Tag: master league

Master League 2017

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919111328

PES2017 acquired: check.

Exhibition/Tournament ‘getting-to-know-you’ matches played: check.

Sumptuous Option File installed: check.

Master League: commence.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919003033

First, I put the finishing touches to my hybrid Option File installation. No matter how fiddly and frustrating this might be, figuring it out and then finishing it is always a strangely satisfying task.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919003848

Then I edited PES United into Coventry City. I’m not impressed with either of the 2016-17 kits. There’s a grand tradition in particular of terrible Coventry City away kits. 2016-17’s away kit is one of the worst.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919110156

There were other odds and ends I could have added, but didn’t. The Portuguese League. Celtic and Rangers.

Without wasting any more time, I got going. You can spend so much time setting up that it creates a peculiar sort of anxiety about whether you’re truly ready to begin. Down the years I’ve always leapt into Master League with the paint still drying on the figurative walls. The experience is usually all the better for it.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919105008

How considerate of the PES2017 makers to make the Default formation exactly the same 4-2-2-2 formation that I use. The only difference being that instead of two DMFs I like one CMF and one DMF.

I offloaded a load of players whose names I don’t remember now. I bought two players – a goalkeeper, STRAKOSHA (68OVR), very solid so far; and a LB/AMF, BABANCO (72OVR), both on free transfers. I’m eyeing the wages/salary budgets with caution, remembering financial brushes with disaster in many a Master League of years past.

I poked around in all the new parts of Master League. I don’t think the various innovations that surfaced last year realised their full potential. Perhaps they were hitched to a football game in PES2016 that didn’t really do them justice. There wasn’t much incentive to toil through the menus to expand the margins of performance when just about every single player was a high performer.

It’s too early for me to say anything more about PES2017’s Training except to welcome it back and acknowledge that I know it’s there. We shall see what it actually does in practice. I like the look of the position retraining, needless to say.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919114107

Since when has Castledine been white? I’m calling this Casteldinegate.

This is quietly one of the biggest scandals ever to engulf a computer game, and precisely no one will care about it but me.

Castledine in PES2017 is the latter-day avatar of the Castello-Castolo-Cinalton-Castledine entity.

Whatever you think about The Myth Of Castolo, there’s no denying that he has – and deserves – the status of ‘iconic’. One thing each instance of this Eternal Champion has had in common is that they’ve all been black. I’m not going to be laying down in the middle of an airport runway in protest, but the whitening of Castledine seems a strange, pointless, self-defeating move. Castolo is as famous and celebrated as Master League itself. He’s locked deep into the lore. Why is he suddenly not black anymore? Could it be an oversight type of mistake?

Coutinho(CF) and Arcas(SS) are good enough for my front two. Will they match up to last year’s stellar pairing that bore those names? Do I want them to be as good as last year’s?

NO, is the short answer to that question. I do not want any echo of PES2016 in this game at all. PES2017 will stand or fall according to how unlike PES2016 it is. (I’ll say again that I don’t think PES2016 was a bad football game. It was a good game of computer football. But it was definitely a bad Pro Evolution Soccer game. There’s a difference, and it’s a telling one.)

Straight into the action, and I opened with a creditable 0-0 draw against Reading. Chances were very few and far between. I still find myself automatically trying to use last year’s routes to goal, which are happily blocked off.

Classic Players ON

The only real blot on PES2017’s landscape right now is that I don’t find there are as many fouls and free kicks in Master League as there were in Exhibition and Tournament games. Which is a staggeringly stupid thing to happen, if you ask me. I believe that as my team improves, and as the seasons roll by and stakes increase, fouls and free kicks will naturally occur, as they occurred in other modes.

But still… I will remain worried until I start to see the fouls in Master League. Konami is perfectly capable of pushing out a PES game with what it thinks is a crowd-pleasing absence of fouls in the most popular mode(s).

It’s significant that we’ve yet to hear much by way of moaning from the online players. If they were having fouls in the quantity that they should be having them, we’d have heard the wailing from within a soundproof room at the bottom of the ocean. But there’s a strange silence. Which indicates to me that there are still few fouls online.

There’s a lot at stake here. Fouls and free kicks enhance a football game’s gameplay, rather than diminishing it. They enforce a kind of seriousness that used to set PES apart from the herd. They need to start happening, in numbers, and soon, or the fabric of the gameplay that looked and felt so good in Exhibition and Tournament, will be fatally undermined.

PES2017 feels very much as if it’s the series’ last chance to hang onto itself, if that makes sense. i don’t want Pro Evo to disappear down the fast-flowing-arcade-fun-bullshit drain that it’s been circling for a year or two. It might already be too late to stop that happening. On the PES forums lately, I hate how PES is occasionally referred to, in passing, as the game that ‘was always fun’.

No, it definitely wasn’t. And I can prove it too.

Hop into the nearest DeLorean. Go back to 2004 or so. Ask the average FIFA fan of the year 2004 if he thinks PES is fun. A scornful laugh will be your answer. FIFA players back then hated PES – because it wasn’t fun. PES was hard work to them. Then double-check this finding by asking the average PES fan, in 2004, if he thinks PES is fun. A scornful laugh will be your answer. We loved PES because it was a lot more than ‘just’ fun. A whole lot more. This paragraph contains the most truth about PES that I know how to express. I’m scared about how easily it’s starting to be forgotten.

This post has turned out to be a lot more hand-wringy and ‘State of PES’ than intended. This is because there is potential in PES2017. Big potential. If this game flowers as it might, PES might just have saved itself from the fast-flowing-arcade-fun-bullshit drain that I mentioned.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2017_20160919184053Table. A nice spread of results.

I knocked Brighton and Hove Albion out of the Cup with this fine goal, which I’m thinking of as my first long-ranger of 2017:

Hettich with the strike. Hettich has always been the poor man’s Irjescu.

I’ve scored a pleasant range of other goals as well, all bread and butter types. No worries there.

You get a feel for how sturdy a football game is pretty quickly, and my feeling is that this AI, defensively at least, is a decent one. Up front, things are also encouraging.

So Master League 2017 is up and running. As Peter Drury remarks in his opening day spiel, a rollercoaster is getting underway.

In the spirit of David Fairclough

PES2014 is reaching fever-pitch stage in Season 11 of Master League. Every great Master League experience takes me to this place. Getting to where I am now is what I play Master League for. It’s a kind of rolling intensity that lasts for weeks on end and that nothing else can match.

Every game means something. Every pass is important. Every kick matters. Every passage of scripted CPU possession (something that PES2014 is very ‘good’ at) enrages me like no other. Just a few weeks ago, I was shrugging it off whenever my players mysteriously tripped over a blade of grass in pursuit of a loose ball. Now? Now I foam at the mouth with incoherent rage.

Manchester City finally started to drop points, and I kept winning. I gave a 6-1 thrashing to QPR — perennial whipping boys in this ML. 5 of the goals came from Robbie Keane. I followed that up by administering a 3-1 mauling to Tottenham.

And suddenly — I was there! Just a point behind Manchester City, lurking on their shoulder and ready to pounce.

Newcastle were up next. No problem, I thought. But that was not a good thought. The buggers held me to 2-2. Man City drew their match too, so there was no change at the top.

Leicester, newly-promoted in this parallel world, were up next. I pounded their goal with shots galore, all saved by the super-keeper. It got ridiculous, to the point where I knew, just knew, that the game was up to no good.

And then of course Leicester took the lead. It was late in the second half, around 70 mins. I suspected the worst.


Around 80 mins, I brought on Dzeko. And almost straightaway scrambled an equaliser with him. The ball bobbled in the box and he stuck out a leg. 1-1. I celebrated this goal as I have celebrated no other for many a year.

Pound-for-pound, playing PES2014 is often a whole lot of hard work, as there is no shortage of people to tell you. But in Master League at least, the reward is always proportional to the effort expended. In that sense, PES2014 could be seen as one of the most effective editions of the series ever made.

1-1, then, and with a couple of game-minutes remaining, could I get an unlikely winner?

Kiessling hasn’t been mentioned much since I got him, mainly because he hasn’t done much. This is a PES for the small, nippy style of striker, rather than the big rangy giant.

I picked the ball up with him on the halfway line and laid it off to Joaquin in a one-two (the ‘Old Faithful’ of PES). Joaquin’s passing ability meant the return ball was on a plate for Kiessling. I raced him clear of the right-back with a forearm shove, and was suddenly in on goal almost unopposed. A CB was coming across to cover — but there was Dzeko, standing unmarked in the middle.

One simple dinked through-ball later, and Dzeko toe-poked the ball in for the second time in as many minutes. Cue scenes of joy, verging on rapture, in chez not-Greg.

All I had to do now, of course, was hold on for the 2-1 victory with stoppage time to go. PES2014 has a nasty habit of overturning miracles in its favour late on, so I had to be ultra-cautious. The final whistle blew and soon I saw the happiest sight I have seen all season:

PES2014 Season 11 after 27I’ll probably have to win every remaining league match to be sure of the title.

Up next is the first leg of my Round of 16 tie against Bayern Munich in the Champions League.

I will say this now: a League and Champions League Double in PES2014 this season would bring my time on PES2014 to a close. Failure on either front would leave unfinished business, and lead to a Season 12.

Hett-itch or Hett-ick? Doesn’t matter…

PES2016 end of season 1

Season 1 has ended (with a defeat, above), and with it any illusions I might have had that I’m good at defending in PES2016.

The final table, in full:

PES2016 Season 1 final table

Let’s look at that a bit more closely. There I am in 18th place, having won 17 matches, drawn only 4 matches, and lost a whopping 25 matches.

In that time I managed to score 77 goals, which is a top-6-level goalscoring performance, but conceded a staggering 94 goals – the worst in the whole division, as Peter Drury kept reminding me all season.

Scoring goals is easier in this Master League Season 1 than in any previous PES. Even in the most attack-oriented PES created (until this one) – PES2008 on PS3 – scoring was never this easy this early. Granted, we still had ‘proper’ Defaults back then.

What will happen if/when I learn how to defend? And if my goalscoring keeps up? Could this be like one of the deflating 5-season Master Leagues of old (PES6 and PES2009 – two otherwise perfectly good PES games, just like PES2016 – spring to mind)? And if it does turn out to be a short ML campaign, what then? Start another one?

All wildly hypothetical. And we don’t know how the game will change in the top division when playing against sides at least as good as the top sides in the Championship, all of whom gave me good games and proper thrashings in some cases.

It is a heck of a long season in the Championship. 46 matches. If PES2016’s all-action gameplay does result in a season 2 promotion, I won’t be too disheartened.

And so it was over to the post-season – and the best post-season period since PES2011, for me. So much to see and do and think about. I can only scratch the surface here.

First there was the matter of a certain testimonial match, for one MAXWELL in my game:

Testimonial gameAre those shirts available to buy? I’d wear one.

The three teams that came down from the Premier League should give me good games in the upcoming season. (And, taking a rare glance at so-called ‘real life’, what’s the betting that Norwich, Watford, Bournemouth will be the three teams that get relegated for real?)PES2016 season 1 promotion and relegation

In the transfer market I sold HETTICH for £3m to help pay for a new goalkeeper.

Selling Hettich was a wrench, as he’s been fantastic for me this season The season’s player stats show that he’s been my most effective interceptor:

Season 1 player stats

But not my best sliding tackler. That honour went to J BIKEL, a loan DMF who has now returned to his club.

I had my eye on a Scout-recommended goalkeeper, HERRERIN, who would cost £6m. I have a growing feeling that good GKs are going to be worth every penny in PES2016. So I wanted to make the deal no matter what. Ignoring a £9m bid for Casteldine, I sold Hettich instead.

Selling Hettich was all about needing the money more than the player. Sometimes in Master League you have to sell your favourites to raise the cash needed to get good players that you need more. It’s been a few years since Master League confronted us with meaningful and difficult decisions at this level. It’s very nice to see it return.

£3m was a nice bit of business for a decent Default who’d probably be sold in a season or two anyway. Now I just have to hope Hettich doesn’t blossom into Coynborough Mk II for other ML players. Coynborough was one of PES2013’s highlights and I’d never have forgiven myself for missing out on him.

Oh, when I was looking for a keeper, I spotted one old friend in the list:

PES2016 an old friend

Still pretty good for a 45-year-old! A stalwart of PES2015, but it’s a new year now.

With Hettich gone, and Bikel returned to his club, I cleared out a few other players too. Niellendner went for a tidy £1m. Rice, Hervey, others too. A proper culling.

All of which left me needing players to fill gaps. I desperately needed cover at DMF. I went into the Youths and was very pleased to find proper names replacing all the old unpronounceables, who were always hard to get to know.

This time around we’ve got a sensibly-named crop of youngsters, many of whom look very promising from the outset.

Snatching Milligan from the Youths

I snapped up MILLIGAN as a DMF. He has more than a whiff of dear old Duffy about him, and plays like him too.

From the Youths I also snapped up RICARDO at CB and COULIBALY at CF. Both 16-year-olds with already-decent stats. This is a familiar story that I love being told over and over again.

Season 2 formation and squad

Above is my chosen formation for Season 2. And my full squad. Both have issues.

The squad first – it’s pretty threadbare. Yep, I ballsed up the finances. A traditional Master League pitfall, and I fell right into it. I ended up having to release players to come in under budget. I know nothing bad would really have happened, but I wanted to balance the books anyway.

And formation-wise, I’ve gone to the formation that I ended PES2015 on. One DMF, three midfielders (position selected to maximise their affinities).

I’m happy with things as they are. The threadbare squad doesn’t particularly worry me, as I only have to get to January and will bring in a few players then.

And so onto Season 2 with a new keeper, a new central defence, some promising youngsters, and a target: promotion.

Looking forward to this.


Castle-dyne, or Castle-deen?

Greg Not appointed manager PES2016When I’m wearing my reading glasses, that’s not too far from what I look like. Like a cross between a mild-mannered bank clerk and Heinrich Himmler.

PES2016 editing

PES2016 is underway, which means that Master League is underway.

I got started on Saturday after a mammoth Editing session that began on Friday.

Editing spanned three sessions on the game and lasted about 4 hours in total. I’m sure those who’ve done the Editing deed this year have all got war stories to tell about the experience. Mine was quite nightmarish, as I messed up the initial import and put many images in wrong categories and– eh, I’ll save it for my therapist.

Editing took up time, it’s safe to say, and so for the first time ever, I skipped a portion of my routine with a new PES. I usually play an International Tournament with England, but I didn’t this year. In between bouts of exhausting Editing I played odd Exhibitions. As soon as I was done, I was ready for Master League.

PES2016 New Highfield Road

I edited PES United into Coventry City, swapped them into the Championship (sorry Rotherham, you’re sitting this one out), adopted Rose Park as New Highfield Road (looking good, above), and away I went.

I’m on Professional difficulty, playing at -1 speed, 1-bar passing, and regular shooting. I won my opening match — a glorious sunny day at pretend Pride Park.

PES2016 ML opening day WIN

As ever with a new crop of Defaults, it’s hard to get a handle on who’s who and who’s best at what. I’m not one for slowly and patiently going through players one after another and looking for things. I just wanted to play.

PES2016 starting XI

I stuck with the formation served up to me by the game – an eerily exact replica of my preferred formation in PES over the past few years.

That’s a 4-2-2-2 with two DMFs, two wide AMF/SMFs, and two central strikers.

I’ll be tweaking things as ever as time goes by.

These players in the First XI, though, are the best I’ve got right now.

That second DMF, BIKEL, is the only player I managed to sign in the August window – and he’s a loaner.

Among the others, Arcas is proving a great player, Yankov is scoring for fun at times, and with Vrany it’s sometimes like Ruskin has fallen through a wormhole into 2016.

Here’s a brief video digest of Saturday:

The additional features of Master League 2016 are a nice surprise. Over the next weeks and months I’ll look at them in more depth than is possible here in post number 1 of the new campaign.

For now, I like the changes to the transfer system that make it more rigorous and realistic. Also, the addition of player traits already seems to be making a difference. Coutinho, one of my strikers, acquired a trait that made him more likely to pick up free kicks — a wild claim for PES2016, you would think, but no, it seems to be working as advertised. I’ve had as many shooting-range free kicks in the handful of matches since he acquired this trait than I probably had in all of PES2015.

Before PES2016 was released I thought Arcas would be the main man, and indeed the stats show that Arcas is a top performer. But he’s not stood out for me, curiously enough.

The standout player at the moment is a certain Castledine, whose name evokes a certain mythical PES player, and who looks rather familiar too…

PES2016 who is that man

It’s him! It’s the Eternal Showboater. The Myth made flesh. The One Who Must Not Be Named.

In this guise he resembles PES2012’s Cinalton much more than he does Castolo/Castello/Castolis.

Cinalton was one of the most useful players of the Class of 2012. So far Castledine is proving very capable. No goals yet, though…

The AI is so far more than holding its own against me. My current Win-Draw-Loss figure is a poor 3-0-7. There’ll be no Season 1 promotion.

All things considered, this should be a good year. Unless something rears its head further down the line. It’s an exciting time, as this seems to be an edition of PES that has great gameplay and a good Master League. If I talked about everything worth talking about, this post would be 2000 words, easy, but I’m keeping it to 700 or so.

PES2016 Castledine in action

There’s a lot to get through in the months ahead.

The stats screens served up at the end of every month — useful, or just window dressing? The training — anything more than surface gloss? Is Arcas the new Macco? Is Hettich the new Irjescu? Is Coutinho really supposed to be the new Minandinho? Will Wroughllen come up from the Youths and take the ML world by storm again? Those player traits — is there any way to influence their acquisition, and do they manifest properly?

And finally for today: for me, it’s Castle-dyne.