7
Sep

Pro Evolution Soccer Master League: A 2017 Recap

The PES-FIFA battle has been raging for the better part of two decades, and over that time period I can say I’ve logged thousands of hours between both titles. In recent years, which can be described as my return to the PES franchise, I’ve spent most of my time in their franchise mode – Master League.

After picking up PES 2016 late in 2015, I’ve been hooked on setting up my perfect Master League where I’m currently playing as Fulham FC in the Championship. I’d like to walk through my perceptions of where the title left off last year as we inch closer toward the September 12th release date.

Where Master League drops you off upon entrance is a screen that shows any current news stories related to your team, some quick facts about the near term schedule, and an area in the top right corner that rotates between a zoomed in look near our spot in the table/rankings with a view of the leading goal scorers, or our team spirit/strength (along with any movement in these ratings) with small financial area focused on our budget for acquiring players. Overall, it gives a flavor of all aspects of the club, though I don’t look at much other than the stories which are meant to highlight the immersion factor of this mode.

When there is more than one applicable storyline, such as transfer rumors, contract negotiations, or players trying to adjust to your manager’s tactics, you’ll be able to flip through each headline story. I enjoy these quite a bit and would welcome even greater diversity to the stories.

PES is renown for being a tactician gamer’s game, and for that reason you have a host of options available to you within the Team Management area. The Gameplan screen is where you’ll be able to set all your tactics, from the high level attacking and defending strategies, all the way down to custom advanced tactics like Attacking Fullbacks or Tiki-Taka.  Want even more control? Feel free to set up your team (or all the teams in your Master League) to whatever positions you’d like to see them on the pitch.  Flip back and forth with a button push between designating DMF and AMF or RMF and RWF depending on how you want to play or how your opponent is playing you. It’s a fantastic place to tinker with your club.

Team Management

Training and Skills Training

These are the two major player development areas within Master League. Skills training is focused on coaching the player to a particular playing style. This area is a bit of a mystery to me and I haven’t played around with it much thus far. There should likely be more of an in-game narrative around this piece because as a stand-alone area it doesn’t scream out to me what it’s for.

Now the skills training area is a place I spend quite a bit of time. Again, I feel like this area is lacking a narrative to go along with the functionality but this is where you can flesh out your players talents. Each skill requires a period of time to finish the training, and you can only train one player at a time. This creates a bit of a mental queue if you’re trying to develop particular players with multiple skills, as you’d have to dig back into these screens or wait for an announcement in your player development updates. Depending on the level of team you choose to take over, you may not have many players with the requisite attributes (E.g.: Drilling 80 or higher, Ball Control 75 or higher). It’s worth pointing out that you may want to master the stick skills you’re training your players on in practice mode prior to spending the time training. This will make sure you’re able to perform the maneuvers in-game rather than just piling up a list of skills your players are proficient at.

Negotiations

The negotiations screen is the heart of the Master League team management. Here you’ll be able to negotiate contracts with your own players, add players to transfer lists, and negotiate transfers with players from other clubs that your scouts uncover.

As is the theme with the non-gameplay features in PES, the contract negotiations with players is very basic. You’re loosely informed on your Player List which players have expiring contracts with a little bit of color from your Sports Director around what you may want to do and the player’s thoughts about playing for your club in the future. This shallowness is repeated often throughout the Master League foundation. With the main draw of the game being it’s gameplay I can hardly fault the development team for not spending more time on the immersion factor within the franchise mode.

Scouting

Scouting, conceptually, is a very easy process and thus not very immersive in nature.  Pick your region(s), pick your position(s), and pick which phase of their career the potential transfer target is currently in.  Do you need some leadership?  Rummage through a list of older players “At Peak Level” or “In Decline.”  Do you need younger, fresher legs?  Look for players who are “Still Developing.”  Speaking of player development, one feature I really like in PES is the Development Sheet for each player.  What would be fun, and more “data nerdy” would be to see a set of expected outcomes for each player based on his talent and current skill levels.

To borrow from one of my other favorite hobbies, baseball, specifically fantasy baseball, Chris Mitchell puts out a range of predictions for value of each baseball player based on minor league statistics and scouting reports that looks like this for each player:

Being able to get information from your scouting director on the probability that a young player becomes a star might be a fun addition to the immersion within franchise modes in the various sports titles. Coming back to the scouting concept in PES, you do also have the ability to do specific player searches with an advanced search function as well. This allows you to target specific playing styles, positions, ages, nationalities, and more physical things like height and skills/abilities.

 

My Team Info

This section of the Master League menu is devoted to your schedule, lists of players on your team, the club performance, injury/suspension updates, and your team finances.

Schedule

Within the schedule display, you’ll be able to take a quick look at who your upcoming opponents are, how well they’re rated and ranked and their current position in the table. There are some other important dates tucked into the schedule list such as the Transfer Deadlines and Negotiation/Decision dates for your players and manager to go along with the standard Matchday display. The top level summary for your opponent is also available by the main positional groupings: Fowards, Midfield and Defense. What would add a little more color to this opponent breakdown would be the formations they play (4-3-3, 4-2-3-1) and maybe some pictures/names of the top players. There’s quite a bit of real estate in the right-most third of this screen that’s primarily used for useless information when it could be used for immersion.

Team Role List

The Team Role List is just as it suggest . . . a list . . . of team roles that players currently occupy and are in line to achieve. It shows the affect that each role, and thus your players who have achieved these roles on your team, has on your team. I can now see the loose connection to Finances that I’d never seen before putting together this article. This goes back to the “basic” nature of this particular franchise mode.

Squad List

The squad list is a nice place to deep dive on your player’s contract situations as well as things like salary, transfer offers received, and you can use the L1/R1 buttons to flip through their entire skills/ratings list.

Club Performance

While there are a host of screens detailing the very precise statistics your team generates (passing types, passing percentage, shots, shooting percentage, goals, assists, cards, etc), I do enjoy these monthly recaps to show how you’ve been playing with your team. It would also be equally as interesting if you could see how teams were playing against you, and how your tactics worked against each team and their tactics.

Finances

Lastly, I’ll end with a brief look at the financial system within PES Master League. It’s brief because it’s one screen, and mostly an afterthought. Your main obligations to your team financials rely on using your transfer and salary budget wisely. Basically buying and selling players to put the best team you can afford on the field. Prior to writing this article, I wasn’t entirely certain how it was decided that the money comes into your team, but now I know it has to do with roles players occupy on your team (Star Player, etc). Here you get a quick rundown of how the money is coming in  and going out.

 

Recap

At the end of the day, your job as manager is to fill this screen up with as many titles as you can, right? You can see that I’m not in elite managing company . . . yet! There’s not much more to the manager story other than job offers, W-L-D records and competition finishes, but at this point you wouldn’t come to expect much more.

While PES has been praised on the pitch for playing an above-average to excellent game of football, it does lag behind other sports franchise titles in terms of a franchise mode. It’s been stated that PES is beginning a three year development cycle that may begin to build this game into more of an overall powerhouse. However, with the sports game market currently fascinated with Ultimate Teams, and the online trading card scene, I’m not holding my breath for PES to suddenly break through as the dominant player and thought-leader in Franchise Mode 2.0 (TM Mike Lowe).

I look forward to release day next week, and after I get through a few hours of tinkering with my Fulham Master League I’ll be back with a 2018 review. Until then!

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