Historically, football games have always been somewhat underappreciated on the DS - possibly because they never really manage to develop that unique selling point of their own. If you wanted a realistic footballing experience, you bought FIFA or PES on the 360; if you wanted a more arcade oriented, less serious football game, you bought FIFA or PES on the Wii. The DS, it seemed, overlapped somewhat with the Wii market, and so, football games never really seemed to carve out their own market on the platform, as they could never really stand out.
PES 2011 3D, on the 3DS, however, changes all that. With the handheld's 3D visuals offering the chance to add an extra dimension to the football experience for the very first time, the game's developers were faced with something of a predicament when it came to laying the groundwork for PES 2011 3D. When played from a normal, practically top down view, the 3D effect, understandably, would be somewhat understated, as there's very little depth there to begin with. Determined to show off the 3D to its full effect, the developers have approached the problem in a slightly different way
Instead of relying on the normal top down camera, in the demo of PES 2011 we went hands-on with at Nintendo's recent event in Amsterdam, you viewed the action from a slightly different perspective, in what was practically an over-the-shoulder view. Played from behind the player, the first thing that strikes you about PES 2011 3D is the sense of depth, with the pitch seeming to stretch out for miles ahead of you, while judging how far away the other players are suddenly seems a bit easier than before.
The demo we played let you take in half of a match between Real Madrid and
Barcelona, which lasted all of a few minutes in real time. While we were
assured that you could play using the normal camera in the full
version, for the sake of the demo, we were locked into the new 3D mode, so we could test for ourselves how well the new camera worked.
As we passed the ball around (or, more often than not in our case, got tackled), the camera would snap to different players, and rotate to suit where we were heading - all in glorious 3D-o-vision, which helps make PES stand out from the other football games available. With the camera swinging to-and-fro and changing direction every few seconds, the game had the potential to get quite disorienting, were it not for the fact there was a nice, helpful giant orange arrow at your feet, showing you the way you were meant to be shooting. A simple enough idea, the arrow was actually a godsend, as it effectively put an end to any confusion before it even began.
Of course, it turns out the arrow wasn't really much help to us in finding the goal, as we absolutely sucked during our time with the demo. While we put up a decent fight against our computer controlled foes, in several attempts at the first half, we didn't manage to score once, instead going to 0-0 draws every single time, managing to crank out all of a single shot on goal - and even that hardly put the fear of God into the other team's goalie.
In terms of the gameplay, PES seems to be something of a mix, straddling the line between arcade action and authentic realism. It's a
less realistic experience than FIFA - which is a good thing, as FIFA
tends to make a few too many concessions at the expense of gameplay, with
the intention of pushing its doctrine of realism, yet it's still
realistic enough to give you that feeling of authenticity. While the
ball effectively sticks to your player while you're running, through
quicks turns, dukes and tricks, it takes only the slightest bit of
contact from a foot from the opposing team - or a badly positioned team
mate - to trigger a wild scramble for the ball.
Of course, with our limited time with the demo (and the inability to check what difficulty the game was set on), it was hard to say what was the cause of our lack of success - our incompetence, or something to do with the game. While we'd err towards the former, we did notice a few awkward moments with the game, where it decided to change who you're playing as at inopportune moments, letting the other team slip past your defense - although we're sure you'll be able to adjust the frequency of the auto change in the full game.
Slightly more concerning was the way PES 2011's 3D effect seemed to have the ability to break our eyes at fairly regular intervals during the match. In order to view games in 3D on the 3DS, you need to be positioned in exactly the right place, entirely square on with the screen - otherwise, you'll start to see ghosting, and double vision, as the two images your eyes are receiving don't converge into one. Because of this, it's entirely possible that we just weren't positioned quite right at the demo pod, but either way, the 3D effect in PES just seemed to break every now and then, leaving us with double, or triple vision of the pitch and players. Even though this only happened three or four times during our session with the game, we still didn't experience anything quite this bad with the other games on show. More time with the game is definitely needed to see if this is something specific to PES 2011, or if it was just how we were viewing the screen on the day. On the plus side, we can certainly make this the scapegoat for our poor performance, as at times, it looked to us like it was three on one.
But despite our general lack of success, we still had fun with PES, and found ourselves longing to play the second half, or have another go, as we sought that elusive goal. Despite having little interest in real life football outside of international tournaments, we have something of a soft spot for football games, so we'll be watching PES closely as we approach the 3DS's launch. Having already been confirmed to be launching on or around the same time as the 3DS, and with no FIFA opposing it, PES has an open goal to shoot into. We'll be keeping our fingers crossed that it hits the mark.
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