Wacko Macco

After a couple of recent dud sessions on PES5, I decided to roll back to my post-season 1 save, reduce the difficulty by a couple of notches, and resume from there.

Fortunately my save was from the very last week before Season 2 began, so I only lost the three matches of Season 2 that I’d played on 6*.

All transfer activity was still intact. I still have Park Chu Young. I am still without the now-sold Espimas.

I went from 6* difficulty down to 4* difficulty. It was a narrow thing choosing between 4* and 3*. 4* just took it thanks to my last small vestige of chest-beating false macho football gaming pride. The kind of pride that saw me start PES5 on the ultra-max difficulty, despite knowing that I like my football gaming difficulty to scale up with me as my Master League team scales up.

I think I had this prejudice because PES5 is ‘only’ a PS2 game, isn’t it? Because its players move around at a fair old rate of knots compared to our latter-day PES games. I thought I should I be able to ping-ping-ping the passes together and smack balls into nets almost at will.

How naive and forgetful of me. Of course PES5 is nothing like that, and if you pick it up again in 2017 expecting to coast to victory, you will come a cropper. As I have.

PES5 is still the greatest football game ever made because its various systems remain the most tightly designed, intricately-interlocked systems ever crafted for a football game.

Principal among these systems is the punishing physical collision modelling and the penalising thereof.

Fouls, in our fancy modern-speak. Good old-fashioned honest fouls.

There are tons of them. The average amount of AI fouls against me is around 9 per match. Per match.

I get an average of 4 free kick opportunities within shooting range every match.

Fouls in football games keep the player honest. Fouls remind the player who needs to be reminded (and that’s all of us, let’s not kid ourselves here) that keeping R1 pressed almost all the time is not conducive to good football gaming. Laying off R1 is the hardest lesson to re-learn, going back.

Perpetual sprinting is a disease in football gaming. PES5 is the cure. You can still do it, of course, and sometimes you can get away with it, but most often you’ll be losing the ball and conceding fouls, over and over and over again. They really don’t make football games like this any longer.

My move down to 4* has brought about one of the outcomes I was hoping for. Promotion seems to be on the cards for Season 2:Too soon? If this was my main PES game of the year, yes, of course it’d be too soon. But I’m only planning for a few months at most here

Not many goals around. The Goals Conceded column is particularly concerning. The AI continues to disappoint as an attacking force. It only seems to grow teeth when it’s losing.

I’m not scoring many either. Castolo is spectacularly poor. He has done sweet FA since netting the first goal on Season one opening day.

Sentiment aside, these Defaults are the worst players you will ever play a sequence of matches with in any football game.

Forget your misty-eyed recollections of ‘dear old Ruskin’ and the like. Jaric and Macco in particular seem nothing like the not-bad-really players I remember from long ago.

In my last session before writing this post, I got to mid season of Season 2, and am ready for some new players.

Islands in the Stremer

These early seasons on PES5 are providing me with some of the most joyless, tedious football gaming I can ever remember. I include all recent PES games in this sweeping, startling statement. Even the weakest recent PES game (PES2016), when it was tedious, was never as tedious as these early stages on PES5.

For those like me who have perched a halo on Classic PES/ML in general, and on PES5 in particular, it’d be a useful exercise to actually play a season or two with the starting Defaults, just to see what we’re not missing, frankly.

In recent years I’ve often scored individual footy gaming sessions out of 10. I would give my most recent PES5 session a grudging 4/10. And that’s being pretty generous.

PES5 is still the greatest football game ever made. I know this because I have recently played it in its fully-flowered glory, with an ML team that can actually do things.

But it’s been many years since I experienced the Defaults at first hand, and these early seasons are not a good experience.

If a PES game were to be released nowadays with this kind of early-doors setup, it’d be commercial and critical suicide. Master League would almost never be played.

Here is the league table after 4 matches of Season 2. Promotion this season is unlikely again:

When I started this PES5 adventure into the past, I declared that I would be completely open and honest about my experience every step of the way,

I’m on record throughout all my years on this blog as believing that PES5 is the greatest football game ever made. There was a danger I might soft-soap things now in order to preserve my memories.

That won’t happen, as I hope this post demonstrates. PES5 is still the greatest football game ever made. But after the initial warming glow of nostalgia has faded, the early seasons on Master League are a poor experience. There’s no soft-soaping that.

There are flashes of light along the way. Glimpses of the excellence to come, once the players start arriving. There are islands of relief in the unending toil. Moments and passages of play when you think ‘wow’.

The way the game is set up to punish the perennial R1-squeezer is absolutely sublime, and urgently needs to be restored – at least to the single-player game. Let the onliners just have permanent sprint set to ON if they like.

Shooting is on a hair-trigger. I remember PES5 as the best shooting that PES has ever had – I might end up amending that. A few times I’ve been clean through in a one-on-one (and how we miss them in PES, eh?) and tried to dink it past the keeper, only to see the ball dart many virtual yards wide of the post. Sensitive.

So the PES5 halo has slipped, for now. A probably necessary stage of this journey. It would have been peculiar if this had been nothing but a victory procession.

There’s no suggestion that I’m thinking of abandoning PES5. But things do have to pick up in the coming week or two.

I will have enough Points to pick up a couple of players mid-season. That will change things, I am sure.

You’re gonna win Fouque all

I didn’t score any goals in my last few Season 1 matches. I had 4 pre-season friendlies lined up, and didn’t score any goals in any of those matches either.

Things are bad. It’s been many years since I did the Defaults slog in a classic PES. I had no clear memory of what I was letting myself in for.

Yes, I’ve had a PES5 save on the boil for years that I’ve picked up occasionally. But that was a mature save, in Season 6 or 7. Lots of great players. I’d long since got past the stage I’m at now. It almost feels like I’ve never played before.

The Defaults are terrible. But part of the problem is trying to shed the muscle memory of several years of very indulgent editions of the game that cater for online expectations. PES2016 and PES2017 in particular.

There’s a common move in recent PES games where you can receive the ball, trap it at once, and straightforwardly turn 180 degrees with it, spinning like a ninja-ballerina, and dart off at speed in the other direction.

Nearly every player you own will be capable of this move, including the CBs.

In PES5, I am happy to say, there are no ninja-ballerinas.

I signed Park Chu Young in the transfer window. He cost me 5000-odd Points and took me perilously close to a Game Over. That would have been embarrassing to report here. (So I made sure it wouldn’t happen by parking a separate save, just in case. I haven’t got time to restart.)

In an effort to sell a player to make up the Points, I transfer listed most of my expendable players. That means nearly all of them. The only players I’d keep out of my current roster are Mathieu, of course, and just Libermann and Ruskin from the Defaults.

Castolo would go. Ordaz would go. And the likes of Fouque too – what the Fouque is the actual point of this bozo? Dodo, Stein, Espimas, the lot of them. All out. No sentimentality. They’re total rubbish.

A few game weeks passed without an offer and I was sweating on that Game Over when I saw the friendly glowing green triangle that has saved by hide so many times in PES5 transfer windows.

Espimas had a bidder. Arsenal took him for 5000 Points.

And that was that. I made it through Payment Day with a thousand Points to spare – enough to get another player or two in the middle of Season 2, which is only 7 matches away, remember.

I played the first league match of the season, versus newly-relegated Sunderland. I won it 1-0.

The summer is about to get moving, and will be over sooner than we think. I’d like promotion this season.


Finally today, another in my infrequent What Happened Next? series.

This is from a pre-season match versus Chelsea from the Premiership (as it was still called then).

Scenario: I’m 0-1 down and in need of a goal to earn those precious Points to help stave off the Game Over that I was fretting about above.

Not a sniff of goal the whole game – until late on, when a through-ball finds Castolo on the outer corner of the Chelsea box…

What happened next?

(This video is about 1 second long. I was going to post it as a GIF, but even short ones traditionally slow some browsers to a crawl. YouTube is best as it gives you the choice of whether to view it or not.)

Answers in comments, please. I’ll post the full video with the answer right here over the weekend.

And now the answer — this is what happened next. Got to love the myth of Castolo, eh?

Bold, Persil Ordaz?

Season 1 has come to an end in my born-again adventures on PES5. So far, so good. A slog, as expected, but an enjoyable one.

If you’re just joining the story and you want to know what platform I’m playing on, or with what controller, or anything like that, here is a handy all-in-one FAQ post. If there’s something about my setup not covered there, feel free to ask about it in comments here and I will add it. The idea is that I’ll add bits and bobs to the FAQ, as needed, as I go along.

With just 8 teams in Master League Division 2, there were only 14 league fixtures. Something of a relief after the long, long seasons of recent nuPES years.

The final table:

Just 6 goals scored. Castolo and Ordaz finished as my joint-top scorers with… 2 goals each.

That’s par for the course in Season 1 of classic Master League. The players are poor, the matches are generally poor (it’s true, they are), and goals are at an absolute premium.

In fact, having played through this season over the past week-and-a-bit, I have to say I can understand why they changed Master League, even though I wish they hadn’t.

There is no way in 2017 that the average mid-to-late-teenaged gamer (gaming’s core demographic) is going to sit through even a few matches like the matches you get in Season 1 of a classic ML with the classic Defaults. Just not going to happen.

The general feel of this opening season in PES5 has been one of grinding through the matches. There are lots of differences in the general gameplay of PES5 as opposed to nowadays. The through-ball in PES5 feels ‘wrong’, now. It just isn’t the precise instrument we’ve got used to using over the past several editions in particular. Rather than the scalpel of PES2017, the through-ball in PES5 feels more like a blunt, rusty knife. Attempts at aerial through-balls in particular usually go way, way off. Happily, this seems to be strictly stats-related. Individuality is as strong as expected. Ruskin is Ruskin, rather than just a generic all-purpose side-back.

Also notable is the lack of control I have over the ball sometimes. The Defaults have a terrible first rouch, and a worse second and third ones. Again, this aspect of classic PES is not something that would find much favour in 2017. You can imagine the howling on the forums if a PES appeared in which almost every player didn’t have perfect first-touch trapping and control.

PES5 also has a number of mechanics tied to the R1 sprint button that would find disfavour today. First, and most obviously, stamina goes down and actually has an effect on the pitch — see this screenshot:

— which is from the middle of the second half in a typical match. My front players have spent so much time chasing the ball around that they’re all almost dead on their feet. Truly, these were the Golden Years.

Also, if you’re holding R1 and change direction when you receive the ball, there’s a ‘spring’ mechanic whereby the player will automatically knock the ball ahead two or three virtual yards and sprint after it. Unless you’re doing this deliberately, the chances are you will lose the ball.

A decade of online-oriented PES games have conditioned us to hold R1 more or less permanently. It takes time to get into a PES5 frame of mind, and lay off sprint.

My one new player, Mathieu, is still ordinary, for now. Not quite the PES superman yet. I have just started getting the ball to him in prime DMF long-ranger position — central, 35 yards out, in a bit of space — but so far every effort has whistled a long way wide or thumped into the keeper’s chest.

That’s Season 1 in this Master League, in this PES, though. Just one long war of attrition to get to the other side.

Post-season has already begun. In this ML you can line up your choice of pre-season matches and use them to earn Points for wins and goals, adding to the transfer kitty. Another mechanic that could do with a revival in some form, but I won’t go on.

Next time I will have redesigned my Home and Away kits, played most or all of my pre-season matches, and hopefully signed a player. Yes, that’s 1 player, singular. I can only sign one player. That’s all my transfer kitty will allow. He won’t even be a very good player. Just slightly better than what I have. Truly, 2004-2005 was another era.

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