Season 2 ends with my team finishing 12th. I nearly got a sniff of a playoff spot at one point, but fell away.
Look at how many games the top 6 teams lost and drew. There’s more than a whiff of league table scripting about those figures. Despite losing 20 (TWENTY) matches myself, I stayed mathematically within touching distance almost to the last few matches.
Next season, I anticipate being one of the challengers for promotion. How many games will the teams challenging around me lose and draw then? It’ll be interesting to see.
I only got one player into the Team of the Season – probably a fair outcome. Veldwijk finished top scorer for the Division with 23 goals.
With Season 2 out of the way, I can turn to an examination of my complete 24-man squad from the point of view of that most nebulous of Pro Evo qualities: player individuality.
For so many years, this quality was perhaps the single greatest banner that we waved as PES fans.
Every player in PES – we boasted in any FIFA-lover’s direction – was a proper individual. Unlike those FIFA bundles of pixels with different names that all basically felt the same! No, sir!
In classic PES, big and clumsy players were big and clumsy. Little nippy players were little and nippy – and how rare they were compared to today! Even players who were superficially the same, were different from one another in an abundance of ways.
We had pages of stats and traits. The granularity of the stats was neither too much nor too little. Player stats were perfectly within the Goldilocks zone between simplicity and complexity. All fed into the heady brew of classic PES individuality.
It’s commonly supposed that player individuality has been watered down in PES in the current era. Today, considerations of online balancing are paramount. Humans expect on-screen players to respond instantly to their input. ‘Responsiveness’ is astonishingly held up as an unquestionable pro-word on the PES forums.
Is it true? Has individuality vanished from Pro Evolution Soccer? Was it ever really there? Was it only in our minds all along?
Having played this series for nigh on 20 years now, and having spent part of the summer just gone sampling the delights of PES5 (Best PES Ever; Best Football Game Ever; Best Video Game Ever) – I feel qualified to pass sober judgement.
I will rate all 24 of my current PES2018 Master League squad players out of 10, purely in terms of their individuality. This isn’t about how fast, how strong, how skilful they are, etc. It’s about how unique (or not) they feel. Speed, strength and skill do factor into individuality, but they don’t define it in-and-of-themselves. Individuality is more of a gestalt, emergent property of PES gaming.
5 is the median score. Players at 5 will possess a slight glimmer of a spark of individuality, but nothing like the individuality of old. ‘They’ll do’ would sum up the middling players in this scale of judgement.
Players above 5 possess some individuality – but how much, and how many PES2018 players will achieve it?
I’ll award any player who feels like a traditional PES individual a STAR MAN label.
Players who rate below 5 are almost certainly going to leave my club very soon unless something remarkable happens.
From the top:
T KRUL (GK): 7. Pulls off great saves at crucial times, and feels like as much of an individual GK as any I’ve had in many years. A good, solid start for the pro-individuality camp here.
AUGUSTIN (GK): 4. Youth promotee, has played maybe two matches, so there’s little to judge.
JESUS VALLEJO (CB): 7. Tough and violent, always picking up cards, a great all-rounder.
N SULE (CB): 6. Similar to Vallejo, but crucially enough of an individual to stand out when they play together, which they most commonly do.
F ERIKSON (CB): 4. Just another nuPES Default nobody, lacking all the charm and uniqueness of classic Defaults. He and others will be got rid of in the coming window.
S LEGOIDA (CB): 4. Ditto to the above. Absolutely nothing about either of these two players has ever stood out for me, in this edition of the game nor any other that they have appeared in. The days of a long-lasting Jaric/Vornander-style partnership are gone.
F GRILLO (CB): 5. Can play at LB and CB, but is mainly a CB. Has just enough of a glimmer of uniqueness to scrape a 5, but it’s close.
F SORIC (LB): 5. One of the better Defaults for me, again just enough to stand out without being special. Worth his 5, but I will still probably ditch him in the transfer window.
O ELABDELLAOUI (RB): 5. Purchased a few transfer windows ago, he is pretty much just a long name above a set of pixels. Just enough to stand out, though, and he is currently first-choice RB. I will keep him.
J LI (RB): 6. A modest 65OPR player who seems to play better than his stats, earning the 6 rating. Has poor pace, which perversely makes him stand out in a fast and furious virtual footballing world.
I HETTICH (DMF): 7. A favourite Default, who will be staying for the foreseeable future. I’ve described him as a Bargain Basement Irjescu, and that’s about the measure of it. Slightly disappointed in his lack of shooting prowess this year. Merits a 7 regardless.
L BAKER (CMF): 8. STAR MAN. This Youth promotee might be the player of the whole of PES2018. Great passing and decent shooting. Has quiet games, yes, but he’s still developing.
J SHELVEY (CMF): 4. Ugh. One of the great disappointments so far. Will hang onto him until mid-season just to make sure he’s a wash. Then he’s gone.
J PUNCHEON (CMF): 3. Definitely going to be moved on in the upcoming August transfer window. One of the most nothing-y players I have ever played with in any Master League – and I’ve played PES2016.
J RICE (CMF): 6. The old stalwart is still going strong. Not quite the character he was in PES2017 (he’d have got a solid 7/10 on the individuality front in that game), but still has enough of the whole ‘poor man’s Joey Barton’ air about him that makes this scrapper worth keeping.
E CANNING (CMF): 2. What is the point of this? Is ‘E CANNING’ a dictionary definition of ‘nothingness’?
J CORREA (AMF): 5. Sigh. A player who should be so much more than he is. Has all the stats needed to be a top, top PES player, and yes, he does handle well, is pacey, passes and shoots well – but he feels hollow. Another one of nuPES’s interminable utility players (plays at 3 or 4 positions) who is pretty much interchangeable with a thousand others.
E CASTLEDINE (AMF): 4. What a fall for the greatest player of PES2016.
XABI PRIETO (AMF): 6. Only just nudges out into above-average territory. Does a few good things occasionally. Could swap him with Correa and I would never notice the change.
W ROONEY (AMF): 3. Surprisingly tame. He’ll stay with me until mid-season, but the passion and power of real-life Rooney in his teenage years just isn’t here. His name might as well be Generic Youth Promotee #321.
RUBEN CASTRO (CF): 6. Just before I wrote this post, he scored an astounding goal at the start of Season 3 (see below), which has influenced my decision to give him a 6. Would’ve got a 5, or even a 4, otherwise. I am a stern judge and he’s got to shape up. At the moment, again, swap him with Correa and Prieto and no difference would be noticed.
B GUILLAUME (CF): 8 STAR MAN. One of my first proper signings, this big striker showed me the way to Veldwijk, and has served as a capable understudy ever since. He has a knack of always delivering. Handles like a true individual, and has the proper array of quirks, including weaknesses.
RICHARLISON (CF): 5. Would have been a 3 if he hadn’t got a few important goals recently. Will last to mid-season 3, and then may go. Again, another one of those poitnless multi-position utility players. Swap him with any of my other AMF/SS/CF types, and no difference would be noticed.
L VELDWIJK (CF): 8 STAR MAN. Plays like a cross between Peter Withe, Mark Hateley, and Schwarz, with a sprinkling of Vieri. I’ve brought in a star name for season 3, who cannot replace him.
Now we can add up all the ratings and divide the result by 24 to work out the overall Individuality Score for PES2018 at this juncture of my Master League. (I’ll do this again after 7 seasons, say, and see where we stand then.)
129/24 = 5.37.
I’ll be very generous and round that up to the halfway point, which means that PES2018, right now, has
an overall PES Individuality Score of
About right. Slightly above-average, but way, way below where PES needs to be on this front.
I invite all readers to submit their own current ML squads’ Individuality Checks in the comments. Whatever edition of the series you’re playing. It’d be useful to compare notes. The overall average for all 24 players (or however many in your squad) is a very useful yardstick.
For comparison, even the most non-individual old-school PES (PS2/PS3-eras) would’ve made it to 7/10 for Individuality. The Best PES Game Ever, of course, gets an automatic 10/10.
As for the other PS4 PES games, I imagine PES2015 would have got a dizzying 6.5 for Individuality. My Crouch and Castolis alone were easily 9/10 players apiece for Individuality, and there were plenty of 7s and 8s that year.
PES2016 would have struggled to 4/10. We really should have seen the writing on the wall with that game in that year. In fact, we did see it. But at the same time we didn’t want to see it – and so we didn’t see it.
PES2017 maybe was worth a 4.5/10.
So with PES2018 getting a Season Two individuality score of 5.5/10, things are on the way back up.
Who knows. If the patch succeeds in injecting the right kind of life into the right kinds of areas (i.e. the long, numbing stretches of time when nothing interrupts play, and all you do is squeeze buttons, and stare), PES2018 has a chance to become something more than what it currently is.
What is the quintessence of PES individuality? I think it could be summed up in a word: weaknesses. PES of old wasn’t afraid to provide us with players who were great in many areas, but had specific weaknesses in others. E.g. trapping the ball. Pretty much every player in PES2018 – lumbering CBs and those ten-a-penny CMF/AMF/SS/CF hybrids alike – can trap a ball like Maradona in his prime. It facilitates smooth, balanced, frustration-free online play, which is the point.
It has to be acknowledged that this is a debate that traditional PES single-players lost a very long time ago now. Today, the ideal imagined PES player is a 17-year-old kid who wants a perfect 1:1 correspondence between his controller input and the on-screen outcome, and as few interruptions as possible. PES is made for him first and foremost, and for ‘us’ second. The joke is that the 17-year-old kid is usually blissfully unaware that PES even exists.
Finally today, a sneak preview of Season 3 in the form of the best goal I’ve scored yet on PES2018 – a last-minute winner too:
Much like that AI defender, I was sure this was offside as it happened. It took a few seconds to sink in that I’d really just scored it.
Hettich with the Hoddle-like 30-yard pass. Ruben Castro with the sweetest volley ever. That kind of over-the-shoulder connection with a long lobbed pass used to be called a power volley in the nomenclature of PES. I distinctly recall scoring a similar one with Eusebio on PES4. Will I remember this one in 10-15 years’ time? I think I will, you know.