Month: March 2018

The 8th Session

Will you look at the state of that. UEFA Super League, Bundesliga logo, generic UEFA badge for Ajaccio… There’s very little in this screenshot that won’t trigger somebody’s footy game OCD.

The big news today is that PES2011 has PROPERLY arrived. Big-time. I’ve gone from lukewarm appreciation to full-on adoration.

The feeling that prompted me to go back to a Classic PES (albeit one I disliked originally) is finally here.

It doesn’t leap out at you straightaway. It takes some time to catch fire, but when it does. Wow. The last four years of PES haven’t been a waste – nuPES is a decent football game. But imagine what nuPES could have been with a sprinkling of the magic dust that is Classic PES.

I love Shimizu! One of the villains of many a PES – a weak player, with a weak shot – is surprisingly strong in PES2011, and I don’t remember him being that way. His shot, too, is wickedly fierce, although he has only scored one so far.

I have been trying to score a goal, any goal, to record and show here. In the end I scored a ‘scuffer’ that really wasn’t worth recording – and that turned out to be my only goal of the last 2 sessions. I’m having a proper Default debut season. Scoring a goal, any goal, is a major event.

Crossing in PES2011 is very peculiar, and I would say inferior at the moment – there seems to be little control over direction and power, with the responsibility for both being abstracted to the player’s stats, the context, the directionality, and so on. Arguably this is better – i.e. it’s giving me a more PES-ish crossing, which is what I’m meant to be doing here in the first place.

But I have to say that after several years of having a more subtle crossing control scheme, I do prefer the latter.

All of which is probably the only blot on PES2011’s copybook at the moment.

I have arrived, fully and absolutely, in the Land of Classic PES. It took about 8 sessions for things to click. I have had to heroically resist flopping across to one of the recent FIFAs, but it has happened.

My Advanced Start isn’t all that advanced, really. I’m still going through a painful Season 1 with the Defaults and the couple of decent players that I’ve picked up.

I keep getting caught offside, over and over again, sometimes 5 or 6 times per half. I’ll think I’ve spotted my striker in space and I’ll send a through-ball, aerial or ground, and – the whistle goes, and that famous long yellow line is superimposed on the pitch.

I’ve had a couple of matches that ended without any AI fouls committed against me. The average is about 3 or 4, which means that some do finish with 1 or 0. But some have 6 or 7, and it’s no coincidence that these are the better matches.

No-fouls/low-fouls was a thing in Silver Age PES on the PS3, but we never really noticed. Why? Could it be because the game overall was less arcade-oriented, and no-fouls/low-fouls didn’t seem so cheap? nuPES’s ice hockey-style frenzies are so egregious that we can’t help noticing no-fouls.

I’m training Palmieri in a skill card. My long-term vision is for Palmieri to lift the European Cup. He needs to be the complete defender and captain. I’m giving him slide-tackling at the moment. It’ll only take 72 (SEVENTY TWO) weeks.

One of the many sins of nuPES was its introduction of universal slide-tackling. Every player from around PES2014 on could extend a telescopic sliding leg that would not have been out of place as a grabbing arm in a children’s platform game. Oh yes, extreme slide-tackling was and no doubt still is ‘fun’, but it’s not PES and never will be.

But perhaps nuPES’s biggest sin (in a long list) was the way it enabled one-touch football as the default. You didn’t have to be in the zone. Nor did your players. You could always ping-pong your way around the pitch, with very little difficulty.

nuPES muscle memory constantly costs me in PES2011. You can’t one-touch your way anywhere. I’ve lost the ball hundreds of times already in circumstances where my nuPES muscle memory tells me I should be able to one-touch my way out of trouble.

It’s all pretty wonderful. I keep nearly scoring the greatest goals, but just missing out. I think they’re coming.

PES2011 is really here at last. Let my experience be a warning: it takes about 8 sessions to bed down. The last few years of footy gaming might have changed us too much.

Seven Eleven

Another great couple of PES2011 sessions, covering about 7 matches, making a total of about 14 matches played overall. If I was doing my all-new End of Year Review for PES2011 right now, I’d give the game an easy 9/10. Great Master League, deep football game mechanics: a true PES game.

So why am I looking enviously over the fence at FIFA?

PES2011 looks great, even on the PS3. Graphics are not a problem at all. The graininess is initially startling, no denying that. How fast we get used to a new generation of consoles! But PS3 graphics are still more than acceptable.

Loading times remain a pain, as do the lack of home comforts like easy screenshotting and video clip record/export. I feel guilty, but I constantly allow moments and events to pass by that I would have recorded on PS4.

I play football games, or indeed any game, in order to play the game, not do something else that requires a lot of surrounding fuss and bother. When playing I’m typically in a groove (a literal groove, on the bed), playing with the controller in my hand, a podcast or audiobook playing on my phone next to me. Picture the scene when something happens in PES2011 that I actually go ahead and capture. I have to put down the controller, sit up, pause the podcast/audiobook, open the camera app, and then take the necessary picture or video footage. If it’s the latter, I must awkwardly hold the controller with one hand whilst manipulating the left stick to get the desired replay speed.

I know. Talk about a First World Problem. The peoples of Syria and Sudan must be shaking their heads in wonder at how I’m coping with the horror. I should be followed around by a documentary team or something.

Back at my Master League, I am deep into the first half of Season 1. A long way from the January window.

My semi-cheating Advanced Start means I’ll have money to spend when I get there, and spend it I will.

Iaquinta and Schwarz up front are an eye-catching combo on paper, but in practice they are average. In 10 League matches they’ve scored one each. Shimizu behind them is being Shimizu – small and weak, but skilful with it. He did put away a tidy finish in the Cup from the edge of the box that fair rocketed into the top corner of the net. I almost bestirred myself to record it, but then thought, nah.

I’ve got Palmieri and Schmidt in defence, but remember that these are promoted Youths too. I tend to start matches well with them, only to get overrun late on when fatigue sets in across the board. PES2011 seems to be faithful to its stamina system.

No goals worth showing. I’ve scored one or two that would have made it if I had access to PS4-style recording-and-uploading facilities. This is just how things will be.

I’ve noticed the stirrings of spring recently (despite the persistence of near-Narnian cold). In football game terms, this usually prompts thoughts of the next couple of football games. PES2019, it would be usually. It feels peculiar to have given all that up, but I remain absolutely 100% steadfast on that front. I’ll only be interested in new PES games again when PES actually makes a return. Which won’t happen, for all the reasons discussed at length here over the past few years.

The Sides of March

PES2011 on the PS3 in the year 2018 is not without its challenges, but it is a marvellous football game, which more than makes up for everything the game – and the platform – lacks.

And Master League, of course, was better in the old days.

Tootling around in the Master League menus, what do I find but the individual training menus, which I had almost completely forgotten existed.

This is where you allocate Focus Points on a per-player basis, and have the option of adding skills through skill cards. Similar to PES2018’s system, but better in all sorts of ways. First because there will be an undoubted effect upon the players that translates to on-pitch action. And second because of the sheer time it takes to complete the training, and the financial commitment required.

For example, here I am training up Schwarz in the Passing skill (I want him to be the complete player, moving forward).

PES2011’s menus’ trademark lighting effects spoil this screenshot, and most screenshots of the game, but it can’t be helped.

Note the length of time it will take: 72 weeks. SEVENTY-TWO WEEKS! Instant gratification, I don’t think so. Those 72 weeks would have been 144 weeks if I hadn’t allocated a precious Focus Point to the Skill Training. Decisions, decisions. After every week there’s an appreciable cost deducted form my budget for this training. Granted, I’ve got the cheaty Advanced Start, which means a bigger budget, which means this training isn’t squeezing my finances as much as it otherwise might.

This Training menu demonstrates just one aspect of many in which Master League has been dumbed down in more recent years.

PES2011 and its immediate predecessor were the best Master Leagues that the series has ever seen. Why they were dismantled in the way that they were is one of the great enduring mysteries of gaming, and of life itself. The obvious answer why is that Konami wished to facilitate online gaming, which entailed reducing the amount of time that users were spending in a non-profit mode. This seems to be the only rational answer, regrettably.

I’ve played 6 League matches and 1 in the FA Cup. I won the latter 2-1 with a stylish diving header at the end from El Moubarki, arriving late to a deep cross. I thought about getting the phone out to make a recording of the goal, but in truth, it wasn’t remarkable enough to make it worth the effort. Had that been a PS4 goal, you would be watching the replay even now. This is one of the factors about going back to the PS3. The threshold for what is and isn’t a recordable goal is raised by some margin.

The table – look at that lovely Bundesliga logo, and that lovely Division 2 name, and just look at the hodgepodge of teams and their lovely badges:

Now that’s a proper old-school Master League screenshot, right there.

So what’s the state of PES2011 after a week?

Well, my life right now is such that I get very little time to play, relatively speaking. I tend to play just two or three good sessions per week, rather than an almost-daily session as of old. I’ll be honest and confess that my thoughts have often turned back to the PS4, or even to the PC platform. I think often about the joys and conveniences of what I could find there. But the quality of PES2011 on the PS3 transcends every issue at the moment.

Great Boo’s Up

Football game Puritans in general and PES Puritans in particular might want to look away now.

My PES2011 setup period is over – and here’s Puritan Strike 1: I have stuck with the Advanced Start.

I initially ran into it without realising. Advanced Start bug in PES2011’s Master League is where pre-Editing the team makes you start with more money and a higher team ranking than you ‘should’ do.

I’d played a couple of matches before realising. It’s too much work to unpick the stitching and start again.

It all means that I’ve been able to furnish myself with some good players from the outset. Iaquinta up front, Motta at DMF, and De Sanctis in goal.

The squad is still 90% Defaults, but would’ve been 99% Defaults without the Advanced Start.

Eh, whatever. I just want to get on with things. I’ll go the full-on Bible-thumping Puritan route at some point in the open-ended footy gaming future.

Puritan Strike 2: my Division 2 is called the UEFA Super League. I’ll still be promoted to the Premiership, as it then was, eventually, but Division 2 isn’t Division 2. And it’s stuffed with the oddest teams. I remember hand-picking them years ago when I spent a few days one summer fooling around with this game.

To add to the Puritan heebeejeebees: whenever the game shows me a replay, the logo that swooshes across the screen is for the Bundesliga.

And finally, Puritan Strike 3.

This is a vaguely long-range goal from Thiago Motta – who’s only with me because of Strike 1, remember – in which the defence backs off and backs off and backs off, instead of closing me down. That was a hallmark of the AI coding around that period of PES, I recall. PES2010 was particularly noted for it, but it was in PES2011 too, on lower difficulties at least. This was from my first two matches on Regular. I’ve changed up to Professional since, and space is very much at a premium

I love PES2011’s shooting. Adore it. Its variety of outcomes and the sheer subtlety of it all – based on the player, his stats, where he’s facing, and what’s happening near him – is as complex and interesting as anything we’ve had since, in any football game.

Arguably PES2011’s was the best shooting we’ve seen in PES since PES5. (Everything in PES5 was and is the all-time best-ever, of course. Everything before and since is jostling for second place.)

I’m mid-table at the moment, and into the second round of the FA Cup. Looks like I’m in this for the long-haul.

It’s not all wine and roses, as the next weeks and months will bear out. I really miss the PS4. I’m very tempted by the allure of FIFA.

But PES2011 was and is unfinished business. And most of the reason I’ve dumped nuPES is to get back to PES fundamentals. PES2011 certainly feels like that.