 1 in 100? And how many are there now? 1 in 20? 1 in 10? Whatever the figure, there is no denying that multi-position players have rocketed in PES in recent years, and IMO it is not to the series’ benefit.

So I’ve been watching individuality in PES2018 with a very, very careful eye indeed. To the point that it is my one and only real House Rule: I am assembling a squad in which every player – every player – must manifest old-school PES individuality, or they will be moved on in the next suitable transfer window.

I’m giving each player at least half a season, or a full season if they show promise, to ‘prove’ themselves.

The great news is that individuality is still present in PES2018, in quite surprising ways too, but it really has to be burrowed for.

This Friday’s post will see me list my entire 24-man squad, and award each one a special Individuality rating out of 10. The ones who rate at 5 or above will stay. The ones who rate below 5 will go.

Richarlison’s head was well and truly on that chopping block. He was destined for a rating of about 2/10 (really, he was that poor). Until this one particular match. Before this match, I actually said to myself out loud ‘Last Chance Saloon, dude’. (I have started saying ‘dude’ in contexts like this, in lieu of having an actual motorbike-riding midlife crisis.)

What happened? Hat-trick happened.

I enjoyed each and every one of those goals, and the match as a whole, which was a 4-0 demolition job, a rarity for me in these still-tight opening seasons of Master League.

Richarlison’s individuality rating crept up to a 6/10 after this. It will go down below the 5 mark again if he returns to anonymity in what remains of the season.

Predictably, after an individual and team performance like the above, in the next match Richarlison was back to his customary ‘might as well not be on the pitch’ status.

This is something I have noted before in nuPES, and am convinced is a reality: any player who has an outstanding match will be nerfed for the following match or matches. There are plenty of instances of this nerf not happening, of course, but there are far many more instances of it happening for it to be anything other than a deliberate, programmed ‘balancing’ decision, in my opinion.

And as a team, we were also nerfed. Nobody was allowed to score. The opposition – a sturdy QPR outfit – beat me 1-0.

Poison penalty

I’ve powered through the remainder of January, all of February, and a chunk of March. In my progress I enjoyed a brilliant run of 5 straight wins that seemed to offer a realistic chance of sneaking up into the playoff spots, in classic ML league table scripted fashion.

I soon bumped into a run of games that felt as if I was not ‘allowed’ to win. After 38 matches we remain a lower-mid table side.

In my session on Tuesday evening, the impossible happened.

I was deep-defending a 1-0 lead against a stubborn newly-relegated Huddersfield side, and went on a breakaway attack of my own. Having no players up meant I was holding the ball, and holding the ball, and holding the ball, when I spotted Correa (still mostly an anonymous nobody) making a run on the other side of the pitch. I lofted a huge pass over that was intercepted by the AI player – who took a heavy touch, letting Correa nip in, almost on the touchline. I dribbled laterally towards goal, the keeper came to meet me, I tried to jink past him – and was clattered. It had to be, and was, a penalty!

As we all know, penalties and free kicks in general were effectively removed some time ago from Pro Evolution Soccer (‘The Pitch Is Ours’), so this was a rare instance indeed.

PES2018 never can quite stop reminding me that it was made with online multiplayer uppermost in mind. And the whole deal with the penalty in total just left a nasty taste in my mouth.

Instead of getting 1 penalty per 500 matches, or whatever the disgraceful average stat is, wouldn’t it be great to get a proper 5-10 penalties per season? And a proportional amount of free kicks in shooting range? Hmmm?

Back at the real PES, single-player, I’m currently all about trying to see the individuality in as many players as possible. I’ve decided to do my full points-based individuality rundown at the end of this season now.

Veldwijk and Baker remain my two most potent individuals. The February stats bear it out:

And both players made it into the Team of the Month.

Along with my ‘bargain basement Irjescu’, Hettich, who is quietly well on his way to becoming the last Default player standing.

Castledine is still on my books, but he won’t be come the end of the season. Individuality and usefulness is low with the C-man this year (low for me, it goes without saying – low for me.)

Overall I’ve had a great few days with PES2018.

I think I’d feel a lot differently right now if I didn’t know there was a patch coming that might fix some of the dreadful passages of play that just go on forever without a break. Some second halves feel as if they start with the kick-off and don’t stop until the final whistle goes. I’m sure this isn’t literally the case, ever, but it damn well feels that way, and the patch must address this.

Once again, let us take a moment to reflect on a peculiar fact. For the umpteenth year running, the summertime testers picked up on none of this. They just turned up, had their 1p vs 2p fun, played a token one or two matches of single-player, and confidently reported it was all awesome, no worries.

The patch should at least restore free kick potentiality to PES2017 levels, i.e an average of 2-3 per match. Instead of 0.3 per match, which it is at present. It’s a measure of my impoverished expectations in this area of football gaming that I’ll take this deal. If it’s offered.

Baker’s boys

It never hurts to look in on an old PES from time to time, to refresh one’s memory about what’s great about the series – and to see that really and truly, what we have now might not be so bad after all.

Yesterday I dug out my Xbox360, untouched since roughly mid-2014. I plugged it in and fired it up. It had a FIFA14 disc in the tray. I have no recollection whatsoever of playing FIFA14 on the Xbox360.

I popped in the PES6(360) disc. A commenter, Darryl, had mentioned PES6(360) last week. I was lavish with my praise for this one-off, quirky edition of PES6, which is unrelated to the PS2/PC version, despite the oddly persistent belief of many that it’s the same.

How would it stand up now?

In a nutshell, good but not great. I played one match of my mature ML save. I had a galaxy of stars. Maldini, Mathieu, Messi. The game played fast and furious – and there were no fouls. Seriously, did we only just start noticing no-fouls since PES2015? Has it pretty much always been with us since the anti-fouls hullaballoo that surrounded PES5?

I enjoyed this one match, but all I could think was: PES2018 is so much better than this.

There. I said it. A much-maligned nuPES plays better than one of my most beloved old classic PESes.

And so I fired up PES2018 with renewed sense of purpose and optimism.

A full session followed. I’m all the way through the January transfer window in Season 2 and out the other side.

I added three other players to my roster. Xabi Prieto from Everton. Rubén Castro from Free Agents. And, from my Youth team – Wayne Rooney. He’s only 17, but was famously good at age 17 in real life, so he’s not too bad here right now.

I thought long and hard before pressing the Rooney button, with all my pre-PES2018 talk about House Rules in mind. But the PES2018 AI seems to have liberated me from needing House Rules. For now.

My full post-window squad:

I’m shaping my First XI and squad around players who represent a feeling of classic PES individuality to me.

There are quite a few players on that screenshot who are ‘nothingy’ types of players – just bundles of pixels with a name attached. But most are at least above the waterline on the individuality front.

(I was going to do a player-by-player individuality assessment in today’s post, but ran out of time. Will do it in Friday’s now.)

Shelvey and Richarlison are still too new to pass judgement, but seem worryingly anonymous so far. This individuality semi-House Rule of mine means that if they don’t shape up in the rest of this season, I’ll probably move them on at the end of it, or this time next season at the latest.

Certain players will likely stay with me for the duration of this Master League.

L BAKER is a little star. Dare I say it, there are strong shades of Shimizu with him. Baker handles like Shimizu would have if he’d been able to shoot.

Here’s a decent mid-range finesse goal from him:

Scoring goals isn’t really his main game, so far. He’s a versatile midfielder who links play – not a stopper (he doesn’t play at DMF), but a maker.

I’m intrigued to see where Baker’s story goes – that’s the essence of Master League, right there. In real life, Lewis Baker seems to be drifting from loan to loan, and trying not to be the next James Wilson. In the much-realler life of PES, he seems destined for legendary status.

Finally today, a PES2018 quirk.

Look at this offside decision, and see where the resulting free kick is taken from – both are wrong:

The still-new-fangled ‘active play’ thing means Veldwijk being offside in the first phase (0:16s) would have ‘worn off’ by the time he runs across to touch the ball several seconds later.

Debatable, perhaps, but what isn’t debatable is the ludicrous position the free kick is taken from. Never seen anything like this in PES before.

Flying off the Shelveseys

I’m in the middle of the January transfer window in Season 2. Lots of minor activity. The biggest move so far is that I part-exchanged my big signing from this time last season, Besic, for Jonjo Shelvey. Shelvey is a player who never seems to really fit into the modern real-life game. He’s the sort of player who might have been an international star 20-30 years ago, but is probably destined not to be today. Let’s see how he does in my ML fantasyland.

Besic was a DMF and Shelvey is a CMF, so it’s not a straight swap, but I’ve got Hettich and Rice to fill in at DMF if needed.

Besic had to go – he just wasn’t distinctive enough. That’s my new informal House Rule, by the way: all the nuPES, anonymous, Everyman-types of players that just don’t feel like anything, have to go. The Giorza Effect, we might call it. Named after the nuPES Default right-back who handles superbly and develops into a proper star – but never feels like a distinctive player.

I’m from a time when DMFs were called things like Mathieu and Neeskens and Irjescu and Camacho and Prieto. I know PES isn’t what it was, and ML isn’t what it was, and now everything has to be ‘balanced’ for multiplayer, with stats being progressively ‘simplified’ in recent years, and this makes a huge chunk of the player roster feel pretty much the same all over.

But there are still individuals in PES. Not many, but some. My only semi-formal House Rule, then, is that all my players must have that authentic ‘feel’ about them. Each new signing will get at least half a season to a season to impress me. Besic was nothing and he had to go.

The game thinks my formation is more of a 4-4-2 than it is. I’m still playing with a deep DMF and a CMF, and two wide AMFs pushed further up. A definite 4-2-2-2.

All but two or three of these players have, in some way, stood out in the individual sense. Richarlison and Shelvey are too new to cast judgement. Correa, disturbingly, has been with me for half a season now but has so far not stood out. I don’t think he’s going to make it at my club, but I’ll give him another half-season.

All the others – ALL of them – feel enough like proper PES individuals to make me happy. The 17-year-old L BAKER, playing at AMF now, is quietly the story of my ML so far. More on him in posts to come.

I sold Arcas (£9m) and have benched Castledine, who will be sold before the close of the window if there are any takers. The Lennon and McCartney of PES2016 were nothing for me this year.

Veldwijk continues to dominate my forward line. I can count on him netting a goal every other game, on average – a realistic strike rate. The Goal King indeed.Promotion in Season 2 seems not to be on the cards But look at the points difference between me and 6th. Only the 9 points. We veterans of Master League know that much larger deficits can be, and often are, overhauled.I’ll need to turn my on-field performances around, though, and fast. 11 defeats! The AI is still capable of thumping me 3-0 without breaking a sweat. It plays massively unfair to achieve such results at times, but I’ll take it. I love the thought that I’ve still got Superstar and Legend to step up to.

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