We find ourselves in a world where two companies compete for the crown of best football game, Konami with Pro Evolution Soccer and EA Sports with the FIFA series. To me, it’s a disappointing state of affairs. I loved it when I had a choice of a dozen or so games that were all practically the same thing, but with slightly different controls or endorsed by a different professional looking to cash in on their name. I’m always up for playing a new take on the beautiful game, so when I saw World of Soccer Online presented to me in my Steam queue, I was pretty excited – and not just because it was free.
World of Soccer is an indie game – developed by just one person, Johannes Eski – so it’d be a tad foolish to believe that his game could compare to the titans of the industry, but it’s definitely not a bad offering – in fact, I found it had a lot of charm that the two aforementioned games have certainly lost over the years. It’s a game that reminds me of my very first football team. We were a bunch of eight year olds that basically just ran after the ball. We had no positional sense, no real strategy and no idea what to do; we just all wanted to kick the ball around. That is essentially exactly what happens in World of Soccer, as other than a few people that may have some clue about what to do on a football pitch, most people will follow the ball around and occasionally a shot will miraculously happen.
Don’t get me wrong though, it is a fun game. Actually breaking through an opponents’ defence and scoring the match winning goal is, as always, a brilliant experience. You’ve got to be sharp to avoid all of the opposing teams many sliding tackles, and also quick enough to be able to escape them all. It’s no mean feat, especially as you slip down to about half pace when you’re in possession of the ball. You have to keep knocking it slightly ahead of yourself to keep yourself away from any encroaching defenders, and it’s definitely a challenge to get it right.
The ‘Be a Pro’ mode of FIFA/PES is probably the mode I spend most of my time in, when I play those games. I really enjoy controlling just one single player rather than the entire team, and that’s what you do in World of Soccer. You’re one player with five team-mates and an AI keeper, and it works decently enough. It’s not a game that you could claim is very deep, you have two real options in the game: kick the ball and do a slide tackle. There’s no heading in it or anything, and the simplicity really makes it fun. You don’t have to think that you could have scored if you’d held L1, R1 and pressed circle for three hundredths of a second longer than you did. You just point the way you want to shoot, and you hit it, provided you don’t get slide-tackled.
A one man team cannot provide something that is quite flawless though, and World of Soccer certainly has its flaws. The shallowness of the game may well be a nice change, but it really does restrict the game significantly. The inability to do anything with the ball when it’s in the air is incredibly frustrating, as you’ll need to position yourself perfectly to stop the ball as it bounces to be able to prevent it from going over you. There’s also a ridiculous lack of features on the find-a-game menu. You’re presented with a long, long list of unsortable servers that takes forever to scroll through. You are able to remove full and empty servers, but that’s the only options available to you, and as you can’t sort by lowest ping, you may spend a long time trying to find a low-ping server that has a good amount of people playing.
As it’s a free game, it’s pretty decent. Playing with or against up to a dozen other people can be a fun experience, especially if you’re working with a team that know where they need to be on a pitch. It’s got a bit of a frustrating user interface, but the actual match-play is pretty fun. It would definitely benefit from some fine tuning and new features, but what game wouldn’t? World of Soccer is a good game, and the price is definitely right to at least give it a try.