You Kane not be serious

There’s nothing like a Master League’s first European night at home. The seasonal-specific colouring of the sky. The floodlights. The different font. No matter how far PES has fallen – and fallen it has – these moments remain magical.

I had a change of kit to implement, thanks to regular commenter Paul of PESFX. It’s been a while since I changed kits, and I had grown so fond of his previous kits – Home and Away – that I kept them on as my 3rd and 4th kits respectively.

Also, apologies to anyone whose OCD I might be triggering with my eccentric squad numbering. Defenders shouldn’t wear the number 9. I keep meaning to fix them all, but keep forgetting to.

I drew 0-0 in this match against Slavia Praha, but then my next tie was away to Barcelona. I traditionally tank badly in my first European season in any Master League, so I feared the worst. But given that every team in PES2018 plays in a Barcelona-like fashion, there wasn’t perhaps so much to worry about.

This one should have ended 0-0 too, but I converted one of my few chances to snatch the surprise away victory.

This result and a few others have started me thinking that it might be time to give Superstar another go. I don’t want to, as I suspect it won’t go well, but if these kinds of results keep coming I will have to. I will probably wait until mid-season and review it all then.

By the by: that number 21 in my team list above, S ATAIDE, is the 94OPR player whom I was on the verge of signing in my last post. He is, of course, Classic Ronaldo – the original and best Ronaldo. Brazilian Ronaldo. That one. (That’s him standing next to the team list in the screenshot above. The resemblance is uncanny.)

So far, he has done nothing. All his stats have yet to manifest themselves on the pitch in any way. His Finishing stat of 95 has no apparent effect on his actual finishing. Or is it me? It’s both, of course. I would seriously struggle to tell the difference between ATAIDE-RONALDO and any 70-something OPR-rated Youth striker.

And this, right here, is the True Tragedy of nuPES.

Forget fouls and forget AI and forget everything else on the nuPES Shitlist. When they turned the series in the direction of online, they had to ‘balance’ the way the game plays, which involves the flattening out of stats. I.e. my Ronaldo can still be ‘better’ than your Danny Ings, but not by much. Barely at all, even, given that the mechanics of first touch and dribbling are rendered more or less universal by the demands of online matching. Can’t have the game making complex player-by-player decisions based on stats, and slowing the flow/creating lag, now, can we?

The near-total elision of player individuality is the current era’s principal Crime Against PES. One of the most revered of football gaming legacies was unceremoniously chucked overboard in the name of business models and spreadsheets, and here’s the kicker – it had to be done. PES as it was, pre-PES2014, probably couldn’t survive in today’s marketplace. No point in giving the masses Gran Turismo when they want Mario Kart.

That the wisp of something like PES player individuality still remains is undeniable. Everyone – even me – has favourites whom we would hotly defend as individuals. But they are scattered names. Not even enough to make a five-a-side team.

The League table after 6 matches:All my usual gripes aside, I had a couple of sessions of PES2018 that were so good I almost started to entertain fantasies of becoming a nuPES liker, or even lover. I amused myself thinking of how I would turn it all around on the blog, and join in the PES2019 party after all.

But no. In PES2018 I’m very much enjoying what is a good football game of the 21st century. To get my full PES fix I will indeed have to go back to the past – and stay there.

You Kane always get what you want

I won the Community Shield match versus Manchester United – in a penalty shootout, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I never use the R1 aiming reticule when taking a penalty. I enjoy the game-challenge of gently tilting the analogue stick just a bit farther… and a little bit farther… and a little bit farther… often dangerously testing the ability of the player who’s taking the kick to get it inside the posts.

PES2018 (and nuPES as a whole) has the best penalty kick system we’ve ever seen in PES. The bitter irony is that we almost never get to use it. The single-player game is a virtually fouls-free zone, so you pretty much only get to take a penalty when you’re in a Cup penalty shootout. I’ve had 1 penalty in open play across 7 complete seasons, which is about 340 matches.

The Champions League Group Stage draw took place. I was drawn in a tough group. My first season in Europe is traditionally a horror show, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens when I get to play the matches.

Fitting that I should get Barcelona, as this will almost certainly be my last season. But I won’t make the mistake of walking away from PES2018 with any feeling of unfinished business, so I’ll keep the door ajar for another season after this one.

Here is my Season 8 transfer and salary budget:

I was very interested to see if I could actually spend any of that 1/3rd-of-a-billion pounds. After my third-place finish last season and winning the FA Cup, my team ranking had gone up, but not by much:Above Sunderland, beneath Middlesbrough. You can have all the money, but if the players won’t come, there’s no spending it.

So I was amazed to discover that the 31-year-old Harry Kane was willing to discuss a transfer.

Last September, Harry Kane was one of the notable features of my Day 1 experiences with PES2018, when I typically play random Exhibitions and Internationals until I can be bothered to set the Master League juggernaut in motion.

Kane stood out in my matches with England. In an era of PES that sees the overwhelming majority of all forward players handle like interchangeable ninja-ballerinas, Kane’s in-game PES2018 avatar seemed to have weight, inertia, solidity, and that elusive spark of what used to be PES’s ace in the hole: individuality.

Such players are so rare in nuPES that they must be obtained where possible.

He was at PSG in the world of my ML Season 7-8. Aged 31, he is in decline, but it’s the gentle sort of decline. I’m only playing 1 more season – 2 at the most – so why not?

I got him, with instant results:

He’s scored a couple in my other matches too. This could be very interesting. I’d roughly estimate, extrapolating from my experience of 1400+ nuPES matches across 4 years now, that among the hundreds of samey players in nuPES, there are maybe 20-30 proper old-school-PES-style individuals. I think 2018’s Harry Kane is one of them.

I’m keeping an eye on how Top Player is going. Most matches do remain creditably tough, and winning feels like a proper achievement, but a few matches have started to go like this:

If matches like the above start to happen more than 1 in 3 times, I will switch to Superstar and take what comes.

I’ve got Kane. Not since Veldwijk in my early seasons have I had a striker who feels like his own separate creation. I’m really motivated to see how things turn out – and the transfer window has not yet closed. Last night I had to end a session with a negotiation in progress for a 94 OPR-rated striker, who I think I’m going to get.

The quest for the Treble is on. That defeat was a terrible loss to Stoke, where Stoke actually played like Stoke and frustrated me so much that I almost become one of these controller-throwers that I hear so much about.

Groundhog Pay

I won the Invisible Cup!

It was a long Season 7, that has now drawn to a close. It finished in the small hours of this morning, the second day of February 2018. Is it me, or did January seem to flash past in about 5 minutes?

And today is Groundhog Day, of course, which is somehow fitting in a number of ways that there’s no time to delve into. I will be watching the movie Groundhog Day later today, as has become my February 2nd tradition every year. People think it’s just an amusing romantic comedy from the 90s. Which it is, but it is also the key to understanding life.

I put together a short video that features all the goals, in the order they were scored, from the FA Cup Final – a tough match against Manchester City. I had one of my CBs sent off midway through the first half for a sliding tackle from behind. It was still 0-0. I played the rest of the match with 10 men. Historically in PES (and before it in ISS), I’ve made something of a specialty of playing tough matches with 10 or even 9 men. There was one old edition of ISS – the beloved ISS98, I think – in which I so regularly performed heroics with 9 or 10 men, that I started to wish there was an option to play with reduced numbers all the time.

Here is the vid – there are a couple of League goals just before the Cup Final goals, including one very quirky goal that seemed to be scored with Kenedy’s neck (NECK):

Look at the free kick that I have from about 40 yards out at around the 55 seconds mark. That free kick is evidence of why fouls and free kicks are so crucial in a football game.

You can see me thinking over a shot, but deciding, rightly, that I’d just be giving possession away.

So I switch the cursor to a striker, Kubo, and walk him across to receive a sly pass. I flub the one-two – Passlack wasn’t supposed to receive the first pass – and there’s an attempted lofted one-two with that man again, Kenedy, but the ball drops kindly to Raya, who sticks the ball away. That put me 1-0 up in the Cup Final.

Fouls and free kicks have to be in football games, to regularly generate such alternative kinds of situations. Fouls and free kicks cannot be missing. They are missing, on the whole, in PES2018. For that reason alone, PES2018 can never be considered a serious football game, never mind a serious PES game. I’ve said my piece on this many times, but it always bears repeating. Hats off for Groundhog Day!

Man City scored their equaliser late on and it looked like Extra Time, but I straight-from-kickoffed the AI, a very satisfying turn-the-tables moment.

And so I got to see my in-game avatar David Pleating onto the pitch, and my players cavorting around, and then the anti-climactic moment of them huddling around a blank spot where the Cup was clearly meant to be, but isn’t. Would it kill Konami to create a bogus trophy, or let us design one in Edit mode, or something?

In the League I held on for 3rd place and a Champions League spot for Season 8.

With Season 8 being my final season, it means that I won’t ever compete in the Europa League in PES2018. As I say every year, the Europa League/WEFA League in PES is historically one that gets skipped over, bar the odd season here and there, as my team tends to finish either below or above the relevant league positions.

Overall my feeling is that this season was a solid 9/10 for overall experience.

‘So, does this mean you’re reconsidering your decision to drop PES2018 after the next season and then not bother with PES2019?’

Between now and PES2019’s release, regular readers will naturally have questions like this occur to them quite often.

The short answer is ‘no’. Part of the reason I’ve kicked back and relaxed with PES2018 over the past season is my awareness that I soon won’t have to play it or any other nuPES ever again.

The franchise has moved on to new territory where I cannot follow. I have football gaming needs that nuPES doesn’t meet. The only place where I can have those needs met is in the series’ glorious past.

The sums are in for Season 8, and this is the combined budget I have to play with:

Which is preposterous, of course, but when hasn’t PES and Master League been that? Sometimes preposterous is good, and in this instance, I’m inclined to view it as good.

This bizarre transfer/wages disparity factor at least prevents the transfer carousel that has blighted Master League for the past several editions.

I’ve been forced to stick with players for longer. Whisper it, but one of my strikers, Raya, is something of an individual for me now.

At some point in Season 8, I will revisit my ‘Individuality check’ exercise from the end of Season 2. Overall results will still be on the shabby side, alas (I still can’t really tell any difference between my AMFs), but Raya will get an 8 or 9 and a STAR MAN rating.

But all this is to come. I am very interested in how Season 8 will go. My first-time involvement in the Champions League will be interesting, as the AI teams traditionally destroy me in my first season in that competition.

If that happens, or if I feel the tug of unfinished business for any other reason, a Season 9 is not completely impossible.

There’s no PES2019 looming for me on the other side of summer, remember. So there’s no time-pressure involved.

Whenever PES2018 is done, nuPES is done, so I can take as long as I want here.

The Moan Ranger

Season 7 moves into its final third with me in the FA Cup semi-finals, and still sitting pretty in 3rd.

I’m very excited at the thought of maybe taking home a shiny trophy this season, then tussling for the Treble next. It’d be a fitting swansong to PES2018 and nuPES in general. I’d love to finish with a bang instead of a whimper, and wave nuPES off into its multiplayer future with something like regret instead of relief.

A few busy life and work days forced me into a mini-break from all gaming over the weekend. From Thursday to Sunday, I played nothing at all, so when I switched on PES2018 yesterday morning (Monday morning), it was like a breath of fresh air.

These are the absolute best times with nuPES, I have always found. Playing it after a few days of not playing it.

When I don’t play any of the nuPES games for a few days, whatever the reason, their undoubted positive qualities overshadow all the reasons why they’re not good PES games. For the first match or two, I forget what’s so unPES about nuPES, and just enjoy the very decent generic ‘FIFA with a garnish of PES’-style football gaming that’s on offer.

I loved it. Looking at all the bright, pretty colours. Pinging the ball around, fashioning chances, scoring goals. Old-school PESheads really are a pampered, spoiled bunch, with stratospheric expectations. Sadly, those expectations are grounded in reality – the reality of PES as it was – so, uh, whatever, you know?

Two solid sessions, high on the enjoyment factor. PES2018 is like a meal that is best consumed when an appettite has been worked up by not playing it for several days.

And I scored a long-ranger! Sort of. My only previous long-ranger on PES2018 came along very early on, back in early October last year – remember this? – so it’s been a long wait for my next.

As can be seen, the build-up play is a bit ‘gamey’ (leveraging PES2018’s one-touch ‘fun’ aspect), and the placement of the long-ranger is too low in the net to be really satisfying, and it’s probably on the cusp of being a medium-ranger anyway – but to hell with it, I’m calling this a long-ranger and I’m loving it. This really pleased me late last night:

© 2017 PES Chronicles Frontier Theme