Month: April 2018

Blankety Blank sheets

That’s me, firmly bottom of the league. Played 11, scored 4 (FOUR). I’ve only conceded 6, which tells you that I’ve had a high proportion of nil-nils.

PES2011 is unafraid to be… the word for it is stodgy. It will quite blatantly very often just be awkward and seemingly aimless. But never dull – and that’s the key element that separates classic-feeling PES from the newer flavours of the series.

One day soon I’m going to stop drawing these contrasts between old and nuPES. But here and now I’m still in the early stages, relatively speaking, of my return to old PES. I’m still at the part where I’m continually struck by just how much PES has changed since then, and mostly for the worse.

Never, ever forget this one undeniable truth. Online multiplayer KILLED Pro Evolution Soccer. Killed it stone dead. Everything that was great about PES, everything that was distinctive about PES, everything that mattered about PES, had to be obliterated in order to appease the expectations of a userbase who are not fit to sniff the case of a true, proper PES game. Fuck their accursed spinning balls.

Each of my front 3 in PES2011 (Schwarz, Aduriz, Iaquinta) is already a clearly defined individual. They’re as different from each other as three, uh, different things. In nuPES, the designers are terrified of boring their core userbase – the slavering online masses – and inconveniencing them by giving them strikers who are vastly different to the strikers that everybody else has got (i.e., Balancing).

In old-school PES, there is awkwardness. There is staccato flow. Stop-start rhythms, the ultimate no-no for any online game.

Like I said, the point will soon come when I cease making these observations about The State of PES Today, in the light of my PES2011 adventure. If nothing else, we all know how useless it is. The State of PES Today is not ever going to change.

I’m waiting with impatient excitement for the PES2019 preview season to start. It should be very entertaining to watch from the outside, now.

11 matches into Season 2 of PES2011, and there ain’t gonna be no promotion this season. I’m still on Professional difficulty. Matches are a slog, chances are at a premium, and despite the Advanced Start, all my players handle like a team of oil tankers genetically spliced with circus elephants. I do have a few agile, nimble little terriers – Shimizu for one – but the others handle like the worst players in the world. Every session of PES2011, it amazes me that PES ever used to be this way.

Thinking back to the original year of PES2011, 7 years ago now, it took me many seasons to go up – I think a whopping 8 seasons. It might be that again, you know.

Tales of the Unexpected Earnings

I’d forgotten all about this old-school Master League screen. Expected Earnings used to be a regular haunt, particularly in the very early stages of a Master League. You’d tentatively open it up and flinch as you saw just how much budgeting and economising and tightening of the belt you’d have to do to avoid a Game Over, or the forced selling of your best players.

That was Golden Age PES on the PS2, when Master League was never meant to hold your hand and be ‘accessible’, or whatever buzzword was used a few years ago by the design wonks at PES HQ. Expected Earnings used to be brutal and forbidding and capable of giving you nightmares. The very phrase ‘Expected Earnings’ was akin to ‘Room 101’.

Here in my Silver Age Master League, I have got the PES2011 Advanced Start glitch giving me wings, as the sums show. I won’t be tightening my belt much in this ML. But still, the screen has the power to give me the willies no matter how apparently well-off I am.

This has in no way been any kind of traditional Default ML – which is exactly what I needed it (not) to be.

The open-ended future is one without any new PES games in it, barring an unlikely, borderline-miraculous change of philosophy at PES HQ. So I have all the time in the world to get to the traditional grinding Default MLs in the future, and I will. (I fancy playing one of the ‘lost’ PS2 games after this, in due course.)

I went shopping with my £9m, and shipped out nearly all my remaining Defaults – leaving myself light on numbers, but strong on quality.

I also changed the starting formation to a more classic-feeling 4-3-3:

I started the new season fairly confident of a promotion campaign.

Aaaand…. opening results have been terrible. I met newly-relegated Wigan Athletic and Aston Villa in the first two fixtures, and lost them both 1-0. Then I drew the next two matches 0-0. Then I drew the next match 1-1, scoring my first goal of the season, another scrambling, scuffed-off-the-knee job from one of my midfielders.

I’m already eyeing the new formation and remembering why I ditched the 4-3-3 after the PS2 years in the first place. I don’t ever remember getting it to work on the PS3 games. 4-3-3 was perhaps a Golden Age-only possibility.

I’ll give the 4-3-3 another 5 matches and then make a decision. The goals need to come or there’s no point in it. I might as well revert to the 4-2-2-2. I’ll see.

Overall, PES2011 is fulfilling one of the central requirements of a great football game: that it be the background pipe-and-slippers of daily life. No matter what else is happening, no matter how tiresome life and work decide to be, I’ve got this little bolthole to retreat to. No multiplayer online frenzy of fun-and-flow could ever take its place.

The Last Word on Castolo

Season 1 has ended. Castolo has retired. That’s him above, strolling around on the pitch after the final match. He wasn’t even playing in the match, and he wasn’t on the bench either, but he still showed up to take his retirement applause. I cannot recall a single good moment from Castolo all season – and he did play most of the opening third of it. Nope, I won’t miss the overrated Myth one bit.

One of my mid-season Youth signings, Pelaez, has been a revelation in the closing parts of the season – as was Shimizu. Both are automatic first-choices. I’m wondering if the Advanced Start also triggered something under the hood that made these two youngsters better than they ‘should’ be.

I finished 10th in the end. The final table:

I did my best with the photo editor there, but really, PES2011’s lighting is to blame. You can just about see that I scored 36 goals, and conceded 36 goals. I lost as many matches as I won.

A mediocre season, then, but oddly, I had a couple of players in the Team of the Season:

Palmieri I can understand, at a stretch, but Iaquinta? He scored about 10 goals, all in all. The qualifying factor must be the overall average of his post-match ratings, which were always good. Iaquinta was one of my ‘cheat’ players that I got thanks to the Advanced Start.

PES2011 is slightly annoying me in a number of ways.

First annoyance: the COM AI is really not up to much. We’ve had much better AIs in every edition since, in terms of aggression and, yes, the occasional (or frequent) feeling of unfairness. PES2011’s immediate successor, PES2012, and of course PES2018, both featured the kinds of AIs that beggared belief at times.

Second annoyance: many of the players on the AI teams have names like PLAYER and TRANSFER, which not even I can manage to overlook. I should get into my Option File and perform some in-flight surgery. I probably won’t, though.

Other than the above gripes, the PES-ness of PES2011 is unimpeachable. The way the players move and react continues to startle and impress me. What a football game we’d have today if they’d only stuck with this vision. Granted, not many kids would be playing it.

I still haven’t scored a great goal in PES2011. This vexes me, as one of the principal joys of footy gaming in general, and PES in particular, is scoring the occasional goal that plasters a massive grin on your face. The kind of goal you remember years later. I’ve mentioned it before, but I can still remember one particular goal I scored with Michael Owenn in ISS98.

In lieu of a memorable goal, here’s one that is fairly typical of the 36 I scored all season long:

That’s a missed shot right at the start. See how lamely wide it goes. That’s player stats and context at work, there, classic PES-style.

Ximelez retrieves the ball and send the cross over. Shimizu… handballs it back across goal, where Aduriz is the Johnnie-on-the-spot to score from 1 yard out. Seriously, 95% of my goals are like this. No wonder, really, that the bigwigs at Konami decided to go the more arcade-friendly route.

Here’s another old friend from PES2011’s Master League – the post-season Void:

I have to laboriously go through every single one of the above weeks, one after the other. There’s no skipping weeks allowed. I disable Autosave for the duration, of course, but that only makes a 20-minute operation into a 10-minute one. It’s still aggravating.

In summary, then, after Season 1: the classic PES feel of PES2011 is wondrous, and feels even more severe and sim-like than I was expecting. The Option File I’m using is an absolute dog. And Castolo is a cunt.

Thanks be to God

Finally, some relief from the twin time-sinks of work and life, and a chance to live as God intended me to live: just chillin’ in my yard, playing my Pro Evo.

A long session of 7 matches on Monday has moved me all the way through the mid-season Transfer window. And then some.

Suddenly, I’m in late April of Season 1.

The end of the season is in sight. Intriguingly, I might be within sniffing distance of the playoffs (if there are playoffs in PES2011’s D2; I really don’t remember).

Goal-scoring has been a major problem for me in PES2011. The nuPES methods of moving the ball forward and creating chances had become so baked into my muscle memory that I’m still even now only partially free of them.

I still revert to the awful, anti-PES, online-friendly, pinball-style approach.

Or I try to – PES2011 won’t really let me do it.

It takes the longest time to get used to the novel notion that players don’t have a universal great first touch. They can’t all spin in place, ballerina-style, without losing the ball. The kind of one-touch ‘ping-pong’ passing that nuPES has notoriously made feel normal, is largely missing from PES2011. You can still do it, but so rarely that they feel like special passages of play.

I’ve started creating the kinds of chances that are optimum in PES2011, and the goals have started to come. Not in a flood, but in enough of a trickle to keep me in mid-table and in touch with the leaders.

All of which was helped by a very active Transfer window. I shipped out a ton of the Defaults, without regret. I’ll be seeing more than enough of the Defaults throughout all my retro PES years to come.

I brought in some solid professionals.

I brought in the ageing Aduriz, in a rare case of reverse-influence across PES editions. We often get players whom we’ve had in past PESes. Here I am, getting a player in PES2011 that I had in a future PES. Aduriz was one of my star strikers in PES2017. Seeing him pop up in the List of Targets section was really a no-brainer.

31 years old, 79 OVR, and of course in decline, but I’m here to relish the world of Pro Evo, not to be some 1337_haXXor_Gam3r, or whatever the average online player calls himself.

The online gaming toxin that infected PES a few years ago now (probably around the time of PES2011, ironically) will never destroy the affection and regard that I hold for the series’ historical reality. No matter what happens (other than personal death or debilitating injury, of course) this timeless PES world will always be available to me.

Here is my full First XI and Squad for the second half of Season 1:

Yes, the Advanced Start has bought me a short-cut past the traditional Season 1 grind. That’s fine by me. I needed this non-grindy start to my past-PES adventure.

How are fouls? Intermittent – surprisingly many matches whizz past without any fouls, just like the very worst that nuPES has to offer. But most matches feature an acceptable 3 or 4, with some matches having many more. PES2011 is an honest football game that penalises both sides’ over-aggression, unlike all the PES games of recent years.

Still no great goals to report. I keep nearly scoring them, so they’re not too far away, I feel. I had forgotten just how seldom old-school PES dealt in spectacular goals. Rarity increases value. When one comes along, I believe I will emit a shriek.