Month: February 2018

The Pest from the West

A few big matches against the big teams, with lots at stake, and results worked hard for, and I’m in a good place with PES2018 in its final season.

A match versus Liverpool, at Liverpool, saw me put into place my new ‘Arsenal rule’ for playing against big clubs in PES2018.

I know it’s more like the Myth of Arsenal these days, but if you let them have the ball in PES2018, they’ll keep it and you will make yourself unhappy while trying to get it back. So my ‘Arsenal rule’ is that I keep the ball. That’s it. Even if I’m not really doing anything with it. Squandering possession on daring raids and speculative through-balls and crosses is a no-no against the Arsenals of PES2018.

I observed the Arsenal rule against Liverpool in this match, and ran out an easy 4-1 winner, with a hat-trick from my Classic Ronaldo (the Brazilian one, who gloriously looks nothing like the original).

A few posts ago it looked like the title was way out of reach, but a few results for me means that the teams above me have slipped – of course they have – and now look at this table. I’m 7 points behind. With 10 matches to go I could easily overhaul the leaders. Will the game let me do it?

It might, you know. The situation is complicated by the fact that I’ve played the key 6-pointer against Man City, and it only ended 1-1, so there’s no opportunity for me to put a dent in their armour.

If I can keep my current form going, I stand a chance, that’s all I know.

And I am still in the FA Cup and of course the Champions League.  I’m in the semi-final of the FA Cup, Shakhtar Donetsk are first up in the knockout round of the Champions League. A very unlikely Treble might be on. I’ll be disappointed not to win something in my final season.

I’ve decided to do my End of Year Review of PES2018 immediately after I finish up Season 8. It makes sense, as there are no more Years for me in PES. August/September time will be just like any other time.

In my End of Year review of PES2018 I’ll be giving the game two separate scores. One score will consider the game as the generic, market-friendly, Western-facing, FIFA-style football game that it undoubtedly is, and it will be a pretty good score. The second score will consider it as a PES game, and will be a pretty low score. The second score will of course be PES2018’s real score, but I’m not churlish enough to deny that the first score still means something. Times change, and PES has changed with them. I’ve accepted it.

When will the end come? With 10 league matches remaining, and still being in two Cups, I’m thinking it’ll be closer to mid-March now.

I Kane think of a title for this one

The impending end of PES2018 threatens to colour everything I do on it. In a good way. Knowing that it’s my last season on this PES game and all nuPES games, forever, makes PES2018 seem more like what it is: just a good football game.

For all the moaning about PES2018, here and across the wider fandom, it should be borne in mind that it gets criticised for being a poor shadow of historical PES. But it achieves exactly what it sets out to do in the here and now, which is to be a decent FIFA-style football game (with PES flavouring) of the second decade of the 21st century.

There’s just enough of that PES nougaty goodness for me to kid myself that it’s still PES. Having the name ‘PES’ on the box got me through 8 full seasons, and a similar amount last year and the year before, which is a pretty remarkable feat of habit and self-hypnosis.

So PES2018 is ticking through its last matches in good form. My sampler of PES2011 last weekend was a substantial shock to the system. PES2011’s slow player turns, coupled with the immediately apparent sense of player individuality… no way are any kids playing anything like PES2011 online nowadays. It was like grappling with War and Peace in the era of Buzzfeed and ten-second attention spans. No wonder Konami changed everything.

Back to Season 8. I have passed through the mid-season transfer window and picked up 3 new players. AMBROSINI up front. BERGE at DMF. And JAGIELKA at the back

Ambrosini feels exactly like nearly every other striker I’ve had in the game. Lacazette, Stepinski, Raya, Boia, and many more – they’ve all been basically identical to one another. Only Veldwijk stood out in those early seasons, and Harry Kane too for a brief couple of sessions (not seasons, sessions).

Berge and Jagielka are both a bit more interesting, being involved more in build-up play. The way Konami have streamlined the game to shorten the travelling time from goalmouth-to-goalmouth has perhaps accounted for a good chunk of the reduction in PES individuality.

The table isn’t what I wanted it to be at this stage. A few ruinous draws have now made it very unlikely I’ll overhaul the leaders.

I’ll do very, very well to get anywhere near the title from here. I think I’d have to literally win every match between now and the end of the season, and as we all know, that just isn’t allowed.

Still, I will give it a good go.

I’ve had a couple of matches versus Stoke and Everton that felt authentically stodgy and unpleasant.

At this stage of PES history, when I am about to hop into my time machine and never come back (pending a drastic change of philosophy on Konami’s side that simply won’t happen), it’s a moot point for me to be looking for the positives and chewing over, for the umpteenth time, the negatives.

There’s just over a third of the season left – all the league matches, and I’m still in both Cups, domestic and European – so I’m going to be playing PES2018 for a while yet. I think my prediction of March for PES2011 will come true.

And that will bring to an end an unbroken annual PES tradition that stretches back 17 years to PES2. There are football gamers aged 17 who have never heard of PES, unless someone like me tells them about it. ‘There used to be a game that was so unlike FIFA, you wouldn’t believe…’

I Kane stand it no more

Today is positively the last Harry Kane-themed post title. I was desperately hoping that he could become a key figure for me in PES2018. I really wanted him to emerge as a classic PES individual in my ML team.

One of the canaries in the coalmine that betrays how PES has changed in recent years is the fact that I naturally assumed Kane would come to dominate and be a character in my Master League side, in the way that his various predecessors over the years – the Bergkamps, the Schwarzes, the Vieris, the Stoitchkovs, the list is endless – always did.

After a magical first session or two from Kane, he might as well now be called Generic nuPES Striker 9321 or something like that.

Okay, of course that’s an exaggeration. Things have not got quite that bad with nuPES just yet.

But it’s not much of an exaggeration. I’d argue until the end of time that the most individualistic player in PES2018 is markedly less of an individual than the least individualistic player of oldPES – truPES.

Another exaggeration, there (I love them more than I love life itself – see?), but again, not much of an exaggeration.

I’m back on Top Player in the game and loving it. This will almost certainly now be my last season. Over the weekend I blew a thick layer of dust off my PS3 and its controllers, plugged everything in, and checked that I will be able to play PES2011 without trouble, when the time comes. All went well.

Playtesting PES2011 almost distracted me enough that I had to force myself back to PES2018. Where I revelled in the ease of the PS4’s environment. Boy, I will miss the PS4’s screenshot and replay features. I will be back on the PS4 at some point in the form of FIFA17, but there’s hopefully a lot of PES2011 before that point. I would like to be still playing PES2011 around the time of PES2019’s release. Won’t that be fun?

Back in PES2018, my league form hasn’t picked up on Top Player in the way I thought it might.

Hmmm. Even ML league table scripting will have to go some to get me up that table from here. But I Have Faith.

Next is a slightly different mini-compilation of ‘moments’ from a single session in the game.

First, an extraordinary sequence of me blasting the AI goal with a sequence of headers and outrageous shots that cannon off the woodwork and/or keeper.

Then an AI free kick goal that hilariously fools my GK all ends up. It looks like a deflection, but I can’t see that it does get a deflection. It seems to be a random computer-gamey glitch.

Finally, in that same match, a nice little moment from Harry Kane that’s very evocative of this goal from PES2011 that I posted in comments over the weekend. Almost as if PES2018 is saying ‘hey! I can do that too! Don’t go…’

Any which way you Kane

My Superstar experiment with PES2018 lasted around 12 matches here in Season 8.

I’m returning now to Top Player, and will stay there until the end of my PES2018 career – which, I’ve now decided, will almost certainly be the end of this current season.

My first few matches on Superstar were respectably tough, and enjoyable. Solid 8/10 matches. Great stuff. Notably, they all came in the same session…

Session variance is very much still a thing in PES. Konami have removed much of the nuts and bolts of classic PES from the series. They’ve stripped back and consolidated player stats to the point where they often mean little (and sometimes nothing). And the majority of matches end with a big fat 0 (or a 1) next to the Free Kicks stat.

But they didn’t take away our precious session-to-session variance in the overall feel of the game.

Superstar in session 1 was great. In session 2, not so great. In sessions 3 and 4, bad-to-awful. In session 5, slightly improved – almost good again. Et cetera. This was always the PES way, and I suppose we should be thankful that there’s still something of the old girl left.

It wasn’t an easy decision to drop back down to Top Player. The chances are good of me romping to at least some sort of Double – and maybe the Treble.

Whatever happens, this season is now almost certainly my final season on PES2018 and nuPES. Konami’s overall strategy with nuPES is to jettison the stubborn single-player holdouts who don’t pay for things after purchase. It’s working! They can take their faces, boots, balls and tattoos, and they can stick them.

In my last session on Superstar I took on Barcelona in the final Champions League group-stage match. I’d already qualified for the knock-outs, as had Barca, so the fixture was a dead rubber. Nevertheless, it was a thrilling encounter.

This was a great match! One to remember in the months and years to come when I’m trying to think of the good in PES2018. I doubt that I’ll remember anything at all of PES2018 in 5 or 10 years’ time, but if I do, I’ll remember the ebbs and flows and epic feels of this one match. I had to work very hard for this win.

I beat Barca twice in the group stages, and took top spot on that basis. Nice to see the actual rules applied. Many an edition of PES would have awarded Barca the top spot on account of goals scored.

In the League, things are not quite so rosy at the moment.

The Superstar sessions saw me draw an incredible amount of games, lose one or two, and win a few as well. I slipped down the table. 10 points between me and the top spot. At this stage of the season, and back on Top Player, this is an easily surmountable gap. I’ll be there or thereabouts in May.

So, I’m 98% sure that this is my last season on PES2018 and on all new PES games, forever. It feels like the end of an era because it is one. It feels scary, knowing that in about a week, two weeks tops, I’ll be stepping off the carousel that I was so pleased and proud to be on for over twenty years.

I never wanted this stage to come. Lord knows I have tried my best to squeeze the essence of PES out of these nuPES games of the past few years. There is something of the old PES spirit in there – it’d be fatuous to deny that – but ultimately, there’s just not enough left.

I haven’t mentioned yesterday’s 1.04 patch because there wasn’t one. It was a boots and balls DLC. Which is nice for those who like that kind of thing, but eh, what’s a player like me supposed to think of it? Nothing, really, so I think nothing of it. I really don’t have anything else to say about it. It’s all part of the new culture of football gaming that I will soon be leaving behind for good.