It’s pretty common knowledge that soccer, or football as it’s more commonly referred to, is one of the world’s most popular sports. Thanks to global competitions like the World Cup and the Olympics, people around the globe are dedicated to a squad with near religious fervor. So you can just imagine how accurate any soccer game has to be to uphold these high standards, especially on a new system. Quite a large hurdle for a PSP game to clear. Fortunately, 989’s World Tour Soccer managed to provide for a relatively enjoyable experience that should satisfy the desire of any pitch fan.
Compared to some of the other sports games from 989 Studios for the PSP, World Tour Soccer might seem a bit light with its modes and features. For example, there’s no seasonal, career or franchise play, which makes the game seem somewhat limited in its scope. However, it’s what the game does with what it has that makes the gameplay worthwhile. There are the standard exhibition and quick match modes to get players into the game action immediately, as well as multiplayer (which is restricted to wi-fi between nearby PSPs).
The real meat of the game comes in the Cups and Challenge modes, both of which can be used to unlock secret jerseys, teams or players. This is essentially based on how well you perform tasks in each. The Cups mode is relatively straightforward: players pick a team and attempt to win one of seven cup championships. Six of these are international titles, while one is a European club title. Challenge mode is a skills based feature that measures your abilities with some of the fundamentals of the game. Clean passes, slide tackles or other offensive and defensive moves gain you points, while sending the ball out of bounds or fouls lowers your overall score. At the end of the match, any received points can be redeemed to unlock other challenges and stadiums. With almost 250 teams available in the game, as well as classic squads and “dream teams”, there’s plenty of replayability with this game.
Gameplay is quick and extremely accessible. Players have plenty of moves available to them, not counting short or long aerial passes to teammates. With good timing, there are plenty of ball handling fakes and sleight of foot tricks you can perform to penetrate a defense. Additionally, you can specifically direct your passes to your teammates, with quick give and go plays or angled crosses around the field. You’ll also be able to defend against your opponent’s pulling off similar moves by slide or block tackles to stop them from getting too deep into your territory.
Keepers, who are relatively intelligent, can also be sent to rush out and capture the ball or even attack other players close to the goal. What’s more, if you’re feeling like you’re not running a good enough offense or defense, you can call one of six plays to organize your team on the field. While your players will typically follow your instructions, you may discover a couple of moments where your teammates wander out of bounds or suddenly drop their directed play, standing in one place. This feels somewhat odd and out of place, especially when a ball bounces right past them.
The technical aspects of World Tour Soccer, albeit limited, are rather nice on the PSP. Character animations are relatively well done and move in a natural manner with relatively few jumps or dropped frames with chained movements. World Tour Soccer also includes a number of cutscenes during “dramatic moments” such as penalties being awarded, scored points and so on. These are quite nice as an accent to gameplay, and support the in-game action. The largest graphical issue that you’ll probably pick up on is a degree of slowdown during a Wi-Fi game, as if the UMD is having trouble keeping up with the multiplayer action. Although there are only a few songs found for the soundtrack of the game, sound effects within a match are pretty accurate, including crowd noises, whistles from referees and even minor commentary. Granted, the commentary comes down essentially to calling out a player’s name when they’re handling the ball, but it’s a decent touch to the game.
While it doesn’t truly do the game justice, there’s plenty in World Tour Soccer to appease fans of the sport. There are plenty of unlockable secrets hidden away in this game, and enough teams to ensure replay value. Although there could be more features such as a career mode, World Tour Soccer is an adequate first step onto the handheld soccer field.