World Tour Soccer 2003 Review (PS2)
989 Sports has become one of the final bastions for Playstation only sports gaming. Every year they put forth every effort to keep up with the “big boys”, but the last few years have been less then stellar for 989. In the last year, Sony and 989 have brought exciting new concepts to the table. However, like a lot of studios, many of the ideas were a little short on presentation, but long on creativity and potential. Last year the World Tour Soccer franchise hit the scene to mixed reviews. This year, they’ve brought it back bigger and better, packed full of international flair and soccer excitement. Can World Tour Soccer 2003 give 989 Sports the kick that it needs? Read on.
With over 13000 FIFPro licensed athletes from 700 leagues and teams, there is no doubt that World Tour Soccer starts out with all the right tools to make a great title. But, what does that mean if you don’t have the Gameplay and Modes to use them. It’s like my Grandfather use to say, “You can put steak sauce on a hotdog, but it’s still a wiener.” All the real players and teams don’t mean anything if it doesn’t translate on the field. World Tour Soccer 2003, quite simply, does.
This is a fun and exciting game with smooth gameplay mechanics and the best control scheme that I’ve seen on a soccer title to date. I should go on the record up front that I am not a soccer fan. But, with WTS2003, it doesn’t matter. I found that the gameplay had a pick-up and go type feel during my early learning curve. A simple run, pass, and shoot offense and a slide tackle defense was a fun way to go. But, that was the beauty of it. After a week in my PS2, I started to learn the strategies. I started to see when and where I should be using my spin moves and my tackles. So many games have a learning curve that isn’t fun on both ends. You either love it at first but get bored quickly, or you get frustrated early until you master the nuances. I enjoyed this title the first time and the 50th time that I played it.
Big fat FIFPro license, great gameplay, solid controls, but are there enough modes to keep the replay factor high? Yes, sir! WTS2003 features Season, Tournament, Career, and Challenge modes in an attempt to satisfy everyone from occasional gamers to hardcore soccer hooligans. Season and Tournament modes are your pretty standard fare in most sports gaming titles. The Challenge mode gives players the chance to earn points based on performance. Register online and use these points to see how you stack up with your friends.
The Career mode is what may end up being the “bread and butter” of this title. It’s definitely what kept me coming back long after this review was on paper. In World Tour Soccer 2003’s Career mode you start out in the English Schoolyard league (something akin to High School I assumed) and try to perform your way to the next level. It’s the Semi-Professional league next, with dreams of moving up to the Pros. Once a Professional organization, the money starts coming in, allowing you to buy better players to compete. This is a great mode and yet another in 989’s new breed of Career driven modes in all their sports titles. It’s well done, and it should bring you back for many, many hours.
GRAPHICS & AUDIO
OK, it plays great, but how does it look and sound? Well…good. With a solid effort in World Tour Soccer 2002, this year’s version only improves on the engine. The animations are as good as I’ve seen in any soccer titles. All the kicks, passes, saves, and falls are very smooth. Nothing jumpy or laggy in the gameplay, which is a strong testimonial considering the number of players that can be on the screen at any given time. A solid framerate can be thanked for that. The player models themselves are pretty good. I couldn’t personally tell you if they look anything like their real life counterparts, with 13000+ players, I don’t know who could. However, generally speaking, the player’s faces, bodies, and emotional expressions are well done. Yes, after awhile a lot of the player’s seem to look a little bit generic, but it does nothing to take away from a solid visual experience.
While I would rate the visuals in World Tour Soccer 2003 at a high level, the audio side falls firmly on mediocre. Not bad, just standard. The call of the game stay pretty on par with the action, with the excitement level escalating at what seems to be all the appropriate times of the game, yet it’s all just kind of ho-hum. Nothing really stepped out at me from a sound side. Nothing good or bad, it’s just kind of there.
I spent many a night in my college days and beyond arguing the eternal debate of whether or not soccer is actually a sport. How can it be a sport if you can’t use your hands? And, whether good or bad, those feelings translated into me never becoming much of a fan of soccer or soccer games. World Tour Soccer 2003 has done its part to change 30 years of thinking. With solid visual, great modes, and heavy replay value, WTS2003 is a great sports title. Even if you’re a Soccer-phobe like I was, this is just a lot of fun to play. Sony and 989 Sports have the makings of a great franchise on their hands.