While this 3D edition of PES 2011 launches alongside Nintendo's flashy new handheld, fundamentally it's the same game we've been playing on and off for over a decade. Aside from the 3D itself, most of the new features offered by the 3DS are barely being used here; this is very much a by-the-numbers release, no doubt designed to capitalise on early adopters. All the same, it still presents a perfectly playable game of football on a platform with no other options.
Getting top billing in most of Konami's PR material is the 'Player' camera, which puts you right in the thick of the action behind the under-control player. This, according to Konami, was meant to make the most of the handheld's 3D display and in turn make it easier to judge how far away team mates are. In reality, this new camera type makes playing the game far harder than the default side-on view - a perspective from which I'm perfectly able to judge distance.
In the standard wide view PES 2011 3D plays... well, like PES, although it's a little slower than I'd have liked. The overall feel is more sim-like than some of the more arcade-style entries the series has seen in the past, with defenders often winning out in battles against strikers and the pinball-like goal-mouth action nowhere to be seen. Matches can also get a little scrappy, with possession repeatedly being lost in midfield and no one really making any progress towards getting a shot at goal.
Although the 3DS is lacking in buttons compared to a home console controller, you're still able to perform a lot of advanced moves. There are numerous advanced moves, including the ability to stop the ball dead or knock it forward, hit a controlled shot, play lofted through passes, and more. In terms of tricks you can perform step-overs, drag-backs, spins, dummies and a variety of other skills. There's none of the manual passing seen in the home console versions of PES 2011, but it's a fair enough omission given the handheld's control limitations.
If you're after depth then series favourite Master League is more than able to keep you playing for months. Building and playing your team to glory is a long and often frustrating experience, but one that is worryingly addictive once it has its hooks into you. Also on offer are exhibition matches and Champions League tournament play, which is fully licensed and sees you trying to win the prestigious trophy. Playing this European competition isn't as time-consuming as the Master League, but the authenticity gained by the license adds a great deal to the experience.
Aside from an occasionally sluggish frame rate (something fairly common in the series down the years), this is the best looking portable PES yet, closely resembling the PS2 version of the game. Player faces in particular look excellent, with all the big names being instantly recognisable. Of all the Nintendo 3DS titles I've played, adjusting to the 3D in this took the longest, with my eyes initially refusing to see anything but two separate images. Once this passed the effect proved to be impressive, although it's more striking during replays than while playing matches.
Important to some will be the editing options, which let you change player, team, stadium and cup names, as well as tweak team line-ups. If you want North London to be called Arsenal, you can make it so. You're never going to turn the game into something as official as FIFA, but seeing the correct names is an option if you want to put in the time.
While the gameplay here is perfectly competent, the accompanying feature set is sorely lacking. StreetPass is supported, but its implementation isn't overly exciting. Your Master League team will play other players' Master League teams, with new players and teams being unlocked for doing so. Sadly 3DS Download Play is nowhere to be seen, and neither is online multiplayer, leaving versus games to basic two-player local wireless matches.
As has been the way for longer than I can remember, I can't help but like PES despite a severe case of déjà vu. The 3D looks pretty smart, but this is the same old PES I've played many, many times before. It's still a smart game of football, but as with a number of 3DS launch games, it's not making the most of the hardware and doesn't really offer anything new.