Despite knowing less about football than you do, I've joined one of those online fantasy football games for the World Cup.
The idea is you pick a team of 11 (there are always 11, right?) men (they are always men, right?) from across all the teams competing in the championship. Then, as the matches play out in real life over the next few weeks, each of the chosen players earns points for how they've performed in their games. Finally all the points your individual players have earned are aggregated to make up your team's total score. The team in your league with the most points wins. Simple.
My friends all know loads about football and were trash-talking before the tournament started – boasting of how their 4-4-2 formation will trounce my 3-4-3 and basically I'll be lucky to not die of embarrassment because there is literally no way someone that can't tell his Trinidad from his Tobago could ever do well at something like this.
So, anyway, I'm in first place now, obviously. And I let the computer pick my team. Admittedly, some of the strips like Brazil and England I recognise but lots I don't. But the reason I'm winning is because just picking the highest goal scorers from the biggest name teams doesn't always lead to victory: it's all the other things the players do that swing the win and clinch the tournament.
And that's pretty much exactly how Sony's latest arcade soccer title, World Tour Soccer 2, works. While it's possible to just dive in with the traditional play mechanic of score-as-many-goals-as-you-can-in-90-minutes, the game's central dynamic demands a little more effort from those looking for victory.
A points system challenges players to build up high scores by successfully completing passes, making tackles, and, of course, scoring goals. A simple pass will earn ten points, for example, while goals, depending on how spectacular you make them, garner considerably more. To really mess with your head, you're also penalised for screwing things up: losing the ball, missing a tackle, committing a foul or conceding a goal all see points deducted from your overall score for that match.
At the end of the game your points are totalled up and you're awarded a gold, silver or bronze medal for your efforts, the emphasis always being on how you got through the match, not simply the final result. It's a brilliant system that sets the game apart from its FIFA and Pro Evolution rivals.
Elsewhere in this sequel to the first PSP footie title, all club teams have been brushed aside in favour of international teams. (Wales is even in there for those still sore from missing out on all the excitement of the real thing this summer.) Thanks to an endorsement from FIFPRO, all the names and likenesses of players are present and intact for those that care about such trivia, and there are eight stadiums, 71 teams, and a diverse raft of 11 game modes competing for your attention.
The result is an iPod's worth of different gameplay styles and options to choose from on your tube journey. Zone Mode, for instance, grants more points for keeping players in certain areas of the pitch over others while the inventive All Rounder requires you to pass to every man in the squad before you're allowed to attempt a shot; Shot Clock simply demands you score within 15 seconds of gaining possession. This selection of mini-targets adds more delicious variety to what could just have been another also-ran.
Crucially, your computer-controlled team mates are clever and never frustrating, and the actual feel of the football play is pleasing and responsive, enabling all the showboaty moves you could possibly want to impress the kids looking over your shoulder. And if you do get bored of the computer-controlled opposition, there's also an infrastructure multiplayer mode that enables you to play against your friends. Check regularly for updates too, as Sony is promising downloadable content in the future.
World Tour Soccer 2 is an extremely enjoyable football title. By sensibly avoiding positioning itself as a direct rival to Pro Evolution and FIFA's charms, its quick-paced arcade-styled football makes its mark among the more serious 'opposition'.World Tour Soccer 2 is on sale now – click here to buy.