In the thick of it
The sights and sounds of the beautiful game are brought to life in Pro Evolution Soccer 2011, the fourth instalment of Konami's long running and much loved football simulation on PlayStation 3.
From the moment the game starts up, PES 2011 manages to present a fresh new face for newcomers and veterans alike; information is clearly laid out, with menus easy to navigate so that you're only moments away from taking centre stage.
On the pitch, each game is vividly brought to life thanks to a combination of slick presentation, gorgeous surroundings and detailed player likenesses. Not only do players look the part, they move and react to situations just like you'd expect too. Across the park, player animations have been reworked, whether it's jostling for the ball with an opponent or venting their frustration when a pass goes astray.
Complementing the visuals is an accomplished matchday backing track. Want to feel closer to the action with informative and varied match commentary, tannoys announcing substitutions and managers shouting instructions from the touchline? PES 2011 has got them all and then some, right down to crowd chants which vary depending on where you're playing and how your team's getting on.
All of this comes together in the UEFA Champions League and Copa Libertadores modes to give you the best seat in the house in two of the world's most exciting club football tournaments.
What's more, you can make it your PES 2011 by creating your own stadium using the stadium editor, adding images for player faces and team logos using a PlayStation Eye camera and even creating your own bespoke chants by adding sound files stored on your PS3 system's Hard Disk Drive.
Engineered for freedom
In the words of the late, great Bob Marley "football is freedom" and in PES 2011 developer Konami releases the chains with a winning combination of deft individual player skills, intelligent team play and visual cues that ensure you've got what it takes to rise to the top.
As in real life, quick wits and an ability to think ahead and choose the right pass will help you pick the tightest of defences; and to help you along the way Konami has boosted the range of tricks and skills at your disposal. These can be accessed using the right stick, some in combination with the L2 button; if you really want to dazzle the opposition, use the Link Feint feature to string together up to four moves which can be brought into play by pressing the L1 button and moving the right stick.
You'll also need to get to know your squad's strengths and weaknesses. Use the Game Plan menu to pick the right team for the task in hand, dip into Management Edit to trigger certain strategies, such as setting an offside trap at particular points in a match, and make the most of your available substitutions to ensure your team doesn't run out of steam before the final whistle blows.
There's a wealth of game modes to get to grips with; Exhibition is perfect for a quick friendly, or you can mix it with the big boys from the off in UEFA Champions League and the Copa Santander Libertadores modes. Master League is your chance to build the ultimate club team, all the while ensuring you keep a healthy balance sheet by marrying success on the field with a keen eye for new and upcoming talent off it.
For the definitive challenge, Become A Legend puts you in the boots of an aspiring professional and tasks you with guiding him from debut to retirement. Along the way you'll have to work hard to stand out from the crowd, making a name for yourself as you progress through the ranks until you claim the coveted World Player of the Year award. With all other playing decisions, such as starting line-up, team formation and substitutions taken out of your hands, Become A Legend gives you the freedom to be the player you've always dreamed of.
Shoot for glory
Separate the stars from the journeymen by challenging your friends to a match in Exhibition mode. Up to seven players can play together or on opposing sides on one PS3 system, selecting from any of the club and national teams on offer.
Alternatively, you can head online via PlayStation Network to see how you measure up against PES 2011 players the world over. As well as dipping in for a Quick Match and a Ranking Match, you can enter competitions, which are usually split into qualifying rounds and knockout stages, with good performances in the former ensuring smooth progress to the latter.
For the very first time in PES history, you can test your club building skills against other the real life PES 2011 players in Master League Online, whilst Legends lets you play as your created player from Become A Legend and team up with up to three other players, with an option to play in a four versus four match.
At any time while playing, press the R3 button to exchange text messages with your opponents, or look out for the on-screen prompts at key moments during matches when you can press the L1 button to bring up a set of pre-defined phrases.
The season is in full flow on PlayStation 3 with PES 2011 – are you ready to stake your claim for footballing glory?