World Tour Soccer 2003

World Tour Soccer 2003

Written by Charlie Sinhaseni on 3/1/2003 for PS2  

There are two words that can bring any avid gamers to his or her knees, 989 Sports, but recently something has happened. NFL Gameday wasn’t actually that bad, NBA Shootout was pretty damn good and from nowhere, World Tour Soccer took the gaming world by storm. Suddenly, 989 Sports was looking like a contender again.

This year’s franchise successfully builds on the momentum from last year’s edition, giving gamers more of what made the original so appealing. It’s much deeper thanks to the career mode, it’s little prettier thanks to some cleaned up visuals and it’s more entertaining, thanks to some essential gameplay tweaks. All of this combines to form a game that may not be the best soccer game on the market, but a good one nonetheless.

When the game begins there are some problems that are very symbolic of how the rest of the game plays. You see, the game is plagued by some extremely long load times. Nearly every single facet of the game comes with a long wait time, starting up the game, starting a match, navigating between menus, in-match battles between refs and players, everything. There are some serious problems here, I would really like to see a more sleek and streamlined game next time around.

Thankfully the game does a pretty good job of recreating the game of soccer when you hit the pitch. Most of the tactics and techniques that help you succeed in the real game of soccer are pretty useful here. That means that the emphasis is heavily placed on team play as opposed to ball-hogging. Sure guys like Ronaldo might be able to create plays and score off of their own dribbles every once in awhile but if you follow the sport, you’ll realize that it’s the cohesive teams that have the most success. World Tour Soccer follows this mantra, essentially forcing you to use nearly every player on the pitch in order to create a scoring opportunity.

Probably every single team you could think of has been included in this title. All of the world’s most renowned leagues, such as the Premier League, make an appearance here alongside other lesser known leagues, such as the MLS. What’s nice is you can match up teams from different leagues against each other, want to see how the LA Galaxy fares against Manchester United? Or how about that dream match up of Iraq vs. Iran? Go ahead and play around to your heart’s content.

There are plenty of modes to cut your teeth on, your usual exhibition, season and tournament modes and this year’s highlight, the career mode. Career mode is probably where you’ll spend the majority of your time. This mode puts you in charge of an up and coming school with a rather weak soccer program. You’ll have to work hard to turn it around into a perennial powerhouse. It’s incredibly deep and will be pure joy for anyone who is a fan of the footy.
The controls, and the gameplay in general, aren’t as smooth and intuitive as I would have liked them to be. They feel sloppy, disjointed and at times, just downright frustrating. There are a lot of options in place to give you complete control while on the pitch but sometimes, it just doesn’t feel that way. I’ve inadvertently dribbled the ball out of bounds are far too many occasions; the controls just aren’t tight enough to allow for precise play on the baseline. Sometimes it’s too easy to over dribble on a strike to the box and actually run yourself out of bounds. With that said, I really liked the passing game as there seemed to be a lot of ways to move the ball around the pitch. Lob passes, straight passes and through balls all work here like they should in real life. The controls could still use some work, a few tweaks here and there should do the trick because as it is, the game is still pretty fun to play.

Collision detection seems to be a bit off as well. Sometimes players can actually run right through the ball, especially when an opposing player is knocking it down from the air and trying to regain control. However, this is offset by an interesting facet of the game, handballs. Refs will call handballs if a player’s hand comes in contact with the ball. The problem with this is that they’ll deal out yellow cards far too often, especially when the replay shows that the contact was inadvertent. At best the collision detection is shaky, seemingly accommodating to specific aspects of the game while ignoring some of the others.

From a visual standpoint this game is pretty appealing. Many of the game’s 150,000 thousand or so players have been recreated quite nicely. Fans of the World Cup will notice so fine details on the bigger stars, Beckham looks close to the real deal and Mathis has his outlandish Mohawk. There are plenty of distinguishing details that make each team seem unique from the last not only in terms of ability, but scenery as well. The animations are pretty well done although the animation on the refs and line judges are pretty weak in comparison to the players. Each stadium looks pretty good, featuring plenty of attention to detail in the audiences. The game as a whole is a few notches below 2002 FIFA World Cup in terms of comparison.

I was a little disappointed by the commentary. As American television has shown, much of the excitement from soccer can be derived from the television commentary. While other country’s commentators are passionate about the action on the pitch, the American commentators tend to be dull, lifeless and listless. Sadly it seems that the announcers in World Tour Soccer have been watching a bit too much of the MLS coverage on ESPN because the commentary is significantly lacking. What makes this even stranger is that it’s happening in a 989 Sports title, a brand of games that have notoriously been known to carry great commentary. Hopefully this can be worked out in next year’s game as it’ll do well to add even more excitement to the game.

World Tour Soccer 2003 certainly isn’t devoid of its share of problems, but underneath it all it’s still a pretty good game. There are plenty of kinks in the mechanism which really slow down the game’s momentum but once you learn to look past them you’ll find a pretty deep and engaging soccer simulation, one that is a worthy addition to any soccer fan’s library.
Playing 989 Sports’ World Tour Soccer has reminded me why I stayed up until 4a.m. just to watch a bunch of guys kick a ball around with their feet. Sure the concept is quite silly in thought; kick a ball, chase after it, kick a ball, chase after it lather, rinse repeat. But after witnessing the passion, the excitement and pageantry that comes with the game, it’s easy to see why this is the world’s most popular sport.

Rating: 7.6 Above Average

* The product in this article was sent to us by the developer/company for review.


About Author

Gaming has been a part of my life for as long as I could remember. I can still recall many a lost nights spent playing Gyromite with that stupid robot contraption for the old NES. While I'm not as old as the rest of the crew around these parts, I still have a solid understanding of the heritage and the history of the video gaming industry.

It's funny, when I see other people reference games like Doom as "old-school" I almost begin to cringe. I bet that half of these supposed "old-school" gamers don't even remember classic games like Rise of the Triad and Commander Keen. How about Halloween Harry? Does anyone even remember the term "shareware" anymore? If you want to know "old-school" just talk to John. He'll tell you all about his favorite Atari game, Custer's Revenge.

It's okay though, ignorance is bliss and what the kids don't know won't hurt them. I'll just simply smile and nod the next time someone tells me that the best entry in the Final Fantasy franchise was Final Fantasy VII.

When I'm not playing games I'm usually busy sleeping through classes at a boring college in Southern Oregon. My current hobbies are: writing songs for punk rock bands that never quite make it, and teasing Bart about... well just teasing Bart in general. I swear the material writes itself when you're around this guy. He gives new meaning to the term "moving punching bag."

As for games, I enjoy all types except those long-winded turn-based strategy games. I send those games to my good pal Tyler, I hear he has a thing for those games that none of us actually have the time to play.

When I'm not busy plowing through a massive pile of video games I spend all of my time trying to keep my cute little girl fed. She eats a ton but damn she's so hot. Does anyone understand the Asian girl weight principal? Like they'll clean out your fridge yet still weigh less than 110 pounds.

Currently I'm playing: THUG, True Crime, Prince of Persia, Project Gotham 2 and Beyond Good & Evil. View Profile

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