Month: January 2018

Sir Kicksalot

Just before the pre-season transfer window closed, I realised I needed a new left-back. Kenedy has been my left-back for four or five seasons and was a ‘My Favourite Players’ a season or two ago. But his decline has set in – OPR down to 79 – and some new blood is needed.

I found Passlack via Scouting, always the best way to waste the least amount of time, as they’ll always discuss terms.

So far so good, and he has already displaced Kenedy for first choice.

I also like Passlack’s name, which is very footbally.

It gives me the idea for possibly the most tricky Custom XI ever: footballers with names whose first part is something that they would do in football (such as Pass), and the second is a modifier of that action (lack). So this XI would need players with names like Shootmore and Tacklemuch and Savewell, etc. Are there enough such players to make a Whimsical XI?

Season 7 on Top Player has started encouragingly, in such a way that I already know it’s going to be a successful one in terms of final position. The table after 10 matches:

I’d be up there in the top 4, but I suffered a couple of careless draws and took a surprise mauling at the hands of Sunderland (who’ve got Regen ‘Ibra’, as I call him, what with him being my mate and all).

I’ve started winning on Top Player a lot more than I lose. Some of those wins are comfortable ones, but not all of them. There is still more than enough of a challenge in Top Player to continue.

How is nuPES-watch going? This is where I monitor, through gritted teeth, how the multiplayer-oriented game that PES most certainly is now, behaves itself (or doesn’t) in single-player. Every PES fan worth his salt knows that single-player is all that truly matters when it comes to this series. No single-player excellence = not a true PES game. QED. It’s the only formula in the Universe that counts.

It’s not proceeding badly. I’m liking it more than I’m not.

But all the gruesome multiplayer flourishes are still there in bucketloads.

The incessant ice hockey-style flow.

Precious little individuality – any player who shows a spark of individuality, becomes ineffective for several matches afterwards.

Effectively zero fouls – my per-match foul average must be around 0.1 now. Not an exaggeration.

No penalties, ever, no matter how obviously I’m barged and clattered off the ball in the box. It beggars belief that there are still those who believe no-fouls and no-penalties is a Fox Engine thing. It’s not. It’s a programming-and-marketing decision thing.

So while I’m playing PES2018 with enjoyment, in the nuPES Zone of Judgement I remain as unforgiving and ragingly fundamentalist as ever.

I am gleefully not going to bother with PES2019. Seriously, dropping support for the nuPES bastardisation of the franchise, will be one of my great pleasures of 2018. I feel all worthy already. There’s a nice little glow of anticipatory satisfaction.

And PES2018 isn’t that far from the end of its time. At the moment, I really am thinking just this season and one more, and that’s all folks. I’ve got a week off work coming up and should motor through a good chunk of it then.

8 seasons. Maybe one more season after that if things are interesting at the close of Season 8, but I don’t see PES2018’s ML making it to double figures. It might make it to February, though, which is a decent performance to be fair.

That Stoke isn’t funny anymore

Season 7 kicks off with my squad looking the best it has ever looked. It’s what you would expect after 6 full seasons of Master League, but PES2018’s ML throws an unexpected (and almost certainly unintended) obstacle in the way of growing your team. There’s a massive disparity between Transfer funds and Salary budget.

At the start of this window I had around £230,000,000 (TWO HUNDRED AND THIRTY MILLION) in the Transfer pot.

My Salary budget? £9,000,000 (NINE MILLION).

Not enough wages for even one great player, not that they would come to my team at the moment anyway.

Still, I have fluked my first player rated 90+. I put in a bid for one Renato Sanches, whose ‘Chance of signing’ was 2/6, and he accepted. Scared of breaking the magic spell that had got him, I didn’t even negotiate the fee (a piddling drop in my quarter of a billion ocean), and so he became my first 90-rated player.

My full squad, First XI, and Formation for Season 7:

Much other wheeler-dealering took place as well. The highlights were a new keeper, Posavec, a new CB/RB, Danilo, and a promising young 88-rated striker, Raya. As well as a few others.

It’s only been 5 or so matches of the new season, but so far none of the new players seem very different from the others. Raya in particular looks and plays exactly like Lacazette, Stepinski, et al. The almost total erosion of player individuality in nuPES is by far its biggest sin against the illustrious name of ‘Pro Evolution Soccer’.

But, as I have mentioned quite a lot now, PES2018 still has something, and that something is keeping me playing. So who’s to say the magic isn’t still there, albeit in another form?

I’m firmly on Top Player now. By ‘firmly’ I mean that there will be no more occasional bouts of Superstar to see if I’m ready yet. I’ll be ready whenever I convincingly win every match on Top Player. That time seems a long time away.

I might well stay on Top Player for the remainder of my time on PES2018, however long that is. I’ve stopped berating myself for being still on Top Player when I ‘should’ be on Superstar by now. That rule of thumb might have applied in previous editions of the game, but not in this one. The AI (that we need) sees to that.

5 matches into Season 7 on Top Player. 2 Draws. 2 Defeats. And 1 Win, against Division 2’s Birmingham City in the FA Cup.

One of my defeats was an absolute thumping at the hands of Stoke. And I mean a proper mullering. I was hammered 4-0, at home. I have the slight excuse that when only 1-0 down I pushed everything up looking for an equaliser, then got done on the break, and then again and again when I still tried to push for a goal. But it was the kind of uber-tough AI performance that had me checking the settings afterward to make sure I was still on Top Player.

As January eases its way toward its middle, and the days start to lengthen again, PES2018 is doing well, overall, to still be with me.

Strop Player

Season whatever-it-is-now – Season 6 – has come to an end. Not the most carefully-reported season of my blogging days, this one, due to a few factors.

Swanning off to FIFA in the middle of the season in a foul strop about PES was the main reason.

And then there was the distortion of spacetime that Christmas and New Year always brings about.

FIFA17 didn’t quite stick with me (this time…), and I’ve yet to get into PC PES (yet…), so PES2018 gets the nod.

It’ll be my footy game from now until its completion. Whenever that is.

There’ll be no PES2019 in my life at all – not without a radical shift in philosophy away from the awful crowd-pleasing ‘fun’ of the past 3 editions (at least) and back to the relatively sober seriousness of The Good Old Days.

For various reasons, that won’t happen. PES is always what its target market wants it to be. From ISS1 in 1997 to PES2012 or so, I was its target market.

From PES2013(ish) to PES2015(ish), I was still sort of in the equation when the Konami moneymen drew up their charts and graphs and decided what kind of football game they should make.

I’m not in the equation now. Since PES2016, I’m not the target market. I have finally recognised and accepted this truth. nuPES and I will be no more after PES2018.

I almost can’t wait for PES2019’s pre-release routine to get into gear, so I can demonstrate that my parting of the ways with nuPES is a real thing. I can’t wait to smirk at all the previewers’ returning from playing each other to gush about a game that they never actually played. I can’t wait to scrutinise the Gamescom footage (which I will do, avidly), see Fouls 0, and feel the relief flood through me that I’m not going to go through all that shit again.I spent about half my Season 6 on Top Player in the end, and results reflect that.

Top Player is often a touch too easy for comfort, but I can’t step up at the moment. Superstar is borderline unplayable for me. What I like about Superstar is the resistance to my attacks from the AI (that we need). What I detest about it is how, when you lose the ball, it feels imbalanced – in the sense that it feels predetermined that the AI will work the ball upfield with endless flicks and backheels, and you can’t get near them.

If you’re a goal down in a Superstar match and there’s 85 minutes on the clock, and you lose possession, the chances are you won’t see the ball again. The only way to give yourself a chance of getting the ball back is to spam-slide all over the place, hoping either to win the ball or at least halt things with a foul.

Top Player feels much more balanced in this sense. Maybe when my players get better and/or I get better, I’ll be able to step it up a notch.

The final table:

My current session-to-session experience with the game is decent. Things have stabilised at around the 7-to-8/10 mark, which is pretty good going for the flashy multiplayer game that PES2018 is.

You wait months for one free kick…

FIFA17 lasted about half a Career Mode season. I played across several sessions from just before Christmas, to the morning of New Year’s Eve. That night, after the bongs were done, of course I had to wait for the world to go quiet and go to sleep before I could. And I spent the first couple of hours of 2018 playing… PES2018.

With huge enjoyment. With relish. With… humility?

It really does take FIFA to show me that we still have something worthwhile in PES, on the pitch – albeit only relatively worthwhile.

No PES game since PES2012 IMO has really been great in the classic PES sense. (Most of us will pick different end-points. There would be strong arguments to support the likes of PES2011, PES2013, even PES2014 or PES2015 as being the Last Gasp of PES. PES2012 for me was the one that rung out the old and rang in the new. PES2014 is a tempting pick, but that game was an outlier for other reasons.)

But it’s not all doom and gloom! Here are some highlights from across those first few sessions after the turn of the New Year.

Highlights of the highlights: not one but TWO goals direct from free kicks in shooting range. They came in back-to-back sessions. These free kicks would be taken on the forums as convincing proof of secret unannounced patches etc, but of course they’re just a statistical cluster, and having scored the first I fancied my chances with the second. I have barely had any free kicks since, and certainly no goals from them.

Also watch out for a goal reminiscent of Gary Lineker’s second goal vs Poland in the 1986 World Cup.

PES2018 is not shit.

From now on I’ll play PES2018, without further interruptions, through to its conclusion. That likely means at least another couple of seasons of Master League. Then I’ll take the PES2018 disc out of the PS4, put it away in its box, and pretty much forget it ever existed. Just like its two predecessors.

The problem with FIFA17? There wasn’t really a problem. As ever with me and FIFA, it’s a question of timing. Picking up FIFA pre-Christmas, while I still have an active unfinished Master League going on, was bad timing.

There’s a strong chance of me returning to FIAF17 in the future. Note that I haven’t said ‘before the end of the footy game year’, i.e. before September-ish. For me there are no more ‘footy game years’! I won’t be part of PES2019 (or FIFA19).

PES2019 will doubtless offer more of the same that we’ve seen in the series on the PS4 so far (PES2015 honourably excepted).

I won’t be there to see it. No fouls, no individuality. Those goddamn 30-yard 100mph backheels – Exhibit #1 in the case against nuPES.

I can now get on with the rest of my Master League. One of the great reliefs of deciding not to bother with PES2019 is not having to endure any more of these shite Master Leagues. It’s because I love Master League so much that I don’t want any more to do with any new versions of it after PES2018.

Look at this utterly ridiculous financial situation:

Master League would be better off being scrapped before they really do drive it off a cliff. Maybe that’s their plan. Contrast Konami’s neglect of Master League with EA’s remarkable commitment to Career Mode and other offline modes (The Journey etc). Online multiplayer has effectively destroyed Pro Evolution Soccer. PES2018 is another stage in the series’ decline as a whole.

Who would have thought we’d end up today where we’ve ended up?

I said it wasn’t all doom and gloom, and it’s not. I’ve been playing PES2018 with solid enjoyment, and there’s more to come. No, it’s not the consistent glorious rapture of PESes past, but it’ll do.