Reviewed: July 9, 2006
Released: June 27, 2006
Soccer continues to gain momentum in North America, both as a real sport and in video games, although not many can deliver the entire package. Konamiís Winning Eleven series consistently delivers the best technical game, but with EA snatching up all the licensing, teams, and players, it takes a lot of work to personalize that game, ultimately sending most casual gamers into the arms of EAís FIFA franchise.
But there is a third player on the field and one that is often overlooked, possibly because it doesnít take such an all-inclusive serious approach to the sport. World Tour Soccer 06 is going up against EAís hold on the PSPís FIFA soccer franchise, and with a unique approach on having fun and keeping the sport easy to learn and even easier to play, World Tour Soccer 06 actually works out very well on the handheld format.
The game comes loaded with all of the regional areas, 69 national teams, and more than 1,650 players that you can play in 11 exciting game modes. And just for some added flavor, you can even hear the commentary in Spanish. Itís an impressive sports package by console standards, but when you put all this on the PSP I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised.
World Tour Soccer 06 keeps the game mechanics simple, which is especially useful given the limited controls on the PSP. You still have all the offensive and defensive moves youíd expect from a soccer game as well as all of the teamwork and tactics required to play a good game. Passing, one-touch passing, shots and one-time shots are easy to do with an intuitive combination of face buttons and analog pad.
The various game modes present a variety of options for serious gamers to the more casual soccer playing looking for a quick fix during an impromptu game session. Obviously, the actual ďWorld CupĒ is off limits to anyone but EA, so Sony gives us the World Tour mode where you travel around the world taking part in various challenges. Itís actually a much more engaging mode than anything the other soccer games are offering since you have to tailor each game to meet certain goals or restrictions.
Medal Mode is another great feature that allows you to play previously unlocked matches (from World Tour mode) in any order you choose. These are design almost like mini-games, but ultimately its just soccer with some really innovative rules like a 15-second shot clock or mismatched (outnumbered) teams.
One of the first game challenges is the All Rounder where you must first unlock the goals before you can score. To unlock your goal you must pass the ball to every player on your team. It might sound like a gimmick but you quickly learn how and when to pass the ball. There is also a zone challenge where you must work the ball into certain areas and a checkpoint challenge where you must navigate through spawning checkpoints on the field.
Of course, if you are a serious soccer player and want a more traditional experience you can always opt for the Exhibition mode, which remains rooted in the rules and gameplay of real soccer - just get the ball in the net. If you want to enhance this with some stylish gameplay you can tackle the Classic Challenge mode, which rewards you for not only making goals, but making them with style and grace.
World Tour Soccer 06 even caters to the online gamers with support for local wireless and Internet modes for up to four players. There is even support for Game Sharing, so you can share a limited demo of the game with another PSP. Regrettably, I found no one playing this game online during my two weeks of testing, but I did have plenty of fun with the local multiplayer modes. Hosting and joining games was relatively simple.
The screenshots donít like Ė this is one beautiful game starting with the menus and going right into the fantastic stadium designs, player models, and detailed animations. Typically, soccer games suffer from distant camera angles and tiny players; a problem that is only enhanced on a handheld screen, but the PSP does remarkably well at keeping the camera in tight enough to appreciate the gameplay while remaining playable.
Much of the game is played from the distant side view but the game often dips down to ground level for stunning replays and post-shot celebrations. World Tour does a great job of capturing the energy and excitement of the sport, itís fans, and the environment.
The music is great stuff, fun and energetic and often with some flavor of the country you might be playing in. There is some good crowd noise and the hollow thunk of the ball as it gets passed around the field. Itís pretty simple but the game doesnít really allow for a lot of innovative sound.
The commentary is simple but effective and comes in English and Spanish for some added flavor. It doesn't necessarily follow each play in the greatest of detail, but it does a good job of calling out the major moments of the game and even captures some excitement.
With nearly a dozen modes to explore you can play World Tour Soccer 06 for a long time before you exhaust the fun from this title. Just winning all the gold medals can take a week or more of regular gameplay. The multiplayer will hopefully add even more value to the game assuming more people get it and start playing online.
World Tour Soccer 06 is an interesting arcade-style approach to soccer that probably works better on the PSP than it would on the PS2 where people are expecting a more serious experience. I really enjoyed the innovative rules and challenges in the Medal mode, and the World Tour offered just as much excitement (for me) as any official World Cup game.
If you arenít a stickler for the rules and donít mind the lack of club teams, licensing, and playing for the actual World Cup, this is a great soccer game perfectly suited for the PSP.