PES 2011 3D
The year-on-year tussle between Pro Evo and FIFA is one that is begging for an extra competitor. These two behemoths trundle along, occasionally changing the formula slightly, but for the most part resting on their laurels. They each know that their respective fans will buy the new release each year, and that if they were to mess around with the mechanics too much, they may well lose their players to the other side. Hence, innovation is set aside and instead updated rosters, after- thought side modes and making sure all your favourite football stars have spot-on facial features is the name of the game.
PES 2011 3D isn't going to be the title to break the mold, then, but at least it's got the added stereoscopic 3D on its side to give that slight breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, while this is a solid release in terms of visuals and gameplay, it all feels a little empty and bare-bone. With no online play and two carts needed for local play, not many players are going to have the opportunity to give the multiplayer a try, which is a huge shame.
The wonderful flow of Pro Evo is not lost on the 3DS Circle Pad. Play is directly at your fingertips, with every pass, through-ball and shot controlled by you, rather than the bal venturing off in roughly the direction your chose. Tackles don't feel like animations, but rather two players actually collide, with one emerging victorious. The ball isn't set to an invisible path, but rather remains separate from the players.
It's a formula that has been perfected over the years, and now makes for a seriously realistic match. There's real panic when the ball moves towards the goal, and the crowd chanting coupled with the above average commentary build the suspense. That moment of blasting the ball into the back of the net is glorious, and nearly every goal feels deserved. Unless you're playing on a lower difficulty, those shots on goal really need to be worked for, and play inside the box feels nearly theatrical.
The stereoscopic 3D is only really noticeable when you play using the default 'down the pitch' camera, where the depth really shows. However, this view isn't exactly the most useful since, when the opposition are attacking, you can't see where your back defenders are, and it's a constant struggle to keep in control. Most players will switch to the default overhead pitch view, therefore losing the best of the 3D effects. In fact, from this view the 3D is barely noticeable, and possibly the least interesting of all the 3DS launch titles.
Other Nintendo 3DS features are deployed, namely StreetPass. While playing the Master League, it's possible to put down your current team as your StreetPass team. When passing someone else who also plays PES 3D, your two teams will automatically play each other, and the result will be recorded. This all feels a little too random and the stats don't really mean anything at all - plus, how many people are you really going to pass who play this game? We've had one up to now, and it was a draw. Exciting stuff indeed.
Of course, the saving grace of the PES series is the Master League. Blasting through the ranks with your team, chopping and changing players and earning the cash needed to keep your team afloat and your fans happy is all in a day's work. This mode lasts weeks on end, and we could very happily continue onwards for a lot longer. Nothing ever really happens, in all honesty - you play a match, you glance at your position in the league, you play the next match, repeat. Yet there's something there that gives a real sense of progression.
Other than the Master League, however, there's barely anything else to do. A smattering of extra modes don't live up to the ML, and barely any stats are recorded either. Playing through the UEFA Cup, for example, feels pointless since, when you get to the end, nothing really happens and no win is recorded. There's also nothing to do between matches in all the other modes, removing any form of personality that the game could potentially have.
The multiplayer elements are distilled down too, to the point where they're near impossible to experience. No online play is available whatsoever, and no leaderboards or online rankings. The only way to play a multiplayer match is locally, and to do that you'll need two copies of PES 3D. We would have been more understanding if Download Play was available, but finding someone else with a copy of the game is going to be pretty difficult.
PES 2011 3D is a great first attempt on the 3DS, with the slick controls carrying over swimmingly. For next year's inevitable release, we're hoping to see some online features, single-cart local play, some stat-tracking and a few extra modes that use the 3D capabilities to their fullest.