Konami is the only game developer to develop and publish a virtual soccer game to challenge EA’s long running FIFA series. Pro Evolution Soccer has developed into a great competitor and it has a solid fan base. Konami has seen fit to release a new version on Nintendo’s new handheld, the 3DS. We were lucky enough to get a chance to play the final retail version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D (PES 2011) and I finally have a chance to share my thoughts with you.
I have to admit that I have been somewhat of a FIFA fan for a long time. To me there truly has not been any other soccer game to play. I have played different versions of EA’s game since the days of the Sega Genesis, so to say that I am a PES rookie is an understatement. One of the first things I noted was that there is a nice selection of teams to choose from. Given that EA has the official FIFA license, I was a bit worried about selection, but alas PES 2011 did not let me down, as there is a nice range of real world teams to make any soccer fan happy. This is big factor as I have played a few soccer games with non-licensed teams that ended up taking away from the realism.
Another thing that really surprised me was the depth of control for a 3DS game. When I first fired PES 2011 up and just tried to play right off the hop, I was in for a huge lesson, one that taught me to that I needed learn the controls due to the fact that I got my ass handed to me as I didn’t have a clue what to do. So when I took a look at the instruction manual I quickly learned that there was a heck of a lot of moves to use. From basic attack (dribbling, dash or pass) or defensive (dash, apply pressure, slide tackle) moves to more advanced moves such as give and go, low or high chip shots, or step over fakes. Trust me, there is a lot to learn for any gamer looking for a great representation of soccer in portable videogame form.
For those looking for some depth in gameplay you’ll find enough here to last you for a while. The licenses that Konami have acquired allow you to play a full Champions League mode. Each game you play takes on a TV broadcast with all the ceremony and rituals that come along with it. You can take your Champions League team of choice down the path of glory or down the path the shame. It is up to you and your skills to do so.
For those looking for a worldlier mode, there is Master League. Here your objective is to guide your favorite club to the “Top of the World”. Each Master League is 52 weeks long. A new week starts after playing your own teams league game. During the 52 weeks there is a time period where there is a ‘transfer window’ that allows you to sign new players or enter negotiation with existing players. The Master League mode is as close as you will get to a full manager type mode. This is a nice mode for those looking for a LONG term commitment. Each match and manager duties can take a long time, and given that the league is 52 weeks long, you’ll have lots to do here.
The computer AI incorporated into the game can give any gamer quite a challenge, especially on the higher skill rankings. What I liked about the AI’s challenge is that it really allows you to feel like you have earned each goal. You’ll have to learn how to control your game, such as changing up offensive and defensive strategies, which in turn allows you to be successful against the different teams you come up against. I think that Konami did a nice job of balancing the AI in such a way that you feel like you truly are playing a game of soccer.
One of the big misses in PES 2011 is the multiplayer modes, or lack of. There is a local Wi-Fi mode to allow you to play against other people in the same room; however there is no addition of an online mode, and this is somewhat disappointing given that I don’t know too many people, if any, in my area with the game. So being able to play online would have allowed me, and anyone else who has the game, to play more matches against others. I don’t know, maybe this omission was due to a rush to get it to the market at launch, regardless I think this is a missed opportunity in some way.
I should note that your Master League Team can be saved as a “StreetPass Team”. Here you can play other matches against StreetPass users who also have PES 2011. Matches are played out automatically against other StreetPass Teams (data vs. data). The more matches you play using StreetPass the more players and teams you will unlock . You are also given a league ranking based on your performances such as Amateur, Division 3, Division 2, Division 1, and UEFA Champions League. This StreetPass feature is a nice addition for those looking to use the new 3DS sharing system, and something that fans should appreciate.
Visually, PES 2011 is a pretty good looking game. The varying camera angles are nice and allow anyone to find a comfortable way to play. Personally I find that soccer games are best played from the side view, given it allows a nice view of the field and ability to watch a play start to unfold. Player models are solid, and animate quite well considering all the different soccer moves that are included. From headers to slide tackles, it is indeed soccer that is playing out in front of you. Overall you’ll find a lot to like when watching, and playing, a game of footie on the field in PES 2011.
As for the 3D visuals, I was happy with how Konami implemented the look. There is no doubt that you will find the 3D is good looking, especially in some of the close up camera angles, especially the dynamic camera which is like a TV broadcast in some ways. As I mentioned above, I find playing soccer games the best using a side view, and the 3D was still prevalent as it allowed the game to have further depth, and the added 3D effects in this camera view allowed me to feel like I had a better assessment of where my players were and what kind of pass or chip shot (e.g. strength) to use to get them the ball. I have to say that the use of 3D in this game is indeed beneficial and appreciated.
In terms of the audio, it is indeed a valiant effort. I never pay attention to music in most sports game as the only sports game that it really helps is in hockey as it helps to recreate the ‘arena’ effect. As for virtual soccer, I could care less. What really counts is the sound of the crowd, the effects of the ball being kicked, headed, and passed around the field, and the sound of the ball hitting the back of the net; and in this area PES 2011 is pretty strong. As for the commentary, it is not that bad early on, but as you play more games it does start to get repetitive, and you get the feeling that it could be more exciting. In the end I would say that the total sound package is pretty good, but there are some areas where it could have been stronger.
I have to say that after playing Konami’s long running Pro Evolution Soccer on the 3DS, I am somewhat impressed. The game looks good, it controls well, and it is a pretty darn enjoyable title. The lack of a true online experience was a bit of a let down, but nothing that should turn people away from this game. Soccer fans and sports fans alike should pick up this title for their brand new shiny 3DS.