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MyClub to PEN: Shaking off the Sweat (P2)

Written by Janguv

When comparing PEN and myClub, you must consider the nature of what’s in common between them: Pro Evolution Soccer.

Without doubt, the biggest issue with online play in this game series is something which affects many online games. Gaming culture encourages competition, and competition encourages the use of exploits. So there’d better not be many ways in the game of Pro Evolution Soccer to shortcut to victory, or else people will do it, and they’ll do it until you’re sick of the damn thing.

An online environment where exploits are continuously mined leaves every player in a “Prisoners’ Dilemma” scenario: should I compete fairly, and stand a higher chance of losing? Or should I cheat the system, improve my chances of winning, but be left with a deep sense that I’m an awful person and have played terrible football to boot?

In that context, it’s easy to see how playing habits are created, and through constant reinforcement, become hard to lose. If you can cast your mind back to previous PES editions, you’ll remember one year when cutbacks became insanely easy, and another year(s) with rebound goals. More recently, lofted through balls guaranteed a path to goal (PES2015), long balls were too effective and fouling could be exploited (PES2016), while crossing/heading became so overpowered (PES2017) that more than half the games on myClub involved dealing with relentless cross spammers. Fun.

These are only the most obvious exploits of recent times, but playing habits go beyond these. In this year’s game, pressing was supposed to be a bit more risky (though opinions differ on how risky it really is, especially after the DP2 patch). However, in prior editions, pressing – even with team-player press – was a fairly safe way to close down your opponent, even though in theory you’d be dragging players out of position.

So when you mostly play PES online in myClub, even if you want to play a less “sweaty” game, it’s pretty easy to fall into the trap of, say, using a manager with frontline pressure and aggressive pressuring tactics, and instinctively holding X and Square (or the Xbox-equivalent buttons) to win the ball back. Over time, that becomes second nature. You do it because your opponent does; they don’t get punished for it, and you lose out.

What you’ll notice by contrast when playing games on PEN is how much more patient and skilful players are in attack. That’s because PEN values the judicious use of pace – to beat a man, to escape a situation, to capitalise on empty space – instead of recklessly holding R1/RB all the time, which again risks becoming habitual in the competitive online environment.

Moreover, your average bench will also most likely not consist of amazing players who can come on and replace stamina-depleted stars, which means managers have to be more careful with what work they make their on-pitch players do, conserving energy for specific periods of pressing and attack.

Along with all this comes a better awareness of interesting and unpredictable passes that can be made. And when you factor in the use of close control and occasional skill moves, you’ll see that PEN games tend to allow you to find space in places myClub has trained you not to look.

I would say, after 2.5 seasons in PEN, this has been the biggest change to my game. I always wanted to play it patient on myClub, but felt suffocated by the oncoming swarm of players looking to dispossess and launch overpowered counter attacks. But PEN league games and friendlies create an environment where you can genuinely start to improve the subtler aspects of your game: measured passes, dribbling, body control, more patient attacking play. You could, of course, still play in a very direct way if you wanted to—and plenty of managers do—but the point is that PEN gives you the freedom to decide.

So: unquestionably, PEN games will make you a better player. But “better” is relative.

If it’s the PEN off-season, or you’re whittling away the hours and no-one is online, you might find yourself curious to try out myClub again. In which case, you’ll be wondering what to expect. Now, some on the forum would ask why you’d ever go back! But if you do go ahead, brave soldier, and venture into the fiery gates, how well will the PEN skills translate back into the sweaty myClub arena?

My experience has been mixed. Overall, the skills I’ve enhanced through playing with guys from the forum are useful even against the sweaty denizens of bumclub. But you have to be careful, and can’t rest on your laurels. If you take for granted a certain amount of space, in most games you’ll get swarmed and frustrated yet again. So the lesson is really to exploit space and effective possession, with your PEN-improved abilities, while being aware that you will be forced to play a more frantic and less considered game than you probably want to.

All things considered, then, that does make you wonder: really, why bother carrying on with myClub? I don’t think there’s a good answer to that question, other than “You shouldn’t.” When I succumb to temptation, which is thankfully not frequent any more, my bad reason for playing myClub is usually some vain hope that “good” football can triumph over exploitative tosh. But, well, it won’t always do so, and in those failing moments it’ll be as infuriating as ever—when the knuckle-dragging, win-at-all-costs mentality succeeds.

Oh well, back to good football. Back to friendly players. Back to PEN.

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