If only it were a free kick…
Simple is good. Everyone agrees, from Cro-Magnons to our elected officials, that simple proves to be an effective bone to wield in getting what you want, regardless of whether or not that ‘s beneficial to anyone. When it comes to video games, having only one title in a genre makes for a much simpler decision than having to choose between three or four, as is usually the case with sports games.
Gamers fiending for futbol after catching the bug from games like Winning Eleven 8 will not find much substance to 989’s opportunistic entry, however. Though the gameplay is decent fun and it’s cool seeing visuals from a time after the 1980’s in your sweaty palms, World Tour Soccer‘s limited offer is akin to a marginally implemented infomercial product – it’s more impressive in someone else’s hands.
989 clearly built this version with the PSP’s portability in mind, neglecting both the sheer power of the system and the fact that many gamers will want to play their PSPs at home. As such, World Tour Soccer lacks any sort of Career Mode or any type of team profile development.
Instead, the game features a Cup Tourney, but it’s presented as a continuous series of games with neither brackets nor rankings to grant you any greater perspective on what’s happening around you. A novel Challenge Mode is much more interesting, awarding points with each successful trick, pass, steal, or shot while subtracting points when you get stolen from or are scored on. It’s fun initially, but loses its freshness right when you realize you can score as many points as you need by safely passing the ball between two players downfield.
Both modes have a mere seven stages each. When you pass one, you are awarded with an unlocked stadium, ball, or team. Playing Cup games earns you tokens to buy unlockables, though certain milestones, like scoring 5 goals in a game or a player getting a hat-trick, will also unlock these types of bonuses. Pretty much everything you do has a shiny gumball after it,
but without an actual season to beat or final victory to shoot for, both the rewards and the gameplay feel hollow.
The lack of compelling modes is a particular shame since the gameplay in and of itself is quite fun. World Tour Soccer‘s controls respond accurately to input from the PSP’s analog nerple; you’ll be faking out the opposition in no time.
Or rather, too little time, since the opposing A.I. is weak at low and medium difficulty settings but unbelievably skilled at higher ones. At the default settings, the A.I. performs misaimed slide tackles and takes itself out of the play after you pull off a couple of basic shimmies. At higher difficulty levels, the A.I.’s expertise arises from perfect backfield passing and sniper shots rather than intelligent team attacks and strike assists to the goal. World Tour Soccer looks like a simulation, plays like a mature arcade game, and thinks like a roll of duct tape.
The collision detection is tight, though, so sliding tackles, standing steals, foul-calling, direct and through passes are entirely believable. Each match moves at a good clip, making the gameplay easy to get into, fast and entertaining. Even with the default difficulty setting and four-minute matches, you will manage to see some scoring and have a reasonably good time.
Still, lob passes can be a bit of an issue, since the game locks players into place underneath these passes instead of giving you a controllable means of vying for position. A “stomp on toes” button would have made this aspect of the game much more interactive.
Of course, playing against a human is a different experience entirely, except that you cannot play Challenge Mode online, only Exhibition matches, and World Tour Soccer is the only 989 PSP launch game without Infrastructure (online) play. Noticeable lag in player substitutions and multiplayer corner kicks mar the experience a tad, but after the first couple of times, you’ll learn to get a drink or look around for hoodlums while waiting.
The graphics are equal parts sweet and sour. The players themselves look decent up close, but have pixilated edges during play. Their animations are plentiful enough to allow for believable movements, but they run stiffly and their legs look blurred, so it appears as though they have more than two of them. The field and grass detailing is sweet, though the stadiums look blocky. It’s typical 989 spotty graphics, tightened up a bit to fit the PSP’s resolution.
The few audio tracks are a letdown, and there is no voice commentary other than the announcer calling out the players’ names when they receive a pass and yelling their names when they shoot for the goal. A couple of quick voice intros at the beginning of each match add authenticity; as does the crowd, which reacts appropriately with clearly cheered “Olé’s!”
But unless you’re a serious soccer fanatic, you won’t necessarily want to stand and applaud World Tour Soccer. It’s fun to pick up and play now and again as a quick distraction, but lacks depth in a pretty big way. Any soccer fan planning on playing alone won’t be smelling the green in this pitch long enough to warrant a price tag over $20. It’s that simple.