The version of Pro Evolution Soccer that everyone played at the 3DS showcase in Amsterdam was just a demo. However, we've since had a visit from Konami who let us have some alone time with a much more complete (but still unfinished) 3DS version. Instead of locking the prototype machine in my desk and swallowing the key, I chose to spend my time getting you some answers. Better for both you and my insides, eh? This is what I found…
Full fat last-gen PES?
Judging from the look of the players and the stadia, it appears the game is running on the same engine that powers PS2, Wii and PSP. Unlike the PSP iterations, however, there's no skimping on quality. There's full commentary throughout (currently all in Japanese - shooto!) and the player likenesses look better than ever. But the thing that's most important is the quality of the football, and that's on top form.
The quality of the AI is superb, with players moving into space and making little darting runs as you search for an opening. They fall over nicely too when you slide into the back of them. Hehehe. Shots from outside the box can still often find the back of the net like they used to in pre-PS3 days, but this aside, it's realistically tricky to create a goalscoring opportunity and you'll need to work for it.
Above: Looks just like the PS2 games, doesn't it? Suffice to say it looks great, especially in 3D
Passing is more like the early PS2 era where you could push any direction and X and it would find an animation to make it happen, although there is a hint of the more modern system of diminished power for odd angled-passes. These fellas are only human, after all, but it's definitely more forgiving than the PS3 games. Dribbling feels softer too, maybe even a little woolly if you're using the analogue slider, which is to be expected when it's converting the circular input into PES' usual eight digital directions. Don't think it's not still devilishly playable for the hardcore - it's got some of the finest subtlety of ball control around. It's just got a different feel.
Dude, what's 'shoot' again?
With only two shoulder buttons, control has to be reshuffled a little, which can make things confusing. I was able to activate a shimmy by triple-tapping the run button, while lobs activate, as ever, by holding the left shoulder button as you shoot or hit through-ball. Try as I might, I couldn't work out how to get off-the-ball players to make a run, but I suspect thats' mapped to a different button, or even the touch screen.
Why couldn't I tell? Sadly this unfinished version of the game had a largely useless lower display, thanks to all kinds of debug readouts (69786z0987sd82c? Oh, 3DS I love it when you talk dirty) obscuring otherwise sleek-looking menus. I'm told the finished game will let you use the touch screen to control formations and drag players into new positions, but it was a top-screen only affair for this hands-on.
Above: You can still use tricks to beat players, but accessing them isn't something you can just guess at
Shooting is as erratic as ever, as the length of time it takes to fill the shot bar (currently not displayed, but you can feel it's there) is determined by your player's balance. Having a crack while under pressure often results in a rocket shot into row Z, while tapped, balanced shots from distance are low and powerful, forcing spectacular saves.
In fact, the slow-motion replay animations of diving goalkeepers are among the finest I've ever seen. It all looks rather lovely and, while you wouldn't think much of the way it looks on a modern home console, it's a brilliant-looking handheld game.
I'm on the pitch!
The Amsterdam demo used only the new 'Player' camera, presumably to show off the 3D screen nicely. It does look rather lovely as it swoops around the active man, but I wouldn't go so far as to say the 3D helps you judge how far away your teammates are - something the press release reckons it can do. What it does provide is a real sense of involvement as the match plays out around you.
Above: This is the new player cam. The prospect of using this in the 'Be A Legend' mode is highly exciting
This more complete version lets you switch to overhead views and side-on camera options, making the game look much more like the PES we know and love, although our usual office choice of 'wide' wasn't as wide-angled as I'd have liked. It was always a problem with the PSP versions - either it's too much for the processor to handle (unlikely), or Konami wants us to be able to see more detail than the equivalent of ants on a snooker table. We'd rathar have the option, cheers.
You made the team, kid
The game's got '2011' in the title, so the license should be the same as the most recent PES on PS3. The real-life UEFA Champions League is present as well as the usual 'Eng League', 'Ligue 1', 'Italian League', 'Eredivisie' and 'Spanish League'. There are also familiar fake team names, like 'North London' and 'Merseyside Blue', but a fully-squadded Manchester Utd and Tottenham Hotspur are in, and looking great.
Above: Wow - the likeness is uncanny. Except the real Beckham's got lighter hair and more tattoos. Pssshh
Editing all the non-licensed teams and kits has always been the first couple of days' worth of play with every new PES for hardcore fans (crazy, but true) and this version should be no different. You'll be able to edit team data of course, and there's a very strong rumour that a self-made team of Mii-headed players looks a near-certainty.
So… should I be interested?
Yes. Absolutely yes. Even if the 3D doesn't sit right with you, 2D mode will still give you a very slick handheld footie game with superb animation, enjoyable passing and the organic, flowing matchplay that we found so endearing in the PS2 versions.
Above: It's hard to show how great the game looks with these low-res, flat images. It's actually gorgeous
It may resemble the PSP game in terms of graphical detail, but the 3DS version has full commentary, faster loading, a more comfortable control layout and the prospect of touch-screen tactics mid-match, making it clearly superior even at this early stage. It's easily one of the best games I've played on 3DS so far.
26 Jan, 2011