I've been a casual soccer fan since I was a little kid. I watch from time to time throughout the year and only become obsessive about European football during the World Cup. Since that passion only hits every four years, I like to get hold of a good soccer game to help bridge the gap and pass the time. The thought of a decent football game on a handheld was enough to have me snatching World Tour Soccer
from the steel grip of one Douglass C. Perry. After investing a long weekend to WTS
, playing more than 30 games and claiming my share of Cup glory, I'm happy to say that, while perhaps not the greatest soccer title to ever be printed on disc, World Tour Soccer
is certainly a good option for those jonesing for a match on the go.
World Tour Soccer boasts nearly 250 teams, from international squads to classic club and even super teams. The real players are in the game, though many of the faces only resemble their real-life counterparts. Still, with commentator Peter Drury announcing every name (yes, every name), it's great to be on the pitch and hear a scream for Ronaldinho as the talented Brazilian drills the ball towards the net.
With even the closest camera offering a wide view of the field, the only chance you have to see player details are during the shot cut-scenes featuring triumphant player celebrations, referee reprisals and congratulatory shakes following a hard-earned victory. There are a surprising number of cut-scenes for various situations and while they tend to only last a few seconds, there's enough variation to keep things fresh through more than 30 games.
World Tour Soccer doesn't attempt to match the sophistication of perennial great Winning Eleven, but instead tries a slightly more simplified approach. There are only a few basic moves on both offense and defense with the L Button used as a modifier. While in control of the ball, you have a few choices for simple passes, all controlled by where you aim the analogue stick. Passing control is quick and solid and it's easy to get a hang of moving the ball around. Outside of passing, players can shimmy, spin and stepover all with the touch of a button. The animations take away your control for a moment, but if your player has good ball control, it's well-worth the momentary loss in control.
There aren't any special buttons to press for bicycle kicks or headers. Instead, by hitting the shoot button on an aerial pass, the proper attempt is chosen for you. So if your back is to the goal and a high pass comes from the corner, choosing to shoot usually results in a fantastic bicycle kick. When you score on one of these, well, it's about as sweet a moment as you may have ever received from a handheld soccer game. It's all about positioning, but thanks to the easy control and smart computer choices, you can get some simmering goals.
The only control problem I came across was in moving around players. The PSP doesn't have an analog stick in the same sense that we are used to and as such, controlled players seem to move as if on a chessboard in any of eight directions, rather than truly flowing on the field. Otherwise, the control, while a bit more arcade-style than I generally prefer, is solid.
Where World Tour Soccer falls short is in the AI. In general, things run just fine. But the longer I played, the more I began to see how the AI on both sides played very little like an actual team. In fact, even with the option for a half-dozen formations, nothing really flows quite like a true soccer match. It's good videogame fun, but not of the high-level simulation quality some might expect. It probably won't bother most (heck, it didn't really bother me), but it's something that needs to be improved upon for next year. There are also a few moments where the AI seems to go catatonic. A player falls, the ball rolls to a stop and nobody moves on either team. It's still a live game, but it seems everyone's forgotten. This happens maybe once every half-dozen games, but is clearly a bug no one caught before launch.
WTS doesn't have a career mode, but instead offers several different gameplay options to eat away at your free time. Aside from the standard Exhibition and Quick modes, there are three excellent options. Cup mode has you playing for regional cups including the South American and African Cups. More interesting is the Challenge Mode, which pits players against increasingly difficult teams. Every steal, every goal and every poor play counts for points (both positive and negative). You're rewarded for inventive play, but penalized for yellow cards and kicks out of bounds. It can get pretty addictive and though there are only a handful of set games in Challenge Mode, it can be replayed numerous times just for the sake of a higher score. By doing well in either mode you can unlock a ridiculous number of teams (well over 100), which can become quite addictive itself.
Of course, one of the most important aspects of any PSP game is the Wi-Fi multiplayer. Two players can go at it in local networked exhibition games (no online play unfortunately -- this is the only of 989 Sports' four sports games to not include an online mode.) Wireless play is just dandy, though there are some framerate hiccups not seen in single-player. The only real gripe is that Challenge Mode isn't supported in multiplayer. It would have been fun to battle a friend for points, but I suppose something must be saved for the sequel.
©2005, IGN Entertainment, Inc. All Rights Reserved