Here I am banging on about the visuals like a salivating neophile, and I've barely mentioned how it plays. Which, in my defence, is because this is otherwise largely PES as we know it, with no alarms and no surprises.
The feature set and content are effectively carried over from the PSP version, improved aesthetically – and, to a limited degree, functionally – but oddly shorn of certain elements. Understandably, the time pressures of producing a launch title will have focused Konami's mind to concentrate on creating a bespoke visual spectacle.
60 national and 170 club sides are included, complete with the usual absurd licence-lacking likes of West Midlands Village, Lancashire Athletic and Man Blue. The Edit Mode is there, as ever, for manual changes. The first one a 'Merseyside Red' supporter will make is likely getting rid of Torres, since the game doesn't take January transfers into account.
Exhibition, a fully-licensed Champions League, Master League and Wireless Play are your key options from the main menu. Inexplicably, there's no training mode – a baffling omission, as it would surely provide an ideal, stress-free way to acclimatise to the extra dimension. And it's a real shame there's no way to store replays of your best goals, since watching them back in 3D is one of the undoubted highlights of the experience.
Meanwhile the Copa Libertadores and Become A Legend modes also fail to make the cut. In their stead, we have seemingly obligatory StreetPass functionality, which adds an extra layer to the Master League, comparing the stats of teams on compatible devices and awarding a win to the strongest. This improves your Street Pass ranking and unlocks classic players and teams as you progress.
Wireless play, sadly, is only a local affair, no doubt as a result of Konami's deadlines, but this is a game that really needs to be fully online for 2012. No excuses. And an overhaul of the interface would also be welcome, with menu navigation needlessly fiddly in places (especially when tweaking formations), and on-screen text requiring hawk-like supervision to read in places.
I should say that if you take 3D out of the equation entirely, PES 2011 remains a handsome beast. Player models are vivid, sharp, well animated, and – where licence permits – reassuringly lifelike. And commentary from Jon Champion and Jim Beglin is well implemented without ever getting too annoying (although it sounds much better through the console's speakers than headphones, which exposes a degree of tinniness in the audio quality).
The touch screen, by the way, is brought into play not just as a home for the cramped radar, but also for four customisable buttons to which you can set various general strategies that can be applied in-game: 'Pressure', 'Offside trap' and so on.
Beyond all of this, at its heart, this version of PES is reassuringly solid, enjoyable and challenging. It's a slow-paced, physical game where defenders easily muscle attackers off the ball and clear-cut chances (on default difficulty upwards) are few and far between, requiring patient build-up and a keen eye for an opening.
As such, while it occasionally feels lumbering, and is starting to show its age now – especially when set alongside the flexibility of PES and FIFA on home consoles – the thrill of netting a vital goal is as great as ever because you know you've earned it.
And for a handheld game, offering a mesmerisingly compelling visual experience that no other football title currently offers, it's a season ticket that's still worth signing up for.
7 / 10