As with all new console releases, there is always a certain amount of content that must be addressed to please the masses. In the case of the PSP, the only soccer game released was 989 Sports' World Tour Soccer. As with 989's offering of Hockey, Basketball and Baseball, these were, for the most part, the same games that were released on the PS2 but with several modes missing. Does WTS still offer up enough content, even now in light of other soccer releases, to warrant a purchase?
Upon booting up the game you will be presented with several modes of play; Quick Match (the game picks two teams and begins play), Exhibition Game (choose the setup and teams), Challenge Mode (the meat of the game), Cup Competitions (Soccer Tourneys) and Multiplayer Modes. Missing from the handheld version are the Career and League modes that the console edition had. But let's be honest, on the road, you want a quick fix of soccer, not marathons. And WTS seems to have enough in all the right places for fans to really be pleased.
Challenge Mode is a quick format one-of match events that reward you by how well you play. You play matches and gain points based on successful tackles, good passes and scoring goals. When you play poorly, your point total also reflects it. If you score enough points, you beat an event and move on to the next. This not only provides quick challenges to play, but also serves to unlock most of the content of WTS, from teams to stadiums. It may sound a little dry on paper, but this mode is highly addictive and other sports should include a mode like this.
The other mode that will possibly captivate you is Cup Challenge. Here you purchase a team and play through games and events in the hopes of winning Cups, and thereby, amassing enough tokens to purchase more teams. In this mode, which for all intents and purposes seems like a career mode, you will have access to a Cups Homepage which will keep track of a staggering amount of statistics and facts. You'll also get to manage your team (edit lineups, formations and roles) as well as see your currents standings and the forthcoming games. As with most Career Modes, you can also choose to simulate a certain amount of games, but as with Challenge Mode, you may want to play them all to get rewarded for your performance.
All this content would really mean nothing though if the game wasn't fun to play, and here's where we separate the men from the boys. WTS is not like an NBA Street title where non-fans of a sport can pick it up and enjoy it as much as a die-hard fan. This title is aimed squarely at those who know the game and appreciate its many nuances. The controls are largely similar to those of its console brethren and all the various offensive and defensive moves have been included. The game controls quite well but even with the print button, it sometimes feels like the action is still not fast enough. The main button layout allows for moves (pass, aerial pass, shoot, etc) while the left-shoulder button gives you all the additional options such as stepping over, shimmying, feints and deliberate dives. On the defensive side, you'll feel evenly matched with all the proper weapons needed to block, tackle and steel the ball from your opponent. The game also allows for game strategies to be implemented and the Teammate Assisted moves are fun to try from time to time.
As with all sport games, however, the AI is generally the make or break point of any title and here's where WTS stumbles slightly. In playing through the several modes I witnessed my teammates attempt a few things that were a little perplexing at times. But on the other hand, WTS plays fair and allows your CPU opponent to make just as many bad plays. Players generally hustle for the ball and fall back in defense accordingly. Very rarely will your AI teammates leave you stranded in a tough position.
Visually, WTS is a mixed bag in the same way that NBA was for the PSP. From a distance, the players seem to lack detail and their animations sometimes appear a little jerky or unreal. The game is still very playable and certain personalities still manage to transcend the wide view of the field. Where the game really shines is during close-ups and replays where the amount of detail and animation is truly fun to see. The stadiums, for their part, are well detailed and tend to generally match their real-world counter-parts.
From an audio stand-point, the commentators have every player name down, but unfortunately, there isn't much commentating to be had. The crowds are loud and the music is appropriate, but the long moments of silence between the various comments are killer.
In the end, what was initially a game to fill a certain void in the PSP's launch-day line-up still turns out to be a valid choice a few months later (and among meaty competition). Each soccer game released on the PSP really has its own feel and cache and WTS's greatest asset is really that it's easy to pick it up, play it intensely for a few minutes and then put it back down until you have a few more moments. The Challenge and Cup modes are an excellent addition, the gameplay is intuitive and the Ad-Hoc multiplayer is serviceable (though there are a few framerate issues). Discerning soccer fans looking for something a little different on the PSP should definitely check it out.