Tag: difficulty level

Twist and Shoot

PES2016 back of the net

I’ve played almost to the end of season 1 in Master League on PES2016. With great enjoyment, mostly, it has to be said.

This is a PES that works, on the whole, as a football game, with intuitive passing and shooting and, generally, a good tempo to events.

Contrary to What The Forums Say, not every shot on goal flies in for either side, me or the AI. I play on Level 1 passing with Normal shooting (I refuse to call it Basic).

I’m seeing fouls and getting free kicks, sometimes at a greater level than PES2015.

Master League is magnificent! The Defaults are very capable this year (bring back Hamsun!). Arcas and Castledine are the Lennon and McCartney of my midfield.

For the first time in 5 years — that”s 4 whole editions of PES — Master League is a worthy, substantial mode. There’s loads to see and do and ruminate over. I’ve got so used over the past 4 editions to just clicking my way from one match to the next that it feels strange to have things to look at and think about. I’m still getting used to it.

Greg Not Pensive

As ever with PES there’s a ‘but’.

The ‘but’ this time is that PES2016 seems very often to be an all-action, high-scoring affair that’s out of keeping with the series’ traditions. Online they’re talking about routine 7-4 and 8-8 and 11-3 scorelines. That reflects the kind of thing I’ve seen offline, in single-player, sometimes. It makes me feel… uneasy.

Last week I had several alarming sessions of high-scoring matches on Professional and then Top Player.

I’m now on Superstar, something that doesn’t traditionally happen until 7 or 8 seasons in.

The change came just after the halfway point of season 1. For the first time in my PES and Master League history. No other PES has ever forced me onto the hardest difficulty the way PES2016 has.

This might not necessarily be a bad thing.

Every year it seems the difficulty levels are ‘rezoned’. It was only in recent years, I think, that Professional became a worthy introductory level for several seasons, followed by a steady progression to Top Player and then Superstar once my team was appropriately matured.

That routine seems to have been thrown out of the window this year. I’m uncomfortable about it. I don’t know what it means yet. I don’t know what the future holds, and I don’t like it. I’m the sort of PES player and the sort of person who won’t be able to ignore this. I can’t simply forget about it, until it’s very clear that it’s not really an issue. So you have been warned.

Here were my first 5 matches on Superstar, last Friday afternoon:

PES2016 first 5 matches on SS

Not bad, not too bad at all. I can accept, even applaud, the AI scoring hatfuls of goals against me. My own scoring was happily respectable.

It has to be acknowledged that Konami don’t publish football games exclusively for me. They’re under no obligation to cater for my tastes and expectations. If they’ve decided that they want to grab a piece of the pie baked by FIFA and Ultimate Team, and push out a high-octane, all-action, button-mashing festival of goals, that’s something I’ve either got to live with — or not. Up to me.

I’ve long foreseen a time coming where PES would be changed so much to accommodate the online player/the casual player/the curious new player, that the older crowd who’ve been with the series forever would be effectively sidelined. It has been coming. Now… is it here?

It’s far too early to tell. The true character of a PES game doesn’t show itself for at least a couple of seasons of Master League. There are so many factors in play.

By Friday I’ll have finished Season 1 and be well underway with Season 2. I’ll speak in some depth about my players and transfers. And then I’ll be going all-out for a Season 2 promotion campaign. Part of me’s worried that it’ll be a successful one.

Jesus Christ, Superstar?

No, I haven’t signed a young, bearded Middle Easterner with a dreamy look in his eye who shows potential. I have gone up to Superstar difficulty, and crazily, I seem to be thriving. This is BIG NEWS, especially coming from Mr Average here.

First, the end of one season and the start of another brings with it a certain amount of admin work.

There’s the new Home kit pictured above. I wanted to try a horizontally-striped kit. I’m sticking with the brown 1970s Away strip for another season. I’ve got used to it.

The tale of the tape for season 11:

A good season by any standard, really.

And so I came to the pre-season Training Matches. And I went up to Superstar!

For now, it’s just an experiment. The other morning I was thinking about difficulty levels on PES2012. Well, I thought, I’ve never actually played the game on Top Player or Superstar—time to give it a go?

I was interested to see it styled in the Settings menu as Super Star—two words, both capitalised. I notice things like that, and I think about them. In general PES2012 discourse it’s known as Superstar.

I think the two-word menu version is an instance of Japanglish. A native English-speaker would naturally incline to the one-word version, Superstar, which has ample precedent in common usage. No, I really don’t get out much.

I played a couple of Exhibition Matches on Superstar first. I was expecting Superstar to be a dizzyingly fast torture chamber of CPU pressure and dribbling and scripting—like Professional at its most extreme, only multiplied by a hundred.

I didn’t want to risk my Master League season on something like that. A season in ML is a lot of work, and you don’t casually throw one away by doing experiments on it.

So I played two Exhibition Matches, England vs. Scotland, on Superstar. I recommend trying Exhibitions first to anybody interested in sampling Superstar for themselves.

Both were very absorbing, intriguing games, that I loved. I had two of the best games I’ve ever had on PES2012—on any PES, ever—right there.

I drew the first 1-1, with just 57% of the possession. I’m used to 60-65% on Professional. I lost the second match 1-2. There seemed to be more midfield play in both matches than I was used to on Professional.

Of course, never discount the prodigious power of the placebo effect. I was acutely aware of this.

But here’s the big deal: the CPU didn’t seem to be camping in its own box quite so much, and there wasn’t a crazy amount of dribbling going on.

What there was of it I could weirdly accept, a good deal more happily than on Professional, telling myself, “Hey, it’s Superstar.”

I went back into my Master League career and played the rest of my Training Matches on Superstar.

And now I’ve started the proper Season 12 on Superstar. I’ve won all three opening League matches, on Superstar. I had to go back and check after each match, unable to believe it.

One of the matches was away against my nemesis of last season, Manchester United, away. I beat them 4-2, and it was startlingly easy.

Look at those shots on goal. Again, I checked the difficulty post-match. Superstar. Weird, isn’t it? If any readers conduct a similar experiment, I’d be very interested in hearing about it.

I’m going to give it 10 matches. It’s a risk, as you don’t just throw away Master League seasons, as I risk doing if this goes wrong. Surely Superstar will give me a good pounding sooner or later?

But it’s a worthy risk.

Playing on Superstar is bloody amazing! First of all, you get to cackle and tell yourself: Ha-haaaa! Superstar! Everything counts treble!

And the game overall just feels better. You find you focus more, knowing it’s Superstar, and when you focus more, you play better, and when you play better, the game rewards you more. It also feels less ‘cheaty’. Even when it does feel cheaty, it feels less annoying, because of being on Superstar.

Here’s one of the concrete differences I’ve noticed on Superstar—look at how the CPU team, in white, is shaped here:

That’s a moment from a match against Real Madrid in a Champions League group match. The score at the time was 1-1. This was a normal passage of play. I wasn’t counter-attacking.

Look at that CPU defence! It looks quite normal—no camping AI. There are actually CPU midfielders standing upfield, watching the action.

In the screenshot, my Forlan is about to receive the ball and score this great 25-yard strike:

I won that match 2-1. On Superstar.

Okay, I have got some serious misgivings. Somehow, it doesn’t feel right that it should feel this easy on Superstar. Here’s the league table:

My other results were 3-2 over Manchester City at home, and 3-0 over Sunderland at home.

Maybe it’s partly down to a change in formation? For the new season I decided to sacrfice one of my advanced midfielders for the sake of accommodatng Farinos and Neeskens in the same team.

Finally, I am seeing the best of Farinos. Him and Neeskens together in that midfield are immense.

Farinos is also a great passer, and has a wicked shot, although I’ve yet to get a belter with him. It’s coming though, it’s coming.

We’ll see how Superstar pans out. It should be remembered here that I’ve only played about 8 matches on Superstar so far.

I will give it until 10 league matches, and then decide what to do. Although right now, I’m in the weird position of contemplating going down to Top Player—or even back to Professional—to make it harder…

Perhaps Superstar will tear off its mask of reasonableness and DEVOUR me pretty soon.

Right now, though, I am loving PES2012 even more than I already was. This is an amazing game of football, and it just keeps getting better.

Passing through Top Player

February 1st, bloody hell. It might feel as if the football game year is just about over, but really we’re only about 30% of the way through it.

Mid-February will mark 4 calendar months since PES2012’s full release. And then there’ll still be 8 months to go before the 2013 footy games appear. Plenty of time left.

Season 8 of my Master League career in PES2012 has passed its halfway point. I didn’t make any new signings or sell any players. Goals are still very hard to come by.

I have spent the past few days swinging between three difficulty levels. I got so fed up with Professional that I played on Regular for a couple of matches. I won both very easily. There’s no way back down for me.

I was disheartened at the thought of going back to Professional difficulty’s AI wonder dribblers and tricksters. So I thought: why not have a bash on Top Player?

In years past, ‘they’ often said that Top Player was easier than Professional. ‘They’ being the PES cognoscenti, a largely imaginary entity that we all carry inside us, derived from the aggregated weight of consensus on every PES-related website.

I played about six matches on Top Player. Like its little brother Professional, when you play well and score goals and get results, it’s proportionally more satisfying than doing so on lower difficulties. And that’s because it’s harder. A lot harder. I found so, anyway.

When the score is 0-0, it’s a perfectly decent game on Top Player. Dare to go 1-0 up, however, and things change. Lose the ball, and the AI will sweep upfield and carve a chance no matter what. If you zig, the AI will zag. Prod the ball loose and your player will move s-l-o-w-l-y to retrieve it, and be beaten to it. That kind of thing. The kind of thing we’ve been putting up with for years.

Here are two goals—both good goals, the crucial difference being that the first was scored on Professional, and the second on Top Player. I enjoyed the second, Top Player goal more, despite the first goal being visually the more stunning of the pair.

Goal #1 (Barnes), scored on Professional, is a first-time, ground-level scissors kick that swerves deliciously around the keeper and into the far side of the net.

Goal #2 (van Basten), scored on Top Player, is an instinctive side-footer across the keeper and high into the opposite side of the net.

Goal #1 is clearly the best goal, but Goal #2 is arguably the better goal because of what it represented. Victory over a tough opponent (Spurs) on an unforgiving difficulty level.

I concluded my wanderings among the difficulty levels by going back to Professional and staying there. It doesn’t seem so bad after Top Player.

Simming World

I’ve finished my maiden season in Manager Mode with Coventry City on FIFA09. I didn’t get sacked—but probably only because I simmed the last few games. Naughty of me, but I’d already decided to abandon this career, so it didn’t matter what happened.

I’ll be starting Manager Mode again on World Class difficulty from the outset, with a new set of House Rules that will be strictly observed. In this current career I bought a couple of good players (rated 75+ Overall) in the transfer window, and I also sold a lot of youngsters from my squad. I’m not allowed to operate like this under my ‘realism mod’ House Rules. So a new career from scratch is the best way to proceed.

For my last few proper games (not simmed) in this current career, I decided to give myself a taster of what’s awaiting me in the new career: I switched the difficulty to World Class. I’m planning to stay on this difficulty from now on. After a difficult few days with FIFA09, changing up the difficulty was a breath of fresh air. It forced me to slow down, take my time, play football properly.

I moved up not because I think I’ve mastered Professional—far from it—but because I just want the CPU to keep the ball better. I think it does improve the game, for me anyway. On Professional, I was never really worried about losing the ball. Most of the time it was simple to win it back straightaway: just clamp X+Square+Sprint, and wait. This made for fast-paced, chaotic games without much real shape to them.

The CPU keeps the ball a lot better on World Class. Clamping seems less effective, but it’s still early days. I’m already playing more carefully again, the ‘new FIFA’ way, focusing on possession and creativity with the ball.

The overall standard of play is tougher too, of course. It’s harder to do the simple things well. Not that I’ve ever found goal-scoring with semi-manual settings simple… In these four games I didn’t score once. Not even close, most of the time. 0-0, four times in a row—without a single shot on target in one of the games. It was pretty grim, but I can live with grim. The challenge is to get good at it, to overcome the grimness. This is the kind of football game I want to play.

After I’d taken the temperature of World Class difficulty, I decided to do something I’ve never done in FIFA before. I simmed some of the remaining games. Yes—I SIMMED them. The computer doesn’t always get it ‘right’, but that’s the risk you take. It won’t ever use substitutions, I’ve noticed. All the starting XI will be completely knackered after a simmed match. And the scorelines! I won one simmed match 4-0. I’d rarely scored even 2 goals in one game in this whole short career.

The simmed matches pulled me away from the relegation zone. I’d never, ever use the sim option in a real season; I was only doing so now because I planned to abandon the career whatever happened. Here, for the record, is the final lower part of the table:

So I finished 18th after 46 games, 4 of them having been simmed, and that’s the end of that career. I’ve deleted the save. It’s a write-off. I’ve already forgotten it.


I’ll get to my new Manager Mode career on World Class on Monday (tomorrow will see a PES2009-related post). I’ll describe my House Rules in exhaustive detail. I’ve already played two games of the new career—and lost them both. Again, with few shots on goal myself. If this keeps up I think I’ll be sacked before Christmas. If that happens, I’ll just start again, and again, and again… I think this new way of doing things will be, dare I say it, ‘fun’.