Preview

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

On the 3DS, no less

Konami has never released a PES launch title before. Did you know that? I didn't. At least I didn't before Shinji Enomoto told me (and 60 other people) behind closed doors at the 3DS event in Amsterdam last week. This is the first time the Japanese developers have ever made their trademark footie sim for a brand new console.

Reading between the lines, you would imagine that's because, historically, they've wanted to get to grips with the technology before properly plunging in. They've thus far avoided churning out a quick fix to cash-in on the early adopters.

So what does that say about PES 2011 3DS? Is it just a rush job to have a 3DS presence, with a bit of 3D action thrown in for good measure? No, it really isn't. In fact it's the first PES to do anything radically new for... well, ages. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

This is largely due to the game's use of 3D. While many of the launch, and shortly post-launch, titles I've tested so far employ 3D as little else than an extra visual flourish, PES 2011 3D seems to be leveraging the technology to great effect.

Konami are creating a game that simply wouldn't be as good on any other console. In switching to a new (optional) viewpoint, they've made the 3D an essential addition. They also may have given the 3DS a purpose, where before there was only a gimmick.

Now, when you go into a match, your view is from behind the player. It's been done before, of course. To varying degrees of success. But it's always been inferior to the traditional side-on view sported by many football games.

But it works here. It really works. The depth added by the 3D genuinely gives you a far better sense of your surroundings, a whole range of possibilities open up that just weren't there before. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

This view allows you to thread passes, to position yourself and to tackle far better than imagined. There is a slight issue with ascertaining your precise orientation on the pitch, something alluded to by the positioning arrow next to your player, but it's nothing a map on the bottom screen wouldn't solve.

So look, maybe the finished game will be off in some awkward way. Perhaps the shooting will be wonky, or the passing frustrating. Perhaps idiosyncrasies will present themselves once I've had a longer play session.

But right now, I'd say it was the most impressive implementation of 3DS tech that I've seen in a game so far. Because it actually has an impact on the gameplay. That is reason alone to inspire optimism about the finished product.

Of course, if you're either mental or have dodgy eyes, you change always switch views. According to Konami, there are five in total, including "spider cam," something they say will offer a top-down perspective on the pitch. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

There are a few positives elsewhere too. Player likenesses are pretty good and the Master League is all present and correct, plus theres StreetPass.

Yeah, StreetPass. I that actually a positive? It's definitely an extra thing. But I doubt the usefulness of a feature that pits your team against that of another, while the handheld is switched off in your bag. Perhaps it'll translate better in its native Japan. Or perhaps it's just rubbish.

Which leads us to PES 2011 3D's most disappointing feature. It has no online mode. You can play a multiplayer game over a local Wi-Fi connection, but you can't play over the net. Complain all you want about the awkwardness of friend codes, even if they have been improved, but the complete lack of online multiplayer is sorely disappointing.

Indeed, for a genre of game that thrives online, it's almost sacrilegious. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011

But anyway, disappointments aside, from what we've seen so far the game is looking really rather good. Not only does it offer a real use of 3D, it suggests that other developers may be able to leverage it for good use too. So, hurrah to that.

From being one of the games I was least looking forward to prior to last week's 3DS event, it has become one of the few that I'm most looking forward to playing again.

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