With the World Cup piquing gamers' interest in soccer, several titles have been released to take advantage of this increased awareness. World Tour Soccer 06 for the PSP is one such title. Its decidedly arcade-style approach may turn off some diehard soccer fans, but this style of play suits the "pick up and play" experience most expect from the PSP quite well.
You can play a basic soccer match in the game's exhibition mode, but the bulk of WTS 06's gameplay is based on not only on scoring goals, but playing the game skillfully and completing challenges during the matches. Completing passes, stealing the ball, maintaining possession, and fair play are all rewarded with points, while sloppy play, giving up goals, and cheap fouls subtract points. These points are then totaled up at the end of the game to determine your medal score. The game also tracks high scores, but there's no online leader board, so there's little incentive to replay a game if you earned a gold medal.
Where WTS 06 really differentiates from standard soccer games is in the challenges that are presented before each match. These challenges place certain restrictions on you such as having to have all 11 men touch the ball before taking a shot, a 15 second shot clock, a pass clock, and even playing the match outnumbered. Before the match starts, one of the previous restrictions is placed on the match and your goal is still to win the match and earn a medal. Needless to say, these restrictions make the game play far different than a traditional soccer game since putting the ball in the back of the net isn't your main goal. These modes are enjoyable and they're easy to pick up and play, which is key.
There are only International teams, and no club mode to speak of, so if you're looking to play as your favorite professional team, WTS 06 has absolutely nothing to offer you. The game does have the FIFPRO license, so all the International teams have their real rosters, but that's little compensation for someone that wants to pit Real Madrid against Manchester United.
Multiplayer is supported via adhoc and infrastructure mode. Adhoc play was easy to setup and enjoyable, while infrastructure mode was…deserted. I was never actually able to find someone online to play against – a shame since the developers appeared to have spent a fair amount of time implementing it.
None of these extra modes would matter if the action on the pitch wasn't sharp, but London Studios' has done a nice job tweaking the gameplay from last year's game, which showed promise but had some flaws. Either the analog nub or the d-pad can be used to control the action, but for once in a sports game, the analog nub does just fine. The controls are simple and easy to learn, with very few convoluted dual button presses required to pull off moves.
Poor A.I. was a problem in WTS 06, and while it's certainly not flawless, the problem has been addressed. Your teammates will make intelligent runs, and they'll make a good effort to get back on defense when you turn the ball over. Goalkeeper behavior still has some issues. Sometimes the keeper will run out of the box to play a ball and then watch it bounce past, and other times he won't react to a play until the very last instant. The default difficulty is rather easy if you have any skills to speak of, but since the computer doesn't have to play with the same restrictions you do in the challenge mode, some concessions had to be made.
World Tour Soccer 06 is a nice looking game that never tries to get flashy and do too much. The fictitious stadiums all look good, and each one is unique. The field in Africa has a "tribal" look to it, while one of the American fields has "American Football" lines still visible on the field. Players tend to look like their real-life counterparts, though not to the extent of what you'd find in a game that uses facial scanning technology. You can recognize Beckham, Ronaldo, Donovan, Rooney, and all the big stars. The default camera does a nice job of showing off the players, and it's great for trying to challenge for position, but it's way too close to allow you to make accurate passes. The medium camera angle is nowhere near as impressive looking, but it's far better suited to gameplay and should have been the default setting.
There's just enough commentary in the game to be considered passable, though there's little more said than players' names. The crowds are pretty tame, cheering after a goal but never getting rowdy like real life soccer fans.
If you're looking for a good "pick up and play" soccer game for the PSP, WTS 06 is a good option. However, if you're looking for a little more depth, the lack of club teams, customization, and mini-games is hard to look past when FIFA 06 is sitting on the shelves right next to it.