Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer series has taken a definite back seat to its EA rival, FIFA, over the last few years. Beyond a significantly improved gameplay experience, FIFA also the holds the most comprehensive licenses when it comes to the various world teams. But for hardcore fans of soccer (or football) fans, this is a minor issue. The gameplay of PES is the important thing, and for the most part, the finesse that defined the console versions of the game makes it to the Nintendo 3DS without much of a loss.
To fans of the series, as long as the game plays well, sacrificing real world teams is not a big deal. To the majority of us though, it is hard to overlook. Maybe it’s a superficial compliant, but most people buy these games to play as their favorite teams. To have those teams replaced with fictional teams is off-putting, and oddly, when you are selecting the teams that you have never heard of, there is no way to tell if they are any good or not. You can’t see any stats for them until you select a team and are looking at the pre-game lobby.
Konami has obtained a license for Champions League teams and players, but American fans hoping for MLS teams will be disappointed that the entire league is missing. Under the complicated licensing agreement, world-renowned teams like Liverpool become Merseyside Red, Chelsea becomes London FC, while on the other hand, Manchester United is there under its own name. It shouldn’t be a big deal, and it isn’t really even Konami’s fault, but it is a shame.
There is an option to play with national teams, but only in exhibition, and many are modified as well to exclude certain players and uniforms. If you want to play a season or a full competition, your options are limited to English, French, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, and a collection of random clubs from the rest of the world. That may sound like a robust selection, but in each league, less than half of the teams are authentic. Along with the lack of licenses, there is something of a lack of game modes as well.
PES 2011 3D features an exhibition mode, a Champions League, and a Master League, which is a season mode that allows you to negotiate and try to build your perfect team. It is a bit shallow on the details though, and there isn’t much excitement in trading players. Without training or special events to take them through, it’s mostly a matter of personal enjoyment in building your dream team, or a more analytical approach to just accumulate the best stats. There’s not much to it.
All that aside, the gameplay is fairly fun, but not for amateurs. If you have never played a PES game, or a soccer video game at all, the learning curve is frustrating and even the easy settings can be aggravating. This game is built for the hardcore fans. It is difficult to master, but those that keep with it will find a game that is challenging and entertaining.
The passing is handled very well, and the shooting gives you plenty of options. The graphics are also top notch, and many of the players bear a surprising resemblance to their real life counterparts for a handheld game. When you first begin, the default camera is a behind the shoulder view that swings the field around to follow the action. It uses the 3D well, but it is more of a gimmick. Finding the ball can be a chore, you will never know where most of your team is, and when the other team does quick throw in, you will have no idea which goal they are heading to. Switching it to a wide view is the way to go, and the 3D in that view also makes the pitch look deep, which helps to judge passes.
It is just a shame that there is so much lacking from this game. A Wi-Fi connection allows head-to-head play, but there is no online option. The teams playing under aliases is one thing, but missing the entire MLS league may scare away American fans, and beyond the standard game of footie, there isn’t much else to do — no World Cup, no customizable tournaments, and no training.
All in all, PES 2011 3D is not a game for casual fans of the sport. The licensing omissions and the tough learning curve will scare away many, but for fans of the series or soccer fans willing to look past the issues in order to just play a good soccer title, this game may be a good fit.
Score: 7 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the Nintendo 3DS on a copy provided by Konami)