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Review: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D
by Tom Acres

Pro Evolution Soccer has endured a difficult life on the current generation of consoles, as EA's FIFA franchise has evolved from being the unloved rival to the cream of the virtual football crop. As Konami struggled to adapt to the expectations of fans on the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, many took the nostalgic route of playing much loved classics like Pro Evolution Soccer 5 on the good old PlayStation 2.

Somewhat surprisingly given the new hardware that is on offer here, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D, or what will now become known as PES 3D, is probably best suited for those nostalgic fans looking for some classic and recognised footballing fun. Sure, there's a shiny 3D sheen that will undoubtedly impress, but underneath the impressive looks you have a game that has its feet firmly rooted in 2005.

Before I dive into what exactly you can expect in terms of modes and gameplay in this new entry in the series (because, in all honesty, it's fairly predictable), let me begin with the headline new feature: the big, bold '3D', screaming at you from the front of the box. Now, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that the 3D is particularly gameplay enhancing, because I'd probably be lying. What I will say is that it's a pretty damn impressive visual trick. As with all the Nintendo 3DS launch games, the 3D effect is very impressive when you first lay your eyes upon it, and - despite having been offered a taste of real-life 3D football, thanks to Sky Sports - I was remarkably impressed at how good it looked on Nintendo's little machine.

The cutscenes, such as goal celebrations and lineup shots at the start of matches, are where the 3D really shines from a aesthetic point of view. In gameplay, PES 3D offers a 'player' view, which basically positions the camera behind the player you are currently controlling. The depth effect here is incredible, but unfortunately it's not going to help your game in any way; in fact, it'll probably hinder your ability to defend effectively. During gameplay, I found myself switching to the default 'wide' view and turning the 3D off, only turning it back on for the aforementioned cutscenes.

Even with the 3D turned off, though, this is still a very pretty looking game. Player models and likenesses are excellent across the board, and animations also hold up well. The official stadiums have been well-recreated too, but as PES veterans will know and expect, the lack of licenses for many of Europe's top club teams is still sorely missed. The Champions League license does soften the blow somewhat, though, and the game on the whole is presented nicely, with well-designed menus and a decent soundtrack. Commentary during the game from Jon Champion and Jim Beglin is, however, just as poor as you'd expect from the series.

As I said before; 3D aside, the actual gameplay is remarkably similar to the PS2 games of old. In fact, if you enjoy the PES games on the PSP then you'll feel right at home. It's fast paced and arcadey, but also capable of being really quite realistic in some cases. Pinging passes around is fun, and long range screamers into the top corner are rather common as well. It's really just what you'd want from a portable football game, as it's unlikely you'll be sitting there playing it for hours on end like you may well do with one of the console big brothers. The game moves and controls well though, with the 3DS's analogue slider used to good effect and making it a far nicer game to control than it would be if you were using the annoyingly small analogue nub on the PSP.

So the gameplay is a nostalgic trip back to the PS2 era, but unfortunately so is the set of modes available for you to play. There's no 'Become a Legend' mode for a start, and most bafflingly of all there's not even a Training mode. Edit mode has been stripped down and there's no online functionality either. You can play local wireless against other 3DS players, but the lack of proper online play will seriously limit the game's lifespan. As mentioned earlier, the Champions League mode is featured, which is always fun to play through a couple of times, if only because of how impeccably the whole thing is presented. The Master League and Exhibition modes are also present, as you would expect.

It's worth noting that the touch screen is barely used beyond menu navigation, and even then you're likely to just use the D-pad anyway. This might be the only launch title you play where the stylus remains firmly secured in the back of the console.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D is a safe and solid debut for Konami's football franchise on the Nintendo 3DS. As you might expect from a launch title, it's pretty barebones in terms of modes, and the gameplay is stuck in the past; whether this is a good or bad thing depends on your feelings towards the series at the moment. What it does do is provide a fun and, overall, enjoyable portable football game, with some of the most impressive 3D effects you can find amongst the current crop of 3DS software. If you have a 3DS and want to play some footy, it's either this or hit the park with a ball and some jumpers for goalposts.

7/10 [?]

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- Tom Acres

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