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Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D review: Soccer punch

Mike Suszek

Sports gamers don't have much in the way of quality portable options. Games that try to emulate the console experience while lacking dual-stick controls typically fall flat, and their presentation never meets the standards console versions set.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D comes close, and for some, that might just be good enough.

Gallery: Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3D (3DS) | 6 Photos

Pro Evo 2011 3D doesn't make a great first impression. The game's default camera takes you behind the players with a more restricted view of the field. Your full-field radar is relegated to a small portion of the 3DS' lower screen, and with the huge gap between the two screens, it's difficult to watch both as you play. In this default camera setting, passing becomes blind luck.

That's not to say the 3D visuals aren't pretty. The added depth makes passing feel more exact and satisfying, provided you can see who you're passing to. Had the camera been pulled back farther from the player, this might have been ideal. Going with the "wide" angle provides FIFA and Pro Evo fans with what they're used to, putting more of the field in view for better passing.

Notice I said "better" passing. Not great. Even with the excellent circle pad on the 3DS, players move in eight directions instead of the full 360 degrees of movement the pad could provide. For dedicated soccer fans, this is a step backward by a couple of years. Everything from running to aiming your passes and shots feels more like a coin flip. There were far too many cases where my passes went to well-covered players I didn't want to pass to in the first place.

On the American national team, Jozy Altidore becomes "Aztore," and Landon Donovan becomes "Dotan," which would be disappointing if the names weren't so hilarious to shout while playing.

The other controls and ball physics are top notch, and shooting has the intricacies one would expect from a home console soccer game. The ball reacts to the environment in a way you expect it to, even when a zoomed-in replay shows a good six inches of space between the ball and your player.

The lower screen also contains four customizable buttons for in-game strategy. One I kept returning to was "offside trap," where the defenders would come forward for two seconds before dropping back behind the opponent's front players. Strategies include both offensive and defensive tactics, which are key for success in the game. This added optional strategy was a nice addition and perfect for the touch screen on the 3DS.

An important note: Don't throw the game's manual away. Without a training or practice mode to be found, you'll certainly need it to actually learn how to play the game: Aside from standard exhibition, the only modes in the game are the UEFA Champions League, Master League, and wireless match.

Master League is the game's "be a manager" mode, and is good enough for the stat-crazy fantasy sports fans to gobble up. Wireless match allows players to face off in local multiplayer only, emphasizing the absence of online multiplayer. Since Pro Evolution Soccer doesn't boast the licenses that the FIFA series does, there are a hefty amount of missing clubs, such as all the MLS teams. On the American national team, Jozy Altidore becomes "Aztore," and Landon Donovan becomes "Dotan," which would be disappointing if the names weren't so hilarious to shout while playing.

The core gameplay in Pro Evo 2011 3D is enjoyable, but it's constantly failed by the rest of the cart's fundamentals. Even with the game's limitations and shortsighted exclusions of some modes, the few options available to customize your experience makes for one of the best portable soccer games on the market. That may not be saying much, though.

This review is based on the 3DS retail code of Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 3DS, purchased by the reviewer. Mike Suszek is a contributor to and, avid sports fan, and games, tech and pop culture junkie. He can be found ranting on Twitter: @mikesuszek

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