Review: Damn hooligans, out of my PSP!
While Konami and EA get all the accolades and sales for their soccer games, 989 and Sony have slowly built up a decent game of footie with the World Tour Soccer franchise. Developed by the London Studio within SCEE (and called This Is Football in Europe), the PSP version of the series is most definitely built by fans of the game, giving it a ton of potential which it's gradually built up to. This PSP installment, like other 989 Sports games, is a little light on the features, but with a few Cups to take on and the cool Challenge feature, there's a bit here to make it worth a play. And with the tight and realistic play on the field, it's a truly worthy competitor to EA's FIFA release, though it will really have trouble if Konami ever puts Winning Eleven on Sony's portable. But in this era where 989 Sports is working hard to rebuild its image after a horrible run in the early days of the PS2, and World Tour Soccer is a testament to this ? it's got some ways to go, but it can only get better from here.
Fans of soccer/football will be glad to know that World Tour Soccer features over 200 different clubs from around the world, and believe it or not have every player from these teams as well, so fans will recognize their favorite players with ease. Though there's no real season mode, there are Cups from around the world to partake in, and a cool Challenge mode that puts all your skills to the test in increasingly challenging events. It takes account your ability to pass, score goals, avoid getting with yellow and red cards, etc. and spits out a bunch of points for high-quality play. It's just unfortunately short so the fun doesn't last forever. To make matters worse there's no online play, just basic Ad Hoc play for two PSP's nearby. As such this is the only 989 PSP game to lack online, but hopefully it will make an appearance in future installments (not even the PS2 version has online). As it is though, the replay suffers.
While not quite as realistic as Winning Eleven or FIFA, WTS feels like soccer for the most part. AI is a little shaky and there's actually a lot of scoring compared to the real thing, but most of the rules and quirks of the game are here and in pretty good form. London Studio did good packing in many different plays and formations, and the controls are set up pretty well to allow for different shot types and special tricks to evade defenses. And the best part is, the game is solid and balanced enough that it never feels sluggish or way out of control fast, though the game is a lot speedier than the real thing. The AI quirks are a bit baffling since the computer seems far too relaxed, and when you allow a penalty shot the goalie control is awkward ? the only place it feels funny. Otherwise World Tour Soccer is a fun little footie game that needs some tweaking, but it's ahead of the other 989 Sports games with the exception of MLB/2006.
WTS's graphics are nice ? smooth frame rate to keep up with the fast action, decent character models (though the faces are a bit weird), and nice stadiums. One thing the game has going for it is that the game doesn't feel 'small', as in the action is too far removed to make the game fit on the small screen. It's instead zoomed and put into widescreen to show more at a time and thus get a better view of the action. The audio end is strong, with screaming crowds of hooligans like real soccer, and while commentary is sparse, they mention every player by name and rarely repeat anything they say. The menu screens are sprinkled with generic licensed rock like all the other 989 Sports games on PSP this year.