World Tour Soccer
Ah, soccer, the world’s most popular and interesting sport (fuck golf!). Nothing beats watching an exciting football match with two teams that go all-out, walking (running?) the thin line between football and kickboxing -who cares about injuries anyway?-. Hmm, come to think of it, maybe something does beat it: playing that same match on a console or handheld. World Tour Soccer is the PSP’s first football game. Nice start or will it just be overrun by FIFA 06?
Let’s be frank: FIFA 06 and Pro Evolution Soccer 5 will most likely set the bar for PSP soccer games, but we still have to wait an entire month for the former and god only knows when PES 5 will be released here in Europe. Until then, World Tour Soccer will give football fans their much needed fix.
When you have your first game of football, you’ll see that the controls have been kept simple. This means no Off the Ball or First Touch bullshit, but an intuitive means of passing or dribbling the ball around. The game plays like a charm, which is WTS’ biggest achievement. There are some advanced moves (e.g. taking a dive to get a penalty) that can be used by combining the right shoulder button and the face buttons, but in all honesty, I hardly ever used them, not even on higher difficulty levels.
This all means the game is very user-friendly, which is further strengthened by its dorky A.I. That’s also why I would recommend everyone to switch to Pro-level after 3 or so practice matches. You’ll be challenged a bit more and it’s still far away from being difficult. For me, the sweet spot was on the highest two difficulty settings and I only own a PSP for two weeks or so. Experienced players will thus think of WTS as something to keep their thumbs in prime shape till the big guns arrive, but beginners will surely enjoy themselves with it.
World Tour Soccer luckily uses an official FIFPro licence, which results in each country (except the Netherlands) playing with their real teams. The more important European clubs are also included. Unfortunately for our Dutch amigos, their star players once again don’t have their real names. To name a few: AC Milan’s Jaap Stam is called J. Stum and Chelsea superstar Arjen Robben carries the alias A. Romswijk. So when it comes to licences, WTS doesn’t do a bad job, but FIFA 06 will undoubtedly set the bar once again.
But also when presentation and size are concerned, Sony could learn a thing or two from E.A.’s football behemoth. The menus are clear and nicely finished, but there just isn’t a whole lot to do in the game. You can play Quick Match, Exhibition or 8 different cups, but that’s it. There are no leagues, which takes a sizeable chunk out of the game’s lifespan. The Challenge Mode is a nice idea, though. You win medals by scoring a set number of points, which you get by bringing sparkling soccer. A wonderful 50 meter cross or a great goal earn you a lot of points, but losing the ball or committing a foul lowers your score accordingly.
The graphics leave a lot to be desired. When zoomed in, the players look blocky and lack detail. So just forget about recognising your favourite player. The close camera also makes you lose the overview. The distant cam doesn’t do that, but it makes the players look like running pixel piles. The stadiums also lack atmosphere. The loading times before each match are fairly lengthy, but the developer managed to cover them up in quite resourceful way. When the game’s busy loading, you get to see both team’s starting line-up. I even liked this solution, so the loading times didn’t bother me too much.
The sound also fails to impress. The English commentator is awful. Before each match, he welcomes you with one of his three trademark lines and during the game he only says the players’ names. We don’t get enthusiastic shouts like “Great shot”, “Wonderful goal” or “Totti should retire from football and get a job as a professional actor”. The spectators won’t sing football classics such as “You’ll never walk alone” and even after a great goal, they hardly go crazy.
All in all, World Tour Soccer is a fairly good game to keep you busy until FIFA 06 and PES 5 arrive in stores. The game is basically pick up & play, which makes it excellent for newbies. The only real downside is the technical side of the game. Let’s say it’s a David Beckham who looks like Shrek and sounds as bad as Janet Jackson…