Soccer.  The sports game involving a bunch of guys running around kicking a ball.  The rest of the world calls it football, but to North Americans that involves helmets and throwing.  At any rate, Sony has come out with this year’s version of their soccer game, appropriately titled World Tour Soccer 2006.  The question is, can it compete with Fifa and Winning Eleven?  The answer, of course, lies below. With most games, graphics are both good and bad.  WTS 2006 is no exception.  The visuals in the games themselves are nice.  Crisp and a bit clean, although lacking in detail somehow, almost washed out.  The player faces aren’t really that defined except on extreme closeup, even on a 27″ TV.  This is the good.  The bad, unfortunately, is anything text-related.  The text is in a tiny print, again on a 27″ TV, which is hard on the eyes and even harder to read.  This is a pity, honestly, because there are scores of options in the game to give it added depth, but with the tiny text, it’s more of a pain to read than its worth, and this detracts from the overall experience.   

Knowing very little about soccer, it has to be pointed out that the commentary in the game itself is very good and informative, although a bit lacking in the variety.  The same comment about a player in general was heard about three different players in three consecutive games.  There’s not a running stream of commentary like you’d expect in basketball or football, more of highlight commentary as with baseball or golf.  They could have used a lot more variety in what’s being said and when it’s said, as well as some color commentary.  Then again, not knowing enough about broadcast soccer (other than Univision’s version of GOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL!!!!), this may be rather true to form. 

Luckily, Sony hasn’t gone the route EA has and put hordes of music (usually inappropriate to what’s going on) in the game, only with a song or two in the menu system.  It can get repetitive, but it isn’t bad honestly unless you’re spending a lot of time there.

The controls for the most part are very nice, even for someone who hasn’t a clue how to play soccer.  The only hard part is figuring out how much power to give your passes and kicks and finally figuring out that you want to give almost a minimum of power to the actual shots themselves.  The drawback is that it’s sometimes hard to pinpiont your passes, and you tend to send shots off away from where your teammates are running.  This happens especially often with the downfield passes, where the opposing player is able to get in front of it and send it right back at you.  Still and all, it’s nice control, which is one of the brightest parts of the game.

First off, it needs to be said that reading the instruction manual is a necessity.  There is absolutely no tutorial, no way to look at what the controller does in the game, nothing like that.  It’s as if Sony expects you to already know how to play the game, know how soccer works, and be ready to just jump into the game.  Unfortunately, not every gamer (this reviewer included) is up on how soccer works.  Granted, the number of difficulty levels (four) helps with this, some, as even new players can succeed on the easiest difficulty level.  Unlike most other sports games, though, there are no sliders to adjust every aspect of the game, and in fact that options themselves are somewhat limited. 

There are 27 stadiums to choose from, although many are locked at the beginning, requiring unlocking to be available for use in exhibition mode.  There are an immense number of teams, including all of the MLS teams, most of the worldwide club teams (Manchester United and Real Madrid included) and a number of national teams, although the FIFA clubs (and the World Cup itself) are missing due to EA’s exclusive agreement with FIFA.  Still and all, that’s over 900 teams you can play with in this game, including the 20-odd Superteams.

Beyond this, there’s 22 different seasons you can play, two different league modes and a career mode where you try to build yourself up through the various leagues, staring with school or club level teams.  The odd thing about this, though, is that you can have a British team….with nothing but American players.

There’s a lot of gameplay to be had, it’s just not enough, considering that going through all the menus is hard on the eyes and patience.

There’s a lot of game here, but unfortunately it’s mired with the problems with the text and graphics in general, and the overall lack of excitement in the game itself.  There’s no real reason while playing it to see what comes next, because there’s nothing that drags you into the game.  Outside of the difference in difficulty levels, there’s no real difference between playing one type of game and another.  Lack of online support is also an issue (especially when nearly every other competitive title supports it), although multitap support for up to eight players is allowed. 

While it’s a decent party game or rental, unless you’re really into soccer titles and don’t like Winning Eleven, there’s not much reason to pay $39.99 for this title.