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.