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Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3DS is the most effective use of 3D I've seen in a game so far. Although this success is slightly to the detriment of other imaginative possibilities with the 3DS's bristling interface it feels completely fresh.
Pro Evolution, and FIFA for that matter, have never really worked on portable devices for me. Maybe they picked up my frustrations, but kids have also steered clear of playing football games on the go.
This didn't stop them, or me, being just a little excited about the prospect of Pro Evolution Soccer on the 3DS. Not only does Nintendo's new handheld console have enough horsepower to realistically render the action, it of course has that 3D display and all manner of ingenious ways of interacting with it - camera, accelerometer, gyroscope, microphone and the good old touch screen.
While I was absorbed collecting location pins in Pilotwings Resort, my oldest son (6) spent the afternoon playing Pro Evolution on the 3DS. I had to pause my game quite a few times to help him get started, and on a few occasions to encourage him to keep trying despite his frustrations.
The main issue stemmed from the fact he has recently been playing Pro Evo on the 360. I think he thought he would be able to pick up the 3DS version as quickly as he had on the Xbox. But things are a little different here, and for good reason - as I tried to explain to him.
Rather than the usual high camera positioned he was used to, on the 3DS the view is slung much lower. Watching him play, I could see the wisdom of this as it not only gave him a better view of the pitch but also maximised the 3D effect.
This may sounds like a bit of a gimmick, similar to moves that constantly pan the camera to make it clear that this is a 3D film, and there was undoubtedly a bit of that. But this change stems from more than a desire to make the game look different.
The lower "Player" camera angle combines with the 3D visuals to create a real sense of depth to the play. When you are passing down a wing or crossing a ball in you have a much better feel for how far away the other player is. It sounds funning to talk about a pinpoint action game like Pro Evo "feeling" different, but that really is the best way to describe the effect of the 3D.
Pro Evolution has always offered instinctive play, but on the 3DS it has a real sense of touch.
Pro Evolution has always offered instinctive play, but on the 3DS it has a real sense of touch. Hitting a perfectly weighted cross pitch ball is not only a little easier to judge, but feels like it results as much from a connection with the game as it does learning the current year's controls.
The problem, as I soon realised while trying to explain the wisdom of these changes to my son, is that he has 3D switched off -- not being old enough (eyes still developing) to take advantage of this feature. Without the benefit of the 3D output the changes struggle to stand up as well.
In the end these frustrations were too much for the little guy. Even though he could have tweaked the camera settings to accommodate the 2D display, it was this novelty that had brought him to play Pro Evo on the 3DS rather than 360, without it he preferred to play on the big console.
For me though, with the 3D turned on, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D got me genuinely excited about playing football on a handheld for the first time. Like much of my other game playing that has migrated to platforms that offer portable short bursts of action, the 3DS fits in nicely around the hustle and bustle of busy family life.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D is an exciting new way to play video football.
The experience is fleshed out with 60 national and 170 club teams as well as some impressively well timed commentary. I would have liked to see a proper online multiplayer mode so I could play with my brother up country, but the local multiplayer modes work pretty well with just one copy of the game.
I'm also looking forward to experimenting with the Street Pass feature where you can take your teams out and about with you to challenge nearby 3DS's to virtual match-ups that compare the strength of each side to calculate who wins.
If you are old enough, and have eyes that can comfortably cope with the 3D screen, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D is an exciting new way to play video football. If your kids are too young to use the 3D effects, or if you find you need to turn it off to play for longer sessions, it is still a good game, but one without its most compelling feature.
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