Category: PES Chronicles

There was Jon Pertwee

Season 5 is now well underway. 6 matches in and I am mid-table. Form has been indifferent. Still well in the running for European places, and a few wins would see me dreaming of a title challenge, but my feeling is that I’ll be mid-table at season’s end. We will see though.

I already know that I am going to need players – good players – and lots of them, to make any real and lasting headway against the PES2018 Superstar AI.

One of the gratifying things about this year’s PES is that it shows no signs of buckling as the seasons tick by.

By this time last PES, and the PES before, I was already fairly certain of how the next few seasons after my first in the top flight would pan out. I knew that I’d continue to churn through the identikit AMF/SS players until I settled on the formula that would deliver the league title and consistent success thereafter.

That was then. This is now, and PES2018 is all the better for it.

The downsides of PES in the current era have not gone away. The fast-flowing style of play is not to my liking. I now accept that this problem won’t ever go away. I’ve got a gaming PC on the way. The PC platform is the future for me and PES, or nothing is.

Konami’s vision is firmly set in favour of multiplayer, and for this new-fangled thing called fun. I’ve remarked before on how ‘fun’ has emerged from the shadows to become mysteriously enshrined as the principal quality that we’re meant to admire in PES, or in any football game. Somehow, it has come to pass unchallenged that PES ‘was always about fun’.

Objection, your honour.

PES was never ‘always about fun’. Never, never, never, never, never. Never.

It was fun, no question, but it was about so much more than fun that to claim it was ‘always about fun’ is to retrospectively dilute what PES used to be.

To illustrate what I mean, I’d draw an analogy between old PES and a TV show like Breaking Bad. The TV show was my life a few years ago and remains the yardstick against which other shows are judged.

Would anybody say that Breaking Bad was fun? Perhaps in many aspects yes, fun would be an appropriate descriptor, but the sheer depth, breadth, height, and multi-sided roundness of the Breaking Bad package as a whole was not one that could sensibly be characterised as ‘fun’.

PES of old was Breaking Bad. PES of now is more like Doctor Who. Yes indeed, lots of fun, but the sci-fi is soft and fluffy, and there’s far too much chasing up and down corridors.

Eh, whatever. One day I might stop going on about all this stuff. That day is not today.

p.s. the Breaking Bad analogy holds good whether you liked/have seen Breaking Bad or not.

There was no King

A busy weekend of work meant no PES2018 from Friday to Sunday. It was my longest spell without playing the game since release. I returned to the game Monday morning, refreshed and eager to get Season 5 under way.

As ever following a mini-break, the game felt shiny and exciting. My four-match session wasn’t technically the greatest. Two of the four matches were frenzied, zero-stoppage, end-to-end hack-fests. Very low-quality, and very much in keeping with the nuPES vision of how football gaming should be in 2017.

But after a few days away the experience of playing felt so gratifying that on this occasion, I didn’t much mind. Sitting with a controller in hand, amusing oneself with a football game, is one of life’s richest pleasures.

Before the matches, I had to get through pre-season.

Season 5, and a move to a new stadium, more fitting for my club’s current stature.

A snarky message from the board:

Rather pointless, as I’m not playing Challenge Mode and there are no consequences for failing to miss targets. I suppose these messages are decent mood-setters.

Finances for this version of Master League are even stranger than in the past few years, which is saying something. The hallmark this year is that you get a grossly inflated transfer budget, but a proportionally puny salary budget to go with it. As seen here:

Yes, that’s £106 million in the transfer kitty, and just over £7 million in the salary budget. I could almost buy a real-life Neymar, but I couldn’t pay him more than a few months’ wages.

Despite the absurdity, there were a fair few players in the 80OPR-range (a rule-of-thumb rating, as ever) whose wage demands were only in the £4m-£5m bracket. Some wheeler-dealering ensued.

I got Verratti from PSG for £22 million. He earned a special cutscene:

I sold my back-up keeper, Savic, and a right-back whose name escapes me (despite him being my first-choice RB for a season or more). This freed up enough salary budget to bring in two more players, leaving me with a healthy 24-man squad for the commencement of battle in Season 5:

My other big signing was K MANOLLAS at CB.

W CAMACHO was a free agent, and had a famous PES name, so the stars seemed aligned there.

A BORUC is a promoted Youth keeper Regen.

I thought about looking for a player called KING and signing him, just for the sake of a sequential post title, but abandoned that idea, and did it anyway.

I switched to three CMFs in order to accommodate Verratti and Can and Baker in the same line-up. Early indications are that this isn’t really going to work out. I will try a diamond next, with a single central AMF and two CMFs.

Baker had to be my pick for My Favourite Players this time around.

The action began away to Arsenal, then away to Chelsea, then at home to Stoke, then at home to Burnley.

My record: LLWD. I’m 7th from bottom. Verratti has been ineffectual so far. I’m hoping it’s traditional PES settling-in time, and not an indication of nuPES-style anonymity.

My squad isn’t really that much better than last season’s bunch. I should have picked up a top striker in the transfer market, instead of settling for what I’ve got. It could be a long season with many more snarky messages from the board to come.

Well there was Kenedy

Season 4 has ended. My first in the Premier League, my first on Superstar difficulty, and it was a fairly nondescript season in terms of goals scored and my final league placement – but I enjoyed this season the most of all the seasons so far.

I finally managed to get a couple of players into the Team of the Month… for April, with just a few matches of the season remaining. Kenedy and Krul up there are the only Coventry players to have made it all season. A mark of how things went.

The final table:

A wretched season for goal-scoring, really.

Possibly the most interesting goal I scored was the first goal on show below – but see the AI goal that followed it in the second half of that same match…

I reiterate: these two almost identical goals – one from me, one from the AI – happened in the same match, either side of half time.

Curious, isn’t it? I don’t recall anything like it happening before in any PES. But given the thousands of matches I have played over the years, it’d be stranger if this kind of thing didn’t happen, at least once.

Kenedy at LB has been one of my key signings of this Master League so far. Tim Krul was a superb early-seasons keeper, but I’m not as enthralled with him in this first Premier League season. I’m thinking of cashing in on Krul in the summer and handing the jersey to his current understudy, Savic, who is currently rated about the same, and is younger.

Just as I’m putting the post to bed, I have made a potentially huge decision for the blog and my football gaming life.

It now seems likely that Pro Evolution Soccer is permanently locked into the online multiplayer marketplace and their gameplay expectations. They like it fast, they like it furious, and they like it fun. Good luck to them. I’m so happy for them. Goodbye to them.

As of early 2018, I will be adopting the PC as my football gaming platform of choice.

Really and truly, the console side of things has been taken over by an alien sensibility. Nobody can put their hand on their heart and honestly say that PES2018 on PS4/XB1 represents the same gameplay values as PES2-PES6 on PS2 and PES2010-PES2014 on PS3. Nobody could do that. I would seriously doubt that anybody who tried to pull that one off had ever truly loved PES. ‘But times change, and games have to change with them.’  Gotta love them backheels, eh? Loads of fun.

I’m moving platforms from console to PC on the basis that if there is still a chance for PES, it rests on a platform where the gameplay can be modded.

This represents something of a leap in the dark. There are currently no real gameplay-enhancing mods available. My perception of the PES-playing world in general is that the diehard, old-school players are in an ever-shrinking minority. I will doubtless amuse myself prettifying PES with all the pitches and ad-boards and camera angles and so forth, but that’s not what I’m principally looking for. The move to PC might leave me with substantial egg on my face. From a gameplay perspective, this really is nuPES’s last chance. I want to chance it.

It’ll take me a few months to find my feet with this new departure. In the meantime, my console-based PES2018 career will continue, hopefully toward the same kind of natural end as all the other ones of recent years. The growth of the PC platform should just nicely dovetail with the latter seasons of PES2018 on PS4.

Season 5 is next, and I want it to be considerably better than Season 4 was. Tuesday’s post will see me pass through a very important transfer window.

The Magic Clamp

The general, overall positive feel of PES2018 that I mentioned last time is continuing. I’m still playing very conservatively, setting up not to concede, and not committing too many players to attack while it’s 0-0 or even 1-0.

It’s an approach that works wonders in terms of slowing the game right down and making it more thoughtful. But I have to remember to stick with it. The last few years have ingrained certain bad habits in my PES-playing ways.

Example: next time you have a corner kick, but lose the ball, and the AI starts to pass upfield towards your goal – what is your instinctive response?

I would lay money that 99.99% of nuPES players instantly squeeze R1+X in an attempt to bear down on the AI immediately. Lots of sliding tackles too.

That’s not all. R1+X is for when you want to take it easy. 98% of the 99.99% will press R1+X+Square. And a good proportion of those players will have the nuPES presence of mind to go all-out with R1+X+double-tap-Square, which brings two secondary pressurers into the fray, as well as the X-man, all sprinting of course.

I still do this, and so do you, and don’t pretend otherwise. Sure, we like to pretend that we’re all about closing up space and covering the passing lanes and going with runners and all the rest of it. And yes, we do do those things (we really have to, against this AI), but just as often, perhaps more often, the Pavlovian response to a developing AI attack is to go all sprint-clampy on its ass, and hope the game wins the ball back for us on its own.

R1+X+Square (double- or single-pressed) works enough of the time that it’s still worth doing it. Another entry on the List of Things That Need To Be Got Rid Of To Make PES A Great Singleplayer Game Again. The online players would howl if they lost their precious sprint-clamp. But we’re never getting PES back from their sweaty clutches, so we can fantasise in peace.

I had the weekend off work, and time to spare on testing out a game mode that I haven’t looked at for several editions. I tried out PES2018’s version of Become A Legend. A mode that I like in principle, but which has a Massive Big Problem that has never been fixed, and which means I can never play it.

I set up my player as an AMF, not bothering with his appearance, as I knew I wouldn’t be playing for long if the Massive Big Problem hadn’t been fixed.

I chose Skybet Division 2 as my starting league – and was astonished to see myself picked up by Coventry City.

The first match was good and I played the whole 90 minutes, having started on Professional to ease myself in. I have always appreciated the gameplay of these modes. I have the required patience to play my position.

I got a goal in game number 2, which I again played all of.

And then came game 3 – my last in the Become A Legend mode for another year at least. The mode’s Massive Big Problem has not been addressed in PES2018.

I was subbed off at around 60 minutes. In BaL, this means having to sit and watch the AI playing with itself for the rest of the match. You can’t skip to the end of the match. Talk about a turd in the punchbowl. You can speed up the action to x2 speed, but it doesn’t ease the frustration of not playing.

After watching the Benny Hill CPU vs CPU action for a minute, I quit the mode with the same feeling of wasted potential that it has given me since its first appearance (in PES2009?).

As I remarked back in 2011:

cannot stand the enforced watching of the AI vs AI matches during periods when my player is either on the bench from the start or substituted partway through. I’m quite bad at the solo player type of football game. Bad enough for me to be a fringe player for just long enough for this to be a serious impediment to my enjoyment of BaL. Watching the AI play with itself uses up precious gaming time that I can’t afford to waste.

PES2018’s BaL Mode is unfortunately unchanged in this regard, and I have no idea why this condition persists. ‘Skip to end of match’ (or ‘Skip to being brought on’ for the ones where you start as a sub) should be easy additions. They should be no-brainers.

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