Whenever a discussion about videogame soccer comes up, it always seems to spark a debate between FIFA and Winning 11 supporters over which game is better. People forget that there's a third game in the mix; World Tour Soccer 2006, from Sony's London Studio. The game's got a large list of players and teams and even lets you put a detailed version of your face on a created player, so why the lack of respect? Well, the rest of the game is quite disappointing; from the bland presentation to the poor A.I. – it's one big letdown.
Let's start with the good things first shall we? WTS 2006 has the FIFPro license, which means it's list of teams and players is quite robust, to the tune of 935 teams and over 19,000 licensed players. The list of teams includes international squads as well as professional clubs, including the more well-known teams, like Manchester United, Ajax, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and FC Barcelona.
While there are 19,000 players in the game, there certainly aren't 19,000 player models that look like their real-life counterparts. That's to be expected, but even the well-known players only bear a passing resemblance to the real player. They're almost completely devoid of emotion, and all look ahead with a blank stare that is reminiscent of the first Madden game for the PlayStation 2. There are some decent celebrations, and the cut-scenes that show the coaches are nice (yet repetitive), but you just never get the feeling that much is riding on any particular game. The animations are average at best, often running too long, or getting cut short for no apparent reason.
There are several game modes to choose from, but no online play whatsoever. Of course there's a wide range of tournaments, including a "World Tournament" which is simply an unlicensed version of the World Cup. There's a deep career mode, where you take a team from the schoolyards to the big time, but it's terribly cumbersome and requires far too much of a time investment to make it worthwhile. The menus are difficult to navigate and the fact that it's near-impossible to figure out what the heck you are selecting because the game refuses to highlight your choices is inexcusable. There's a challenge mode that rewards you with points for quality play, and penalizes you for sloppy tackles, turning the ball over and surrendering goals, but even the PSP version of the game did things better.
On the field, the WTS lags far behind FIFA and Winning Eleven. The players look ridiculous when they run, with their legs churning at super-human speeds, like little versions of The Flash. The A.I. is downright miserable, with players standing around waiting for you to work your magic, doing little to help your cause. The computer has a propensity for taking ill-advised shots from 30 and 40 yards out, though your slow-to-react keeper tries to make things look interesting by diving for even the most pathetic shot. The controls are unresponsive, and players will often run right past a ball without so much as an attempt at gaining possession, despite your frantic attempts to do so. Even the passing, which is aided by some helpful arrows showing the location of nearby players is below average. Through balls are routinely intercepted, and only the most basic ground passes seem to be effective at all. That's not to say you'll really need them though, since you can simply weave your way up the field against the computer on the first two difficulty settings.
The game does have 27 different stadiums, and they look rather nice, except for the pitch itself, which is poorly textured and looks like it hasn't been upgraded in the last few years. The crowds on the other hand are pretty lifeless, unless being shown in on of the game's few and repetitive cut-scenes.
World Tour Soccer's audio is disappointing, particularly the atrocious announce team. Despite the fact that there are two men in the booth, the duo of Peter Drury and Chris Kamara provide very little commentary on the action. They'll yell out player names when they take a shot, regardless of how close it is, say the wrong things at the wrong time, and they provide absolutely no in-depth analysis of the action whatsoever. It's some of the worst commentary I've ever heard in a game, bar none. The crowds are subdued and don't get the stadium rocking, which unfortunately doesn't help the game's troubles in conveying emotion and excitement.
In the end, there's really no reason to recommend World Tour Soccer 2006 to anyone, for any reason. Winning Eleven is light years ahead of the game in every aspect, and costs the same amount of money. FIFA provides a better arcade-like experience and features online play – the only soccer title to do so this year. If a little more time had been spent balancing and polishing the gameplay, WTS would have been much better, but alas, it didn't happen.