It was business as usual in my next batch of games in season 2020 of my Master League career. I won several more games in a row (after winning my opening three games) to give myself an almost perfect start to the season. I was top of the league, three points ahead of my nearest challengers, Espanyol.
Hang on… Espanyol? I haven’t even been aware of them for the past several seasons, much less noticed them actually doing anything of note in the league. I think it’s possible that they’ve spent the past season or two in Division 2, and this is their first season back in the top flight. But I’m not sure.
Whatever, the fact that they’re up here now at the start of the season, breathing down my virtual neck at the top of the table, means precisely nothing. Zilch, zip, nada. At the end of the season it’ll be me and Valencia in first and second place at the top of the table, with the next-nearest team in 3rd place about 10 points further behind. That’s the way it’s been for the past 6 seasons and that’s how I expect it to be this season. Over time things will change and other CPU teams will come to the fore, but right now it’s too soon for Espanyol to be considered serious challengers. We’ll see at the end of this season if my prediction holds true.
The undoubted highlight of my second batch of wins was a dazzling hat-trick from Del Piero, playing out on the right up front. As my other great players all get older—Camacho is 30 this year—the comparative youthfulness of players like Giggs, Kim Cyun Hi, and Del Piero gives me hope for the future of my team, regardless of who I end up getting to replace them in a few seasons’ time. I’ve already checked on Gerrard. He’s still an active player for Barcelona, at the age of 40. I don’t think he ever plays for them nowadays, but he’s still on their books. The crazy thing is that his stats still look pretty good for a 40-year-old. Lots of reds and yellows. I’m positive Gerrard will retire at the end of this season, which should mean he’ll pop up as a Regen in the mid-season negotiations next season. (Message to self: do not blithely skip the mid-season 2021 negotiations. Be sure to get the 17-year-old Gerrard. Message ends.)
Del Piero’s 23 now, and plays about as well as I have ever had any player play for me – up to and including PES5’s Bergkamp. It’s too early to start talking about this Del Piero as the best-ever player for me in PES2008 so far. There are at least four ahead of him in the queue for that honour (Camacho, Bradley, Komol, Maldini, a few others). Del Piero’s truly stellar performances are for now pretty unpredictable. But he’s just getting better year after year. His hat-trick was one to die for, with two long-range efforts from wide positions, and a scrambled header from a corner showing that he can mix it up in the penalty area when required.
My winning run just went on and on. As well as my usual aim of winning a Treble, I have a couple of secondary aims as well: go through the whole league season unbeaten, and concede less than 20 goals whilst doing so. I’ve tried to do that for the last few seasons and come close, but never quite made it on either front. I’m going for those secondary goals again this season.
All I have to do is keep taking the lead in games, and winning them—and the unbeaten run, obviously, will take care of itself. It’s when I get into the dangerous territory of drawing games that I risk the CPU sneaking a winner.
Happily I kept playing well until game 9, winning them all. It was one of my best winning runs in Master League. Komol got himself a neat little hat-trick in one game.
Then, in game 9, I encountered the mighty Real Betis. They’re definitely a newly-promoted team, and are riding quite high in the league. That means little at this stage of the season, but I was still wary. They ticked all the ‘upset’ boxes—a lesser name, newly-promoted, doing well in upper-mid-table…
Yes, the ensuing game was a bit of a joke. I know I’m harping on about scripting again, but really, after a certain point it’s the only way the CPU can seriously compete against a human player. And it shows.
I took the lead with a finely crafted strike from the man of the moment, Del Piero. I could and should have put the game beyond any doubt—I acknowledge this. The only way to snuff out the CPU’s God Mode and prevent that famous last-minute equaliser is to get yourself the cushion of two goals, not just one.
But I couldn’t expand on my lead, and as the game moved toward its climax I sensed what was about to happen. Real Betis were playing it around, and frequently squirming through my best tackles.
I hate the whole CPU ‘squirm script’. It goes like this: you tackle the CPU player, but he squirms free (sometimes he squirms free from two or three of your players). Then you slide-tackle the same CPU player, and your tackle wins the ball. But your player stands there doing nothing while the ball rolls loose. Sometimes, your player will take a step back to allow the CPU more space to recover the ball. The CPU player—whom you tackled cleanly and successfully—recovers the ball and resumes his unstoppable run toward goal.
After several game minutes of that kind of thing, you know what’s going to happen. It happened: Real Betis got the last-minute equaliser and the game ended 1-1. Yes, I should have scored another goal earlier to make the game safe—but did I miss my chances, or did the game miss them for me? Failing that, I should have just defended better—but what about that whole squirm script?
There seems to be little the human player can do about that. If the game wants to temporarily disable your player(s) to give the CPU an advantage—and there can be no doubt that it does do this—there is manifestly nothing at all for you to do except put up with it.
Never mind. A draw was always going to come along eventually. That league table still makes for good viewing from my perspective.