PES 2012 Master League review
- PES 2012
Following this article anaylsing PES 2012's new Club Boss mode and this round-up of PES 2012's highlights and lowlights, Nick now turns his attention to the PES 2012 Master League single player game.
Formats: PS3, Xbox 360
Format reviewed: PS3
Made2Game PES 2012 Master League review score: 9/10
I’m not sure which year it was but a few seasons back Pro Evolution Soccer introduced that unbelievably detailed stat-tracking feature, Track Record (in the Gallery menu if you haven’t seen it). While having all those stats - from goals scored to shots faced and fouls committed and so on - was clearly A Very Good Thing, it did bring into sharp relief the sheer amount of time I spend playing the PES Master League. Over the years of playing PES, we’re talking in terms of weeks, not hours. It’s probably even measured in months by now.
In the time I’ve spent playing Master League over the past decade I could have become fluent in Russian or Finnish or HTML. I could have perfected the art of baking pastry or nailed how to bowl reverse swing in a real-life cricket match or written a series of novels. But then again, I would have denied myself my greatest pleasure in all of videogaming. I love Master League, I really do, and wouldn’t swap it for all the CODs and Battlefields and Final Fantasys in the world.
So the key issue to address for PES 2012 Master League is, as it is every year, what has changed? And the short answer is, as it is every year, not a great deal of massive significance. PES has never been about broad, sweeping changes. Clue’s in the game’s title, I guess. Yes, Master League in PES 2012 is an evolution not a revolution, stripping away some of the flabby excesses of PES 2011 but toning and enhancing other bits and pieces.
Master League now sits under the 'Football Life' menu along with the Become A Legend and Club Boss modes.
The most notable change comes with what you could loosely describe as cut-scenes. I say ‘loosely describe’ because if you’re expecting an audio-visual spectacular on a par with Final Fantasy’s finest FMV moments then you’re bang out of luck. The truth of it is that there’s a mute, balding man wearing beige who stands in front of a tactics whiteboard while captions role underneath giving his advice on what to expect from West London White in the next fixture. At the start and middle of the season you’ll also give a rousing, inspirational, Cloughian talk to your team out on the training ground. It’s, er, one line of text. (These ‘cinematics’ are also to be found in the new Club Boss mode - reviewed here.)
Occassionally a player will come and stand in front of your desk and declare a/he’s not happy being picked or b/ he’s happy he’s been picked or c/that he’s happy the team is doing well. When I player has spoken to you, you can then flip to the Communication menu and give them an answer. For example if they're in a huff about being transfer listed, you can tell them it's because the club needs the cash, or that they're simply not good enough. Your answer will have an effect on their loyalty and happiness. An unhappy player isn't going to perform as well on the pitch, so answer wisely. Or lie.
Does this add anything to Master League? Not especially, a smidgeon of personality, perhaps, but when you’re playing 30-40 games a season and are seeing the same thing time and again, it’s tediously repetitious. However, the coach’s run-through of what to expect from the team you’re about to face, its likely formation and its danger men, is pretty handy on the higher difficulty levels.
The coach gives pre-match talks through what to face from the opposition, and it's wise to pay attention and act accordingly when you're playing on the harder difficulty settings.
For what I will snobbily call the Master League purest i.e. those who’ll start a Master League campaign with the standard bunch of averagely-skilled journeymen rather than a proper team’s proper line-up, perhaps the most significant change is with the amount of cash you’ll start with. In PES 2011 you could count on swollen coffers right from the off, the generous sponsorship deals allowing you to immediately dip into the higher end of the transfer market, and win bonuses being significant enough to make a real difference to the accounts come the end of the season. Meanwhile, a strong fan following guaranteed big buckets of matchday revenue from every home game.
In PES 2012 it doesn’t matter who you play as, when you start out you’ve got half of bugger all in the bank, you’d be better off signing a sponsorship deal with the local hairdresser for all the cash they give you, and there are less fans than Torquay United. And it’s bloody marvellous.
You might win nothing with kids, as Alan Hansen famously said about Man Utd, but PES 2012 steers you towards the Youth Team to find new players, and there are now a load kids more to choose from – over 20 in fact. In truth you’re probably best off binning half the dross in your squad before you start and signing the best 10 or so youth players on professional contracts. At least they’ll develop over a couple of seasons and you might be able to palm them off on someone else for a profit if you’re not playing them.
As in PES 2011, you can plough funding into the youth team in the hope that you’ll get better players coming through the ranks come the following season. Hasn’t really worked out for me yet, I have to say, although it’s only the second season and it’s only a million quid I’ve been able to invest. Youth development isn’t all down to cash, mind. Once again you can hire staff in various departments – coach, scout, doctor, athletic coach (but no goalkeeper coach this year) – and some of their stats will influence youth development.
So for those that like to play the long game, the lack of cash when you start out is definitely a major plus point to the PES 2012 Master League.
There weren't any screens of youth team development. This pic of the training ground will have to do.
Once you’ve exhausted the youth team options (a lot of the kids just aren’t worth picking up at the start – there are a couple of decent ‘keepers, though, and familiar names Palmieri the CB and Shimzu the RMF) you can turn your eye to the transfer market. And then probably look away again as you can’t afford much better than you’ve already got. However there are bargains to be sniffed out in the 'loan list' and 'transfer list' menus of players, and come the first January you can snap up a few out-of-contract players too.
It’s a little grating that you still can’t directly influence transfers as you could in Master Leagues of old, relying instead on your scout to finalise deals before you sign them off. But only a decent scout will land the more decent players you want to attract and a decent scout costs cash, cash you don’t really have at the start. It's a proper catch 22 situation, but all part of the puzzle you need to solve.
There are a couple of smaller new features. One is that you’ll occassionally get a ‘mission’ from your chairman. Thus far I’ve been asked to give a certain player 30 minutes of match time – this has happened on three occassions – and once was asked to avoid picking up any bookings in a match. Hardly the quest to find Drake’s Fortune, is it? Completing these missions means you’ll earn more trust from your chairman (which is plotted on a graph – presumably you have to really screw up results to incur their wrath so much that you get the boot) and vice versa.
An additional financial consideration is the marketing budget. The more cash you put into that, the more members you’ll attract to your fan club, which in turn leads to higher attendances and greater merchandise sales, which then equals more cash and so on. The membership numbers are plotted on a graph alongside the Chairman’s 'trust' rating mentioned above. The best way to increase membership? Win games and get promoted from Division 2, then win games and get into Europe, then... well, you get the idea.
At the end of the day
Training’s been pared back and I don’t really like it. You can’t assign training to inviduals, which seems a bit silly, and you’re forever getting pestered to set your training regime for the team. Training falls into five categories – technique, condition, speed, strategy and physique. Training in one has negative effects on the others, so what to do? I’ve been rotating the training schedule each week and the team ratings in each category go up and down more times West Bromwich Albion. As with scouts, the quality of your staff also has an impact on the training benefits and player development.
And that’s really about your lot for the changes in PES 2012 Master League. The rest of it is pretty much as you were in PES 2011. As ever, I’m left idly dreaming about a PES game that’s completely devoted to Master League, one where you can build your stadium and facilities and infrastructure. One where you spend money on better paper stock for the match day programme, or design a club mascot, or get a better quality of pie in for the fans to munch on. Probably a little much to ask, but it’d be good, right? Right?
Wouldn't it be great if there was media management to consider too? They've got it in FIFA...
So in summary to this rather gargantuan PES 2012 Master League review, there’s plenty here for the Master League fanatic to get their teeth into, even if it is a familiar serving, while the setting the game to the punishing higher difficulty levels presents a genuine challenge if you’re to achieve the ultimate accolade of the Perfect Season trophy or achievement. Here’s to another 200+ hours well spent.
Words by Nick Ellis (Twitter: @Nick_gamestribe)
Note: As PES 2012 is only released today, Master League Online will feature in another article that looks at all of PES 2012's online modes.
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