Review: World Tour Soccer 2003 (PS2)

World Tour Soccer 2003
System: Playstation 2
Company: 989 Sports
Genre: Sports — Soccer
Release Date: February 12, 2003

World Tour Soccer 2003 is the latest soccer game from 989 Sports. Loaded with features, modes, and an unbelievable array of players and teams, WTS has everything a soccer fan could ask for. Even people who don’t consider themselves fans of the sport (myself being one of them) can find something to enjoy in a very complete, fun soccer game.

Gameplay
World Tour Soccer features a whopping 700 different teams, ranking from the Kansas Club Team to almost every country on the map. What may be even more impressive is the sheer number of real players, 13,500 FIFPro licensed players in all. You can play with up to 8 players (with multitap) in a “friendly” exhibition mode, or play solo in either the Career or Challenge mode.

Career mode allows you to take over as coach of a small English school, and turn them into a powerhouse. Your first match will be hardly populated by fans and the quality of your players will be very questionable. Using coaching expertise along with the patience of time, you can develop your school as they work their way from the empty stadium to a popular, packed house.

The mode allows you to re-name your team and customize uniforms. You may also change player names and features to suit your needs. It may actually take you a few tries to win your first game, and dealing with suspended and injured players also makes your job more difficult. The mode spans several years, and can keep you busy and addicted for a long time. After mastering the school league, you can take a promotion up to the semi-professional circuit, followed by the professional circuit and so on. Once you’ve achieved World Champion status, you’ve done your job well!

The other single-player feature is Challenge Mode. Challenge mode not only follows the score, but your play on the field as well. You can score all the goals in the world, but if you’re passing is bad and you are not a well oiled machine, your points total will suffer. The challenge mode allows you to select any team you would like, plus you can develop custom leagues against legendary soccer clubs in TimeWarp league, and in the process unlock hidden stadiums, cheats, and trophies. Another fun way to keep the replay value of the game up, whether you become frustrated with your career mode or just enjoy the challenge of unlocking items. You can also receive a password, which is usable on 989 Sports’ web site to compare your scores with the rest of the world.

Besides all the modes, the game itself is challenging and fun as well. Controlling all the players on the field can be a challenge, not to mention some of the toughest goalies in the world keep the scoring levels down, especially to newcomers. If you’re expecting a game that will finish with a 8-6 score, this game is not what you’re looking for. The realism is incredible, and mastering both the basic and advanced controls can take some serious time. For example, rookies can start off trying a game using the most basic controls, such as the X button as a ground pass to the closest teammate. Square kicks an airborne pass, while Circle is a shot at the goal. Once you master the basic controls, you can begin to learn to master the more advanced controls. For example, pressing the X button twice for a pass will automatically have your teammate pass the ball right back to you. The instruction booklet is required reading for this game! Mastering the controls is challenging, and gamers that have a very low attention span could get bored and frustrated quite easily. However, the more you play the better you naturally become just from experience.

Keeping track of all eleven players can also be a challenge. On screen radar gives you a general idea of where all of your teammates appear on the field. Due to the mass size and the camera view, it is pretty difficult to distinguish one player from another. The bottom corner of the screen shows the player’s name and whether or not they have already received a yellow card. The yellow card is critically important, because if a player gets two, they’re removed from the game and you’re stuck handicapped for the rest of the game, or until a player from the other team gets redcarded as well. Soccer fans may say “Duh!” but for the uninformed soccer gamer, it is an aspect of the game you will need to pick up on quickly.

Overall, the gameplay in World Tour Soccer is incredibly deep. A soccer fan’s dream with the only drawback being the depth itself! Some casual gamers may find it just too difficult and deep to master. However, for a non-soccer fan such as myself (I admit it!) the game has kept me heavily interested over several hours of game play.

Graphics
The in-game cinemas and stadiums are incredibly detailed and well done. The game features stadiums ranging from the United States through several European venues and many more, all in intricate detail. Even the small schools in the career mode appear to have excellent detail, with campuses and buildings setting the backdrop to the field. The players are best seen during replays and before/after game videos, and all appear true to their region. During the game, the camera is high above the field, so the detail to each player is difficult to see. In defense of the camera, if it were any closer the field view would be cut off, making the gameplay near impossible. World Tour Soccer isn’t the most beautiful game you will ever play, however it does have some great visuals to the point I don’t believe a soccer game could be much better looking on the Playstation 2 console.

Sound
Although the game doesn’t feature much music, the in game commentary is exceptional. 989 Sports advertises the game to be available in seven different languages, with the default being of course, English. The British commentary team is very appropriate for the sport of soccer, and the ability to say player names is quite impressive considering the massive roster of 13,500 players. It isn’t rare however for some comments to repeat on occasion during the course of a match.
Two other things really sound out as far as sound is concerned. First, before a game starts, an in-game cinema shows the players walking onto the field. The sound of cleats on cement as they walk to the field can be heard. Just a small added effect that adds even more to the amazing detail to the game. Also, the variation of crowd noise is another exceptional effect. When starting out in a career mode at your school, the attendance will be low. True to the realism, the game obviously does not sound the same as a World Championship match in a packed stadium. The crowd will be realistically quiet or loud depending on the importance of the match and the closeness of the game.

Other than the occasional repeat during commentary, the only other complaint may be the lack of overall music. The in-game menus feature a generic beat which at times may become repetitive and/or get stuck in your head! An addition of some real music would’ve been a nice plus, but the commentary is what was important in the game, and 989 delivered.

Fun Factor
Teams, Players, and Modes are what set this game apart from the rest. Not limited by a small roster or a couple of weak modes, the games depth leaves plenty to keep your busy to the point you will never need to ask for more. Playing exhibition matches against your friends is made even more fun by trying out obscure country and club teams. Think the United States and Iraq should work their differences out on the soccer field? In World Tour Soccer, you can! The two in-depth modes provide plenty of challenge, and comparing your scores via the Internet tracks how you compare to the rest of the world. The one major missing aspect is online play, which would’ve been the cherry on top so to speak. Otherwise, 989 provides hours of fun that should keep soccer fans, and even some non-soccer fans playing for a long time.

Ratings
Gameplay: 9.5
Graphics: 8.0
Sound: 8.0
Fun Factor: 9.0