While the 3DS launch line-up is full of old territory being retrodden, Konami's got itself a bona fide first: the world's first three-dimensional football game. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D makes a decent run at goal but sadly fluffs its chances in the dying minutes.
For starters, the game is disappointingly feature-light: there's no training mode and no online play, although the local wireless and StreetPass modes are welcome additions, but more about them later. The game is mostly a solo pursuit then, with exhibition, Champions League and Master League play modes to sink your teeth into, as well as the ability to edit team names and player attributes, though disappointingly there's no way to create your own player or team from scratch.
When you take your team out onto the pitch, it becomes easier to forgive these omissions. Graphically the game is superb: animation is excellent, player likenesses are well crafted and it runs at a slick pace overall, though there are noticeable frame rate drops during goal celebrations. The default Player View camera shows off the 3D nicely, spinning around the pitch to track the player you're controlling, but while it looks nice in full attacking flow it leaves a lot to be desired in defensive mode, feeling like a first step into 3D that we may not see again. There are four other camera settings, all of which work far better, so it's worth changing the option to your liking.
Sound is generally good too, with some pleasingly clear and realistic commentary accompanying the action, though we would have liked a bit more of it. Crowd cheers, boos and whistles are all present as you'd expect, and the menu music is appropriately menu music.
The Pro Evo series is renowned for its realism and depth of control, and this 3DS version is no exception. Artificial intelligence is good on both sides, with players making clever runs and defences organising themselves well. Konami have managed to cram most of the advanced controls into the tiny 3DS cartridge, with skill moves, one-two passing, complex set pieces and more, although the lack of a training mode is felt here. The game handles well, although it's worth pointing out that despite the Circle Pad's 360º control, players in Pro Evo prefer to stick to 8 directions.
There's no doubting the game's quality on the pitch, but what it really needed is more to do. The Champions League is accurate, but there are no general League or Cup competitions to take part in, so you'll spend most of your time in Master League mode. Here you take control of a team and aim to dominate over several seasons in a vaguely player-manager style, but again it's lacking: there's no specific training for players for example, meaning all you can do is attempt to sell or sign players — during the right in-game period, that is — and play the next match. This mode makes use of StreetPass to play out matches using your Master League team, opening up new teams and players, if that tickles your fancy.
Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D nails the on-pitch action but lets itself down with a limited feature set. If you absolutely have to have a kick about in 3D this is currently your only option as the world's first 3D football game, but be aware of all the missteps such a title carries with it.