Will no one think of the Title

In Season 8 of my PES2020 Master League career I won the league title on the last day, with a 2-2 draw from my final match.

And I needed that point. Man Cty would have won the league if I’d lost or they’d won their match, but they could only draw their match as well.I was away to Wolves for that final match. Mental muscle memory still thinks of ‘Wolves away’ as an easy game, but it’s not so at the moment, in real or virtual life.

I was 0-1 down for a long time, got it back to 1-1 midway through the second half, then, pushing for the winner I thought I’d need, I sloppily allowed Wolves to get a second goal in the 80th minute, making it 2-1 to them. Time ebbed away and I thought the title had gone. Then as the 90th minute approached I had a chance to break, and got the equaliser.

It’s the second goal of the two on show here. The first goal from van Persie, in another match of the same session, was probably the best goal of my run-in session as a whole:

The final table shows how tight it was at the end. My one extra draw – the Wolves draw – was the difference.

I only had 3 players in the Team of the Season, which is a strong indicator of me squeaking to this title:From the above screen I allowed the game to progress to the next day, waited for it to complete its Autosave, and turned it off on the PS4 for the final time for the foreseeable future.

I’ve learned never to say ‘never’ when it comes to any PES on any platform. History shows there is a good chance I will return to the PS4 platform and possibly this exact save, at some point in the rest of the footy game year – which, let us remind ourselves, has a whole EIGHT MONTHS remaining in it.

Thoughts about PES2020? I will be doing my proper End of Year Review in August as usual, but I think I can say right now that my thoughts on PES2020 are mixed, to say the least.

On one level, a fantastic football game. If the history of the series wasn’t hanging over it (as it ever does), I wouldn’t know that it was fundamentally flawed in a couple of ways. I’m talking about fouls, and I’m talking about long-range shooting.

Pretty much everything else in the game is fine, brilliant in fact, but these two things (fouls, and long-range shooting) being ‘problematic’, undermines everything else.

Fouls can be OK in PES2020, sometimes, which by modern standards means having 2 or 3 in a 10-minute match, but these are the rarest of rare matches for me. Fouls are not OK often enough for them to actually be OK, if you catch my drift.

Long-range shooting is never OK. The joy of letting one rip from more 25+ virtual yards is significantly tempered, to put it pissing mildly, by the fact that maybe 1 in 200 such shots has a chance of actually going in.

These two areas of the game, of course – as discussed at great length not just this year but for all recent years – bear all the hallmarks of deliberate ‘balancing’ for online play.

As long as the online Pachinko machine is grinding away, no-fouls and no-long-rangers is what we single-players have to put up with. And it royally sucks.

So I finally feel forced to head elsewhere and look for other solutions. I set off now to a new platform with modding capabilities. I am talking about the PC platform.

I am looking for gameplay, above all else. Modding for cosmetic reasons is nice, and will be indulged in (because, why not), but it isn’t the prime inspiration.

PC-phobes needn’t worry. The post content will be roughly 5% PC talk and 95% what I actually do in the actual football games.

PES and FIFA are both likely to appear – and they don’t have to be of the 2020 vintage, you know… There may also be some Football Manager shenanigans.

It’ll be something different for the blog, which has been essentially the same for 13 years now, so let’s see where it goes.

Farewell – for now, perhaps – to the PS4 incarnation of PES2020. I’m tempted to give it a provisional score…

Actually, what the hell, I will. 8/10, for now, and that’s a little bit generous considering how much of a grump no-fouls and no-long-rangers puts me in. The game’s real score will come when all the dust has settled in August.

The last lap

At the time of writing I am a single short session away from the end of this 8-seasons-long career on the PS4.

It’s worth remembering that as of today, PES2020 has only been out for exactly 4 (FOUR) calendar months. It landed on September 10th last year. Count the months if you don’t believe me. If you’re counting them on your fingers and confusing yourself by coming up with five, remember you’re counting from September 10. So from there to October is one month. November, December, January. Four short months.

On the forums they’re pretty much ready for PES2021 by the looks of things, but the football game year is some way from being even half done.

Season 8 on PS4 is definitely my last. I am 3 matches from the end of the season and this is the table. I expect at least a final-day decider:I’ve changed formation in an effort to score enough goals to overhaul that 10-goal advantage Man City have in goal difference.

This is the formation. As an old-schooler I deplore the 4-5-1 tendency in recent football, and refuse to recignise this as a 4-5-1 of any kind. It is self-evidently a 4-3-3:Even the game sort-of agrees with me that this definitely, absolutely isn’t a 4-5-1. I don’t know where it’s getting that 4-2-1-3 from. Probably from my choice to go with Rice as a CMF instead of going with two AMFs.

Readers with long memories will recall that 4-3-3 was my preferred PES formation until well into the PS3 era. This is a blast from my PS2 past, right here.

Incidentally, that’s the formation I go with in my Football Manager 2019 save. Even with all my PES/XCOM2/Death Stranding stuff going on, I’m quietly making myself addicted to the famous Football Manager timesink all over again, after about a decade of not really being engaged with it. FM2010 was the last one I played a few seasons of, and even then that was spread out over a long time.

For those, like me, who feel overwhelmed by too much detail in a game, they’ve done a good job of making the new era of Football Manager customisable at every level. I’m a suited manager, not a tracksuited one. I’m doing them a favour by turning up for matchday.

There might be some Football Manager content (alongside all the PES and FIFA content) appearing on the blog over the coming weeks and months. This imminent pivot away from consoles to PC might just be a temporary thing until we get to the other side of summer and the PS5. But I feel in my water that there is change afoot. It’s a big change for the blog and a much-needed one, I think. It’s been 13 years of pretty much the same-old same-old. I have often mentioned other things than console PES here, so there is precedent.

A goal to finish with from my most recent session of PES2020 on PS4. I’m mindful that I have had barely any great goals to post this year so far, in all 8 seasons. Compared to previous years, that is. The good goals of PES2020 tend to be ones that look just like real-life goals in some way – which means they are good goals, in that sense. Here’s a rare header from van Persie.

Again, it’s telling that PES2020 is the only PES in which I would be posting this as a noteworthy goal. In context, this was vital in my title push.

It’s a great life on the buses

Two sessions after getting my first penalty in PES2020, I got my second penalty in PES2020…

Same outcome as before. This time I didn’t take a sneaky peek at the aiming reticule (I insist upon calling it that; other naming conventions are available).

I went to the keeper’s left, my right, with a goodly amount of power, and using my best penalty-taker Lobato, as can be seen. And the keeper saved. To be fair, if he guesses the right way, he could hardly avoid saving it.

I see some chatter on the forums that penalties are suddenly more common – and that they’re mostly being saved, interestingly. Hmmm.

I’ve lost track of when PES2020 was last patched and what was supposed to be in the patch – not that this really matters to a PES community that routinely compiles its own fantastical patch notes.

But I’ve now got two penalties within a few matches of each other, after playing several hundred matches without getting a single one. I’m aware of the laws of statistics which say that, actually, this isn’t so remarkable. Randomness is random. But if I get a third penalty in the next session or two, I’ll be putting on the tinfoil hat and firmly believing in the reality of ‘secret patches’ along with the rest of them.

And if I missed that hypothetical third penalty, the interesting thing then would be: why (re-)introduce penalties to a football game and make so many of them missed? Balancing of course. Can’t have too many goals scored.

In the league I’m storming up the table, with top spot well within reach. Knowing the series and the Master League mode as I do, I regard the league title as mine to lose.

I’m playing on Top Player, remember. It does throw up the odd impossible match, which achieves its ends quite amusingly with mysteriously missed shots and wonder saves from the AI goalkeeper. A football game is an interactive scripted experience. Which I have always known, of course, but there is a thing called suspension of disbelief which is critical for immersion in any form of fictive media, which applies to video games as much as to any movie or book.

Here’s the table going into April in Season 8:

I think a title win here will be a fitting finale to this PS4 ML career.

Notice the lack of regular goal footage from me. Regular readers will be used to seeing me post a watchable goal or two in almost every post, year in, year out. Usually those goals are something long-rangey, but often they’re notable for other reasons too.

That simply doesn’t happen with PES2020. The goals of PES2020 might well be the dullest goals in PES history! There’s the odd ball-over-the-top smash into the net that gets the blood pumping, but goals like that aren’t replay-worthy either. Most goals are of the pass-pass-pass-pass-sidefoot-in-from-8-yards variety. Which is fine. I recognise the, uh, validity of that sort of thing…

Football Game In ‘Player Gets A Penalty’ Shock

And we’re back. I thought January would never come. Only another 11 months before the return of Fairytale of New York on a continuous loop.

I’ve played quite a bit of my Master League Season 8. Christmas and New Year is quite an intensive footy gaming period for me, as a football game is perfect to pick up for the odd 30 minutes or an hour that you manage to get to yourself.

I’m still feeling as if this is my last season on the PS4. And now that the year has turned, I feel it’s time to formally acknowledge that PES2020 is not The One and stands very little chance of being esteemed as The One. ‘The One’ being a shorthand placeholder phrase that encapsulates a common PES-fan hope and desire.

The One is held to be ‘a new PES game that fulfils the spirit and actuality of the Golden Age of PES, whilst somehow still staying up to date and relevant in the current era’.

PES2020 is not The One. It’s not even close to being The One. I’d currently rank it 3rd in the list of Best PS4 PES games. PES2019 and PES2015 would take 1st and 2nd for me.  Then PES2020 in 3rd. Followed by PES2017, then PES2018, and PES2016 last.

I think I’m being slightly unkind to PES2017 by only giving it 4th place behind PES2020. Let’s see how the final judgement goes come August.

PES2020 is just too plodding and pedestrian, frankly, for it ever be The One. The standard of goals is poor. They’re 98% of the team goal/tap-in variety. They can be great in context, proper footballing goals – no quibbles there – but there is no variety to them. PES2020 exerts a balancing stranglehold over shooting from greater than 20 yards.

I did get a couple of very nice >20 yard strikes from Lobato in one match – the only such goals that I can remember all season:

 

And look what happened for the first time – as the post title says, I’ve waited almost 500 matches of PES2020 for this reasonably common footballing event to happen:

Yes, I just had to miss it, even after peeking at the assist reticule.

I’ve crashed out of the Champions League. I didn’t even finish 3rd in the group, so no Europa parachute. I started the season on Superstar, then switched to Top Player/PA0, remember, but the quality of play on both settings wasn’t great.

With about a third of my final PS4 season remaining, I have started to make up the ground I lost from being in Superstar at the start. I think results are already going my way, and this 9-point gap will close dramatically:

Back to normal service on Tuesday, and a normal-length and normal-feeling post. My hop over to the PC platform is just around the corner, though, so ‘normal’ won’t last long into January.