Filthy casual console-playing assisted-passing peasants

PES2020 PC Demo, Me as Arsenal, and the CPU as River Plate. Top Player. I think this is actually an 8-minute match as I was messing about with the Sider time editor.

No great goals on show here, and the more I play this demo the more I do like it, but there’s a rule in PES Land: adepto coniuncta est quoque tertius ne demo.

Don’t get too attached to a demo.

The fouling model in this demo WILL NOT SURVIVE TO SEPTEMBER. This is simply how it is. In fact, part of me wonders if this demo is Konami’s get-out card. After this, they can ultimately do what they really want to do – remove fouls, barring a token one or two – and say that it’s what the userbase wants.

I played the first half with my customary settings of PA1 and Basic Shooting. But excitingly – for me at any rate – I switched to PA0 and Manual Shooting for the second half. I’ll refer to PA0 and Basic Shooting as ‘Manual’ for brevity’s sake from now on.

I’ve played a bit on Manual on PES2019 over the past week, but I’m still finding my feet and so there are a few misplaced passes – more than a few – but see the passage of play in particular between 5:00 and 6:00. It neatly encapsulates much of what makes Manual so entrancing.

It’s growing on me. I’ve flirted with Manual on and off since PES2013 – I recall quite a few people here all trying it at the same time, but ultimately heading back to PA1 because, well, that’s what makes footy gaming enjoyable.

Manual makes gameplay more realistic, in terms of looking for space, going easy on the Hollywood passes, taking players on, and making the most of opportunities. As in reality, things don’t work a lot more than they do. The question then, of course, is: is this kind of ‘Realistic’ what we really want?

In a movie, realism would see us following the characters through all the details of their mundane days, with excitement only happening occasionally. Manual in PES is sometimes like that. It takes the usual formula of a PES match – 70% action, say, with 30% legwork – and neatly inverts it. Sometimes. As that passage of play between 5 and 6 minutes shows, there is a smooth flow that can be achieved when you know what you’re doing, which is a place I sometimes think I might get to, but am clearly not at yet.

The next most interesting passage of play – the good and the bad of Manual – comes between 7:00 and 8:00. I’ve cued this up here:

You see me misplace a simple pass out of bounds. And then really get hold of the ball and play football. I think about but decline to play various risky passes (which would have been automatic no-brainer passes under PA1, done without even thinking), and finally I work the opportunity… I was especially pleased with the aerial pass at 7:21. You really have to mean such passes and crosses on Manual.

I work the chance, only to get excited and drag the shot pitifully wide. The ‘aiming lozenge’ really is the size of a tree trunk in the middle of the goal.

This is likely to be all just a silly season bit of fun. But I have completed Season 16 in my Cercle Brugge campaign using Manual settings. I have even gone all hardcore and turned off the passing meter HUD elements. So I might be donning the hair shirt and going all PES Fundamentalist here.

I’m still a member of the filthy casual assisted-passing peasant brigade, but I’m peeping over the wall into the silent Manual compound. What do they do all day in their white robes?!

Here’s a goal at the end of a 1-minute segment from a Cercle Brugge match on PES2019 (on Professional). First, for balance, a wayward shot indeed from me, and then a counter-attack from me (with the player HUD off, but the player nameplate shows the gold-coloured passing and shooting meter, lest there be any doubts). I was happy with this, a rare move on Manual indeed:

The eFootball PES 2020 Demo has landed

… and the title is the last time I will ever refer to this game by that accursed name. Except when I want to rage or titter about the onlineification of PES or suchlike. Then I’ll be busting out the hilarious eQuips…

Otherwise, it’s plain old PES2020 from now on.

I grabbed the PES2020 demo from the New Zealand store on Monday afternoon. In your Game Library and your USB Sticks, the game is now filed under the letter ‘e’ for eFootball instead of ‘p’ for PES. Which neatly moves it alphabetically ahead, by one letter, of its famous rival that starts with ‘f’. Hmmm.

First of all, this:

Has it ever been red before? Is it red for confidence or for danger? Could go either way, this one. I’ll say it now: PES2020 might end up as half-built on release as PES2014 was. Mainly due to the shockingly bad AI, but I’ll get to that.

Straight into the menus and the traditional early pissing about. I noticed that the single-player demo was called PES2020, and the online multiplayer demo was called eFootball. I’d be happy if that was a deliberate policy and a signal of exactly how this whole eThing is going to be played by Konami. Keep eStuff out there. Keep PES in here.

Before my first match I stopped off in Personal Settings and tweaked things to my liking, like so:

Purple (mauve?) is the colour of PES2020. I don’t mind it.

A word on the menus and general design logic: it’s exactly the same, everywhere. Which doesn’t surprise or disappoint me. There was no massive wholesale redesign in the works. No one connected with Konami or PES Productions ever said there was.

I’m nearly always happy with a PES demo. After a year of plugging away at the previous PES, a fresh PES always feels, uh, fresh…

And I’m happy enough with this one, overall, but there are some worries that are exceptionally worrying.

I posted my first two matches in comments on the last thread, where discussion was very interesting about the AI in PES2019. Those two matches are here and here.

The first match shows me discovering one of the best things about PES2020: the new Stadium camera. I fiddled with it to get it looking like this:Easily the best camera view in any PES since the Golden Age PS2 days. FIFA, of course, has never not had this camera view (among many others), so our rejoicing should be relative.

Passing and shooting feel different, as they should. Lots of error in passing now. I was confused at first, but slowly got the hang of it, and started to like it. The classic way of a new PES.

My perennial nuPES bugbears: the lack of AI fouls, and the lack of long-rangers. I’m still bugbeared on both counts.

There are AI fouls in this demo, but I’ll be surprised if they make it to the final release game. And even if they do, they’ll be progressively patched out as the year unfolds.

And long-rangers: late last night I stuck the game on Beginner and played two back-to-back matches, something of a home-run derby for long-rangers. Could I score a long-ranger? Nope. I predict skullduggery here too. The wearisome fact is that PES2020 can’t be allowed to have long-rangers, or it would unbalance the online side of things.

Here’s the final game I played last night, on Superstar, me as Juventus vs Vasco da Gama:

This PES2020 Demo AI is the worst I have ever faced in a PES.

Passive, dozy, dopey, no threat, no challenge, just a great steaming pile of nothing. It’s not so much that it does bad things. It’s that it does NO THINGS.

I’m not sure I conceded a goal in any of my matches. I must have conceded. I think I did? But there was no sense of ‘AI That We Need’ about this AI.

On this showing, PES2020’s AI reminded me of the PES2014 AI on release, which was a disaster for the series that it is still trying to recover from.

So that’s the demo. I’d give it an encouraging 7/10 for the novelty factor. And assume that the release version will feature an actual AI worth playing against.

So-called ‘Pro’ players are already chipping away at Konami to get all the good bits removed or ‘toned down’ (i.e., removed). It is a 100% certainty that they will have their way. In a sane world ‘Pro’ players would be the last people anyone would listen to. In this world they’re the only people who ever get listened to. So let’s enjoy the AI fouls and passing errors in the demo while we can.

Squaring the Cercle

One of the items left on my summertime football gaming to-do list: move clubs in my long–running Master League save.

I loaded up my 15-season Coventry City save, simmed season 16 until I got a good few managerial offers, and moved to the lowliest club I could.

I did this a couple of years ago, in PES2017, and ended up playing two very nice seasons with St Etienne in the French league. This was my most memorable goal of that summer, from the then lesser-known Ziyech.

There are no memorable goals so far in this year’s experiment with moving clubs. The players are terrible and it’s a battle to eke out any kind of performance. I do well to craft a chance, never mind score.This year, I’ve gone to another team in green. Cercle Brugge in the Belgian Jupiler League (as it’s called in my Option File).

Cercle Brugge’s players and finances are not much better than the Master League Defaults.

And what a glorious game of football it leads to! Football gaming with lesser players is arguably the only way to have that classic PES experience in the modern day.

PES2019 still feels like a solid and satisfying football game to me. If a vote were taken, it’s likely that PES2019 would be condemned. But I play the game I play, not the game others do. To anticipate my End of Year Review somewhat, PES2019 is the best all-round PES since PES2012, arguably longer than that. The AI gets a lot of stick, but it gives me a great game – which, yes, doubtless says more about me and the type of player and person I am, than the AI.

As Charleroi’s silky midfield played yet another deadly through-ball – through the middle – for their strikers to out-muscle my defence and run onto, I had cause to give thanks for my Golden Copy of this game.

I ended up playing five matches, which is four more than I intended to play. The heaviness of the players and the solidity of the ball… The sheer clumsiness of the low-rated Bruggers… Wonderful stuff. The few goals I did manage to score were all punch-the-air moments.

And – fouls aplenty. When I play with low-rated players, I tend to hold onto the ball for longer, trying to work something, anything, and that invites more contacts from the opposition, which leads to more potential for fouls.

Here they are. The few decent-looking players (nearly all the over-70s) were my acquisitions in the January window, most of them Frees.

All this is giving me crazy ideas for how I might deal with ePISS 2020 Sexyball, when it arrives. A single House Rule of no more than 2 players rated over 79OPR, ever, should give me a magnificent experience. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. I tend to abhor House Rules, though. I’ll see how the land lies when we get there.

With the ePISS demo landing next week –Tuesday? – it’s likely to be another week or two before I mention my Cercle Brugge team again, but I think I’ll get at least a half-season out of them. Hopefully some goals to show off too.

A Snooker snippet and a PES5 match

This summer’s glorious holiday season continues with another instalment.

Today, 30 seconds of me playing iSnooker (against myself) on the PC, and then a full match from my ultra-long-running Master League campaign on PES5, also of course on the PC.

NB: my recording software rendered PES5 just as God intended, in 4:3 aspect ratio. I have it stretched to 16:9 when playing ‘live’ and would have preferred it to record in that same format. It certainly has before.

I play PES5 for at least a couple of matches nearly every week – but still fall foul of the way the old game penalises the easy way we all squeeze buttons instead of actually defending.

And yes, I can hear that annoying crowd noise effect at the start. I only heard it when watching this recording back, though. I never play with the sound turned up on old football games. Podcasts and audiobooks are my background noise.

I’m not playing anything right now, really. I would love to have the energy to explore the PC version of PES2019 some more, or to pursue myClub some more, or to do likewise with FIFA19, but I haven’t got it (the energy).

So I am hopping from thing to thing, never alighting anywhere for very long. And enjoying myself doing so.

I believe this time next week the eSoccer PES 2020 Kickball demo will be either here, or imminent. At that point, normal service on this blog might be resumed. I usually only play the demos for a couple of sessions before abandoning them forever, but we’ll see.