January blues

All the way to mid-season 2 now. I could have signed a few star players from big clubs. I pulled back at the last moments.Not happy with the Negotiations settings! My early impression is that this is one of the most ‘broken’ Master League features ever to make an appearance in the beloved old mode.

At the start of the January window, wanting to see what ‘Hard’ Negotiations was like, I made a bid for Mezut Ozil – yes, Mezut Ozil – and I was stunned when I was not only allowed to negotiate with him, but I achieved a result. I bid the release fee, so Arsenal had no choice, but the player was quite happy to enter and complete Negotiations.

After a bit of to-and-fro (perhaps all that ‘Hard’ amounts to: a few rounds of to-and-fro) we settled on a salary of £3.8m, which would have used up my entire budget. There was no question of actually getting Ozil. I just wanted to see how far I would get negotiating with him, on Hard settings, as a mid-table Division 2 team. The answer was: all the way, albeit at a cost.

Here’s my mid-January First XI and squad – I’ve got a few days of the month left so there could be comings and goings, but with all the comings I think I need to settle down and actually get to know some players again.That Lincoln at CF is not the celebrated Lincoln of PES2019 Youth promotee and R2 curlers fame – he’s another Lincoln completely. Just 21 years old so there’s future potential. He cost me £24m from a Brazilian club, and a hefty £900k wage to go with it. He’s no Mezut Ozil but he’s what I’ve got.

Too early to tell if he’ll actually be any good. My pre-season signing, Pjaca, has only just started to perform well for me after 24 matches.

The player at right-sided AMF, called ‘SHVILI’ in the screenshot, is actually one Z. DAVITASHVILI, a rare example of me actually signing a Scouted player. AMF, 20 years old, good supporting stats and a full list of skills readymade – I have high hopes.Zabaleta at right-back is a Youth promotee. Only 17 in-game, he amusingly still has that ’90-year-old Nicolas Cage’ look going on.

Here’s the table after 24 matches:Hanging on the shoulder of the leaders with half the season to go – I’ve got a great chance of the playoffs.

My general form is patchy but I’m capable of winning enough to stay in touch and snatch it. It’s a shame you have to go hunting for this screen now:Seeing that pop up automatically every month was a nice bit of visual punctuation to the passage of time if nothing else. I’m still not used to having to go looking for regular updates and messages. It’s very easy to miss important stuff. Master League has felt bare-bones since the vanished brilliance of PES2010 and PES2011. We’ve got to the point now in PES2020 where, with all the window dressing tidied away out of sight, it can feel even emptier.

Where am I with PES2020 as a game right now? I’m not madly in love with it, that’s for sure. Master League’s new stuff either isn’t new, doesn’t work as I anticipated it would, or doesn’t seem to work at all. There are no fouls out on the pitch. Maybe 1 every few matches. It’s appalling, the worst ever.

I have an awful feeling that PES2020 will be the worst one ever for the lack of long-rangers. I’ve hit the bar twice from range. I am coming to suspect that’s all I’ll ever be allowed to do.

There’s so many good things right now that I’m not so focused on the bad. I love the way you’re not allowed to ping off a blind reverse pass with accuracy anymore. That was long overdue. But will it survive the patch cycle?

And this is what it all comes down to. The game isn’t made for me or my tastes.

The lack of long-rangers is disappointing, but the lack of AI Fouls is unforgivable. I never thought any PES could be worse for fouls than PES2018 was, but PES2020 is much worse. And at least PES2018 had some long-range goals!

So I’m having an uncharacteristic wobble, all told. Usually at this time of an ML I’m fizzing with excitement and joy.

Perhaps PES2019 is to blame. For me, PES2019 was a classic PES and Master League experience, a solid 9/10, and PES2020 was always going to have to follow that.

I’m not saying I’m not excited by PES2020 and curious about where this Master League will take me, but it’s at a lower intensity.

Updated: 27th September 2019 — 11:36


  1. NG – The PES Utd classic team is an option file from PES Universe, available on PS4 too.
    Broadcast cam is lovely this year, without that annoying zoom and more zoomed out, I’m settled on a custom stadium, Zoom 5, Height 0, angle 6.

    I’m playing 11 min matches too have been since day one. It’s only a minute longer but seems more when playing.

  2. Your unabashed hatred of Arcas is WRONG.

    Joking aside, I really bloody wish this was on Switch as well, particularly since EA is being EA. One would think Konami would take the massive gap, and yet here we are. I think Konami has an even greater contempt for its fans than EA.

    Anyway, as you were.

  3. I made a really interesting discovery last tonight. I’ve taken a few days off from PES, as Superstar’s *relentless* cheating, fouling and interference with my inputs was pissing me off. I was ending sessions irritated, sometimes outright angry, and was beginning to worry that I’d be experiencing PES burn-out in record time – and with an edition that I’d still describe as the most ambitious and interesting in years. Top Player is a little too easy for me, and perhaps too focused on the defensive side of things; Superstar is only really enjoyable when it shifts down to fifth gear from its default transmission setting of cunt.

    I’m at the start of a new season, and have a European Championship to play with England. I got 60 minutes into the first fixture against a relatively weak Croatia side, and three-nil down to identical goals – my player smashed to the ground from behind, AI makes a perfect first-time through-ball, my only available defender tugged left by the game when I’m categorically trying to move him to the right – and just turned it off. Fuck that.

    But then I had a thought, and reloaded.

    I started the match again, but switched up to Legend – and it plays a completely alternative style of football. It’s like a different PES. I’ve only played a few of the EC matches so far, and must qualify everything I say here with a reminder that opposing teams are usually very gung-ho in tournament/cup matches. I’m very curious to see how it will work in the league. PES offered the most proactive attacking football I’ve seen from it yet – some of it very clever indeed. You get hounded by aggressive pressing at all times in possession, but I wasn’t having the control/responsiveness issues I’d had on Superstar, and felt that my players were living up to their stats – and not struggling with across-the-board attribute nerfs.

    I can’t remember if it was Konami or EA who mixed up their top two difficulty levels a few years back, but is this what has happened here? Even then, Legend was playing much better football than Superstar, which mostly seems to rely on impeding the player in a dozen different ways to defend or plot a route to goal.

    What I’m getting on Superstar could be a bug. I unlocked Legend while having my yearly short-lived dabble with BAL, which is exactly the type of scenario that I’d expect the PES Productions playtesters to overlook. It could also be that the Legend AI is an experimental branch of their AI development, which is why it plays such a different game.

    I’ll report back once I’ve played some league fixtures.

  4. Interesting James. Curious to see how things pan out because I was watching fellow commenter, Tommy, win the Championship play-off final on Superstar, and it didn’t look much like what you describe it to be, did you find this Tommy or did SS play ‘OK’ for you?

    Also the constant insane hounding pressure would put me off in 0.003 seconds flat!! only a few real life teams have the fitness, discipline and know how to play this way, Liverpool, City, and probably some european teams, for every match to go that way and force the user to play a quick pass and move game, in every game, would totally ruin anything legend has to offer me me.

  5. Worth noting for anyone who doesn’t know that the first half of the promotion season was on top player. I’ve been playing on superstar for the second half of the season, and it is horrible, cheating, overpowered BS at times, but I’ve still managed to scrape good results here and there. It can be infuriating when it wants to be, but the games are just so good whatever way they swing, it’s hard to be mad. I think second half W D L stats were roughly even.

    Paul – I think you saw the final, which was easier than the two semis. A lot less fuckery.

    Going to use the off-season to try out a few games on Legend. Interesting indeed…

  6. Got knocked out of the Euros by Germany in the semis. A brace by Timo Werner late in the first half decided the tie; the first a curler inside the near post from just outside the box, the second a crisp one-on-one finish after leaving John Stones trailing in his wake. Neither of these felt even remotely unfair. There were also five – yes five! – yellow cards in the match, three for the Germans.

    I usually play on -1 speed, but I’ve knocked it down to -2 for Legend, which seems naturally faster than Top Player and Superstar. League matches next: very curious as to what I’m going to find.

  7. Almost running around the room levels of satisfaction
    Castledine cements legend status

  8. James – very interesting and very possible (the crossing of the difficulty level wires) knowing what we know. Welcome to -2 Club too by the way – I already don’t know if I can ever go back. This slow heaviness is what I’ve needed all these years.

    Does BaL still make you watch the AI-vs-AI sections of matches?

    Prsgame – Castledine is quietly the legend that Castello used to be before The Myth came along. You turned your HDR back on as well didn’t you… My eyes…

    Tommy – the semi 2nd leg was one of the matches you remember of a PES when looking back on it over a whole year, and those two moments for the two goals were very special just to see – the emotion was unlike any I’d have felt just watching a recording, knowing it was live. Interesting times.

    Jakkals – thank you for your comment, and I sold Arcas a few windows ago! I see his many qualities but this time around, not for me.

  9. nG – It’s been a good day with the game. I’ve haven’t won a game all weekend, including two losses last night. Picked up the pad this morning and beat Hull 2-0. That was immensely satisfying, subdued first-pumping sort of stuff. Followed that with 2-0 win against Stoke, playoffs cemented. Then, well you saw the rest, a draw and two more wins. A good session after a weekend of misery.

  10. NG I won’t have a bad word said about hamsun, he was always the sole surviving default for me topping the all time scoring charts. Once you were able to stomach 3 seasons of him doing what he did in that clip he generally developed into a really great player, strong, great finisher and amazing in the air!
    Then again I’ve always loved shit ungainly players because of their pure awkwardness adding to their individuality, it all added to their story for me. Pure pes. Njorgo was another personal favourite…

    Still holding off on purchasing this year’s game although a month of gardening leave from work may have me buy it pre patch. Very eagerly watching the legend test unfold and hoping it works out

  11. NG – I’m starting my new Legend league campaign in an hour or so, but my current theory is that it’s an alternative/related AI system that was sidelined in favour of the Professional/Top Player/Superstar AI “family”, but they thought it interesting enough to include a hardline version as the Legend AI. It just seems to do too many things that the other difficulty settings don’t to make it a simple step up.

    I’ve not seen it do anything other than play so-called “front-foot” football, it passes beautifully and with imagination – but not without mistakes – and its finishing is clinical. You really need to defend manually and with wit to foil opportunities. It’s still inclined towards thuggery on occasion, usually going unpunished, but the physical battles are much fairer.

    The real truth, though, will be in how it sets up with the relegation candidates who usually like to put everyone behind the ball, and the top teams with real star players.

    Turf – Going back to something you were talking about a few days back, Team Spirit is calculated in accordance with how the tactical affinities of your active eleven (check their information screens) correspond with your chosen system. It has nothing to do with their duration of service, age, happiness with the club, or anything else that you might expect to contribute to a variable called “Team Spirit”. What Konami evidently mean is “Team Cohesion”, or “Tactical Cohesion”. Certain player roles offer small TS boosts if someone is in the starting eleven; some high-end roles (definitely Playmaker, Bandiera and Legend) can offer a hefty TS upgrade if the player in question is also named as captain.

    The annoying thing about this system is that I think you generally need to win matches to have players “learn” your tactics, which really heightens that first season grind for all of you masochists who still start with the defaults. It’s bad enough when you opt for the real-life squads.

  12. James – I see, thanks, so morale has effectively been ditched, as the form arrows have been broken for years. I know TS is a slow burn of moving from say 40 to 80 across a season but it’s pretty poor if nothing much other than playing games impacts it, and you’re right it’s best described as familiarity with a system than spirit.

    I’ve now won as many games with Charlton as the whole of one season with boro. Bit weird that I’m in February and yet have only played a dozen games this year – it’s an odd idea that a sacked manager has to wait till Jan/Jul before they can resume. Superstar continues to be a challenge and frustrate me scoring goals, and I detest the cross nerfing – far too small a window for the right cross and precise header, I’ve not scored at all with what is a usually typical ml goal. Also, and I whisper this as I don’t want to make it a thing in my mind but…I’m getting an awful lot of rebounds off woodwork…

  13. Uncle Turf – I’ve noticed woodwork striking and remarkable misses in a few matches on Superstar now, very frustrating. I managed to finish 21st in the end but it felt obvious the game was playing me at the end. New season and I’ve selected the easy target again. A few new players in and I’m milking the free agents because I run out of transfer funds. Great fun at times but how long can I ignore shenanigans I’m not sure.

  14. Some interesting developments at the start of season 2. First of all the season finale and I finished in the 7th, just outside the playoffs. This was thanks to Leeds winning all seven of their last games. The first was more of a settings experimentation season. Despite being tempted to move up a difficulty I stayed on Professional and am glad now I did. The games are totally different now with the AI adapting more to my play style with subtle tactical changes and nudges to the attack/defence levels throughout the game. This means their are much more noticeable changes in tempo. In the opening 4 league games I have won 1, drawn 2 and lost 1. With finances still tight it could well be a long campaign. The signs are good. As for Arcas he is a good player for me and sits behind my target man Panico, weighing in with 10 goals last season. They have both formed a good partnership. Only problem is they look almost identical.

  15. Well, after my recent resurgence on Top Player, last nights 6 game session was abysmal, TP bac to being its worst.
    Drew 4 Lost 2, have gone from second to 6th, barely clinging on to the last play-off spot.

    TP showing all the strangulation signs that made me hate it so much first time round, my players being smashed to the floor repeatedly, simple passes going astray with alarming regularity, having only around 30-40% possession every game, chasing shadows, it was awful.

    This coincided with me turning off the PS4, fully, not rest mode but fully powered down, after my last and great session, so maybe it invoked a ‘new PES session’ as we all know that PES session variance is most definitely ‘a thing’.

    Or maybe it was the game simulating an end of season play-off run in, and making things harder, by strangling my players stats, whatever the case, it wasn’t all that enjoyable.

    Have 2 games left to play to hang on to that 6th spot and make the play-offs.

    One nice thing did happen last night though, my ageing 76 OVR rated LMF, Arda Turan, still has pace to burn and went on a sprint down the left wing, moments later he started hobbling, but played on, then this:

    An in-game injury, forcibly had to sub, first for me in any PES since I can remember.

  16. I scored a couple of comedy goals yesterday evening, both times using 2 forwards and both wingers to press high up resulting in the CPU punting the ball into a fellow defender and the ball falling kindly. In one, the defender booted the ball into his teammates face from 5 yards away, knocking him to the floor. Whatever the opposite of sexy football is. Really enjoy putting the CPU under pressure at the back.

    I’ve settled on a 4-4-2 with DMF, CMF, LMF, RMF and 2 x CF. Short passing, counter attack, one notch off the shortest pass support and no advanced tactics. Normally put it up 1 attacking notch on kick off depending on opponents tactics and if I need a goal I go all out attack on about 65 mins to get one of the CBs up front for hopeful punts, this doesn’t work often so probably need to review this tactic. Anyone have an alternative all out attack tactic? I’ve tried 4 up front and pushing full backs up but nothing seems to work. If I go behind I usually lose.

    Regarding defaults, Heittich has developed into the best version I’ve seen of him so earned an improved contract and is now the first name on the team sheet, if only he could shoot. Giorza is the only other one left and rotates at full back.

  17. Cook – See semi-final two in my video on the previous comments page. One CF, two SS, one in the hole, two high CMF. Had to go for broke in the last 20 mins or so. Also put it on full attack mode which meant one of my CBs joined in too. Bless him.

  18. Hi everyone
    I have just started a season with West Ham and after trialing a season with Chelsea on professional – I found myself winning the Champions League quite easily and finishing the league in 2nd. I lost 2 games and drew quite a few but found Professional just a little too breezy with pacey teams despite the occasional challenging game.
    So for this season, I am thinking about sticking to this rule. Switching the difficulty to Top Player against Man City, Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool, Spur and Arsenal and playing the remaining games on Professional. I think this could generate a really fun and realistic experience??

  19. Tim – hello there and welcome, and there’s nothing wrong with sticking to a difficulty level you enjoy. I’m still on Top Player which many left behind ages ago. I’ve tried changing difficulties depending on circumstances in the past (e.g. whether Home or Away), the problem being that you often forget to go to the settings and change it when required, so it can die a death. The future for me and football gaming is PA0 on Professional, so I’ll be circling back eventually. Maybe when the days are getting lighter again…

    Cook – and how about those AI goalie kicks that loop up and travel all of 2 yards?!

    Changing to 12-minute matches has enhanced the 65th minute substitution factor for me and I recommend it for that reason alone. Suddenly subs are very impactful, much more so than in a 10-minuter. I couldn’t go longer than 12 though. I need to get through the matches in a session.

    Paul – God it has been years since I’ve seen anything like that in PES. All the way back to PES2012 sort of era maybe? That’s like seeing Bigfoot or something.

    I never see much session variance in Top Player. It’s way too early to call a #goldencopy type scenario. Weird though that you’re having such a different time.

  20. Back on ML after a week playing Secret of Mana on the Switch.
    4 thrilling games last night:
    3-0 win over Mannheim,
    2-0 over St Pauli(inc that kit glitch even though I dont have any kits installed)
    2-1 win over 3rd Placed Wolfsburg
    and the cream of the crop a 1-0 over Augsburg, LF Weber coming from nowhere to scuff a 91st min winner!
    Heller my Luxembourger stand in for Rodax is on fire, may offload LW Vonlanthen as wages are a bit tight…in short loving it

    oh and i got a free kick within scoring distance (rare for me)hit the bar.

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