Category: European Masters Cup

Straight from Dickov

So here’s my current First XI and squad, coming up to mid-season in Season 6. The only player just out of sight at the bottom is Lincoln—or Blue Lincoln as I call him. On account of him always being blue. Blue-arrowed, that is.

Mehmeti owns that left-sided CF slot—one of the best journeymen strikers I’ve ever played with.

Wroughllen and Minandinho swap around a lot on the other side. I prefer Wroughllen in the right-sided CF role. He’s got the most wicked left foot I’ve seen in PES since the likes of Stoichkov in PES3, Schwarz when he was great, and Hagi from last year.

Poor old Bebe hasn’t had a look-in, really, since arriving at the start of the season. He makes sub appearances now and then, and gets the occasional goal. He’s the Paul Dickov of PES2013, right now.

Castolis would be good enough to walk into any other team. But he has to sit out when Niellendner and Zerkovic can play.

Of course, a First XI is only an idea. It’s a rare match indeed where the First XI seen above is the one that actually takes to the field.

One huge reason for that is stamina. A long league campaign, coupled with a Europa League campaign and frequent International call-ups, means it’s a very, very rare week indeed when I have a fully fit and in-form First XI to call on.

In general I no longer seem to have a problem with form arrows. Most players are at least green-arrowed for most matches. Sometimes the game throws me a curveball and purple-arrows a couple of the lads for no apparent reason. But mostly I get to field a proper team. The days of being forced to play with blue- and purple-arrowed players are—fingers crossed—seemingly behind me.

The form situation is always helped by getting good results, of course.

I’ve sailed through the first stage of the Europa League. If what we hear is true and the real-life competition is due to be scrapped in favour of an expanded Champions League, it might be best to enjoy this PES version while we can.

No problems at all. I was convinced I’d lost a match in there somewhere, but seemingly I hadn’t.

In the league, I’m still hovering just outside the top 6, and in with more than a shout of emulating last season’s Professional-difficulty-level 4th-place finish. I’m happy enough to be in the top half of the table, though, Superstar is unforgiving at times.

Especially when a large proportion of the CPU’s goals against me occur straight from its various kick-offs.

What is it with PES2013’s straight-from-kickoff thing that always catches me out? I never seem to be ready for it. Time and again, the CPU brazenly just gets me.

I always think, no way, they can’t be doing it again? I concede more unstoppable goals straight from CPU kickoffs in PES2013 than I ever did in PES2012. It really is one of my least favourite aspects of this game. So demoralising when it happens.

There’s many a script ‘twixt the cup and the lip

So it finally happened. After five and a half seasons, a minor wobble. It’s almost a relief. It wouldn’t be a proper next-gen PES year without a few bumps in the road.

But this one is only a minor one. I’m still happy with the game, and doggedly playing on, but I have experienced my first truly disturbing bouts of scripting in PES2013 on Superstar difficulty.

In my current personal gaming context, it’s really left me thinking.

Europa League group stage, game #2, away to SC Braga. Things were fairly comfortable, and just after half-time, I took the lead.

Things were suddenly no longer comfortable.

I know, I know. You’d expect a home side in European competition to raise its game after going behind. What you don’t expect is for all your players to be injected with tranquillisers.

Taking the lead was like flicking a switch that deactivated my players’ abilities to pass, trap, dribble, shoot, head, or seemingly do anything at all.

Passing was the worst. When a pro-CPU script is running, one of its main aims is to recover possession for the CPU. On this occasion, it was done with the most brazen, blatant, in-your-face ‘passing nerf’ I’ve yet seen on PES2013.

A week or so ago, I fled from 0-bar passing to 1-bar passing in order to escape this ‘passing nerf’, where the game randomly countermands or ignores your input, and misdirects the ball in all manner of ways—usually back to the CPU player.

Well, on 1-bar passing, in this one particular match, I saw the same.

I didn’t lose the match. It ended up being a 1-1 draw, away from home—a good result.

But I could and should have won it. The game awarded itself a temporary advantage after I scored. This sense of being played—rather than playing the game—is oppressive to so many.

I haven’t always sympathised with the Miltonic torments that so many PES fans undergo with the games nowadays. You see them on the forums, don’t you. The ones who will never enjoy any football game ever again. Drifting agonistes, wailing and gnashing their teeth in the wilderness, wondering why it’s not 2004 any more.

But in regards to scripting, they do have a point. When you play other computer games, as I’ve been doing recently, PES’s frequent unfairness to the human player is startlingly obvious.

I’ve been diving into strategy games. This genre is cheaty in its own way too, of course. But the fundamentals—you make a decision, and the game tells you what happens—abides. I’ve been playing chess, XCOM, Dwarf Fortress, Civilization, Football Manager, and others.

For a few weeks, PES2013 has been light relief from them. In the past few days, the equation has reversed, and it’s the other games that are the light relief from the leaden heaviness of PES scripting.

I next ran into super-scripting in a league match against Wigan. This one was worse, because it cost me a red card for my outstanding captain, Coynborough, and I lost him for 3 matches afterwards.

Again, I had taken the lead, 1-0, with a fine Wroughllen strike (rapidly overtaking the other stars as the player of PES2013, for me, right now).

After I scored, a passage of play began that was perhaps the single most cheaty, blatant sequence of CPU-leaning scripting that I have ever seen in all my years of PES.

For a long, long spell, the game constantly just took the ball away from me. The action was locked in my back third of the pitch. I did not give the ball away—the game simply took it, time and time again, for about 15 continuous game minutes.

Stumbling, bumbling, heavy touches. Every time I had the ball at my feet and thought ‘right!’, with a flood of relief, a second later it was gone—auto-dribbled out of play (super-cancel doing nothing), or mis-passed, or smothered by a sprinting CPU player and smuggled back into CPU possession.

After a few minutes of this, I got curious.  I started deliberately trying to foul the CPU players, to see what would happen.

Every single attempted tackle, out of about 8 or 10, was miraculously evaded.

Finally, Coynborough connected with a proper industrial strength challenge from behind, and got a straight red. I was cursing the universe.

I held on for the win. So I didn’t actually lose the match in either of these cases of super-scripting.

But what a shocker, in both cases.

Iron, like a lion, in Bayern

So my first few competitive matches on Superstar, on zero-bar passing, went pretty badly. My very first match of the season was against Bayern Munich. It was the first leg of the qualifier for the Champions League. I was the home team—for what that turned out to be worth.

Bayern blew me away, in classic new-style PES fashion. They eased into a 2-0 lead by half-time. I performed heroically after the break, doing well to stop them scoring another. I somehow jammied a goal back, and so the game ended 1-2 to them. After the hurricane of the first half, I was actually delighted. It felt like a very recoverable deficit to overcome in the second leg.

In between the two legs, the Premier League season got underway. QPR were the opponents. I was at home again—and I lost 0-1.

Here was where I started getting fed up with zero bar passing. When zero bar is working, the matches feel natural and engaging in a way that football games need to do, I think, to be more than what they are. If that makes sense.

When zero bar stops working, as it sometimes does, it often feels as if it’s not your fault, that the game is interfering with things, and that feels very uncomfortable indeed.

I signed one more player before the transfer window closed. I very rarely follow up on player recommendations seen in the wild, but when I saw an AMF called LINCOLN pop up on my List of Targets for about £800k, I snapped him up.

At the time of writing he still hasn’t actually played a minute for me. He’s been on a blue or purple arrow since arrival. I haven’t risked him, not yet.

I spent the rest of my cash on upgrading every staff member to Level 5. So that’s that sorted, then.

I played the second leg of the tie against Bayern Munich.

And I won the match 1-0, at Bayern—a fantastic game and a great performance. Wroughllen got my solitary goal. That’s him exulting in it at the top of this post (and modelling this season’s Away kit). But those two away goals from Bayern had killed me.

What disappointed me about this match was that after I scored, in the 60th minute or so, there was plenty of time for me to get the second goal that would have taken me through. But it seemed that an old, old PES problem came to the fore: the game didn’t know it was the second leg of a two-legged tie in which it was still ahead. It reacted exactly the way you’d expect it to at 0-1 down in a one-off match: powerplay time.

I hardly had the ball for the rest of the match. I certainly didn’t get a shot on goal. Bayern dominated play and made all the running.

Into the Europa League, then, and in truth, I’m not too bothered. It was always too early for me and Champions League.

I played my first Europa match, against a team called DHROFFSMITZ. I had Coynborough sent off early on for going straight through the back of one of their players—a touch of frustration from me. Despite being down to ten men, I won 3-0, a great Superstar game of footy.

My goals included a 35-yarder from Jacomorac, playing as emergency DMF, which continued my tradtion of scoring screamers with the most unlikely players.

Also see a nice opportunist goal from Bebe on his debut, showing once again that, yes, keepers rushing out is a thing in PES2013:

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Alternate Link if your browser won’t play the above.

I went back to up 1-bar passing around about here. I was struggling to cope with zero bar on Superstar.

I said somewhere recently that I wished there was a difficulty between Professional and Superstar other than Top Player that I could find my feet on. Well, Superstar on 1-bar passing will have to do. And it does very well, on the whole.

It feels good not to have to worry about the last-third nerf for a while. The game on these settings reminds me a lot of being in the deepest groove with PES2012. No bad thing.

Here’s the League table:

I suppose I should mention the 1.02 patch. There. I just did.

Sack the Scheduler

So, coming towards the end of season 15 now, this sight really excites me:

I’m like a 1500m runner just hanging off the shoulder of the pace-setter coming into the final bend. I hope.

I’ve done well to be just 1 point behind, having lost a recent match pretty badly. It was against Spurs away, and I went 2-0 down before half-time.

I threw my dual-DMF gameplan out the window and pushed Farinos as far upfield as he could go and still be a CMF. I left Neeskens alone to mop up Spurs attacks.

I paid the price for this midway through the second half, still 2-0 down and fighting to get back in the match. Spurs were constantly coming at me with everything they had and I was getting frustrated. I mistimed a tackle and had Neeskens straight-red-carded.

Down to 10 men and missing a DMF, I decided to leave everything as it was. I played on with just a defence and no DMF, very daring for me. I had five up front, effectively, and a large empty space between them and the back four.

It so nearly worked out. I soon got a goal back with Forlan. Now at 2-1, and with my blood well and truly up, there was plenty of time left to get the equaliser. I’d have taken a draw as a fine result under the circumstances.

But have you ever noticed sometimes how impossible it is just to get the ball when you desperately, desperately want to?

The CPU wasn’t threatening, as such—it was just annoying. Every time I got the ball, the ball was taken away. No matter the quality of my possession, the ball just wouldn’t stick. There is a palpable difference between losing the ball through your own poor play—being over-hasty, over-direct—and the feeling when the game brazenly just takes it back regardless.

The game ended 2-1 to Spurs. Luckily—or conveniently, I should say—Man Utd also lost their game that week.

In the Europa League I scraped through the first knockout match against Marseille. Next I faced Borussia Monchengladbach. I lost the home leg 0-1, but stormed into an early 2-0 lead at their place and thought I’d won the tie. I ended up losing it 3-2, 4-2 on aggregate. And that was me out of Europe, again. You can’t mentally switch off in PES2012 on Superstar, ever. The game is out to get you.

I am in the semi-final of the FA Cup, where I’ll play Manchester United. That was always going to be one tough mother of a match regardless of any other factors—but just look at the delightful ‘other factor’ the game has decided to throw my way:

An International the day before the big match will completely ravage my star-packed squad. I’m fuming about it, but what can I do?

That semi is my next match. A League and Cup double on Superstar would be so sweet. Work and other things permitting, I should wrap the whole season up over the weekend and conclude it in Monday’s post.

Whether I get that first silverware on Superstar or not, I need a mini-break from PES2012. Not much of a break—just a few days, a week at most. I’ve started feeling quite a bit of PES2012 fatigue.

I still love the game and rate it as the best since PES5, and arguably the best ever. But you can have too much of a good thing.

It’s over-familiarity. I need to refresh my relationship with PES2012, and there’s no better way to do that than not to see it for a while.  I accept that I risk breaking the magic spell that PES2012 has weaved over me these past months, but I need to recharge my batteries.

So whatever happens at the end of season 15, I’ve decided a brief summer break is needed. I don’t know yet what I’ll write about in the blog posts that I’ll spend away from the game. Maybe some Football Manager. Maybe some FIFA12. Now wouldn’t that be an interesting experiment at this stage of the season?