When it comes to handheld gaming, I’m of the opinion that, if you can play it on a home console, why would you play it on a handheld? So when PES 2011 3D showed up for review I was already a little sceptical as to how captivated I could truly become with something that would clearly be better on my 40-inch TV.
PES 2011 3D delivers almost everything you might want from a football title with Exhibition Mode, UEFA Champions League (Tournament Mode) and Master League (Manager Mode) available from the get go. While I’m no stranger to football games, I felt more than a little lost when it came to stepping into the Master League mode.
Master League allows you to create and manage your own club and guide them to "the top of the world”. But as soon as members of my team were taking offers from other clubs, dropping in popularity and losing their love for my club, I couldn’t help but notice there is not a word of help to be found either in the game itself or in the manual. That’s right, I have had to break out the manual a few times now, and undoubtedly so will you; the game is just not that easy for PES newcomers.
On the default difficulty, your standard controls will just not cut the mustard. The manual contains a nice half page of basic controls that will definitely help you come to grips with the way PES is meant to be played, but prepare to drop the difficulty down a notch or two as you come to grips with the fact that the basic controls will get you nowhere. A few more pages into the manual and you’ll find a nice six-page section of Advanced Controls. These include everything you need to know to improve your control over the ball from both an attacking and defensive stance as well as an entire page dedicated to the different kinds of feints you can pull off.
It’s not until you feel at home with what is easily some of the most daunting control schemes I’ve ever seen in a sports title that things start to come together. Chances on goal may start to increase, but actually netting the ball is tougher than it should be thanks to a rather sensitive shoot mechanic. A small power gauge increases the longer you hold down the Y button, and the more powerful your shot on goal the less accurate it is. A quick double tap of the R button trades power for accuracy; holding L while you tap Y lobs the ball into the goal and holding R and Y at the same time will do a more shallow lob. A lot of the controls are this intense, and it’ll be something that’ll take a few matches to fully appreciate.
Graphically, the game gives me some real hope for the future of the 3DS. Characters look incredibly nice for a handheld football title, with facial and finger animation during in-game cutscenes, and the 3D effect really helps bring a little more realism to the whole experience. Instead of watching a video game of people running around on a soccer field, it feels like you’re looking through a window where player models actually come to life. It’s hard to explain but once you see it, turning that 3D slider off becomes a giant no-no.
Speaking of which, it’s clear the game defaults to a camera angle created purely to show off the 3D effect. The player cam – while it looks amazing – offers the worst gameplay experience. You can’t see enough of the field, there’s no real indication of where your teammates are, and things become tricker than they need to be. While switching to a more common widescreen, broadcast-style camera enables the gameplay that most people know and love, you lose a bit of the 3D effect; but honestly, it just makes the corner kicks and cutscenes feel that much more special.
While the game had a lot of love put into the graphical side of things – apart from some slow down during cutscenes – it’s a shame to see (or should I say, "hear") the lack of love that went into the audio department. There’s an awkward, silent moment before each match as the teams prepare to walk out before the commentators start talking, the crowds are rather repetitious when it comes to their chanting (although the chanting does sound awesome) and, quite often, the commentators are just plain wrong; that corner kick was not a cross, I don’t have a pleasing two-point lead, and that sliding tackle I pulled off was indeed going for the ball; that’s why I ended up with the ball.
After numerous hours with PES 2011 3D, I can confidently state that I have been impressively captivated, and that my console gaming has taken a backseat a number of times just so I can get my next fix. The default difficulty could use a little tweaking, but that’s why there are option,s and you’ll be playing comfortably after a little bit of tweaking. The game NEEDS a tutorial mode, as the controls take a lot of getting used to and Master League mode is incredibly confusing. I’d love to see both of these rectified when PES 2012 hits along with some weather effects, but none of that will stop me from continuing to enjoy this launch title.
Lasting appeal: 8