Category: free kicks

Rivals Schmivals

11 matches into the start of Season 2, and this is the current league table:

pes2017-season-2-table-after-11If that’s not slightly shocking, you’ve probably not looked at the goals-scored column: 4 goals scored in 11 matches. Worst in the division.

I love this pain. This is why ISS/PES, and Master League, have lasted with me for 20 years. I’m a poor enough player that scenarios like the one currently playing out are the norm for me. PES2017 is still holding up for me, despite its lingering niggles (of which more below).

Here’s a typical run of results in this period, starting with a hilariously one-sided visit from top-flight Fulham:

season-2-early-run-of-bad-results-and-no-goals

I was lucky to get nil in that Cup game. I remind the reader that I remain on Professional difficulty. With my first-choice XI, Team Spirit is 81. Even with changes to the team, I’m never below 70. So it’s not that.

It’s almost safe to say I won’t be going up to the Premier League in Season 2. I say ‘almost’ because it’s always possible that I could experience the required click, and then surge up the table. We all know that the ML league table is very kind to human teams on a surge.

I’m getting annoyed about fouls again. For a while there, I thought fouls were all right in PES2017. But fouls are not all right in PES2017, and it matters.

I had a golden period at the end of Season 1 where the free kicks count was averaging 3-3 per match.

That was still risibly low compared to the great PES games of the past, and nowhere near the level required to make PES2017 the properly serious football game that it wants to be and should be allowed to be.

But I was willing to accept the 3-3 sort of level as a decent compromise with those fuckers online whose fatuous, un-PESlike demands for continuous, flowing, ‘fun’-filled play have created this entire issue. (If you’re one of those fuckers, I am sorry. No, I really am.)

rivals-schmivals

The issue has crystallised anew for me after I noticed something very odd about Rivals matches in PES2017. I believe they are deliberately coded to permit as much foul play as possible.

I thought it was a quirk of my playing style, but having played several Rivals matches since the start of PES2017 and experienced the same stupid fast frenetic gameplay in all of them, I’m ready to call it: Rivals matches in PES2017 are broken.

Here’s the post-match screen for Coventry vs Birmingham:

pes2017-rivals-1

0-0 there. Not even an offside. Even these days, that’s pretty rare.

The Villa came along soon enough. I set out in this one to play as dirty as possible myself, sliding and chopping and hacking at every opportunity:

pes2017-rivals-2

0-3 this time. I was never fouled once (well, I was, approximately 10 times, but none of them were given). I managed to concede three fouls, but only because I tried really, really hard.

Had I played my usual game this one would’ve ended 0-0 on the fouls front too, I’m sure. Maybe 0-1 at most.

I believe I know what’s happened. PES Productions decided that Rivals matches should feature the kind of referee of whom football pundits would say: ‘he has to show some common sense there’, i.e. be as lenient as possible in order to permit a flowing, fast, crazy derby feel to the match.

This is disappointing to me.

Somebody at PES Productions clearly thinks that Pro Evolution Soccer’s gameplay shines best when it flows without interruption, and at great speed. The curious thing about that belief is that the exact opposite is in fact the case. Pro Evolution Soccer is at its absolute worst when the game flows fast and furious and there’s not a foul in sight.

PES2017 is at its least attractive when it’s in no-fouls, continuous-play mode.

So the Rivals matches, for me at least, are the absolute worst matches that PES2017 has to offer.

I don’t finish them with the desired effect that PES Productions undoubtedly wish to achieve. I’m not wiping sweat from my brow and going ‘Whoo! What a great match!’ Instead, I sigh and think ‘Thank God that’s over with. That was one of the most tedious matches of PES I have ever played. Everybody at PES Productions should be ashamed of themselves for spoiling what is an otherwise great game with these regular detours into PES2016-style crazytown.’

I really do say that, out loud.

The Unforgotten Man

Last time I was reminiscing about Hagi the First and his best-ever free kick in PES. It’s still the best free kick I’ve ever scored in PES—but this new 35-yard effort from a semi-forgotten man, John Barnes, runs it very close indeed:

That moment, and a few other stellar performances, have put John Barnes firmly back on my radar.

Could the ageing Barnes (32) be responding to the competition of Vicente, Hagi, Ribery, and Reyes? One of them will take his place in the seasons to come. But not just yet.

That came in a 4-2 away victory over Norwich. It was 0-0 at the time and they were parking the bus. This goal from nowhere, just before half-time, drew them out and set up a Barnes-storming (sorry) second half with lots of open play and goals. It was a game-changing strike indeed.

I’m very generous with the power on these long free kicks—80-90%, which always seems wrong but is actually right—and then I hold Triangle for even more power, or extra curl (or extra placebo*, or whatever).

[*nb: I know that holding Triangle during free kicks isn’t a placebo, that it’s in the manual and everything. It’s just a joke.]

I’m probably going to finish outside the top 4 in the table for the first time in many seasons. I was making up ground and had got within 4 points of 4th place. Then a run of bad results knocked me back again.

The Champions-elect, Arsenal, came to play me at home. I lost 1-2, in a game that I could and should have got something out of. It’s these marginal defeats that have cost me dear this season, not the occasional thumpings.

And I’m out of the Champions League at the first knockout stage.

I was 2-1 down to Barcelona after the first leg at my place. I gave it my best shot at Barca in the second leg, but lost by the same scoreline: 2-1. They played exactly as you would think Barca on top difficulty should play. Simply irresistible.

I did well to get that one goal, really. I was 2-0 down (4-1 on aggregate) at the time, so it really was just a consolation. I brought some of the youngsters on for the experience.

Everybody’s favourite hair-transplantee, 18-year-old Wayne Rooney, got a blaster from 25 yards to score his first ever goal for my club:

Defeat was still bitter. My thirteenth season in total, and my second playing on Superstar difficulty, will now definitely end without any silverware.

With the players I’ve got I would have had a Treble by now on Professional difficulty, I’m pretty certain. I can’t speak for Top Player.

All that remains is to play as well as possible in the last stretch of the League and aim to finish as high as possible. Hopefully I can benefit from the game’s generosity and sneak into a Champions League pre-tournament qualifier. I’d really like that. And I’ll have to tighten up at the back next season if I’m ever going to get that coveted first trophy on Superstar.

The switching hour

I’ve gone through and way past the mid-season mark in season 4 of my PES2011 Master League career. I forgot to take a picture of my squad after the transfer window. But I can sum up my activity very quickly. I sold DAVID N’GOG. I signed SINAMA PONGOLLE on a free. That was it.

The reasons for the sale of N’Gog were purely financial. I need to position myself for a Premier League campaign next season. To that end, I want a sizeable warchest for more players. Also, hopefully, a staff upgrade or two.

N’Gog started out great for me, but he became just another striker. It wasn’t much of a wrench to part with him. I came away with £500k for him. I’ve made a saving on the wages bill. All in all, a good bit of business.

Things are heating up. After my great start to the season, I did kind of think that I would run away with the Division 2 title. Or that finishing in a promotion place would be straightforward.

It’s not working out like that on either front. After 24 matches, I have been put firmly in my place regarding the title. Stoke are going to win it at a canter. I remain comfortably in the top 3, but the chasing pack are closer than I would like.

The goals are still flying in—which is good news for my planned bumper video of every goal that I score this season. But I’m shipping a lot more goals too.

I have started to lose and draw more matches than is really healthy. Lots of the bad results are ‘honest’ bad results, I have to say. Bad defending, lack of concentration, sloppy finishing. But a large number of them are not honest and not fair.

PES2011’s now-notorious player switching issues cost me two precious victories in a row. And player switching also got Schwarz sent off. As I was about to execute a sliding tackle with another player entirely, the cursor auto-switched to Schwarz—miles from the ball. My button-press registered as an action for him. He slid in on an innocent bystander. An automatic red card duly followed. What hurt the most was a three-match ban. I didn’t win any of those three matches.

On Schwarz’s return, he was kind enough to score my first and so far only free kick goal of PES2011:

Link: PES2011 free kick goal

As ever, I have to look for the cloud with the silver lining. It was a bit dispiriting to see on the close replay that the ball only went over the wall thanks to a non-jumping CPU player.

But it’s a game. A video game. I do need to keep reminding myself of that fact.

Video games have conventions. One of PES2011’s conventions is that a random player in a CPU wall tends to stay rooted to the ground. So if you happen to flight the ball over that player’s head, all well and good. Who am I to complain?

The lay-off the land

Alongside my brave new world of online poker playing (and I’m absolutely obsessed at the moment) I’m still plugging away with my Manager Mode career on FIFA09. I’m playing as Coventry City. I’ve recently done a very bad thing—I admit it—and started playing using fully Assisted control settings.

A lot of this decision was shaped by me starting to take a bigger interest in other things than football gaming. There are all the other games I want to play, and there is poker, and there is work, and there are countless other things to attend to day in, day out. With all these other activities I find that I don’t have time to spend mastering the Semi-Assisted/Manual settings that I was using in FIFA09. I’ll go back and try them again eventually. But not right now. Life’s just too full at the moment.

And what’s so bad about Assisted anyway? Yes, you are helped to play the game to an almost absurd degree. But I still find the game bleedin’ hard when using these supposedly easy settings. A massive portion of that difficulty comes from using the lower-ability Coventry City players. As others have remarked, FIFA09 seems to be optimised for the big teams and big players. It’s such a different game with the lesser teams and players.

I’m floating in mid-table with the January transfer window just around the corner. I won’t be sacked again. I’m picking up enough draws and wins to keep my head above water—thanks mainly to those Assisted settings. But I’m not scoring anywhere near as many goals as I should be. My record is something like 1 goal per game, on average.

One thing I have had success with is the lay-off free kick. A few weeks ago I showed off my best-so-far lay-off goal. I nearly always force a save from the keeper now. And now I’ve got another one—scored with the same player, Isaac Osbourne. I’ve looked at his stats and he doesn’t seem to have any special ability re. free kicks. When FIFA09 came out I remember hearing that a lot of special player attributes were going to be masked (if so, why?). So perhaps Osbourne’s some kind of free kick ninja on the quiet.

Here’s that second lay-off free kick goal. I think it’s a better one than the first, if only for the increased angle and the way the ball smacks into the net off the underside of the bar. It’s always one for the scrapbook when that happens. In the clip the view is from behind the opposition net:

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