Category: PES Chronicles

Objectively Measuring the Greatness of PES5

The greatest football game ever made returned properly to my life back in 2013. That’s when I ‘sourced’ a PC copy of PES5.

Of course I own a physical copy of PES5 for the PC that I bought with money. As well as a copy of the game on the PS2 platform. And also a copy of PES5 for the PSP – notoriously sans Master League, which I remain quite unreasonably bitter about to this day. (I’d say I think about the PSP’s Master League-less version of PES5, with anger, a couple of times every year).

In 2013 I grabbed an Option File and started a Master League on the PC. I have played it almost every week since then, and am still actively playing it to this day. I believe I will play it as long as I live. I only play one or two matches nearly every week, with occasional spurts of longer sessions (as now). I’m in Season 9 of this career.

Why is PES5 so great? Perfection is oddly hard to convey in words – and, also oddly, perfection in art doesn’t have to be perfect. PES5 certainly is showing its age, but it can still effortlessly punt any other football game ever made over the bleachers of history.

PES5’s greatness is something you have to feel, as a football gamer, in your hands. One of the most peculiar aspects of football gaming is that its value-content is a hands-on thing. It’s like driving a car. You have to feel the way the players move, how they respond – or most crucially, FAIL to respond, contextually and in keeping with their abilities and physical types.

Look at the screenhot at the top of the post. Yes, in one match I had 10 (TEN) fouls against me. 10 (TEN) free kicks. That’s more free kicks in one match than I would have in 10 (TEN) entire matches in most recent PES games. (Not an idle exaggeration. My average AI fouls count in all nuPES games is around 0.80 per match.)

PES5 was the last PES game that penalised the mashing of buttons as a substitute for defending.

It would be 14 years before we would see that kind of punishment for random button-mashing again – in the PES2020 demo, and we all know what happened when the snowflakes of all ages got a look at that.

This graph scientifically illustrates the magnitude of PES5’s greatness. There are other great football games, unquestionably. But they’re all jostling for room more or less on a par with each other, and the football games that aren’t as good as them aren’t too far behind them, actually. PES5 is way, way out on its own. There is nothing near it.

I paid a visit to the PES Shop and unlocked a slew of Classic Players. I cannot get enough of Classics in PES. If I wanted so-called ‘realism’ I’d play – or even do – something else.

That’s Stanley Matthews who’s all greyed out by the colour scheme. I’ll be bidding for a 26-year-old Ian Rush and a 32-year-old Georghe Hagi in the next window.

If no other football game was ever produced I’d be quite happy playing PES5 forever.

The AI in PES5 isn’t the most clinical and ruthless, but it has its excellent moments. Check the AI goal in the video below. An AI that can give the human player a good game in almost every match, is by definition a good AI.

These are some highlights from a league match, away to Wigan (excuse the out-of-sync sound at the end, I was experimenting with using the PC recording software to make brief PS4-style clips, instead of recording the whole match):

I’ve also started playing the game the way it was released – in 4:3 format. It takes a few matches to get used to it that way again, after over a decade of widescreen footy gaming, but the pace of the game vastly improves. PES5 is a little fast for our current tastes. One of the few areas that it is showing its age in.

No new post this Friday, remember, as my summer half-holiday continues. Another PES5 post next Tuesday, when I will have been through Season 9’s mid-season transfer window, and I will hopefully have had a squad clearout and picked up a few notable new names.

Finally here is a full PES5 match against mid-Wenger-era Arsenal:


This Is Cousin MacAdder

Good news – the silly season on the blog is over.

It seems to have gone on for longer and been sillier this year. That’s because it has gone on for longer, and it has been sillier…

This summer I’ve been busy with work and some other matters, and not had much time at all to devote to the blog. Doing a twice-weekly blog takes up a significant amount of time. A month or so ago I almost mothballed the blog until September. The last time I took that sort of step, though, I enjoyed my leisure so much that I ended up taking a whole year off, and I didn’t want to run the risk of being tempted to do that again.

So I went with all the posts about me playing, oh, ‘This Is Football 2003 whilst riding a unicycle’, and that sort of thing. Cheap as chips.

I would like a short break before the new season begins, so I will have the next two Fridays off. I will continue with once-weekly Tuesday posts until the last week of August, when I will return to twice-weekly with my End of Year Review of PES2019 and a look ahead to PES2020.Yesterday, prompted by a comment from a regular commenter, one Uncle Turf Esq., I acquired a ROM of International Superstar Soccer for the PlayStation2. And played it in PCSX2 on the PC. And recorded the footage, which is below.

England versus Scotland, of course. I didn’t bother upscaling the graphics or making any housekeeping tweaks offered by PCSX2, so this is a bit blurry and there are occasional glitches:

ISS(PS2) is a sort of second cousin to the mainline ISS-PES series that we know. Definitely a non-canon effort, this was a port of ISS64 from the Nintendo 64 – itself a somewhat legendary game on that platform.

I remember the PS2 version coming out at the time to the indifference of the already-large ISS-PES community. The gaming press at the time was almost entirely print-based, awarding every PES game a routine 10/10 every year from PES2 to PES6, and quite rightly so. Back then you tended to have one game and you played that game alone.

So this International Superstar Soccer port pretty much died a death in the UK and European market, although it was more popular in the Japanese and North American markets, which was the intention.

I found myself enjoying my one match on ISS(PS2) a lot more than I was expecting to. The mechanics are surprisingly solid, although I never did quite get to grips with the passing system, as can be seen. The first goal I conceded – quite early on – was a poor one from my perspective, but it shows the AI dribbling and taking people on.

I never scored, and barely had any meaningful shots, not getting my first proper shot away until I stopped trying to sprint-pressure, as in modern games, and take my time.

All in all, I would rate this fleeting encounter with ISS(PS2) quite positively, and I was not expecting to. A very playable game, perhaps even a touch more playable today than the ‘official’ games of the time. The design elements from almost two decades ago (such as that big blue free kick arrow) do feel prehistoric now, but that sort of thing charms rather than bothers me.

In other news, I have finally put in my PES2020 pre-order, after kidding myself for a few weeks that I might be able to become a PC gamer. I’m a console man through and through, and I have of course plumped for the PS4 version again this year. Which doesn’t mean I can’t also go PC, though, particularly if the retail PES2020 is watered down to the point of blandness, of which there is a high chance.

I’ve gone with my supplier of the past two years, Simply Games, who dispatch the quickest of any online retailer in my experience. I’ve worked out that I could get PES2020 as early as Friday 6th September, or at least over that weekend. Which would actually not be totally welcome, as I will be hectic with work, but I’ll take it. If it happens.

And that really is the end of silly season on the blog. Back to Serious Season with immediate effect.

NO Friday post for a couple of weeks, remember, so I will return with a new post next Tuesday.

Which will be taking us back, for a couple of weeks of continuous play of The One True Game..

Back to the Golden Age of football gaming.

Back to a time just before everything started to change.

Back to the only real football game that has ever been made.

A foul please, Carol

FIFA19’s turn today to get the ‘full match on a non-standard control setting’ treatment. Semi-Assisted passing and shooting.

This is the opening match in a pre-season tournament in Season 2 of Career Mode. You can see me fiddling with the settings beforehand, and playing some of the pre-match minigame. The music from that few seconds got this video a copyright notice from YouTube. I’ll remember to edit any future FIFA vids to avoid that annoyance.

I enjoyed the first few minutes of this match, which even saw me get a free kick in shooting range, a true rarity in this game. After that I felt things degenerated into a turnover-tussle. It’s that feeling of continuous hypnotic flow that is FIFA19’s great weakness.

FIFA needs the return of solid collision mechanics. An AI fouls slider would be nice. It would also be nice if EA were as chatty about fouls as they are about literally everything else to do with their game. ‘We’ve fed this back to the developer’ is still, so far as I am aware, the only thing EA ever says about AI fouls. A classic brush-off line.

Not that its cousin across the aisle is doing much better on that front, of course. Watchers of the footy gaming PES skies over the last 24 hours will have seen the most predictable event since, uh… Damn, I hate it when I can’t think of a funny example after setting up a construction like that.

The predictable thing is the start of the climbdown on fouls in PES2020. The protesting anti-voices have had their way, and now no matter what anyone says – NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS – I’m calling it: PES2020 retail will be just another nuPES on the fouls front.

Yes, there’ll be the usual early reports from release week where somebody plays their first match and there’s, like, 3 fouls for both sides! Wow! And so on. But generally, it’s going to be 1 or 2 fouls per side – on a good day. Even the most foul-friendly nuPES (2019) has many matches ending 0-0 on the fouls front.

I am so tired of talking about fouls in modern football games. I have a feeling F1 racing game fans don’t have to wonder where their crashes are. I bet snooker game fans frequently go in-off. And platform game fans will often miss a jump and fall to their deaths. Incredible that football game fans in 2019 are missing an entire dimension of that sport.

So no, the discussion about what Konami might or might not do is moot. It is null and it is void. I’ve seen a lot of talk on the forums that a subtle scalpel could be brought to bear, and the fouls will be improved, not simply eliminated. ‘Oh, maybe they’ll tweak it so that X, Y, or Z.’ Oh dear God no. No, no, no, no, no. Fouls are gone, and that is the end of it. I’d actually prefer it if there was no more pretence on this front.

Anyway, I believe that 4 weeks today, or over that weekend, all the pre-orders will start landing on doormats. Which for me is a ‘bummer’, as I believe the kids still say, because it’s the following week I’ve booked off work. I would only have an hour or so to sample the game over that Sept 7-8 weekend. It’d be nice to have it ready to go on the Monday morning through.

And I know Carol Vorderman hasn’t been on Countdown for years.

What’s the name of the game

I’m still in the process of pre-ordering my copy of PES2020. And here is a sight to warm the cockles. Searching Simply Games for ‘efootball’ produces the result you can see here. Zilch. Nothing.

Sadly, searching ‘e football’, with a space, does produce the PES2020 result. Boooo.

That gap between ‘e’ and ‘football’ is as strange to me as the one that so many people put between ‘PES’ and its year. I will always render the name of the game as PES2019, for example, whereas the majority seem to prefer ‘PES 2019’. I don’t know which is right and which is wrong or why. I only know what I like.

(P.S. I still haven’t preordered. I’m dithering this year over whether to go PC or stick with console. It’ll almost certainly still be console, but I’m allowing myself the luxury of taking time to choose.)

I’ve played another few demo matches, and that is now the end of the demo for me. The only reason I will now put on the PES2020 demo, on any platform, for the rest of time, is if somebody discovers an Easter egg of some type hidden in the code, which is of course most likely on the PC platform.

The 5-minute demo on the PS4 is no longer of interest. So I now wait with the rest of the PES-facing world to see just what disfigurement Konami can wreak on PES2020 between now and September 10th (or thereabouts).

It’s a shame that this is the outcome so many times when taking a shot from outside the box.

HitThePostOrBarFromRange2020 would still be a better name than eFootball.

I’ve continued my manual passing and shooting experiment on PES2019. My Cercle Brugge career is now well into Season 17 within the Master League world as a whole. I was with Coventry until the end of Season 15 of course.

I swooped for Jarvis from my old club, picked up Emre Can from my own Youths, and got myself a few other journeymen. I’m enjoying it.

In another innovation, I have started playing with drastically reduced HUD elements. I saw a South American YouTuber muttering in Portuguese over footage of his own beloved Master League. He had turned off every single screen overlay, including the scores.

I have not gone that far. Here’s mine below. My player is just in the act of making a pass:Scoreboard top-left. Translucent radar bottom-middle. Nothing else. The strategy and ATT/DEF level markers appear for a couple of seconds when changed. It’s enough.

I couldn’t do without the scoreboard and radar. I like to orient myself within a match in time and space.

The biggest change here is the elimination of all on-screen power bars for passing and shooting. Remember the fuss when the little arced power bar first made its appearance in PES2011? ‘Surely they can’t stick with this,’ we complained. ‘It looks stupid,’ we grumbled.

Funny how quickly that under-player power bar became part and parcel of the visual grammar of football gaming. Doing away with it feels like a pleasing step back to classic PES days. And truth be told, our passing and shooting nous is all in the fingers anyway.

As a pleasing bonus, removing the on-screen power bar also removes it from the Free Kick view, making a system that at times is a touch on the easy side, that bit much harder. Since removing the HUD power bar I’ve got about 10 free kicks in shooting positions on the PES2020 Demo and on PES2019, and have fluffed them all. Normally I’d have scored about 3 or 4 of them.

My manual passing and shooting experiment is starting to wane a little. I am still relishing the sheer bloody difficulty of it, but it does take the wind out of my sails to work a great chance only for my 20-year muscle memory to take over and cause me to hit the corner flag with the resulting shot.

Here is a full 10-minute match, full manual, reduced HUD:

It’s all a matter of training of course. Sticking with it.

I’m in two minds here. On the one hand, PES on manual settings is fantastically hard and rewarding when it comes off, like a footy game Dwarf Fortress. On the other hand, I know that come mid-September, with the evenings drawing in, I’ll want the pipe-and-slippers experience of having my normal Master League trajectory…

I’ll see how it all goes.