Month: March 2019

Come, Armageddon, come

The ship has steadied in my Master League progress. A lovely-looking goal to start off with:

That is a graceful 33-yard free kick from Forlan. From that far out, if you get the power and placement right, they will pretty much always go in, so I am not claiming this as any great demonstration of ‘muh skillz’ – just a nice aesthetic spectacle. A Hagi free kick, I think of them as. And note the weird change of the pitch’s strip patterning from horizontal, as seen in the build-up to the free kick, to the vertical, as seen in the pitch-level view above. Explain that, Konami.

Results in the League have been middling. Some notable wins, including a massive 1-0 against Man City. But some defeats and costly draws too.

The ML table scripting gods are kind as ever. If I could hit a button to fast-forward to the inevitable last few matches of the season where it’ll all be decided, I would hit that button and get it all over with. But I have to run the whole race.

Below are January’s results – fairly representative of my results this season as a whole.

The second result in this list was the FA Cup Quarter Final. I battered Liverpool for almost the whole match, but ultimately lost to their only two shots on goal.

The Treble chance is gone, and maybe for good in PES2019, if this is my final season.The current table:Yes, the game really is bending over backwards to keep me just 4 points off the top with 13 matches to go. 8 defeats for Manchester City and 6 defeats for Arsenal is undoubtedly the script making sure they don’t run away from me at the top. Their dodgy results have matched mine.

I’ve got a few days off work next week, so expect a sprint to the finish line. By this time next week, PES2019 could all be over. The end of days may be in sight.

What happens at the end of this season depends very much on whether I have any sense of unfinished business. Past experience has shown me that I cannot walk away from an ML career that is in any sense unfinished.

At the moment, I feel that if I don’t win one or other of League and Champions League – if I end the season empty-handed – I will have that sense of unfinished business, and there will be a Season 13.

Or I might feel that way even if I win one, or both trophies.

It’s a difficult business, to forecast how you’re going to feel about a football game. So I’ll leave it until the actual end of this season, and decide then.

One touch such much

I won the final match of my Champions League group to squeak through to the knockouts. Last season I got all the way to the final, so it would have been awful to be eliminated at the group stage this season. All the other made-up teams in my imaginary world would have laughed at me. But in the end, needless to say, I had the last laugh.

Basel had nothing to play for. I dominated the match and ran out a 3-1 winner. Their goal was an auto-goal, scored straight from kickoff after one of mine. It might have been their only shot of the whole match.

Bayer Leverkusen had to lose their final fixture for me to progress. When the final whistle went in my match, I waited to see what my players would do. Plenty of times in this ML I’ve had the scenario where my team has all sunk to the grass and sobbed salty tears of failure. This time… they didn’t do that. They cheered and cavorted.

No idea yet who my first knockout opponent will be. For now, I’m just enjoying the very real prospect of a Season 12 Treble.After losing 3 matches and with a negative goal-difference, I had no right to qualify, really, but the Master League gods are kind as ever. I have two interesting goals from the Basel match to show at the end of the post.

In the league, it’s a case of seeing what mood the game is in from match to match. I usually know within a few minutes of the start whether I’m going to be allowed to play or not. Some may say that this is wrong thinking, a self-fulfilling prophecy, or whatever, but I know different. When your 30-goal-a-season striker is clean through and repeatedly either drags the shot wide or sees the GK pull off miracle saves, you know something’s up. The purpose of the Master League macro-script is to keep the league competition alive for the duration of the season. It is doing its job.

The current table after 19 matches:Onto those two goals from my final Champs League match.

The first is a flowing one-touch affair that I know many a football gamer would think is a great goal. I enjoyed seeing it come together in real-time – but I don’t think these types of goals are great goals. I know from the online footage I’ve seen over the last 8 years or so that such ‘ping-pong football’ is the hallmark of the online abomination.

The second goal is rather more to my liking. An R2 distance curler! There was a time when I used to score these for fun, but they were hit with the nerf-hammer sometime in November, and have been so scarce ever since that I literally shouted out loud when this one went in. I knew it was going in the moment I hit it.

Exciting times!

Well, exciting in a way. In a very Master Leaguey sort of way…

No, the game was never going to ‘allow’ me to romp to the league title.

The game was never going to let me have a lead at the top of the table for long. After my stellar 7 straight wins, I have had a mysterious run of dodgy form. The game suddenly, across two sessions, transformed itself into one where I was fighting the controller to get control of players who had obediently danced to my tune only the session before.

This exciting result hurt:

And this result hurt just as much:

And those were just the worst exciting results of a bad November. Nearly every result hurt.

Here are the results for November:

The only bright spots there were the league win at Everton, and the Champions League win at Leverkusen – a great match in which I was allowed to compete, because I was in trouble in the tournament overall, having lost 2 matches. That 0-1 win away at a hostile European ground was as tight and tense and joyful as they come. Despite my later narrow defeat at the hands of Atletico, I am still in with a mathematical chance of qualifying from the group, in the last fixture at home to Basel. Leverkusen will have to lose their fixture against Atletico Madrid though. I’ll play that next week now.

The league is my priority, where I am still well in the hunt. My terrible little run of results was mirrored, of course, by results around me, giving us the kind of exciting table that the Master League programmers/exciters clearly want to happen:

Nice to see Manchester City also contriving to lose 4 exciting matches during my run, leaving me only 2 exciting points off the top!

Middlesbrough and Crystal Palace, who both thumped me 3-0 at my place, are way, way down this exciting table, of course.

(Look at Arsenal’s goal-scoring vs goals-against, and their resulting GD. Bit of an anomaly there.)

I’m waiting for the game to relent and let me play again in the league.

It’s very palpable and obvious, the way I’m being stifled at the moment. Every time I lose the ball, the AI cannot be dispossessed until they have at least had a shot on goal. It’s guaranteed. Every time.

In a match against Newcastle (that I lost 1-2) I decided, out of interest, to purposefully hack and slash at the opposition the whole time, just to see if I could actually stop them that way. I would take the yellow and red cards…

…of which there were none, because no matter how violent and aggressive I got, I literally could not get near them.

It’s a definite change from how things were in my first 8 matches. I’ve never really seen PES2019 get up to scripting shenanigans at this level before. In previous seasons I’ve always been the one playing catch-up from mid-table, and so the script has never really had to come into play. Interesting to see it all laid out so bare and obvious.

Needless to say, the great goals that I was scoring for fun have all dried up. My goals at the moment are all boring-as-shit Arsenal-Barca team goal sidefoots from two yards.

This ridiculous goal won me a tight away match at Burnley:

Boom! Get in that net!

I’m still enjoying it all, even so. The game is throwing everything at me to keep the title race ‘exciting’.But it’s part of the package. I wonder if anyone at all ever romps to the title in Master League these days on Superstar or higher? The game seems as if it would never allow it.

Onward, and by next Tuesday’s post I should be way past mid-season. And hopefully still in the Champions League with a bit of exciting luck.

Pro Evolution Jerry Cornelius

PES2019 is unexpectedly enjoying a bit of a revival with me. Football game career modes are all about experiencing peaks and troughs. Those who play Master League long-term are well used to experiencing periods when it seems more of a chore than a joy. The trick is to keep going through those periods.

After a substantial trough that lasted most of a month or two, PES2019 suddenly seems to have rediscovered its mojo.

The great goals have kept coming. No real 30-yarders among them, just very satisfying finishes in matches where the results really counted. It’s great to be ‘allowed’ to score from outside the box again. There is a short compilation of goals scored in my most recent Monday night session at the end of this post.

Here is the table after 7 matches:I’m surprised that the game ‘allowed’ me to win 7 on the bounce in the League. Usually it chucks in a forced draw or defeat. I feared the worst before the early-season six-pointer against Manchester City, but I even trotted out a winner in that one too, winning 3-1 away.

In between all these league wins, I am playing Champions League matches where I have won 1 and lost 2, though. Perhaps those defeats are keeping the game’s internal script at bay.

Man City went 1-0 up straight from kickoff at the start of our league match. It was one of those heavily scripted-feeling 1st minute AI goals where I actually recovered the ball at least twice, but my players just couldn’t seem to dig the ball out and play it to safety. The AI kickoff momentum was too strong, and when the ball went into my net I was not surprised.

But I’m made of sterner stuff this season. You can see what happened next at the start of today’s clip reel below.

My players have all matured like fine wines at the same time.

Castledine is amazing now. I rarely post stats on this blog, for several reasons.

First because this is a very bird’s-eye-view blog, really, and second for time reasons (capturing, clipping, positioning on the page etc.; I’d rather be playing), and thirdly (perhaps most importantly) because of the stubborn uneasy feeling that stats ain’t what they used to be in the world of PES.

The consolidation of the stats several editions ago, coupled with the appalling focus on online multiplayer and its ‘balancing’ requirements, means that the way we used to exult over a player having 90 Speed feels rather old-fashioned now. I don’t believe that stats are meaningless in nuPES, but they’re certainly not the glowing holy numbers that they once were.

Castledine in PES2019 is now the kind of PES player that I will remember playing with in a decade’s time. He plays as a central AMF, just a notch short of the SS zone, and he can take a game by the scruff of the neck. He can also score a goal or two as well, as last week’s 30-yard blaster showed, and as the first goal in today’s highlight reel (below) also shows.

The debate over ‘which is the best version of the Cas-character’ is an eternal one.

The astounding Castello of Master League’s earliest days is the best one for me. Cinalton and Castolis and PES2016’s Castledine (the last black version of the character) were all great. But PES2019’s Castledine, for me, pound for pound, all things considered, is the best Cas-character PES has seen since the one that started it all off, Castello.(I couldn’t find a proper headshot of Castello.)

Here are my informal ratings of them all:

Castello (ISS2-PES2) – 10/10

Castolo (PES3 and PES4) – 8/10  (these first two incarnations were the foundation of The Myth of Castolo)

Castolo (PES5-PES2011) – 5/10 (it didn’t matter that he was no longer great: the Myth persisted)

Cinalton (PES2012) – 7/10 (an interesting remix of the character)

Castolis (PES2013-PES2015, when he became Greek) – 7/10 (a return to form)

Castledine (PES2016, and Brazilian once more, and still black) – 8/10 (an overpowered incarnation in an arcade-driven edition of the series)

Castledine (PES2017-18, still Brazilian, but now turned white!) – 6/10

Castledine (PES2019) – 9/10

My memory is not what it used to be and I may have forgotten one of the incarnations of the character, or got a detail wrong. Feel free to chip in with corrections and with your own ratings of Master League’s very own Moorcockian eternal champion.

Right, that compilation to finish with, and the very first goal here comes from the man himself, E Castledine. He also has a few assists throughout the package.