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PES 2018's Master League: Everything You Need to Know

PES 2018

PES 2018's Master League: Everything You Need to Know

When you think of PES usually the first thing that comes to mind is Master League. From the glory days on the PS2, PES and Master League were the perfect marriage. Combining solid gameplay and ahead-of-it’s-time AI both on and off the pitch, Master League provided a challenge to even the most savvy of PES players. Fast forward ten or so years and you’ll notice that the landscape has changed. The days of offline play have been replaced by online modes leading some to question Konami’s dedication to it’s original moneymaker. With the release of PES 2018 it’s time to take a look at Master League to see how this year’s version stacks up.

If you kept up with the PES 2018 release notes this summer you would have seen the following new additions:

Challenges and Goals

“At the start of the season you will now be given a set of objectives and challenges according to the state of your team, which are important if you want to stay in the job!

Pre-Season Tournaments

Play against the big teams before the season starts.ENHANCEMENT

Transfer System Enhancement

New elements added such as release fees in player contracts.

Improvement Presentation

“New menu design throughout the mode, with the inclusion of pre-match interview sessions before big matches and locker room scenes.”

The New Features, And How They Play

On the surface it doesn’t seem like a lot. Dig a little deeper and it’s you’ll see that it really isn’t. To start, he same two options from last year are still available; “Start with a pre-existing club/players” or “Start with the generic Master League club lineup”. Apart from an owner mode it’s pretty standard stuff and par the course for sport games these days. Immediately after choosing which route you’d prefer the first new option is available to you, “Challenge Mode”.

By selecting this mode you’ll face tighter scrutiny by the owner who will place his season objectives on you as well as interact with you on an ad hoc basis throughout the season. Achieve those goals and obtain job security. Fall short and you’ll be hearing “You’ll be sacked on Monday” (not really in the game but you get idea).

“Sounds good on paper and similar to FIFA’s Career Mode where you’re under constant scrutiny but shortly after, you’ll see the mode start to falter..”

Additionally, Challenge Mode is supposed to make transfer negotiations harder as well as make your squad a little bit more sensitive when it comes to playing time, roles, etc… Sounds good on paper and similar to FIFA’s Career Mode where you’re under constant scrutiny but shortly after, you’ll see the mode start to falter.

In Year 1 you start off right before the first match of the season, in the midst of the summer transfer window winding down. Because of this, you’re not able to participate in any of the preseason tournaments nor are you able to disable the first transfer window. It’s a little odd that one of the new features isn’t available until Year 2 but understandable considering the start-time of the mode.

Perhaps they could back the start up a little earlier and launch you in the heart of summer but I’m generally OK with their intended approach. The transfers on the other hand, another new feature, are in short, terrible. The Day 1 patch updated squads so the likes of Lukaku and Morata are on Manchester United and Chelsea respectively but it seems everyone is fair game, even if they just moved to their club. In my test run of Master League I’ve seen Liverpool’s Mo Salah leave for Man United just minutes after he got to Anfield and other head-scratching moves like Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi, a Nigerian born player who has lived most of his life in England, leave for Gremio of the Brazilian League.

Players with no ties to a country will leave a good team to play across the world for a league two or so notches below it. Speaking of Arsenal, virtual Arsene Wenger went absolutely nuts (if he hasn’t already done so in real-life) selling off nearly half of his team and replacing them with players that aren’t nearly of the same quality. I’ve seen Kolasanic, Monreal, Bellerin, Mertesacker, Walcott, Holding, Mustafi, Welbeck, Giroud, Coquelin, Wilshire, Debuchy, Chambers, and the aforementioned Iwobi all leave in the first summer window.

That’s an exodus that would only take place if Arsenal went into administration and couldn’t afford the wage bill. Sadly, the CPU AI left virtual Wenger with only three defenders on the entire squad. To compound matters, player values and release clauses are nowhere near realistic. Mbappe, this summer’s second biggest signing behind Neymar, has a release clause of ~14million.

Just for reference, his loan-to-buy move in real-life is ~150 million euros. Chelsea’s Eden Hazard was tagged with a 40 million pound release clause meaning if you’re a middle of the pack club you can automatically trigger these clauses and bring a superstar to the likes of West Brom or Stoke.

A lot of realism is sacrificed at the expense of this poor transfer logic, something Konami said to have worked on during this development cycle. Unfortunately for us gamers, the PES Database is a complicated matter so this will not be remedied until PES 2019 per a tweet from PR Manager Adam Bhatti:


Filling Out Your Roster

Fast forward in the transfer window until deadline day and the same issues from last year exist, mainly it takes up to two hours to get even the most minor of transactions done. With fifteen hours given at the start of the day, wasting two hours on a simple player loan is a misuse of valuable time.

Likewise, signing players, once they’ve agreed to personal terms, should not take two hours. While we’re on the subject of terms, Konami still refers to wages in a yearly format when the rest of the world is familiar with wages on a weekly basis. While this might seem insignificant how are you supposed to know if you’re been taken to the cleaners by outrageous wages. Surely I shouldn’t have to negotiate for players with my calculator app open.

Now once your squad is complete there’s always an option of filling out a few spots with youth academy kids. It’s too bad that much like the rest of Master League, the youth academy is outdated and unrealistic. First and foremost the youth squads are the same no matter if you choose Barcelona or Nottingham Forrest.

Secondly, the youth academy is like a poster for diversity with kids from all over the globe filling the ranks. This should never be the case as the majority of youth academy kids are and should be from the country of your club’s choosing. Imagine starting a Master League with a Brazilian squad and most of your kids are from Europe.

Lastly, the regens, oh the regens. Nothing quite kills off the realism like seeing a 16 year old Buffon sitting in your youth ranks with a rating of 77. This might have been a cool feature ten years ago but after all the fuss with FIFA’s youth system over the past few years we PES fans expect better. Just having unique youth academies with ability to edit them would go a long way towards creating a more robust player database, especially with the talented option file makers PES has. Yes, disabling “Classic Players” helps but that still leaves the game open to regenerate players who have retired during your save.

On the Pitch

So we’ve covered the basics when it comes to filling out your roster, now it’s time to progress to the matches and it gets a little better. Depending on the tactics and formations team do play slightly different. Some sit back and defend while others pressure you all over the pitch.

We’ve touched on the gameplay before in depth so we’ll discuss another one’s of Konami’s area of focus, presentation. It’s been improved with more in-match statistics, new cutscenes, and some dynamic commentary lines but it still feels like you’re playing in a vacuum. Where is the league table before the kick-off? What match day are we in? Where are the key statistics? Hell, what day of the week is the match? Where are the live scores from the other matches? 

Imagine it’s the last day of the season and you’re in a relegation battle. Wouldn’t it be nice to know the other scores as this could potentially affect your strategy? Sure, most of these can be found in the somewhat revamped menus (all that was really done was a flip from horizontal to vertical perspective) but why can’t they be tied to the actual match presentation and shown at stoppages or before/after the match?

The next time you watch a match on NBCSN/Sky Sports/BeIN/Fox Sports 1 just take a look at all of the graphics that pop-up during the course of a match. They can be done in a way that’s not distracting and actually informative. Oh, we have three matches in ten days? Let me think about when I’m up two goals in the 65th and want to give a marquee player a bit of rest.

Rest however, combined with a lack of injuries is one thing you really don’t have to fear being as they rarely happen during a match. This year fouls are few and far between but PES 2018, just like in PES 2017, suffers from in-game injuries that are as rare as a Crystal Palace goal. I’m generally more nervous about injuries when simming ahead to the next match than when I’m playing and that’s a shame.

Between a lack of injuries and a stamina system that replenishes too fast from week-to-week the need for squad rotation is minimal at least. Look Konami, not all of us follow Antonio Conte’s approach when it comes to squad rotating. Some of us would like to be forced to rotate when the fixture list starts to pile up. An injury frequency option (high/medium/low) similar to how transfers used to operate, would be a good starting point in achieving an important part of the game.

Player Form

Player form is another mystery that affects Master League. Form arrows often affect player selection and it’s shame when a player is on a good run of form only to see the dreaded downward facing arrow before a big match.

Match ratings, which need to be implemented on a full scale instead of the “.5” increment they currently are, should affect form. Some players, just as in real-life, are undroppable regardless of their form arrow but when you’re debating starting two similarly rated players I often choose the one on better form. A decision like that should be based on tactics, fatigue levels, etc… is instead totally randomized.

Sim Stats

One of the positives of Master League is it’s simulated stats and outcomes. In my test runs, I’ve only seen clubs that have a realistic shot at domestic trophies/Champions League actually achieve them. Stats such as the the golden boots are believable too with Messi, Suarez, and Ronaldo usually battling it out for the Pichichi in Spain’s La Liga.

Stats on the whole are disappointing though. Only goal and assist leaders are mentioned despite the game capturing plenty more, most of which can be found in your Monthly Reports which I loved in PES 2017 and still love in 2018. Distance traveled, tackles, key passes, successful take-ons, all of which contribute towards the booming fantasy craze are missing in action as is a history log per season.

The game does a great job at capturing your season’s achievements from a team perspective from year-to-year but falls short when it comes to individuals. Keeping a notebook (I’m really dating myself here) or spreadsheet was cool ten years ago but doesn’t work anymore. I want to see how close my striker is to the all-time club record for goals. I’d love to see an all-time records versus clubs to see who my bogey squad is.

Again, it’s the little things off-the-pitch that add up to a larger experience.

Additionally, I do enjoy the Manager Carousel that goes on behind the scenes as coaches take their tactics to their new club in the event they’re fired or hired but a list of managerial changes at the beginning of the season would be a nice addition to keep you abreast of the changes.


Another year gone by and Master League still feels like neglected. For too long now it’s seen small changes that often aren’t implemented in a realistic way. From the smiley faces that plagued PES 2015 to the unrealistic transfer fees/release clauses of of this year, Master League is by and far a disappointment in what has been a less than stellar release of this year’s game.

While there’s always hope for the future, there’s no reason to believe that the mode will see wholesale changes in the future leaving us to wonder the direction in which Konami will take the mode. Hopefully I’m wrong and Master League becomes the engrossing experience which helped us to fall in love with the PES series.

What are your thoughts on this year’s Master League?


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  1. Thanks for the write up. I went with the PC version so that I have a little more control over what happens in ML but certainly wish they did better. The days of playing 5+ seasons of PES ML have gone for me unfortunately. 
    Overall the Master League needs life and personality. Football has so much of both and we barely get any of this.
    Also to note, none of the loan logic is in place surrounding players currently on loan, how many loaners you can have on the pitch for a given match or limits on how many from / to a single team.
    Transfers should be huge news and feel like a text line on a screen.
    They must work to incorporate all the leagues that push teams into the champions league playoff rounds and group play to really get that immersion down. I get there are 40-50 leagues that contribute to the Copa Libertadores, The AFC and the UEFA champions league but damn it would be nice to get each of these represented even if just on the PC.
    The mode is stale, yes, but full of potential. I'd gladly pay money for hosted online leagues, just as the ultimate team folks pay money for their random A purchases.*
    After reading this, you're making me not want to start a ML. I'll definitely be starting a CM in FIFA before this. As much as FIFA fans criticise EA for not giving CM an overhaul, it's still 10X better than what ML offers.  I was so hyped for this game, but it's disappointing me more and more as the days go by. 
    Good read KG. I've still yet to start a ML, and continue to put it off because of all I'm reading about it. The bread and butter of PES seems as it's now a neglected stepchild. 
    So I am about half way into my first Master League season and wanted to share a different viewpoint.
    I normally buy FIFA every second year or so, play a few career modes and pawn the game at gamestop when I get bored. Career mode in FIFA has always been my go to mode in the game, but as of late I feel that FIFA has (like many of EA's titles) just completely forgotten about Career mode. The lack of a strong 1 player vs AI mode is something I have been wanting for a long time. PES and Master League is delivering exactly that.
    Before you go any further I would note that I am new to PES as a player. This is my first Master League and I have nothing to compere it to other than FIFA and my experiences there.
    Let me first say i have nothing against FIFA and its career mode, its a good show, but I have played it so many times over the years it starts to feel repetitive.
    Master League presentation:
    I found the presentation in ML to be a lot more bare boned than FIFA's flashy and fancy design. But at the same time this felt like a relief. Like a return to a different time of footy games.
    Editing galore:
    Before I started up my ML, as a new player I would read up here on OS and over at PESUniverse to make sure I got the modifications to the game just the way I wanted it. This is something I would recommend any new player. This game can be a handful for a new player. Even though you might have played FIFA your entire life I strongly suggest you read up here and ask other OS'ers for help if you need it.
    I used quite a few hours setting up my ML with kits. I also edited a fair bunch of players in edit mode to get more diversity in players in La Liga and on the teams.
    It took me some time, and I will not recommend everyone to do this first time around with ML but it did give me some interesting results.
    I fixed up a manager that looked like he had the jaw of a statue. :D
    I was actually impressed with all the options the game gave to the player when it came to creating a manager. It is still very much a work in progress, but it still way better than FIFA's options. People always end up with that brown haired dull looking youngster manager who I always found to look boring. So this actually helped me get into ML in a more fun way.
    FIFA has a decent transfer system IMO. However the game (especially this years) has slowed this process down quite a bit. Having to go in and out of menus and into videos of you going back and forth with the players at least for me felt like a lot of hassle. There was no need for this.
    In PES ML you can negotiate with anyone, but a lot of players might not care to sign with you or your team when you start. If you start using the search engine a bit, you will find some pretty decent options, but also some strange ones.
    You might find players being scratched from their teams that you would never release.
    This might be a bit game breaking for some, and I would completely understand if this would keep you from playing this game. I hope you, like me actually bother to take that chance.
    I found the negotiation system to work really well for me.
    I play as Celta Vigo and I have limited resources to work with. I went into free agency and found Niang and Bakayoko available (lucky me!). The negotiation system felt easy for me to master, as you try to find the right spot in their contracts to be affordable for your team. This can be tricky as most players have release clauses and might want to haul in some money while they play for you. The release clauses I felt was very easy to work with, while I had to be a bit more careful when negotiationg with the players. In this case I got both of them.
    The transfer system is not entirely realistic at times, but I have yet to feel that it has left teams with the dramatic changes similar to the Arsenal example above. In my ML Real Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona are still Spanish powerhouses with a full stable of 80+ players. half way in to my first season I am still fighting mid table, while the three above are fighting to be number 1.
    As winter approaches in between games I am trying to bring 2 Portuguese youngsters to Celta. The negotiation period feels pretty good. As we are getting close to end of december, I am starting to feel I can prepare to sign them. I am also expecting there to be some movement in my own team.
    The fact that PES makes me even care about the team to such an extent means that it is doing something pretty well.
    The transfers might not be elegant or with fancy cutscenes, but for me at least it felt like an important part of making Celta into a team of former giant-killers that I am trying to build them into.
    ML Gameplay
    The thing that I really like in ML is how different the teams you meet on the pitch truly are. I have been crushed by a defensive Betis, lost dramatically to Villareal and had refreshing wins strung after one another. The game keep you on your toes, and in ML you have to make sure you are ready for a lot of different strategies. I always have to glance over at the opposition and plan ahead of matches before using the same strategy I did last time around. In FIFA I normally changed my strategy and formation once during my entire career mode. In PES I do it every three matches or so.
    The game is much harder to guess than FIFA and this is both good and bad.
    PES is far more deceptive and tricky gameplay-wise than I expected. I had to adapt things in-game that I otherwise would not have to bother with in the regular couch-style playing of FIFA v AI.
    And then there are rivalries!
    Celta Vigo has a long standing rivalry with Deportivo la Coruna. A rivalry that might be very small on the national level felt like the end all be all in ML.
    Before going into the match you actually have the owner telling you how much this means. Of course it does!
    When you pick your squad some players are more emotional about the game than others. So, while Iago Aspas is all geared up for the match, my new arrivals in Niang and Bakayoko did not understand the importance of the game yet. Ocampos whom I snatched from Milan on the other hand had found a place in Celta and was eager to show himself worthy against our rivals.
    The game tossing me this curveball about who was into the rivalry or not made me having to think and consider my steps. Should I bring in Niang who has 6 goals and has played really well, or let Ocampos take his place (who really wants it). it was not a player coming in to the office whining about playing time, but about the drive to beat a rival and fielding the right team.
    This thing. This thing right here: Fielding the right team. I think this was when I fell in love with PES and Master League.
    I doubt the game knew anything about La Liga as a person, but the fact the game showed me something akin to different emotions and how cohesive each team member was with the other is a big plus.
    The build up was maybe simple, but it felt enganging. Others who have played PES and ML might say this has been in there for a long time, but for me.. this was an eye opener.
    And then the game was on!
    Deportivo came onto the pitch in their Galician flag kits, while I entered with an created version of Celtas Red jersey from adidas a few years back.
    And the game just took off!
    The commentary constantly talked about the rivalry and how much it meant.
    The game was a lot of back and forth. And Deportivo looked like they would steal the game by the first half with a shot from inside the box that stunned both me and the fans.
    Thankfully my players came back. Ocampos, whom I switched in for Niang for this match stormed down the pitch and - Ocampos, the bloody hero put one past Coruna's last man. Commentaries took off and the team was smiling.
    As the last 10 came creeping Deportive put on an immense pressure on me. Forunately Ocampos saw Iago Aspas and we won a nail biter!
    I think PES commentaries is quite repetitive, but with this match they had come back to life with more sentences.
    For me ML is a bit jarring with the transfers and so forth.
    Still with all its simplicities, this game has made me far more into a footy game than FIFA has.
    I still think FIFA has a lot more options inside the game, but there are so many things I dont want the hassle to do in the game. The presentation might crush ML, but ML is a far more fun mode to fool around in than the career mode I have done over and over.
    I might be a bit new-born about PES, and that is fair. I would actually say this is EA's own doing though. but I dont think FIFA is the king anymore. It just does the same things over and over, and I found ML to give me a far more engaging experience on the pitch.
    The game really should be patched here and there, and some proper sliders would really do this game a service. Still I found the creative and open-endedness of this mode to appeal to me.
    When I have a few more seasons past me with Celta in ML I will see if the experience holds up. So far, Im pleased!
    @PESUtdOfficial is live. Through Twitter I’ll be doing a ML Story Mode in the style of a football club’s twitter account. It’ll include goals of the month, fixtures, results, highlights and the occasional livestream/extended highlights of key games. If interested please follow, vote in our Manager Poll and RT ��
    The choices are from 4 PES Legends: Collina, Adriano, Riquelme and Henry. The team are the original defaults. Castolo et al.
    I thought instead of doing a YouTube series or a forum story I’d try something different and tell the story through Twitter.
    Follow the story on Twitter at @PESUtdOfficial
    Nice job, KG. It stinks that Konami doesn't put more focus on advancing master league. For all their cool little touches -- team reports, training for new playing styles, changing competition sleeve logos, manager carousel just to name a few -- there are at least as many untouched, outdated, or downright baffling negatives, many of which you hit on.
    Actually it's not even anywhere near the top of the first thing I think about. I can't stand it. Man, this OS community and the sports gaming community in general has really started to fade further and further away from my interests in sports gaming.
    Actually it's not even anywhere near the top of the first thing I think about. I can't stand it. Man, this OS community and the sports gaming community in general has really started to fade further and further away from my interests in sports gaming.

    What isn't near the top?
    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    Actually it's not even anywhere near the top of the first thing I think about. I can't stand it. Man, this OS community and the sports gaming community in general has really started to fade further and further away from my interests in sports gaming.

    What are your interests?
    I can say that my first priority would be in person gaming with my friends, but since I'm way past that time of my life, I'd settle for playing a league with them virtually online, but that doesn't exist either. Therefore I normally settle for a franchise mode/master league or whatever it is by myself which is admittedly not as fun but I take what I can get.
    I get zero utils from playing strangers online and that's where most of the impact has went in recent years so I'm curious to hear what your perspective is and what you favor.
    I will say that within Master League I have zero interest in managing finances and things of that nature. I just need the owner/president/CEO to give me a budget for player acquisition and that's as deep as I need it to be. Console games should be about playing games out on the screen with your controller. The Franchise stuff that goes into deciding which scouts to hire and how long to retain them and how much to pay my coach....that stuff bores me.
    So I'm excited to hear where you're at on this.
    Honestly might have to switch to FIFA for my career mode urges next year if Konami next year ignore Master League and Become a Legend. Four installments on this gen since PES 2015 and hardly any difference. At least FIFA’s career mode will feel new to me. 
    For me coming back from fifa I haven’t owned pes since pes 15. Master league is not perfect but it’s refreshing. I’m playing on top player and the games are challenging. I get fouled 3-4 times a game. I use young players because its more challenging. The cpu defense presses me hard. Also having the licensed CL the music get me hype.
    Pros: team roles, AI, coach mode, transfer deadline day( you really have to pick the right deals to pursue because of how many hours each deal takes)
    Cons: transfers are unrealistic, no injuries, challenge mode needs to be more challenging, no control over finances, no practice mode

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