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World Tour Soccer

 I got this little gem with my PSP Giga pack, and although I've not yet got my hands on FIFA or PES, I think World Tour Soccer is already a strong contender. Unlike FIFA, it doesn't have the 'magnetic' feel that causes the ball to stick to your player's feet or to be sucked into him when he goes to collect it or receives a slightly inaccurate pass. The same goes for tackling, you've really got to run directly into the opposition's player and press circle (tackle) in order to successfully win the ball, it's not a case of just running into them and hoping that your magnetic field outweighs theirs... not to ridicule FIFA too much. The gameplay is also very fast and although sometimes the player's sprint makes you think "Are these guys all Olympic sprinters?!", it works well with the style. If I'd have to compare it to something, I'd say it's bang slap in the middle between PES and FIFA, taking aspects of both of them whilst still personalising it.

Being my first football experience on the PSP, it did take a while to get used to the controls and, what at first seemed, a hopeless analog stick. I had to adjust my handling a few times due to mild cramps I was developing, but once I got the hang of it and started playing with confidence and intuition, it was very fun. The controls are similar to most football sims and so it didn't take too long before I was feeling comfortable. One thing I really like about this game, which I feel has been discouraged in the recent FIFA games, is the scoring. Although it adds to the challenge, being stingy and making it nearly impossible to score from outside the box really made FIFA more of a sim than a game, focusing so heavily on tactics and passing that, although it was truer to reality, it really dissolved the fun. With World Tour Soccer you feel more liberated to shoot from fair distances and on occasion score cracking goals. Also, the average shot is more powerful than you will find in most games which, in my opinion, adds to the physics and realism - when a player has a chance to shoot they don't loft a floater which takes about 5 seconds to get to the goal, no, they give it all their power and let it rip whilst still maintaining good accuracy. Aren't we talking about world-class professionals here? Yes we are, so why give them the shooting skill of a second division player? World Tour Soccer reminds you that you're using the best players in the world and doesn't do anything to hide it - their quality is something to be utilised, not shunned. I don't get the impression that the developers were really too bothered with skills and footwork as they're not a major aspect of the game, that is, they don't occur by mashing the shoulder buttons or otherwise. In fact, only once or twice have I done a trick and both times it was accidental. I checked the manual and couldn't see any references to them so I've come to assume that they just aren't really present. Either way, it doesn't limit the gameplay or make it less interesting, it's just one less thing to think about when you're dribbling through the defence, and in honesty I never found them to be of much use. More often than not they'd cause me to prematurely lose the ball (that is in games that do allow for tricks). All the other aspects of the gameplay are enjoyable, and although certain areas could be improved (such as the superhero speed the run at), over all this section scores high. It's fun yet challenging; aggressive yet tactical.

The graphics, in honesty, aren't anything to get excited about which is quite a shame really, especially considering it's on the PSP. Nevertheless, as I have no other football games to compare it to, I can only assume that both FIFA and PES slightly beat it when visuals are concerned, though as mentioned before, the physics are very good. When you're playing a match, the players don't feel bulky and slow, but instead light and agile. Accurate passing is very rewarding, as is the case with all football games, but it is especially important here. One thing I have noticed, more with regards to the controls, is that when you hold circle to execute a long-pass, the power meter is awfully sensitive and often will fill up far more than you want (go farther) or far less than you want (go shorter). And when I mean farther and shorter I mean either clearing the whole pitch or simply chipping the player in front of you. Basically, the controls are very sensitive and so it can be hard to play a medium power ball - it's like you've only got the choice between a Driver and a 9-iron. However, do not fret, as it's not the same with the shooting. When taking a shot the bar is quite controllable and the shots are easy to hit. Sometimes your shot won't get through the defenders and sometimes you'll be tackled just before your foot connects - it's not like you press circle and instantly shoot, there is a certain degree of reaction time which must be accounted for. Also, the deflections of players tend to either slow the ball down an awful lot or, depending on the angle, make it shoot like a rocket. That is pretty much the only fault I found with the physics - otherwise it's a great job. Speaking of shooting, you'll find it's quite common for your shot to catch the keeper on the shoulder or arm an roll in - either because he's misjudged the timing or just has only got fingertips to the ball. Perhaps 'common' is an overstatement, but it certainly occurs more than it does in most football games - but, again, I find it adds to the realism.

As you may have gathered, it's not too tough to score and - sorry to have a go at FIFA again - you don't have to dribble to ball into the net. Replays happen once after impressive or close shots and three times (from various angles) after a goal. They look good and better than any Playstation replay you'll have come across - probably lying somewhere in the void between the PS and PS2 graphics. The player's faces and expressions all look very true to real-life, and although on the whole the gameplay graphics could be improved, I can't say they're something to get worried about. If you really want to find out exactly what to expect then take a look at some screenshots.

In the main menu there are a few things to choose from. Either rush into an Exhibition Match which automatically selects teams at random to save time, or take it slow and enter one of the cups (World Tournament, Euro Cup, South Americas Cup, Americas Cup, Africas Cup, Asia & Oceania Cup, or Euro Club Cup). Naturally all the clubs and national teams are present and the player's names are all authentic. You can also choose to enter the Challenge Mode where you will take on 7 teams individually and unlock stadiums after defeating each one (based on a point system). The levels of difficulty range from Amateur to Pro to World Class to Master Class (the last being very tough indeed), so there should be many hours just in trying to beat the challenges. Plus, if you perform exceptionally well in matches you can unlock secrets which add to the fun - it's certainly a game that will last a long time if you like to complete everything.

So, all said and done I think it's a great game that has a lot to offer. In view of the fact that I can't compare it to the PSP's version of FIFA or PES, which both look to be fantastic, I'll give it a 7/10. If you're thinking about whether to get this over one of the other two, then I suggest you read around a bit more and be sure not to give in to biased reviews. Take a look at some images from all three games and weigh it up with your past experiences. If you've always been a Pro Evo fan then I recommend you pick up the PSP's PES, and the same goes for FIFA. If, however, you've tried them both, have a bit of money to spend, and want to taste something new, then I highly recommend this one. It's got great commentary, some completely original features, challenging yet fun gameplay, and still merges in familiar aspects from other football games. But just in case you don't like it, keep the receipt! That way, if it's not for you, it can always be returned or exchanged for one of the other titles. The most important thing I'd like to stress is that you must give it a chance. Don't play it for a few minutes and let it go, give it a few days. I assure you that with time you'll grow very fond of it - I certainly have. Hope this review has helped! Enjoy!

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