Month: June 2012

No, Jim, it went in the other side…

The petty annoyances of PES2012 are legion. Off the top of my head, Jim Beglin constantly referring to the wrong side of the goal is one. “That went into the right corner of the goal,” he’ll say—when the ball has just gone into the goal’s left corner.

In established convention, the ‘facing’ of a goal is from the goal’s point of view. So the left side as a striker looks at it is actually the goal’s right side, and vice versa.

But this convention isn’t respected by Konami. Maybe it’s different in Japan, I don’t know.

I know it’s not actually Beglin’s fault. He just records the lines he’s asked to say. He’s not to blame for Konami using them in the wrong contexts.

Another annoyance comes in the pre-match setup screen. Often you’ll spend 5 minutes or longer tweaking your formation pre-match, slotting in all the right players and tweaking their positions, maybe even adjusting the tactical sliders to make everything just right.

And then you’ll accidentally double-press Circle and go aaaall the way back to the main menu, cancelling out everything you’ve just done. Now you’ve got to go back in, and do it all again…

There are more like that. The annoyances of football games in general, and PES2012 in particular, are not all about CPU scripting and glitchy collision detection.

Season 15 has stuttered slightly. Last time, I was hot on the heels of the league leaders, Manchester United, just 1 point behind. I’m still on their heels, only not quite as hotly as before.

That 1-point gap has become a 3-point gap, Their better goal difference effectively makes it a 4-point gap.

I suffered from two calamitous draws, one against Liverpool at home, the other against Shamrock Rovers(!) away. The latter team have an eerily lifelike Regen Pirlo as a craggy 18-year-old midfielder. He’s already pretty good, and while playing regularly for Shamrock Rovers he’s developing quite nicely. I’ll probably swoop for him in a couple of seasons.

In both matches I had good last-gasp chances to win that crashed against the post. First from Rooney, second from Forlan. If just one had gone in I’d be much better placed than I am now. As things stand I’m relying on Man Utd losing and drawing in order to catch up, while not dropping any more points myself. In this game, that’s a big ask.

I’m through to the semi-final of the Cup, where I’ll play… Mancheser United.

And after being eliminated from the Champions League I’ve gone straight through to the knockout phase of the Europa League. Where my opponents are Marseille. I’ve already played the first leg at their ground. I won the match 1-0. I should, fingers crossed, finish the job back at mine.

My big new signing, Sibon, is truly a beast. I’d like him to be a bit quicker on the ball, but I can’t complain about his physical dominance of the box. After a slow start, he’s now scored 4 goals in his last three games. Three of the goals were mighty headers.

I have mostly stuck to my usual style of play, and allowed chances for Sibon to occur naturally. As I said before his arrival, if he gets just 10 goals for me in this half of the season, and those 10 goals help me win something, he’ll have been worth every penny of the imaginary £40m I spent on him.

Forgetting Sibon

Here’s the player I hope will be the final piece of the puzzle. It’s season 15 in my ML world. Sibon, one of PES2012’s big-name strikers, is currently aged 29 and rated 91 OVR. He’s almost certainly about to decline, so I might only get a season or two of value from him. That’d be enough for me.

He arrived in the January window, the transfer having been arranged back in November. I watched the press conference cutscene—and then promptly forgot all about him.

I only remembered that Sibon was around when he turned up in the office after the next match, moaning about not being picked.

I told him that I was keeping him fresh for another game. Sadly, there isn’t an option to reply: ‘Uh, sorry dude, I forgot you were here…’

In my defence, he must have been on a blue or purple arrow for the preceding match. I always scan through my whole squad before every match, automatically ignoring players on blue and purple arrows.

Playing with Sibon, when I eventually picked him, was very intriguing.

My existing big striker, Caracciolo, is more of a ‘beanpole’ type than the ‘brick shithouse’ big guy as represented by Sibon.

I previously had Ribeiro as a young player and then again as a fading thirtysomething, and only ever saw flashes of what could be possible with a big man up front.

Already with Sibon, I am seeing what the fuss is about—and also what the drawbacks potentially are.

His very first touch—against Liverpool, in the match above—was a glancing header from a cross that just trickled agonisingly past the post. Unlike Ribeiro and others, Sibon has got power in his shooting boots. He crashed a mighty snapshot against the post from the edge of the area late on.

But the drawbacks are already obvious. I spent most of my time trying to set up crosses for him to feed off. On this occasion, the AI snuffed out almost every attempt. It was quite something to see the CPU fullbacks dementedly getting across to cover.

By focusing most of my efforts down the channels, I neglected to develop play in other areas. I had hardly any conventional shooting chances—it was all wingplay and failed crosses.

I was lucky to get a 1-1 draw out of this match in the end. If I hadn’t had Sibon in the team, would I have played ‘normally’ and fashioned a few goals in the normal way? Who knows. It’s certainly a tendency I’ll have to be careful about in the future.

In the league generally, things are going well.

Manchester United thumped me on the opening day of this season. I played the return fixture against them at my place. BIG game.

I had to win. Or at least not lose.

The match was as tough as any on PES2012, ever—which means it was a tough match. We all know the score. The super-dribblers. The players on your own team who suddenly can’t pass or trap the ball.

I took the lead from a Forlan header, somehow. A few minutes later, Man Utd were level, thanks to a 35-yard daisycutter from Littbarski—no complaints, a good goal. But I do kind of regret unleashing the Classics on this world now. Every team seems to have one or two. The big teams have as many as they like.

The game was fading out to a 1-1 draw. Not a bad result at all, and a lot better than the defeat it could just as easily have been.

With a minute left, I brought on Rooney as a sub, hoping against hope. From a throw-in, I tried for a turn-and-shoot goal, every other method having failed. And I had this shout-out-loud moment:

The goal of my season so far. Not for its quality—it’s just a standard kind of goal for me—but for what it represented, of course. A massive 2-1 win and three ultra-precious points.

There was time for Man Utd to so nearly get an instant equaliser straight from kickoff.

Of all the scripts that assail you in PES2012, and there are plenty, the CPU’s straight-from-kickoff powerup is my least favourite. A few super-dribbles and magic dances were all it took for United’s Mario Balotelli (yes, I know) to be clean through on goal.

Happily for me, he thumped the ball wide. If that had gone in, I would not have been a happy man at all. In fact, I would have been furious.

The table afterwards:

Hardworking days

PES2012 makes you work for everything. It makes you work hard to like it in the first place. And then, after that stage has been reached, you’ve got to play the matches…

Every pass, every tackle, every goal, every point are all dearly bought with sweat and effort and hard work. From Regular difficulty on up.

I’ve played hundreds of matches across about four hundred hours by now. I can probably count on two hands the number of matches I’ve ‘coasted’ through without any trouble. (One of them was that live commentary match from a few weeks age. One rainy day this summer, I’ll post one of the recorded matches where I got thumped. That’ll give a more balanced picture of how I get on with PES2012.)

Here in season 15 of my ML career, I’m going for my first ever silverware on Superstar difficulty.

And I’m out of the Champions League at the group stage. I’ve been eliminated after 5 of the 6 group matches.

I hadn’t been playing well in Europe, but a rich vein of form in the league gave me hope of carrying that over into the Champs League.

Inter were my opponents in game 5, away. I had to win.

On the right you see my actual outfield team, set up defensively, but with plenty of options going forward, of course.

It was, as expected, a hard, hard game. Inter could have had it won easily by half-time. Somehow it stayed 0-0. In the second half all my effort was rewarded with a beautifully-crafted goal by Caracciolo. The build-up was so sweet that I can still taste the pleasure right now, a day later.

Baresi has been a revelation in recent matches, supporting the attack strongly from the back. He’s a great passer. Just prior to this game he basically won me a tight league match against Celtic with a deadly pass from the halfway line into Forlan’s feet in the penalty area. Forlan couldn’t miss.

Here against Inter, Baresi found Forlan again, only now it was on the edge of the area. I spotted Caracciolo making a spontaneous run in behind the defence. A delicate lobbed through-ball put him in for a one-on-one. The onrushing Inter keeper could do nothing to stop the goal.

There were 15 minutes left. I subbed Forlan and Barnes, went 4-5-1 with Perrotta and Gerrard deep in midfield, and readied myself to hang on for grim death.

It went okay, until Inter got a bullshit free kick 25 yards out with 5 minutes left, and curled the ball in. 1-1. I was fuming. All my hard work, up in smoke.

At the final whistle my players sank to the turf. John Champion kindly informed me that the draw wasn’t enough. I was out.

So that’s a trophy gone. I sometimes wonder if I’ll ever win the Champions League on Superstar.

The league is looking up. I’m not out of it yet. Still just one defeat—that opening day mauling by Man Utd.

Man Utd are the soaraway CPU team-of-the-season, but they’ve now actually lost a match. I’m within striking distance, but I think if I suffer one more defeat, or even a few too many draws, it’ll be over and I’ll be scrapping to finish 4th again.  A long way to go, though.

The FA Cup is still on. An easy first few rounds now sees me in the Quarter Final against Sunderland. It’ll be tough, but I should win. If so, it’ll probably be a semi-final meeting with Man Utd. Then one of the big boys in the Final, if I get there.

I’ll say this for PES2012. It’s lasting.

And I had some wonderful transfer news in late November of 2026. Come January, I’ll be joined by the 29-year-old veteran, SIBON. Yes, I finally got my man.

I have no idea why the latest repeat bid—probably my 20th bid in total—was successful, but it was. I gladly paid £40m for a striker who seems at the top of his game right now, but may be about to decline.

That’s OK. As long as I get one good season out of him, it’ll have been worth it. Roll on January 2027.

How to park a bus

October, 2026. Am I the only one who remains convinced that giant mechanized robots with plasma cannon for hands and tank treads for feet will be battling it out over the world’s ruined cities in the actual year 2026? Bring on the Amtrak Wars!

After a bad start to season 15, I’ve now rallied with 4 wins and a draw. One of my victories was a precious, precious win over Arsenal, away. You’ve got to win those matches against the big boys, or at least not lose them.

Manchester United might well be the most deadly CPU team ever to materialise in my Master League world. They’re going to take some catching.

I’ve implemented a change of tactics, particularly against the good teams. From now on I’m not taking any prisoners. Every match is an attritional battle to the death. And a huge aspect of the battle? I have started parking the bus myself. See how the CPU likes that.

As long as it’s 0-0, I play with 9 or 10 men behind the ball, using two deep-lying DMFs, on 1 bar of ATT/DEF. I try to get a goal on the counter. I’ll go up a bar or two in order to maximise a good counter-attack, but never for long. It’s all about getting the first goal in PES2012. Everything flows from that. I only hit 4-5 bars of attacking if behind or drawing late on, and even then I’ll be very cautious about timing.

If I get that precious opening goal, I will play just as defensively, and seek to score more goals on the counter. I will only loosen up and try to play ‘properly’ if I have a two-goal cushion. The key to victory in this ML isn’t so much scoring goals as not conceding them. So I will not concede goals. I will not concede goals. I will not concede goals.

You know what, it is working. Four wins on the bounce. ‘The Arsenal way’, we called it back in the 80s. George Graham built his teams from the back, and they won things, year in, year out.

The Chelsea way, we might call it today—or, yes, even the England way. Strange how a footballing nation that was once synonymous with free-flowing, devil-may-care, attacking football is now indelibly associated in the minds of a generation with negative, stifling tactics, but there you go. I digress. No real football on this blog.

If it works, if it brings results and trophies, the fans don’t care. If it works for me in this ML and delivers even one trophy, or the fabled Treble, I’ll be delirious.

It’s quite addictive, seeing consciously-applied tactics work out in-game and bring success.

My swashbuckling 3-1 victory over Arsenal was the perfect example. 0-0 for half an hour, with me on 1-bar attacking and my two DMFs so deep that they might as well have been two extra CBs.

Try as it might, jink and weave and dance as it would, there were just too many bodies for the CPU players to get through.

The major danger to my goal was down the wings. As we all know, if the CPU gets in behind you to the touchline and starts running into the box from the side, you’re in BIG trouble.

Double-teaming them often just makes it easier for the CPU to find a man with a deadly pass into the box. So it was always nerve-racking whenever Arsenal tried an attack down the channels, but on the whole I coped. I tried to make sure I was only double-teaming with my full-back and winger—never with either of my DMFs or CBs, who had to be in the middle, waiting to mop up the final ball. It worked!

On 30 minutes, I had a counter-attack—one of many, actually. You always get your opportunities.

This happened—a deliciously-weighted through-ball down the wing for Barnes to deliver a first-time cross, and Caracciolo was there to perform a lovely hook-shot over his shoulder into the Arsenal net:

I battled through to half-time with my back 6(!) holding firm.

After half-tme, I got another goal to make it 2-0, then another to make it an astonishing 3-0 after 70 minutes. All while playing mostly on 1-bar attacking. I relented and started showboating a bit when 3-0 up.

I slightly paid the price for over-confidence when I conceded a free kick 30 yards out with a minute left. Roberto Baggio curled in a consolation goal for Arsenal. But it was far too late for a CPU comaback, and it failed to take the gloss off my finest all-round performance of the season.

I’ve had a bumpy ride in Europe: a win, a draw, a defeat. But I’m holding on there too.

The target for the season remains: one trophy, any trophy. Whatever it takes.