While the Pro Evolution Soccer series retired from Nintendo's DS console a few years ago, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D brings it back to a new Nintendo handheld along with brand-new 3D features. It's a decent first attempt--accurately capturing the gameplay that's made the series such a success--but there are some notable issues. The default over-the-shoulder view looks impressive in 3D but hinders your view of the action, but of greater concern is that there are some serious omissions when it comes to features and game modes. As a result, PES 2011 3D is a fair first step for the series on the 3DS, but one that could also improve in a lot of key ways.
If you've played Pro Evo before, then you'll be right at home with this version of the game. You move your player using the circle pad or the D pad, you kick the ball using the four face buttons, and you perform tricks and sprints using the shoulder buttons. Where the 3DS version differs is in its use of the touch screen--you can customise your defensive and offensive options and then activate your saved tactics mid-game by tapping on the bottom screen. The radar is also displayed here, allowing the upper screen to show as much of the action as possible. It's a sensible and well-thought-out system that benefits from the dual-screen layout.
The other big change in this 3D version is the way you view the action by default--in the over-the-shoulder perspective that has previously been seen only in the series' Become a Legend mode. From a technical standpoint, this perspective looks impressive and adds a tangible sense of distance between you and the other players. However, the view also obscures a great deal of the action, particularly when you're defending, which makes it difficult to keep track of the ball. Move to the standard side-on view, and the impact of the 3D viewing is less impressive, but it's much easier to view all of the action.
Whichever perspective you choose, you can enjoy a good game of football. The gameplay holds up very well to the other versions of the game, which means it's exciting, thoughtful, and highly rewarding. The AI is challenging, the controls are precise, and the player animations are realistic, even down to Wayne Rooney's distinctive looks and Lionel Messi's dribbling prowess. The passing mechanic, where you combine power and direction to place the ball exactly where you want it to go, is particularly good, meaning you really feel in control of the flow of the game. Pro Evo also looks the part, with detailed players, impressive stadiums, and a solid frame rate in both 2D and 3D modes.
Unfortunately, PES 2011 3D isn't as comprehensive as other versions of the game when it comes to game modes. Champions League and Master League game modes are deep and rewarding, and should be enough to keep you going for some time. Single-player and two-player exhibition modes are also available for a quicker football fix. However, Become a Legend--a popular mode in other versions of the game, where you control an individual player through his career--is a particularly strange omission given that the 3DS version presents the action from this viewpoint by default. The lack of a training mode is also a bizarre oversight that makes getting into the game more difficult than it needs to be for beginners. Less problematic but still disappointing is the lack of Copa Libertadores, UEFA Super Cup, and UEFA Europa League.
The multiplayer options are similarly disappointing. You can go head-to-head over a local wireless connection, but you can't share the game over download play, so you both need to have a cartridge to play. The lack of any online functionality is even more disappointing--it would be unrealistic to expect an Online Master League, but there's not even the most basic online head-to-head option. StreetPass functionality lets your Master League team automatically play against passers-by--if you win, your ranking increases and you unlock new players. It's a nice feature to have and offers another incentive to play through the Master League, but it's not enough to fill the gap left by online play.
The Pro Evolution Soccer series has always suffered in terms of presentation, and sadly, this version is no different. The menus are functional but barren, although the music selection is decent, from well-known bands such as The xx and Passion Pit. Audio commentary is provided by Jon Champion and Jim Beglin, but their banter isn't particularly witty or insightful. Some teams are officially licensed, such as the English Premier League teams Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur, but the vast majority are not, so their team names have been altered for legal reasons. The game also fails to reflect the most recent squad updates, omitting the changes that occurred in the January transfer window. While there is the option to edit these details, there's no option to share your updated data with other people. An even larger omission is the option to save replays, even though you can view them after goals and at the end of the match.
Pro Evolution Soccer 3D plays a good game of football and offers enough content to keep you happy if you're going to be playing alone or with a friend locally. However, the lack of game modes means that there's not much variety, while the omission of any online mode severely limits its attraction if you like to play with friends remotely. And while the 3D effects are impressive, they're most effective in a viewing mode that hinders your view of the action. Fans of the series will enjoy playing this 3DS debut, but there's certainly a lot that could be improved.