Yes we Can

Through the pre-Season 3 transfer window, and I made a few absurd signings that would never happen in ‘real life’. I got Kenedy, Emre Can, and the aged but still Big Named Lukas Podolski…

I enjoy making these moves for big players in Master League – as long as the Master League in question can support it (i.e. not turn into a canter). I recall getting a boatload of Classic Players back in PES2012 at aorund this juncture – Van Basten, George Best, Falco, etc. – which was sniffed at at the time by some commenters, but that move turned out to be the making of PES2012 for me.

Quite a few PES editions, including all recent ones, have fallen apart very quickly as soon as squads mature and talent arrives. But certain other Master Leagues can absorb anything (in a cheaty way, usually, but still). PES5, PES2011, PES2012, PES2014, and now PES2018? Could this game eventually stand in that hallowed company? It seems unlikely now, but it’s not impossible.

One of my lesser (but greater) signings was M KEANE from Liverpool at CB. He might well play his full career here. Already putting in sterling performances, and already Captain. (Would get a 7 or 8 on the Individuality front.)

I also picked up KENEDY from Chelsea. Oh, and a Youth CB with the nothing-to-see-here name of FANNI.

My final unlikely signing was the 36-year-old L PODOLSKI. In real life, a striker of his stature would retire before going to a second-tier English club. Death before dishonour. But this is not real life – this is better than real life. A creaky Master League in a dodgy edition of PES is better than all real-life football. Not just by a little bit, but by a lot.

Here is my Season 3 First XI and squad – there are two players out of screenshot at the bottom of the list, Rice and Castledine:

Podolski played in the first few matches, but didn’t do much. Got a goal, handled well, nothing special (5, so far, for Individuality).

Veldwijk came in for him and scored back-to-back braces, and chipped in with regular goals here and there. Consecutive great performances are a rarity for a nuPES player, so it felt as if Veldwijk was making a point. ‘I was top scorer last season and you’re dropping me for this has-been?’  Veldwijk has been restored to first-choice striker. I have tried playing them alongside one another, but there was a bit of a Lampard-Gerrard style cancelling-out effect that I didn’t like.

Results are good. Here is the table after 17 matches of Season 3:

I’ve managed to lose 5 matches and still sit just 4 points from the top. League table scripting is a thing, a most definite thing.

I believe I will go up this season. Getting several players into the Team of the Month is always a sign of impending promotion.

Can so far hasn’t really stood out. His current Individuality rating would be a 4. He will get at least a full season.

All in all, Top Player is starting to feel like something soon to be left behind. Not this season, but maybe next in the Premier League – if I get there – I’ll go up to Superstar.

Individuality check

Season 2 ends with my team finishing 12th. I nearly got a sniff of a playoff spot at one point, but fell away.

Look at how many games the top 6 teams lost and drew. There’s more than a whiff of league table scripting about those figures. Despite losing 20 (TWENTY) matches myself, I stayed mathematically within touching distance almost to the last few matches.

Next season, I anticipate being one of the challengers for promotion. How many games will the teams challenging around me lose and draw then? It’ll be interesting to see.

I only got one player into the Team of the Season – probably a fair outcome. Veldwijk finished top scorer for the Division with 23 goals.


A PES2018




With Season 2 out of the way, I can turn to an examination of my complete 24-man squad from the point of view of that most nebulous of Pro Evo qualities: player individuality.

For so many years, this quality was perhaps the single greatest banner that we waved as PES fans.

Every player in PES – we boasted in any FIFA-lover’s direction – was a proper individual. Unlike those FIFA bundles of pixels with different names that all basically felt the same! No, sir!

In classic PES, big and clumsy players were big and clumsy. Little nippy players were little and nippy – and how rare they were compared to today! Even players who were superficially the same, were different from one another in an abundance of ways.

We had pages of stats and traits. The granularity of the stats was neither too much nor too little. Player stats were perfectly within the Goldilocks zone between simplicity and complexity. All fed into the heady brew of classic PES individuality.

It’s commonly supposed that player individuality has been watered down in PES in the current era. Today, considerations of online balancing are paramount. Humans expect on-screen players to respond instantly to their input. ‘Responsiveness’ is astonishingly held up as an unquestionable pro-word on the PES forums.

Is it true? Has individuality vanished from Pro Evolution Soccer? Was it ever really there? Was it only in our minds all along?

Having played this series for nigh on 20 years now, and having spent part of the summer just gone sampling the delights of PES5 (Best PES Ever; Best Football Game Ever; Best Video Game Ever) – I feel qualified to pass sober judgement.

I will rate all 24 of my current PES2018 Master League squad players out of 10, purely in terms of their individuality. This isn’t about how fast, how strong, how skilful they are, etc. It’s about how unique (or not) they feel. Speed, strength and skill do factor into individuality, but they don’t define it in-and-of-themselves. Individuality is more of a gestalt, emergent property of PES gaming.

5 is the median score. Players at 5 will possess a slight glimmer of a spark of individuality, but nothing like the individuality of old. ‘They’ll do’ would sum up the middling players in this scale of judgement.

Players above 5 possess some individuality – but how much, and how many PES2018 players will achieve it?

I’ll award any player who feels like a traditional PES individual a STAR MAN label.

Players who rate below 5 are almost certainly going to leave my club very soon unless something remarkable happens.

From the top:

T KRUL (GK): 7. Pulls off great saves at crucial times, and feels like as much of an individual GK as any I’ve had in many years. A good, solid start for the pro-individuality camp here.

AUGUSTIN (GK): 4. Youth promotee, has played maybe two matches, so there’s little to judge.

JESUS VALLEJO (CB): 7. Tough and violent, always picking up cards, a great all-rounder.

N SULE (CB): 6. Similar to Vallejo, but crucially enough of an individual to stand out when they play together, which they most commonly do.

F ERIKSON (CB): 4. Just another nuPES Default nobody, lacking all the charm and uniqueness of classic Defaults. He and others will be got rid of in the coming window.

S LEGOIDA (CB): 4. Ditto to the above. Absolutely nothing about either of these two players has ever stood out for me, in this edition of the game nor any other that they have appeared in. The days of a long-lasting Jaric/Vornander-style partnership are gone.

F GRILLO (CB): 5. Can play at LB and CB, but is mainly a CB. Has just enough of a glimmer of uniqueness to scrape a 5, but it’s close.

F SORIC (LB): 5. One of the better Defaults for me, again just enough to stand out without being special. Worth his 5, but I will still probably ditch him in the transfer window.

O ELABDELLAOUI (RB): 5. Purchased a few transfer windows ago, he is pretty much just a long name above a set of pixels. Just enough to stand out, though, and he is currently first-choice RB. I will keep him.

J LI (RB): 6. A modest 65OPR player who seems to play better than his stats, earning the 6 rating. Has poor pace, which perversely makes him stand out in a fast and furious virtual footballing world.

I HETTICH (DMF): 7. A favourite Default, who will be staying for the foreseeable future. I’ve described him as a Bargain Basement Irjescu, and that’s about the measure of it. Slightly disappointed in his lack of shooting prowess this year. Merits a 7 regardless.

L BAKER (CMF): 8. STAR MAN. This Youth promotee might be the player of the whole of PES2018. Great passing and decent shooting. Has quiet games, yes, but he’s still developing.

J SHELVEY (CMF): 4. Ugh. One of the great disappointments so far. Will hang onto him until mid-season just to make sure he’s a wash. Then he’s gone.

J PUNCHEON (CMF): 3. Definitely going to be moved on in the upcoming August transfer window. One of the most nothing-y players I have ever played with in any Master League – and I’ve played PES2016.

J RICE (CMF): 6. The old stalwart is still going strong. Not quite the character he was in PES2017 (he’d have got a solid 7/10 on the individuality front in that game), but still has enough of the whole ‘poor man’s Joey Barton’ air about him that makes this scrapper worth keeping.

E CANNING (CMF): 2. What is the point of this? Is ‘E CANNING’ a dictionary definition of ‘nothingness’?

J CORREA (AMF): 5. Sigh. A player who should be so much more than he is. Has all the stats needed to be a top, top PES player, and yes, he does handle well, is pacey, passes and shoots well – but he feels hollow. Another one of nuPES’s interminable utility players (plays at 3 or 4 positions) who is pretty much interchangeable with a thousand others.

E CASTLEDINE (AMF): 4. What a fall for the greatest player of PES2016.

XABI PRIETO (AMF): 6. Only just nudges out into above-average territory. Does a few good things occasionally. Could swap him with Correa and I would never notice the change.

W ROONEY (AMF): 3. Surprisingly tame. He’ll stay with me until mid-season, but the passion and power of real-life Rooney in his teenage years just isn’t here. His name might as well be Generic Youth Promotee #321.

RUBEN CASTRO (CF): 6. Just before I wrote this post, he scored an astounding goal at the start of Season 3 (see below), which has influenced my decision to give him a 6. Would’ve got a 5, or even a 4, otherwise. I am a stern judge and he’s got to shape up. At the moment, again, swap him with Correa and Prieto and no difference would be noticed.

B GUILLAUME (CF): 8 STAR MAN. One of my first proper signings, this big striker showed me the way to Veldwijk, and has served as a capable understudy ever since. He has a knack of always delivering. Handles like a true individual, and has the proper array of quirks, including weaknesses.

RICHARLISON (CF): 5. Would have been a 3 if he hadn’t got a few important goals recently. Will last to mid-season 3, and then may go. Again, another one of those poitnless multi-position utility players. Swap him with any of my other AMF/SS/CF types, and no difference would be noticed.

L VELDWIJK (CF): 8 STAR MAN. Plays like a cross between Peter Withe, Mark Hateley, and Schwarz, with a sprinkling of Vieri. I’ve brought in a star name for season 3, who cannot replace him.

Now we can add up all the ratings and divide the result by 24 to work out the overall Individuality Score for PES2018 at this juncture of my Master League. (I’ll do this again after 7 seasons, say, and see where we stand then.)

129/24 = 5.37.

I’ll be very generous and round that up to the halfway point, which means that PES2018, right now, has

an overall PES Individuality Score of


About right. Slightly above-average, but way, way below where PES needs to be on this front.

I invite all readers to submit their own current ML squads’ Individuality Checks in the comments. Whatever edition of the series you’re playing. It’d be useful to compare notes. The overall average for all 24 players (or however many in your squad) is a very useful yardstick.

For comparison, even the most non-individual old-school PES (PS2/PS3-eras) would’ve made it to 7/10 for Individuality. The Best PES Game Ever, of course, gets an automatic 10/10.

As for the other PS4 PES games, I imagine PES2015 would have got a dizzying 6.5 for Individuality. My Crouch and Castolis alone were easily 9/10 players apiece for Individuality, and there were plenty of 7s and 8s that year.

PES2016 would have struggled to 4/10. We really should have seen the writing on the wall with that game in that year. In fact, we did see it. But at the same time we didn’t want to see it – and so we didn’t see it.

PES2017 maybe was worth a 4.5/10.

So with PES2018 getting a Season Two individuality score of 5.5/10, things are on the way back up.

Who knows. If the patch succeeds in injecting the right kind of life into the right kinds of areas (i.e. the long, numbing stretches of time when nothing interrupts play, and all you do is squeeze buttons, and stare), PES2018 has a chance to become something more than what it currently is.

What is the quintessence of PES individuality? I think it could be summed up in a word: weaknesses. PES of old wasn’t afraid to provide us with players who were great in many areas, but had specific weaknesses in others. E.g. trapping the ball. Pretty much every player in PES2018 – lumbering CBs and those ten-a-penny CMF/AMF/SS/CF hybrids alike – can trap a ball like Maradona in his prime. It facilitates smooth, balanced, frustration-free online play, which is the point.

It has to be acknowledged that this is a debate that traditional PES single-players lost a very long time ago now. Today, the ideal imagined PES player is a 17-year-old kid who wants a perfect 1:1 correspondence between his controller input and the on-screen outcome, and as few interruptions as possible. PES is made for him first and foremost, and for ‘us’ second. The joke is that the 17-year-old kid is usually blissfully unaware that PES even exists.

Finally today, a sneak preview of Season 3 in the form of the best goal I’ve scored yet on PES2018 – a last-minute winner too:

Much like that AI defender, I was sure this was offside as it happened. It took a few seconds to sink in that I’d really just scored it.

Hettich with the Hoddle-like 30-yard pass. Ruben Castro with the sweetest volley ever. That kind of over-the-shoulder connection with a long lobbed pass used to be called a power volley in the nomenclature of PES. I distinctly recall scoring a similar one with Eusebio on PES4. Will I remember this one in 10-15 years’ time? I think I will, you know.

Autocorrect keeps saying Richardson

Very close to the end of Season 2 in my PES2018 Master League. I hope to finish somewhere in upper-mid-table. I think if the season was about 6 matches longer, I’d have snuck into the playoff spots. But it isn’t and I won’t, so there’s another season in Division 2 in prospect. Another long slog, but I anticipate being promoted next season, so I find myself looking forward to the slog.

The current table:

One of the ongoing ML stories I’ve been monitoring is the performance of my mid-season signing, Richarlison.

In real-life, Richarlison is one of those enigmatic players who turns in a sensational performance once in a while, but then isn’t seen or heard from again for months at a time. He’s a Theo Walcott, in other words.

I got Richarlison in the January window, and he did nothing. Each time I picked him, or brought him on as a sub, he might as well have not been playing.

One of the hallmarks of Pro Evolution Soccer in the current console era has been the awful, stomach-churning way in which player individuality – for so long one of the mightiest sticks that we used to beat FIFA with – has been progressively pared back in the name of you-know-what. Online fun flowing responsive balancing blah blah blah bullshit.

In particular, I scorn the advent of the AMF/SS/CF hybrid players. Typical of nuPES, these players are emblematic of the un-PES turn that the series has taken in the PS4 era. There are so many of them, and they are so nearly all the same that they might as well just be called Player 312 and Player 313 etc., because their actual names mean almost nothing.

It’s quite depressing to click on a player in the squad selection and see at least three other positions light up. Yawn. A feature this common has very little value. Anyone remember Duffy from PS3-era PES? A right-back who could also play as a DMF/CMF. What a novelty he was. And then there were occasional Paul Warhurst-types of CBs who could also play at CF. Another novelty.

How many of those multi-position players were there in old-school PES? About 1 in 100? And how many are there now? 1 in 20? 1 in 10? Whatever the figure, there is no denying that multi-position players have rocketed in PES in recent years, and IMO it is not to the series’ benefit.

So I’ve been watching individuality in PES2018 with a very, very careful eye indeed. To the point that it is my one and only real House Rule: I am assembling a squad in which every player – every player – must manifest old-school PES individuality, or they will be moved on in the next suitable transfer window.

I’m giving each player at least half a season, or a full season if they show promise, to ‘prove’ themselves.

The great news is that individuality is still present in PES2018, in quite surprising ways too, but it really has to be burrowed for.

This Friday’s post will see me list my entire 24-man squad, and award each one a special Individuality rating out of 10. The ones who rate at 5 or above will stay. The ones who rate below 5 will go.

Richarlison’s head was well and truly on that chopping block. He was destined for a rating of about 2/10 (really, he was that poor). Until this one particular match. Before this match, I actually said to myself out loud ‘Last Chance Saloon, dude’. (I have started saying ‘dude’ in contexts like this, in lieu of having an actual motorbike-riding midlife crisis.)

What happened? Hat-trick happened.

I enjoyed each and every one of those goals, and the match as a whole, which was a 4-0 demolition job, a rarity for me in these still-tight opening seasons of Master League.

Richarlison’s individuality rating crept up to a 6/10 after this. It will go down below the 5 mark again if he returns to anonymity in what remains of the season.

Predictably, after an individual and team performance like the above, in the next match Richarlison was back to his customary ‘might as well not be on the pitch’ status.

This is something I have noted before in nuPES, and am convinced is a reality: any player who has an outstanding match will be nerfed for the following match or matches. There are plenty of instances of this nerf not happening, of course, but there are far many more instances of it happening for it to be anything other than a deliberate, programmed ‘balancing’ decision, in my opinion.

And as a team, we were also nerfed. Nobody was allowed to score. The opposition – a sturdy QPR outfit – beat me 1-0.

Poison penalty

I’ve powered through the remainder of January, all of February, and a chunk of March. In my progress I enjoyed a brilliant run of 5 straight wins that seemed to offer a realistic chance of sneaking up into the playoff spots, in classic ML league table scripted fashion.

I soon bumped into a run of games that felt as if I was not ‘allowed’ to win. After 38 matches we remain a lower-mid table side.

In my session on Tuesday evening, the impossible happened.

I was deep-defending a 1-0 lead against a stubborn newly-relegated Huddersfield side, and went on a breakaway attack of my own. Having no players up meant I was holding the ball, and holding the ball, and holding the ball, when I spotted Correa (still mostly an anonymous nobody) making a run on the other side of the pitch. I lofted a huge pass over that was intercepted by the AI player – who took a heavy touch, letting Correa nip in, almost on the touchline. I dribbled laterally towards goal, the keeper came to meet me, I tried to jink past him – and was clattered. It had to be, and was, a penalty!

As we all know, penalties and free kicks in general were effectively removed some time ago from Pro Evolution Soccer (‘The Pitch Is Ours’), so this was a rare instance indeed.

PES2018 never can quite stop reminding me that it was made with online multiplayer uppermost in mind. And the whole deal with the penalty in total just left a nasty taste in my mouth.

Instead of getting 1 penalty per 500 matches, or whatever the disgraceful average stat is, wouldn’t it be great to get a proper 5-10 penalties per season? And a proportional amount of free kicks in shooting range? Hmmm?

Back at the real PES, single-player, I’m currently all about trying to see the individuality in as many players as possible. I’ve decided to do my full points-based individuality rundown at the end of this season now.

Veldwijk and Baker remain my two most potent individuals. The February stats bear it out:

And both players made it into the Team of the Month.

Along with my ‘bargain basement Irjescu’, Hettich, who is quietly well on his way to becoming the last Default player standing.

Castledine is still on my books, but he won’t be come the end of the season. Individuality and usefulness is low with the C-man this year (low for me, it goes without saying – low for me.)

Overall I’ve had a great few days with PES2018.

I think I’d feel a lot differently right now if I didn’t know there was a patch coming that might fix some of the dreadful passages of play that just go on forever without a break. Some second halves feel as if they start with the kick-off and don’t stop until the final whistle goes. I’m sure this isn’t literally the case, ever, but it damn well feels that way, and the patch must address this.

Once again, let us take a moment to reflect on a peculiar fact. For the umpteenth year running, the summertime testers picked up on none of this. They just turned up, had their 1p vs 2p fun, played a token one or two matches of single-player, and confidently reported it was all awesome, no worries.

The patch should at least restore free kick potentiality to PES2017 levels, i.e an average of 2-3 per match. Instead of 0.3 per match, which it is at present. It’s a measure of my impoverished expectations in this area of football gaming that I’ll take this deal. If it’s offered.

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