World Tour Soccer 2006 Review (PS2)
For the better part of the last year, my good name has been has been sullied by a small band of European (and Canadian) OS Forum posters that, let’s just say, strongly disagreed with my last review of a soccer title. Apparently, not only do I know absolutely nothing about their beloved “football”, but I may or may not do inappropriate things with small woodland creatures. Needless to say, you can imagine my excitement when World Tour Soccer 2006 found its way to my PS2. But I’m a professional. I don’t need to know all of the Premiership teams to know a good sports game. Frankly, I don’t need to know the difference between David Beckham and David Spade.
So, if you’re expecting 1500 words on the finer points of soccer strategies or my assessment on how accurately they rendered the midfielder from Chelsea, take your ball and go home. However, if you want to know if I enjoyed playing World Tour Soccer 2006, then please read on.
Let me start with what definitely impressed me more than anything about World Tour Soccer 2006. This game is simply chock full of modes and features. From simple Exhibition Mode to various Competitions, all the way up to the overall solid and somewhat robust Career Mode, there is a mode or for whatever type of match you are looking for. With that, you’ll also find multiple levels of editing capabilities, including editing lineups, formations, and player roles.
If you open up the manual and look at the Game Controls table, your first instinct may be to just close it up and call it a day. At first glance, the controls appear to be complicated. Fortunately, the natural configuration and flow of the PS2 controller makes controls very intuitive and far less daunting in application than on paper. Trust me, you’ll be making all of the necessary moves, passes, and on the fly adjustments in no time.
The actual gameplay, however, is where I found some issues. The main issue was really quite simple - the game is just a little too easy. Even on the toughest level, creating scoring chances in World Tour Soccer 2006 really required little effort or skill. Unlike real matches - where quality scoring chances are few and far between - I found myself able to pepper the goalie without even making much of a move at all. If the goal here is to appeal to a broader market by making goals more common and easy to come by, well... mission accomplished. However, I think real soccer fans are going to be very disappointed in the AI.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
I do a large amount of my sports gaming on the Xbox, but I’ve recently spent a lot of time on my PS2 with a few titles (specifically GTA:SA, MLB 2006, and Smackdown vs. Raw). What does this have to do with the price of tea in China? Or, more importantly, with World Tour Soccer 2006? As much flack as the PS2 sometimes takes as the inferior hardware to the big green box, a lot of recent titles have shown that the PS2 does not have to lag behind in any respect. Solid graphics and animation are still readily available on the PlayStation. Unfortunately, I didn’t see them on this title.
While the actual character models aren’t bad, the animations were simply unacceptable in many cases. The running animation, obviously a very necessary animation in a soccer title, left me feeling like I was watching some weird floating robot with a stick in an uncomfortable location. Soccer titles have so much potential with the various kicks, passes, headers, dives, slides, and tackles involved. I think that's why less than stellar animations really jump out at you. While this isn't a showstopper by any stretch, it was hard to overlook during gameplay.
Sadly, the only thing worse than some of these animations was the play-by-play. As a reviewer, I don’t have the luxury of turning the audio off when I’m playing. You do - and you will! The music and the environment sounds are, all in all, pretty well done. But they are buried by commentary that becomes just downright annoying in a hurry.
Contrary to earlier reports and postings in our soccer forum, I do know more than enough about soccer to speak on the topic. World Tour Soccer 2006, unfortunately, did not feel enough like soccer to me. As a sports fan, I appreciate soccer for the momentum-building flow of the game. Short of maybe hockey (hey…remember hockey?), soccer is the only sport that can really be appreciated for almost getting a scoring chance. Some of the plays and runs that never even develop into a shot, but take the crowd into that building wave of excitement, are the best parts of the game. With this title, that part is just too easy. It feels like the entire match is played within 20 yards of either goal. Ball physics seem a little off, the graphics and animations should be much better - even on the PS2, and the AI is only somewhat challenging; even on the highest level.
That said, is there an audience for this game? Certainly. 935 teams and over 19,000 real-life players alone will sell a lot of units. Even more relevant, besides the large number of features and modes, there is definitely a market for a high-scoring soccer game. Some gamers just want to score more goals. Some gamers want the breakaways. Hey, some people will buy this title just for the Eye Toy compatibility, so they can put their own mug on the pitch.
My final score comes with a simple instruction. I really truly believe that you already know if World Tour Soccer 2006 is a game for you. If you want the height of realistic soccer strategy and gameplay, move along. If you want to have a little fun in a slightly more arcade-like title with every team under the sun and almost any player you can imagine, give it a try. For me, I had fun with this title when it wasn’t frustrating. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to climb down off of this fence.