We need a single-player PESxit

I think PES2020 might be the first one ever where I stay on Top Player all the way to its conclusion. On the PS2 I always went up to 5* difficulty eventually, and then to 6* when that was introduced. And in more recent time I’ve always gone up to Superstar once I have learned the ropes. This year, I doubt that will happen.

I’ve had a session of experiment on Superstar and the results were not good. I didn’t lose any crucial games… but the quality of gameplay did not please me. What’s different about PES2020’s version of Superstar is that the AI is allowed to barge and clatter your players without consequence. This makes for objectively poor gameplay. Physicality in football must have constraints and consequences, or the game suffers massively. But the online players of today have to be spoon-fed the shitty Rocketball gameplay that they demand. So we have to suffer.

Which isn’t a new development. This has been the direction of travel for years. But we’ve lived in a semi-protective bubble in single-player. Offline, the Rocketball dimension of nuPES has always been in a reasonable proportion on Superstar. Until this year.

And so it seems I might ‘complete’ PES2020 on the PS4 on Top Player. Which is not ideal. It’s not what I really want. Top Player is a little easy. It would not take too much of an effort to win the League on Top Player, and perhaps a pretty straightforward Treble too.

Goal-scoring isn’t a great feature of PES2020. Once again today I haven’t got a single goal replay that’s worth showing off.

Goals do mean something in context – yes, fine, no worries there. A rifled shot from the edge of the box might be just a bog-standard goal in visual terms – but if the scorer is Regen van Persie adding another layer to his developing ML story, then yes, that goal is pretty great. It’s a good and memorable goal. Ditto if the likes of Jarvis is the scorer. And Castledine has this knack of coming up with the occasional 20-yard screamer.

But overall, as things-in-themselves, I think it’s safe to say that the goals of PES2020 are the least remarkable and the least satisfying PES goals since PES2014.

Here is the league table after 16 matches. This was after a session on Superstar in which I scored 0 goals and racked up 1 point. Before that session I was 2nd and only 5 points behind Liverpool.I made it through to the knockout stages of the Europa League in fine style, and would have finished top of the group if I hadn’t tried out Superstar for the last match away to Dortmund that I lost 2-0. I knew I was already through and was willing to make the experiment.I remain strangely ambivalent toward PES2020. There are matches where I think it’s easily the best football game ever created. So many breathtaking moments and evidence of sheer craft from the developer. But there is this uneasy feeling overall of it being a multiplayer game that we’re being allowed to play (for now).

I know that I thought more highly of PES2019 at this stage last December, than I do of PES2020 this December. The different isn’t vast, but it’s real. This time last year I would have unhesitatingly said of PES2019: ‘9 out of 10!’ This year, at this beginning of December (roll on January 2nd), I would say quietly of PES2020: ‘8 out of 10’…. Which still isn’t terrible. As Meat Loaf nearly said, 8 out of 10 ain’t bad. And there’s 8 months of the footy game year remaining.

Updated: 3rd December 2019 — 12:03


  1. Top Player still has its fair share of Turdery and clattering challenges without consequence, and blatant cheating and scripting, it’s giving me enough of a challenge still to convince me I don’t need to move back to Superstar only to be enraged and come back down again.

    Will save the details for Thursdays PESFX post but expect a mixture of joy and ranting!

  2. Paul – the difference for me is that it’s much more of a level playing field. So the AI still does things it shouldn’t and gets away with them, but I’m allowed to play a bit as well – and score! Superstar is a scoring desert for me.

  3. Superstar is a funny old thing. It refreshingly very challenging, and for the most part plays a good game, which is great. But there’s always an air of cheating from the AI, ruining what could be so glorious. It’s all the things you mention, and so much more. They AI can do things that you just can’t, it is always switched on the loose balls, any block will turn into a perfect pass for their players, all the while you are still picking up your curiously lethargic player off the deck. The AI striker, when receiving a pass into feet in the box can quickly turn or roll your defender and score. It feels a little superhuman at times, but defending it can be leant, at least for the most part. The AI unfairly incapacitating my players in the build-up, and all over the pitch is still the worst thing.

    I experimented with a new 3-5-3 formation for season 7, but that’s been ditched after a few games. I also went back to stadium cam, but again, that didn’t last very long. Everything feels the same as it has for the last couple of seasons in terms of difficulty. I will probably finish near the top, but probably not the very top. I’m also just as likely to finish 8th.

    No way back though. I’m here to stay (on Superstar) and I’ll keep on plugging away until I’m bored. I signed Maximiliano Romero in the off season, a player I’ve been after for a while. A few others, but the rest of the starting 11 remains unchanged. It’s slow work, but the squad is improving slightly every season, and I feel I’m slowly getting closer, and closer, and closer to my goal…

    I’ve had a few hit-and-hope efforts from distance with RVP lately that haven’t been too far away. They’re getting closer. One thing the man can do well is get it on target when side-on to the goal, a full 45 degrees, or even more, even from range.

  4. very quiet here lately!! everyone hibernating for the winter?

  5. I guess! Still playing the game though. Where’s werd by the way? Still in the 2. Bundesliga?

    I’m finding difficulty levels to be quite dynamic . I’m still in professional , nearing the end of season 3. Sixth place in the Serie A and a great variety of games and challenges. If that’s down to the klashman tactics I have on; no clue but I am enjoying every second on it with all the mods slapped on. All stadiums are official and the atmosphere is there, great stuff.

    Don’t have to move up to top player yet, so I won’t. I’m seeing dives, cards, injuries and squad rotation aplenty. No table scripting tomfoolery either. Juventus and Inter just keep winning and I keep being stuck in sixth place. Don’t know what gives as this wasn’t the case in my previous saves on the game, but I’ll take it.

  6. I managed to win the league in Season 8 but got knocked out of both cups in the semi-finals. 42 year old Ronaldo was decent with 15 goals and 12 assists and my player of PES2020, McBurnie top scored again although he’s on a sharp decline now so will look to replace him in the transfer window. My team is pretty much the best rated in the game but I’m still getting a decent challenge on current settings. PES is tailing off though, Disco Elysium has taken pole position in gaming for now.

    Data pack due today with game play tweaks I think, although I’m sticking with the DT/exe combo unless there’s some overwhelming positive feedback.

  7. Tommy – today’s patch has of course done eff-all for the gameplay, but there is one big change that is HUGE and I know it bugged you as well as me – the referee now indicates with his arm which way a throw-in/corner decision has gone! They might as well bring down the shutters on PES2020 now, it doesn’t get any better than this.

    Cook – I can’t quite get the sense of what sort of game Disco Elysium is. I’ve heard the buzz, and YouTube is convinced I need to see content relating to it, but I can’t quite get a handle on what it is. Point and click adventure? Are there turn-based RPG battles? What?

    #1/Paul – re. The great difficulty debate I have ended up staying on Superstar and trying to ‘flip’ my attitude, i.e. to see the appalling unfairness as an ultimate footy gaming challenge rather than something that’s frustrating my mojo all the time. And you know what, this change of approach is working. Some great games on Superstar lately – and a Superstar goal worth showing off in replay form tomorrow. The season’s more or less a write-off already in the league so there’s no harm in trying Superstar out with a changed PES2012-style attitude (for those who recall my sudden about-turn on that game 7 years ago).

  8. NG – Not sure if you have seen my PESFX post yet but I may have to bite the bullet and follow suit with the Superstar thing.

    Re your Disco Elysium thing, I get the same on YT with ‘The Outer Worlds’ and its made me curious, anybody know anything about it ?

    Anymore FIFA Modding tinkering NG? and has sider been updated yet ?

    I’ve managed to write a data APi that pulls data down from a website into excel, such as PESMaster Db, trying to think of a useful, innovative way I can use it, currently can’t think of anything other than a player DB which has already been done many times.

  9. nG – It’s basically a point and click RPG with a choose your own adventure story. Battles/actions are decided by a dice roll with % chance of success and if failed a different approach will be required. You can choose which points to invest in the character and then % chances of success will be higher or lower for different tasks. Failing a dice roll will see a reduction in health or morale which will lead to game over. It’s dark and the writing is good, best point and click since Grim Fandango.

  10. Cook – point and click is an undiscovered country for me in gaming, never played one so I can’t say I dislike them as I don’t know them. I assumed from YouTube’s eagerness to show me the game that there’s some element of RPG turn-based strategy in there, as I watch a ton of XCOM2 content and that’s the only way the algorithm could think I might like it.

    Paul – Outer Worlds is a Fallout4/Skyrim-like thing in a sci-fi wrapper. If you bounce off games with lots of quests and sub-quests and sub-sub-quests (which Outer Worlds does, even if it has a sense of humour about it), you’d bounce off this.

    I’ve been busy with work and life so haven’t had a chance to dabble with the FIFA modding tools after last week’s first go. From what I saw then, it’s not a simple matter at all. I found a load of variables called RefStrictness and the like and changed them all from 1 to 10 just to see what would happen, and nothing did. I don’t even know what the variable range is. For all I know the values go up to 100 or 1000. Lots of trial and error required. The Frosty Editor is a powerful tool and its complexity is in proportion to the coding required to make a football game, which looks formidable. There are floating point variables and all sorts.

    You could use the API to make a reverse-editor for PES, something that you can change all player stats with at the click of a mouse. There’s a whole layer of PES modding where they have tools like that, so it might already have been done.

  11. NG – you’ve never played The Secret of Monkey isaland? Or Day of the Tentacle ?

    Absolute classics!!!

    I’ll look forward to having a fiddle with FIFA over the xmas break as Im off from Xmas even until the 6th Jan, so a few days to put the new super PC to some use.

  12. Finished 16th. Will be staying on professional for now. Big summer signing.

  13. Morning all. I’ve not been on the game for more than a game at a time in a week or two. Having endured four very tough seasons on superstar, season five saw me romp to the championship title and season six in the premier league is even easier. I’m top of the league, not only unbeaten but won every game, and never felt like I was going to do anything other. For example, against Man Utd it was 0-0 in the 93rd minute, I humped the ball out of defence and inexplicably had a striker running through from the halfway line unmarked. De gea came forward, moved to the side, moved back then moved aside again and I had an open goal. It was exactly the kind of shit that usually happens to you and felt completely hollow.

    All the way through I’ve felt this game has a level of pre determined outcomes way beyond what we’ve seen before, currently my story is that superstar is ridiculously easy. I’ll likely finish the season (which is bound to change against me) and then put it into storage for Christmas.

  14. Lloyd – your Rice is much more productive in your system, what formation is that? Might be a side-effect of the difficulty too of course. I haven’t forgotten the magic ‘PA0 plus Professional’ recipe.

    Uncle Turf – Superstar is so obnoxious for me that I have to ask, are you sure the game is on Superstar? Have you checked? You were swapping back and forth and it’s easy to leave it on TP without realising. I completed an entire season on TP a few years ago thinking I’d won the league on Superstar until I idly checked to make sure.

  15. Turf’s either a) flamebaiting b) on Top Player c) ridiculously good at PES or d) has a golden copy of the game where SS is not the blatant cheaty handicap fest that everyone else’s game is.

    I want a screenshot or video showing your game difficulty on Superstar, and a screenshot of your unbeaten premier league title win, then I want to come round your house and play the game to make sure its not broken and somehow ridiculously easy on SS.

    if all that prevails and you genuinely have won a prem title on SS unbeaten then I will personally commission you a golden cape and declare you the King of PES.

  16. NG – he plays as a AMF.

  17. Lloyd – I have never gone there with Rice, always a CMF and very occasonally a DMF. That’s how he keeps popping up with goals for you. Interesting…

    Paul – as you will soon discover for yourself, thers is no way Uncle Turf is having it easy on Superstar. He’s either being playful, or really on TP without knowing it. For realz.

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