Not many games on Sony’s PSP live up to the handheld system’s billing as the “PlayStation Portable.” By and large, they either they look like a chunky handheld game or play like a poorly ported console game. But with the 2006 World Cup down to the final two teams, a timely little miracle has descended upon PSP that should make handheld gamers yell gooooooaaaaaallllllll. That miracle is called World Tour Soccer 06.
Hardcore football/soccer fans won’t find much sophistication in World Tour Soccer 06, but its pick-up-and-play nature suits the PSP well, and it also happens to be great for quick little challenges between matches on TV. The game has five basic modes: Play Now, World Tour, Medal, Exhibition and Multiplayer. Aside from the multiplayer mode, the modes are all essentially the same, which is both a good and bad thing.
Rather than include a deep career mode (which would’ve been a good inclusion and should be seriously investigated for the next outing), all the modes focus on miniature challenges. One requires you to get downfield and take a shot in 20 seconds, while another requires you to pass the ball to each teammate before taking a shot. Other challenges are equally simple, but seldom to the point that you’ll get completely bored, particularly when the AI picks up in later stages.
Progressing through the game’s modes is simply a matter of earning enough points in each challenge to unlock the next challenge and location. For each successful play, steal or goal, players earn a certain number of points, and for each botched play they lose a set number. The number of points you net before each four-minute game is over determines whether you earn a Bronze, Silver or Gold medal for that challenge. Once you earn a medal in the World Tour mode, the computer decides which mode is next; in the Medal mode, players choose for themselves which mode to play next. And really, that’s the only difference between the two.
Although a four-minute match seems blasphemously quick for a soccer/football exhibition, it’s just about right considering the mini-game nature of the entire game. However, even within those four minutes there is room for frustration. The number of control options are surprisingly deep for a handheld game, which is one reason the game truly feels like a portable PlayStation game. However, while the controls on offense and defense are mapped to similar buttons (as you’d expect from most sports games), the functions that those buttons control can get you into some trouble. For example, when you try to pass the ball and it’s stolen by an opponent next to you, if you in advertently hit the “pass” button again you’ll slide-tackle the opponent and have a penalty called against you.
Likewise, the controls themselves are at times non-responsive, which just adds to the frustration. Time and time again, when we told our player to pass the ball and he didn’t respond, we’d hit the button two or three times just to make sure he got his command. Problem is, his lack of passing was just a slowdown in response time, so by the time the computer processed each of those two or three button presses, the ball was nowhere near where we wanted it to be. This only exacerbates the fact that you can’t determine a passing direction for the ball; you simply hit the pass button and let the computer decide where it should go, thereby killing any sense of control you thought you had over the game.
But even when flailing about, at least the flailing looks good. Graphically, World Tour Soccer 06 is phenomenal, and the graphics are the second reason you’ll really think you’re playing a console game. The on-field animations are surprisingly fluid, and the character models, while not flawless, at least let you differentiate from one character to the next. What’s more, the option to select from three different camera angles (near, medium and far) is a novel concept for a handheld game, and amazingly, the graphical fidelity doesn’t falter when you switch from one view to another.
The audio is decent, too, with the play-by-play announcer calling out individual players’ names as they score a goal or pass, but the lines for flubbed-up plays are excruciatingly repetitive.
Sound snafus aside, though, World Tour Soccer 06 is a solid soccer/football game, considering it’s a PSP title. With the World Cup still going on, the challenge structure is just about right for those soccer-on-the-go cravings. Once the World Cup is over, though, it’ll be interesting to see if interest wanes. The game could definitely benefit from a career mode, or at least a mode that ventures beyond the mini-game structure. As it is, the game appears to have lots of modes, but when you actually get in there and play them, they’re all remarkably similar. Maybe next year. Or, if Sony decides to wait to ride the next World Cup wave, maybe in four years.
- Gameplay: 7.8
- Great from a mini-game perspective, but it could benefit from a career mode, and the controls could be better mapped.
- Graphics: 8.2
- You’ll actually think you’re playing a console game.
- Sound: 7.3
- It’s nice to have the players’ names called out, but the actual play-calling gets repetitive.
- Replayability: 7.3
- The challenges don’t change all that much, although the AI does get harder as you progress.
- Overall: 7.6
- A great cure for World Cup fever, but the challenge style may not endure once the Finals are done.
— Jonas Allen