World Tour Soccer 2005 Review (PS2)
“World Tour Soccer 2005” enters a PlayStation 2 market that’s dominated by the “Winning Eleven” series. A few months ago, I wrote a review on “Winning Eleven 7” - and it was obvious that I loved it. I’m not a soccer fanatic, but I still own and play “Winning Eleven 7”. However, if you haven’t seen the changes 989 Sports has been making to their games, then you have been missing a lot. 989 Sports has been reinventing itself while staying right in the middle of the sports gaming wars, and “World Tour Soccer 2005” reflects that.
The features list for “World Tour Soccer 2005” is enough to keep you busy for quite a while. The different types of play offer enough variety (and rewards) to keep most players happy. Exhibition mode is a prerequisite of any sport game and it’s available. The next four types of play to choose from are New Cup, New League, New Season, and finally Career Mode. New Cup allows you to choose from seven international cup competitions, or play in what the 989 Sports refers to as the Time Warp Cup, which features twenty different teams that span different decades of soccer. New League lets you play in any type of league you want to set up. You can setup any type of league using any available teams (including the Time Warp Cup squads), or play in a Super Team League – which isn’t available until you unlock certain teams.
New Season was the most confusing for me, as a lot of the terminology used is lost on the soccer novice. This appears to be a long-term “Franchise-type” mode that allows you to progress yearly into different types of competitions. This is just as customizable as the New League play, with the addition of transferring players amongst the different teams that are in your season. In addition to that, you’ll have the finances of your team to worry about. Career mode is modeled after the New Season mode, but the difference here is that you’ll start off with a school-aged team and try and reach the goal of turning them into a Semi-Pro team within one season. From there, you’ll try and promote your team into different, harder leagues, while acquiring new players trying to make some bucks along the way. This mode was the hardest for me, as I found myself sacrificing a lot of talent for slower, inaccurate players. On the flipside, the AI also has the same type of team – but they seemed be a lot better than mine, even if they didn’t look it on paper.
The last mode available in “World Tour Soccer” is Challenge Mode. This was both an interesting and frustrating game mode. Showcasing your skills is what the Challenge Mode is all about. If you don’t have skills, then you’d better keep practicing, because you’re going to get schooled by the AI. The premise of this mode is to not only beat the opposing team, but also styling and profiling (with apologies to Ric Flair, but I couldn’t resist!) to score points. Points are hard to gain, but easy to lose, as each mistake you make passing, shooting, or just simply dribbling like an idiot can cause you to lose those hard earned points. The goal is to get enough points and stake your claim upon the leaderboard. Not only is there a local leaderboard, but you also can obtain a game code that you can enter on the 989 Sports website (www.989sports.com) and see how you stack up against others who have played this mode.
One startling edge that “World Tour Soccer 2005” has over “Winning Eleven 7” is the sheer number of teams. 989 Sports boasts that 900 teams are available. While I didn’t count them, of course, I saw an incredible variety of teams to choose from. 900 teams and roughly 20 players per team would result in a database of 18,000 or more players, which is massive by any standard on any game. You can also create players in certain modes, and edit teams, including their uniform, right down to the symbol as well as the flag that represents your team. This isn’t available for every mode, but is fun to mess around with when you have a mode that allows you to use it.
I enjoyed what I saw in “World Tour Soccer 2005”. While the graphics don’t push the PS2 to its limits, they definitely don’t make the PS2 look bad, either. The players look like soccer players, even from the elevated default camera view. The coaches and the sideline people look great. Animations are very fluid most of the time, though every once in a while you will get caught in an animation that doesn’t allow you to react quickly enough. The stadiums were very nice looking and detailed.
While all this is fine and dandy, there were a couple things that really bothered me. Trying to find out where your other teammates were in relation to your spot on the field is difficult. The radar map that shows the players’ positions seemed to have left out one important thing – the player you are controlling. Sometimes I was easily able to find myself, but other times it was utterly impossible, especially during throw-ins. To find yourself, you had to either remember where you were or hope that you were the only one moving. I also felt that the AI was getting to balls that were nowhere near them, especially at times when the ball was in the air - the AI would miraculously pull it down and take off. The camera customization is extremely limited and difficult to manage. You have to change your view in the pause menu, and then go back into the game to check out the difference. Moreover, the number of views is small in comparison to a lot of other sports titles. Fortunately, the default view isn’t bad, and is the easiest one to get accustomed to right out of the box.
The sounds bring the feeling of a rampant soccer crowd right into your living room. I have heard a lot of different chants and other sounds coming from the crowds. Differences were easily noticed in the different stadiums I play in as well as with the different teams I played against. The commentary is also handled very well – and it doesn’t drown out the rest of the noise. Not only does this make it less intrusive, but also makes it less likely that you’re going to get sick of it. The pace of the game is so fast that you’ll forget about the commentary for quite a while, then all of a sudden you hear it again, and everything sounds new.
After all the time I’ve spent with “Winning Eleven 7”, I expected to be disappointed by the gameplay of “World Tour Soccer 2005”. I was completely wrong. You may not see anything groundbreaking here, but the flow seemed to be better on the surface. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a few problems to deal with, however.
For the soccer impaired, 989 Sports wrote an excellent manual which makes it really easy to find the buttons you’ll need to use. Not only was the main configuration shown, but also the other two alternate configurations were shown on the same reference page. Even without this, the controls were easy to master and simple to use. While controlling your players, there is a type of queue system in place. This was good and bad. It was good when it worked out the way you intended, and bad when something changed during the ball’s flight and you couldn’t get your queue to change in time (it can be done by pressing the R3 button). It takes some practice to be patient on the field and only queue when needed versus always trying to make something happen all the time.
Long-term play using the different difficulty levels can be the most frustrating thing the game has to offer. I started out on the third difficulty level and was easily getting smoked by the AI. To change levels, I had to restart the mode I was on and try again. I tried the second difficulty level, as I thought that would be right for me. While my games were more competitive, I found it was still very difficult to score. Sure, the national and international teams were a little easier to play with, but I found that I liked the Career Mode the best; and those school teams were not easy to score with. I played six straight games that ended 0-0, and then proceeded to lose four more games by a combined total of 5 goals. So once again I bumped down the difficulty a notch, and then I was running over the AI easily. I was having fun, but I felt like I was cheating playing the easy level.
While my scores make it look like the defense is invincible, it isn’t. This is a very offensive game. The offense has a distinct advantage throughout the games. It’s easy to blow by the defense and set up a decent shot – and that’s when the defense really kicks in and usually makes an awesome stop. It’s just the same when you’re playing defense – it’s pretty easy to get yourself in position to make a stop. I felt that the tackles worked very well, which is one of the main reasons I really started liking this game. In “Winning Eleven 7”, I felt it was extremely difficult to make a tackle and try to get control of the ball. In “World Tour Soccer 2005”, it was easy to make tackles and get control of the ball. Calling plays with the right analog stick adds a nice touch; it’s easy to accomplish, and can be the difference between stopping an AI run, and scoring a goal on your own breakaway. The gameplay of “World Tour Soccer 2005” may not make the pure “sim” players jump through hoops to pick the game up, but players like me who prefer a balance between realism and fun can have a great time playing.
“World Tour Soccer 2005” is a surprisingly good game from 989 Sports. “Winning Eleven” fans may not agree, but if you forget about that being the best of the best; you’ll be in for a nice surprise here. I’m having fun playing this game and there are enough options here to keep me playing for a while. From a non-soccer fan like me, that speaks volumes. 989 Sports has established a solid foundation here. Hopefully, the next installment will allow online play, and if so - this game could become a contender for the top soccer game on the PlayStation 2.