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Sean Pettibone


World Tour Soccer 06 (Sony for PSP)

By Michael Palisano

Taking an arcade-oriented approach to the sport, SCEA's World Tour Soccer 06 on the PSP offers players a fast-paced, accessible game that's easy to play but surprisingly challenging, creative imaginative in its many mini-games. The main game features easy to learn controls, intuitive play and a simple approach that allows you to concentrate on the action, without being bogged down in soccer minutia. Its visuals look excellent on the PSP, with fluid visuals, impressively realistic player models and a decent pace. It lacks the depth and nuance of the more hardcore soccer titles, but this is a fun game that should please casual and arcade sports fans alike.

Going against the current trend of hyper-realism evidenced by FIFA and WE, Sony's more arcade-oriented sports title, World Tour Soccer 06 takes a completely different approach that strips away much of the complexity of those titles and instead focuses the player's eyes firmly on the onfield action. This is a pure action title and you won't find extensive training, management, player rosters or endless statistics. Instead, you get a solidly entertaining title with accessible controls and a variety of cool challenge modes that extend the game's replay value immensely. The game's controls are fairly simple to learn, with passing, shooting and dribbling moves fairly easy to perform. While it takes some practice to line up shots, the goals come a bit easier than they do in real life, giving you some leeway in the action. 

 You can also perform some slide-tackles, but the emphasis here is squarely on the attacking side of the sport. This means matches are generally higher scoring, and more active than in real-life. There are a limited number of special moves and tricks in the game, but most players won't have to use these. The game's interface is fairly easy to navigate and you probably won't have much of a problem getting through the various modes.
While there are a limited number of items initially, more can be unlocked later on, which extends the game's replay value. Some of these include extra stadiums, classic teams, all star squads and extra uniform designs. There are more than 70 international squads in the game, thousands of real players and several fantasy stadiums to play in. The game plays much faster than standard soccer games, with 4, 6 and 10 minute game lengths giving the game a speedy pace. The drawback here lies in the fact that while the action is fast and frenetic, there isn't the depth, strategy or nuance that you'd get from a longer match. This makes the game slightly frustrating from a purist's standpoint, and playing single matches in standard mode can become tiresome in a hurry. On the other hand, this streamlined approach gives WTS06 and excellent pick up and play interface that makes it easy to jump right into the action, so whether this is a plus or a minus depends on what you're looking for in a soccer title. The game offers several deeper modes of play including a tournament mode, where you can progress through the ranks in various ladders and approaches.

Adding to the game's depth, you can choose to play through a much more elaborate World Tour Mode, where you have to complete a variety of challenges against other teams in order to progress and unlock additional items. Some of the goals, such as not allowing a point, or simply emerging victorious are fairly easy to accomplish. Others aren't quite so simple and require a great deal of concentration, such as going an entire match without earning a yellow card. This can be an engaging gameplay mode, and despite the short length of the individual matches, there's plenty of variety of tasks to complete. It's an interesting approach and the game's streamlined arcade approach makes it work - losing a four minute game is far less frustrating than if you had to play a flawless 90 minute match. This makes progression much faster. WTS06's other major addition this time around is the vastly increased number of challenging mini-games in its Challenge mode. While this was a small part of last year's installment, this expanded approach makes up a significant portion of the gameplay. 

 These challenge mini-games offer a surprisingly different change of pace from the usual soccer style. These offer plenty of variety, each one focused on a different skill. Implementing a radically different scoring system, players are ranked for each action on the field, with passing, shooting and scoring increasing the score, while allowing the ball to change possession, charging other players, making penalty kicks and more decreases your score. The object is to complete the match with a set score, which allows you to progress to the next round while unlocking additional mini-games. WTS06 includes more than a dozen of these game modes including Checkpoint, Pass Clock, In the Zone, Dropout, Outnumbered and All Rounder, each of which gives the player a specific task to complete. It's a completely different feel from the rest of the game, and anything else on the market, and this unique style of play definitely helps the game stand out from the pack. From a production standpoint, the game is solidly constructed with a decent graphics engine that allows the on field action to flow smoothly. The character models are decently detailed and animate smoothly, with some cut-scenes that show an impressive degree of realism and authenticity to the action, the captures the excitement and passion of international matches. Sadly, the game locks players into a single side-view viewing angle that feels somewhat constrained. This is especially disappointing given the amount of effort that's gone into the action. The in-game commentary is decent, but given WTS06's fast-paced action, feels almost superfluous, detracting from the action somewhat. We recommend playing with this feature turned off, to better focus on the game. 

Overall, the game looks solid, and its streamlined approach allows it to load much faster than other soccer titles we've played on PSP, making for an easily accessible title that you can jump right in and play with little effort. While the game's streamlined approach is bound to disappoint die-hard soccer fans, World Tour Soccer's accessible controls, simple gameplay and innovative arcade-style modes make it an enjoyable title that should appeal most to action and casual oriented players. Its not without fault however. The game's short match length means each round isn't as satisfying as it could have been. Limiting the matches to ten minutes makes for faster play, but the nuance and strategy of the sport are lost. Its visuals are decent in the cut-scenes, but the lack of different camera angles makes for a constrained title. Still, World Tour Soccer 06's fast matches are perfectly suited to portable play and the game is enjoyable despite its faults and should appeal to casual and arcade oriented players.

Grade: B+

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